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  1. #1
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    Copyright on content that is freely available

    Hi

    I am planning to create a web service that aggregates existing content available on various websites and present it in a manner that is more user-friendly.

    There is no information available on the copyright status of the content and it is freely available on forums, esnips, google, etc. I was wondering if I could just use this content at my website without violating copyright rules.

    On the other hand, I am planning to request users to suggest content to form part of the web service. For this case, I assume, the content ownership is not mine and the copyright liability belongs to the poster.

    Looking forward to your replies.
    Feapot

  2. #2
    Follow Me On Twitter: @djg gold trophysilver trophybronze trophy Dan Grossman's Avatar
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    Anything published is protected by copyright unless someone explicitly releases it into the public domain (or it ages more than 70 years...). You can safely assume that if you start scraping content from anywhere you're probably violating the law.

  3. #3
    Programming Since 1978 silver trophybronze trophy felgall's Avatar
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    If it explicitly states that it is in the public domain or the author died before 1938 or you have permission from the current copyright holder then you are allowed to use it. If none of them apply then copying the content is breaching thee copyright.

    Watch out for if the content has been altered from the original though as taking content from the public domain and changing it can establish a new copyright over the changed parts.
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  4. #4
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    The problem I face is that the document seems untraceable. I cannot know who wrote the document to get his/her permission.

    Would just changing the presentation format alter the copyright. In that, it would contain the same text but presented differently. If not, what is the general rule as to how much change of text is recommended to avoid copyright violation.

  5. #5
    Follow Me On Twitter: @djg gold trophysilver trophybronze trophy Dan Grossman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by feapot View Post
    The problem I face is that the document seems untraceable. I cannot know who wrote the document to get his/her permission.

    Would just changing the presentation format alter the copyright. In that, it would contain the same text but presented differently. If not, what is the general rule as to how much change of text is recommended to avoid copyright violation.
    If you can't obtain license to use the work, you can't use it. There is no "can't find the author" exception.

    Changing the presentation, even significantly, just makes a derivative work. The right to create derivative works rests with the copyright holder - you can't do that either.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Grossman View Post
    If you can't obtain license to use the work, you can't use it. There is no "can't find the author" exception.

    Changing the presentation, even significantly, just makes a derivative work. The right to create derivative works rests with the copyright holder - you can't do that either.
    Thanks a lot for your tough but frank opinion.

    The last option for me is to get the users to submit the content on the site in my presentation style. Since I provide a service for the users to interact, I would not be liable for any copyrighted content that is posted by users.

    I understood that this is the same US law under which site like Youtube are operating.

    What do you think?

  7. #7
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy C. Ankerstjerne's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by feapot
    What do you think?
    That you're walking a fine line, and should really consult a lawyer before the first lawsuit. YouTube can do what they do, because they have the size to make agreements with major companies about publishing rights. They also have the capital required to go up against companies like Universal and TimeWarner. I doubt you would fall into either category.
    Christian Ankerstjerne
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  8. #8
    King of Paralysis by Analysis bronze trophy
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    Quote Originally Posted by feapot View Post
    Thanks a lot for your tough but frank opinion.

    The last option for me is to get the users to submit the content on the site in my presentation style. Since I provide a service for the users to interact, I would not be liable for any copyrighted content that is posted by users.

    I understood that this is the same US law under which site like Youtube are operating.

    What do you think?
    You're trying to get protection under the Safe Harbor provision of the DMCA, I'm pretty sure there are more legal requirements to be met then simply having your users do the uploading. I believe you need a registered copyright agent as well (or something to that effect).

    If I were you, and I had assets that could be seized, then I would contact a lawyer before going down this road.

  9. #9
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy C. Ankerstjerne's Avatar
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    Also, there's a bit difference between having a discussion forum, on which users sometimes upload copyrighted material, and having a site which is build on the concept of having users upload copyrighted material.
    Christian Ankerstjerne
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  10. #10
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    Thanks a lot for your replies. Helps me put home a message to myself that it is not as straightforward as i initially thought it was.

    Btw, enips (online file storage) is based on the model where users do all the uploading and it (many times copyrighted content) is shared between all.

    Finally, the copyrighted (not claimed) content I am talking about is, as mentioned, already available on forums.

  11. #11
    SitePoint Addict jessebhunt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by feapot View Post
    Btw, enips (online file storage) is based on the model where users do all the uploading and it (many times copyrighted content) is shared between all.

    Finally, the copyrighted (not claimed) content I am talking about is, as mentioned, already available on forums.
    Just because other sites are publishing copyrighted material doesn't mean that it's legal. If you break the law, even if others are doing it to, you can still be held accountable. I'd definitely seek advice from a lawyer on this one if I were you.
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