How Should You React If Someone Uses Your Content Without Crediting You?

from the questions,-questions dept

We here at Techdirt certainly take something of an extreme position when it comes to reusing our words: we won’t even stop you if you don’t give us credit. But, mostly, that’s because we recognize that taking credit for someone else’s work is likely to backfire on you, damaging your reputation, and we believe that in the end, you’ll regret it. Still, that doesn’t make it enjoyable when we see someone trying to pass off our work as their own, so I can certainly understand the reaction of people who get quite upset when it happens. Still, even if you get upset, that doesn’t mean you should immediately fly off the handle and threaten legal action. There are much more measured ways to approach it.

For example, Brian points us to a blog post by the folks at Common Craft, who have noticed that many mainstream media sources are using their video about how Twitter works without any credit whatsoever. The content itself is under a Creative Commons non-commercial, no-derivatives license, which it seems clear most of the media properties in question are breaking. Only one (ABC/Disney) actually seems to have followed through on the licensing terms.

But still, what’s impressive is that Common Craft still takes a very low key approach to it, first noting that perhaps the media’s use is “fair use,” and then saying:

I’m not writing to make a big hairy deal about the use of the video. The truth is, we’re not sure what’s appropriate or what to expect

And then asks the community what they think and how they should respond… while also naming the offending parties (NPR, CNN, CBS and KOMO News in Seattle). No matter what you think of the situation, or what Common Craft should do, I think it’s fantastic to see yet another case of someone taking a much more measured and reasonable approach to such things, rather than immediately going into “threat” or “cease-and-desist” mode. Personally, I think that the approach they’ve taken makes the most sense: simply make your community and your fans aware of the situation, and then watch as they help police it for you — alerting news organizations (most of whom probably didn’t even realize they should have credited the video) of their mistake.

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Comments on “How Should You React If Someone Uses Your Content Without Crediting You?”

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RD says:


It all depends on the WH and Hypocrites Maxim:

If its an individual or very small business/group using it, its illegal and punishable by jail time and hundreds of thousands of dollars per incident.

If its a big corporation using it, its legal as its “fair use” and “probably not commercial” anyway.

So in this case, its perfectly legal and morally right.

You see, you have to understand the world we live in. You, the individual, have no rights, and no right to ANYTHING without paying a fee or a fine. The rich and powerful have no such restrictions. There are 2 sets of laws, and you better know which side of them you fall under before undertaking “Stealing” someone else’s work. Think this is an exaggeration? Look around: Madoff, Bernanke, Bush, Cheny, Blackwater, NBC, Universal, Warner and the list goes on and on.

TW Burger (profile) says:

Fair Use

I have had my work used without permission by a Web site but they did keep my name on it. I thought “Well, if they had to pay for it or go through licensing they would not have used it and I would not be getting free advertising.”, so I did nothing except send them a message saying it would be nice to ask next time.

I do agree with RD that there are two sets of rules: one for teenagers downloading fourth rate Metallica MP3s and another for corporations usurping public domain works like ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ and claiming ownership.

James says:

Use (creative) common sense

I was recently threatened with a lawsuit by a large company who said that I was ripping off their business model and URL.

The allegations were bullshit. I’d never heard of their site and it was basically unrelated to mine. I think they were just trying to bully me into giving them the URL. But, as RD pointed out, they’re a big company with lots of time and lawyers and I’m just one guy who can’t afford to spend months in court and they know it. (My response was to register the company and the URL anonymously in Panama so now they don’t have anyone or anything to sue).

On the other hand my site uses lots of photos from flickr which are correctly attributed. I don’t have to do that as noone would ever know the difference but of course it’s only fair and hopefully it gets some exposure for the photographers (some of the images have been viewed several hundred thousand times).

The point is that it’s the wild west. It’s nice if people correctly attribute your content /don’t rip off your content / website design but there’s not much you can do if they do.

Booger says:

Personally, I plan to make a series of videos that support the *IAA’s positions and seed them around the net. Then I’m going to sit back and wait for those bad boys to say “oh, that’s cool, let’s use it.” As usual, they’ll ignore my copyright and licensing, but then my attorneys will come after them using their own court arguments to demand maximum damages.

Then I’m going to dance in the streets singing “I’m in the Money,” though I will make sure not to violate any copyright in the process.

another mike says:



Or just post a Tweet letting your community know that you know your video is getting lots of use and you’re glad it’s so popular.

Were the news sites that’re showing it truncating the video so the credits don’t roll? I watched the video up there and I knew it was made by Common Craft and not Techdirt.

P.S. I like Booger’s idea.

mkvf (profile) says:

Art Lebedev Studios, the Optimus keyboard guys, have a pretty cool solution. Their Clone Museum lists all of the people who’ve used their ideas, with detailed evidence of what has happened. It saves them the cost and expense of taking someone to court (particularly tricky when a lot of the design concepts might not be strictly copyright; some are straight reproductions of images they created though).

It takes the idea that “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” and makes it into a marketing tool. How better to make the point that you create striking content than by forcing dozens of big names to effectively give you a testimonial?

Lee LeFever (Common Craft) (user link) says:


Thanks for the kind words Mike! It’s encouraging to know that you see value in the way we’ve reacted to the situation. We talked a lot about what to do and I have to give credit to my wife Sachi for making this an opportunity to learn from our community. It was the right thing to do – we’ve learned so much over the last couple of days.

RD says:

Laws only apply to little people!!

And then we have this story:

Once again, one rule for the rich and powerful, one rule for the rest of us. NO WAY the RIAA is gonna go after Obama for this, even though the RIAA has stated repeatedly that you CANT SHARE FILES, you dont OWN them you have a LICENSE. But these are heads of state, and we are peons, so the copyright laws only apply to us.

rec9140 (user link) says:

The license is the license is the license

I am no a big fan of IP, trademark, and copyright or EULA’s etc….and especially sleaswyers…

But one thing I am a big stickler on is giving credit where credit is due.

Unfortunately in my arena of websites there is one particular website and its band of data pirates who does not respect this.

My websites are NC-SA-CC V3.0 its really irritating, but there are ways to fight back. (Sorry, I am not going to disclose my tactics for these sites).

Send them a bill for use of the video. $1,000/hit should do quite nicely.

They are clearly in the wrong on the use, and fair use only goes so far, Don’t pay send it to collections.

Most of these big corporate mega companies will flip out when they get letters about issues that put them on the hook for potential legal action and damages. Sometimes its amazing one a little piece of paper can do.

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