An FYI on Creative Commons and Copyrighting for Bloggers

I recently had a minor problem with a Chiriquí Chatter Copyright violation and thought it might be worthwhile having a little discussion on the subject.

A Chiriquí Chatter reader, possibly an ex-reader now, has recently published a book on the subject of Panama or more accurately on the subject of Latin America. In an email he told me that Chiriquí Chatter had been a big help in writing the book and he asked if I would like to see a PDF copy. I said sure. I assumed he had mentioned the Chiriquí Chatter website in the book and was flattered.

When I received the PDF, I was surprised to see six complete Chiriquí Chatter articles in the book. He had given credit to me and to Chiriquí Chatter and had had the direct URL references in his reference list. However, he had never talked to me before publishing the book to ask if he could use any of my articles.

A day or so after he had sent the PDF, I received the following Facebook email from the author,

Hey D.R. have you been able to read my book? I’m interested in your opinion…thanks

To which I replied,

Yes, I noticed that you had not read the Creative Commons License that is posted on my blog. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/

To which he replied,

Ok I went to the Creative Commons site but there was nothing there about Chiriqui Chatter. Don, I’m not as internet or tech savy as you are. I guess I am asking…did you like the book or not? Thanks…

To which I replied,

Yes I read it. On the left side of every page in Chiriqui Chatter you will see the Creative Commons license that applies to Chiriqui Chatter. It is the license that I posted above. What it is telling you is that your book is in violation of the licensing agreement.

To which he replied,

Thanks…

My assumption was that he would write back something to the effect of “You are right I missed it” or “Ok, I see what I did wrong” or “what do you suggest”, but instead I received “Thanks.”

Since it now appeared that he had been notified of the infraction and was making no effort to find out what to do in view of the infraction, I wrote his publisher (lulu.com) and sent them the violations, the URL to my blog, asked them to read the copyright restrictions, and asked that they remove the book until the violations were corrected. I also called Amazon.com and talked to their e-book department as well and made them aware of the book they were listing with copyright infringement.

I assumed that the publisher would educate the author and he would then ask what should be done.

Today I receive the following Facebook email,

Hi Don Ray, I received an email from Lulu today that you asked to have my book pulled. If I understand the attribution I never suggest that you endorse me or my work? How am I violating your licensing agreement?

To which I replied,

Nothing on my blog may be used for commercial purposes without prior approval. I sent you the terms to read. Lulu obviously read it and understood it.

Read it again. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/

To which he replies,

In this thread you wish me good luck and hopefully it will give your Chiriqui Chatter more hits. Are you now taking it back?

To which I replied,

Re-tread this thread. That does not appear. You asked if I had read the book and I said “Yes, I noticed that you had not read the Creative Commons License that is posted on my blog.” and included the reference. Until I read your book I had no idea what you had done.

To which he replied,

You wrote…Don Ray Williams Hope they help. Maybe I will get a few more hits…

Followed by a second message saying,

Ok I will write you out

To which I replied,

Again, that was not in this FB thread and may have been written, if I remember correct in an email, that was prior to me even knowing the contents of the book. I suggest you check all your references as you also didn’t have the rights to use the information in Lee’s blog. Whether you had authorization to use the material in the other references, I don’t know. However prior to using copyrighted material you should that release. It appears you avoided that step in the process.

Besides the 6 articles from my blog, the author took 1 article from Lee Zeltzer’s blog (Boquete Guide). I talked to Lee and he had never heard of the author, so I am sure he also did not get Lee’s release.

It also contained 1 article from http://woowoogolf.blogspot.com,
2 articles from http://www.thepanamareport.com,

Material from Referenced Malcom Henderson’s book “Don’t Kill The Cow To Quick”,

5 articles from http://www.panama-guide.com,
2 articles from http://www.rob-rivera.com,
and one article from Http://www.transparency.org.

I have no idea if these sites were notified or not or if they care or not. I know that two sites with stated publishing criteria were not contacted prior to publishing.

To me this is merely a matter of principle. Had I been asked prior to the book being published, if I minded him using my material, I would have had an opportunity to consider and decide. I certainly don’t consider my writing to be all that worthy of being reproduced, but common courtesy says that you should still ask. When a site is copyrighted, as Lee’s site and my site are, then it necessitates more than common courtesy. It is an obligation.

In today’s world, it is easy to have a book published. However, if you are going to write, it would behoove the authors to learn to read first, especially if they are using other peoples work. Once a book has been published with copyright violations and sold with those violations in the book, it is too late to go back and rewrite the book removing the violations without taking care of the original problem.

11 thoughts on “An FYI on Creative Commons and Copyrighting for Bloggers

  1. Don I would like to thank you for making me aware of this situation. Because of this I have had to change my copyright policy. I will move to using the same policy you have. It is fair.

  2. Hi Lee,
    Lulu.com was very efficient in taking care of the situation. Amazon.com still has the book listed.

    Update: it is now off Amazon too.

  3. Cheeky! The “author” would certainly be singing a different tune were it his intellectual property that had been misappropriated!

  4. Don have never heard from this “author”. I’m interested to know what material he used from “Don’t Kill The Cow Too Quick”. I’m hoping he will send me the PFD, because I certainly don’t want to have to buy his work to discover the extent to which he may have abused my copyright. I have completed a new book, which I will self- publish through LuLu, if I can first garner some endorsements to validate its content. It is good to know LuLu and Amazon took responsible action.

  5. Hi Malcolm, I went to the reference area and followed it to the page for your book and it merely recommended reading your book, so in that instance, I see no violation.

  6. You guys should charge for the articles that were published. Just a thought….
    Being a Texan, I read your blob daily… and i check out Lee’s as well.
    Good Luck.

  7. Mr. Henderson,

    I have read your “Don’t Kill The Cow Too Quick” and thoroughly enjoyed it. What is the title of you latest work so that I can be on the look out for it?
    (Thanks to Don Ray for recommending “…The Cow…”.)

    jim and nena
    fort worth, tx

  8. Don Ray,

    Were you clear to the other party that he had no copyright license to the material he took from your site, and as a result he was liable for damages under copyright law in the U.S. (and, possibly, other countries)? That might have gotten his attention quicker.

    I probably would have said the plain language on the site says all people have the license grant for non-commercial use as long as it is not a derivative work. His publishing commercially requires a separate license agreement.

  9. Hi Tuxi. No I did assume he would read the words when I sent him to the site. He read them and said he could find no reference to Chiriqui Chatter.

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