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Issue 36: Copyright Violations

today┤s newsletter is going to be short. In the past two weeks I barely found time to even check and answer my emails, left alone working on the internet. Our baby son is very active during the nights. Additionally, I had to care more about our household because my wife was suffering from an infection – fortunately she┤s fine again.

I hope to get two things ready for you before X-mas:

1) 200+ DIY SEO themes for WordPress blogs
2) a tutorial on creating spam-proof contact forms

Today, I just want to open your eyes for a serious issue:
copyright violations. And I also want to give you the opportunity to get your most burning questions regarding this issue answered.

Pay attention because you might already be violating other peoples┤ copyrights – unintentionally and unknowingly. But, who cares when you get caught ?

Of course, I┤m confident that every subscriber of my newsletter does not intentionally violate anyone┤s rights, especially when it comes to using images/photos/cliparts for web design and information for web content.

Hence, let me tell you about a few possible copyright violation traps you might be exposed to:

1. Ghostwritten Articles

When you have articles written by ghostwriters, you usually tell them not to plagiarize. But how can you be sure they really don┤t ? If you don┤t check every single article, you could quickly end up violating someone else┤s copyrights.

It happened to me with my first bunch of articles that I had ordered from a writer at Elance. I published the articles on a brand new website and a few days after the site got indexed in Google, someone contacted me saying that I had copied his content – Ouch.

Hence, if you are hiring ghostwriters, you want to check each and every article for content that was copied from other websites. You can do this by using a service like “”.

But how about content that the ghostwriter copied from print books ? It┤s almost impossible to find that out. So, what you could possibly do in order to be on the safe side is to have the ghostwriter sign a contract in which he/she agrees to write original content and assumes all responsibility in case of copyright violation.

2. Website Templates / Graphics

This is quite a tricky thing. There are so many places providing pictures and graphics under different licensing terms and sometimes it┤s very difficult to tell where a picture or graphic originated from.

When you are using graphics in website templates, marketing presentations, e-books or any other kind of project, make sure to read the terms on the site that provides the graphic downloads.

Are the pictures really in the public domain ? There are many PD picture portals displaying pictures from different authors. Just because they are listed on such a site doesn┤t automatically mean that they really are in the public domain.

Read the “small print” and if in doubt: ask the website owner. And always keep a note about where you got the pictures from.

How about royalty free pictures and graphics ? You know, the ones that you can purchase from sites like in different sizes / resolutions. Have you ever read the terms ? I believe that very few people are aware of the fact that they normally purchase only the right to use a given picture on ONE project only – for example: in a website graphic for their own or for a customer┤s site.

But if you wanted to create a website template for resale or a cover for an e-book with resale rights or want to print a picture on coffee mugs you are selling, etc … – you┤d need to pay over 70$ for an “extended use license”.

If you are outsourcing your graphic design, you should also have the designer sign a contract in which he/she assumes the responsibility for the legal use of the images used in the design. And if you are planning to resell the work, tell your graphic designers about it, so they can make sure to purchase the required “extended” licences for the pictures they might be using.

3. Private Label Rights Products

When you purchase a PLR product and are in doubt about if the author really has all the rights to use content and graphics in this way – ask.

I have seen PLR membership sites using graphics in their ebooks and website templates that are taken from public domain sources, but I┤m not sure if they are not using licensed graphics, too. If so, they┤ll need to have purchased those “extended use” licenses which aren┤t cheap, as you know by now.

Many PLR membership sites also provide lots of articles, which are usually ghost-written. How do you know their ghostwriters don┤t copy ?

If you want to be on the safe side, you should ask the sellers of the PLR membership sites to state that they own the copyrights to all the content and graphics included in the PLR products and that they assume the responsibility in case they are not.

4. Other Products

Just recently, many website owners were unknowingly violating copyrights by using a piece of software to generate legal documents for their websites.

It seems that the creator of the product in question had hired someone to write the text for the legal documents that are generated by the software and this person obviously simply copied the text from a website.

When cought, one fellow marketer who was using this software (WebLawGenerator, btw) paid about 2500$ for the right to continue using the documents.

You see, there are quite a few ways how you could get into trouble even if you think you are doing everything right.

Well, I believe the whole issue leaves a couple of open questions regarding copyrights, contracts, legal web documents and other topics one would like to ask an attorney for clarification and guidance.

I myself have a couple of questions that I┤d liked to get answered by an attorney who is specialized in internet law, therefore I┤m planning to call one and interview him.

How about you ? This is your opportunity to get some of your questions answered, too. Simply send me your questions and I┤ll try to get as many of them answered.

Here are just a few questions that I would like to ask:

1) There are places on the internet that allow the free use of their content, RSS feeds or graphics on non-commercial websites only. From which point on can a website be classified as “commercial” in nature ? For example, is a weblog which earns a small revenue from contextual advertising (f.ex. ppc ads, few affiliate links) already a commercial site ?

2) When I hire a ghostwriter to write web content (articles, sales letters, etc …), how can I protect myself from copyright violation issues ? Will a written contract signed by the ghostwriter assuring the originality of the work and assuming all legal responsibility regarding copyright issues safeguard me from legal consequences in case the work was indeed partially plagiarized ?

3) I purchased website templates (or other graphics or a product which has some graphics (ebook cover) included) with resale rights. How can I make sure that the graphics used are royalty free ? How can I protect myself from being accused for copyright violation ?

4) I┤m hiring someone to create software for me that I intend to sell. What do I need to do to make sure I cannot be held responsible for possible copyright violations ?

5) I want to write a blog post about a different website or an article seen somewhere else. How much content can I “quote” from the original work ?

6) I found someone using my original work (text or graphic) on a website. How do I approach this person to stop using my work and what legal actions may I take if the person doesn┤t respond ?

7) I found someone using my original copyrighted pictures, graphics or text in a product they are selling. I don┤t know how much money they┤ve made selling the product, but I would like to have my share of the pie. Can I claim money from them and how do I proceed ?

What else would you like to ask ?

Please send in your questions before Christmas. This will be one of the first things for me to be done in the coming year.

Talk to you soon again.


Guido W. Stiehle

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