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Not having done this before, and being an honest person, I want to make sure that I am not accused of stealing content. Here's a theoretical example:
Let's say I build a site about dogs. I write a page about St. Bernards. On it I explain its behavior, the type of home you should give it, and its potential medical problems. Well let's face it, a lot of the info I put on that page will come not only from my own experiences, but also from what I have read in books, seen on TV, and read online.
I'm sure that many of you run into this. How do you do a good, honest job of providing rich content without sounding like someone else? Especially when -- in this example -- you know that another site is correct when they say that a St. Bernard is good with kids, might have weight issues, and needs a big yard to play in? You would be hard-pressed to write anything different...
How do you stay "original" and avoid getting sued/threatened? Thank you for your input.
Of course, the more distinctive you can make your writing, and the more you can bring personal experience or unique information to bear, the more interesting your copy will be. I've known writers who could take a dry set of facts and, with the injection of some personal style, churn out distinctive, fun, readable copy.
St. Bernard is good with kids, might have weight issues, and needs a big yard to play in? You would be hard-pressed to write anything different...
I am there now. Did not copy, in fact my "general" information (which is in the public domain having been published before 1923) includes at least twice the information that another site has. Makes no difference.
Anyone who wants to can send your hosting service a DMCA letter alleging you have infringed. The way the DMCA is written, the ISP or hosting service has no alternative under the law but to take you site or page(s) down within a reasonable time - which means almost immediately - after receiving a DMCA notification unless you remove the material.
And, according to the DMCA, they do not even have to notify your first although, they must notify you afterwards.
You do have recourse to send a counter claim, but you are foolish to do this without first getting legal advice from a copyright/trademark attorney. If you don't know a copyright attorney, or can't talk to one right away, your site or pages will be taken down by your hosting service unless you remove the alleged material - almost immediately.
Doesn't matter even if your host thinks the claim is bogus. They can also be sued if they fail to remove the "offending" material or site.
Now, if you have deep pockets, it may be less likely, but if you are a small company with limited resources you are fair game because the cost to defend a copyright infringement on the internet, or anywhere else, is very costly.
go visit chillingeffects.org or anti-dmca.org. After reading a bit, it will prompt you to have the phone number of a copyright lawyer highlighted and starred at the top of you phone book - just in case. Be especially prepared if you rank well in search engines. The DMCA is being used by many (unscrupulous) people to stifle competition.
My point was that if you rank well, you are potentially more apt to become a victim of somone who can't, or doesn't take the time to learn how, to optimize as well.
<oops - type fixed>
[edited by: nancyb at 11:03 pm (utc) on Jan. 11, 2004]
As rogerd pointed out, try to keep your own distinctive style of writing also. Particularly keep it 'in theme' with the rest of your site so that each page or subject is written in the same style as the others (where possible).
If your content were about "Structural Integrity of London Bridge" then I would think the amount of public information is limited, and plagiarism is something to be very concerned with. On the other hand, St. Bernards are so popular that nearly anything you write will have already been written.
I "research" my product nearly every day. I've seen a few things I wish I had done first. Some day I may incorporate those ideas into my own version of re-telling the story. At that time I will be sitting down with a blank piece of paper, and not with someone else's copy in my buffer.
In the end, its the crafty no gooders that know all these slimy "tricks of the trade" with regard theft and getting away with it..
First I would switch to a differnt ISP, send a decease and desist order to the party in question. Maybe even find a ISP in a different country, to complicate the legal process for the offending party.
Once the other party, realize you are ready (or are going to pretend )to play hardball, they will backoff quickly and find another victim.
[edited by: dougmcc1 at 9:34 pm (utc) on Jan. 12, 2004]
Getting back to the point, any other advice on making content unique and preventing even the appearance of infringement?
One way coders do this is to use a "clean room" approach - the programmers aren't allowed to see the competitive code until they are finished. That way, they avoid unconscious copying as well as create a good defense if some code looks similar.
As I scan this thread one thought comes out -- anything you read is reviewable.
Anything you review can be directly quoted.
When I am writing a page that is clearly about something that others know more about than me, I quote and reference and link.
In essence, if my page is clearly me talking, and clearly someone else talking (with quotes and a reference link), then it is perfectly OK to use and reference content, even if your page
promotes YOUR products.
It helps if your site as a whole is clearly original and looks that way from the gitgo.
Make your site unique and edify others that know more than you about a subject.
my 2 cents...
Now several people are asking me for the right to use my content.
I don't worry about others stealing from me. It has probably happened but why worry about something like that?
It's better to worry about getting the best content possible, as it keeps me on my toes and cosntantly one step before the competition.
If someone had read an article copied from my site elsewhere, and discovered my site after, they would simply realize who the copier was and who the real McCoy was.
Once you have a great body of work updated frequently, I find that Google knows it has to come to your site and archive your pages quickly. By the time someone puts a copy up, their page will be old comapred to mine.
What I've noticed instead, is many directory sites linking to my contents as way to grab some of my lustre.
It helps if you have a good menu system so that even if a page you've done relates to something very specific the reader knows what else is around. I recently converted my page template to allow access to all topical site menus from every page and I'm already noticing the effect in terms of movement.