Everything on the Internet is in the Public Domain

Actually NOT everything on the internet is in the public domain but it seems that a lot of people do not know this or simply don’t care about copyright laws. Since creating my website more than 10 years ago, I’ve come across numerous other websites that have copied my tutorials without asking permission or giving me credit. Then I found out copies of my tutorials were being sold on Ebay. In the past few months, I’ve also discovered someone selling Kindle books on Amazon and someone else selling a crappy iPhone app, all stolen from my tutorials. I sincerely hope that no one has wasted their money on these illegal copies.

I have never given permission for commercial use of anything on my website. Everyone is free to use the tutorials, photos and mp3s at home or in the classroom, but no one is allowed to make money off of them.  The only product I currently sell is the French Language Tutorial, but everything else on ielanguages.com is free for personal use. If you find other webpages or ebooks that have blatantly copied any part of my website or blog, please let me know.

Copyright Symbols
MikeBlogs ]

I know that I am not the only webmaster or blogger to have problems with thieves stealing their work. Unfortunately it is a very common problem since it is so easy to copy and paste. Expats in France will probably remember Polly-Vous Français?’s fiasco a few years ago when an author quoted one of her popular blog posts and did not ask Polly for permission beforehand, nor did she attribute the work to her in the actual book (claiming that she couldn’t find the blog online because she’s apparently never heard of Google) nor did the publisher offer any financial compensation to Polly for having used her work.

Perhaps the most ridiculous example of someone truly believing that “everything on the internet is in the public domain” is Cooks Source editor Judith Griggs who was actually quoted as saying that the entire internet is considered the public domain. Think about that for a second. She’s been a magazine editor for 30 years. And she thinks she can just copy whatever she wants from the internet, as long as she credits someone as the author, but without asking for permission, telling them, or paying them. I wish I were making this up. Gawker, BoingBoing and NPR all picked up the story a few months ago if you want to read the unbelievable e-mails the woman sent.

What Do You Do When Someone Steals Your Content is a good explanation of what webmasters and bloggers can do when (not if) someone copies their website. Any other bloggers out there have problems with intellectual property theft? How are you handling it?

  • I have problems mostly with my pictures. Whenever I know one is used without my permission I contact the websmaster but there are probably many I don’t know about!

    • There are probably a lot more sites that copied my stuff that I just don’t know about. It’s so easy to sell e-books online now too that it would be a full-time job finding and reporting all of the sellers. :/

  • I’m going to handle it by writing everything in Paqatyl!

  • Anna

    That really sucks – and it sucks that there are people who fall for paying for free content. I once took photos at a concert (just with a point and shoot, non-professional, many of them kind of blurry) and posted them on Flickr. Then I got a message from someone saying that my photos and others were being sold on Ebay. Someone actually had bought them and I sent a message suggesting she should try to report the seller. It just astounded me that someone would buy them.

    • I know what you mean! I don’t get it either. A lot of the people buying e-books on Ebay (this was like 7 years ago) were just re-selling them for a profit.

      •  what if someone uses your twitter feed and photo as part of an on twitter discussion. I @repllied someone and then they copied and pasted my twitter image and feed as part of their blog to show my statement to them. My problem is that my avatar, as seen here, is something that I built and created myself. I don’t think they have a right to use my twitter image without first asking me. Thanks!

  • Zhu

    I have problems with my pictures and occasionally some comprehensive blog articles such as “how to immigrate to Canada”, or “how to find a job in Canada”.

    It really pisses me off when people don’t credit the author/artist. And honestly, I don’t have the time to browse around to see who used a picture or an article without permission. That’s the sad part…

    Eventually, I tell myself that they will get caught and that they have no talent whatsoever for stealing people’s work.

    • It’s worse for pictures and photos since it’s harder for you to search for them (compared to text) to see who’s been stealing what. ::sigh::

  • Did you hear about Google’s recent algorithm change against content-farms? A lot of these steal people’s work – if it’s clear text has been so blatantly plagiarised, the website gets penalised and won’t appear in Google searches.
    It doesn’t cover apps & e-bay sales of course, but at least it’s a step in the right direction.

    • Yeah I read about that. I’m surprised it took them so long to change their algorithm considering how long those fake sites have been around.

  • Milleau

    So glad you wrote about this. Is there anything we bloggers can do to protect ourselves? Do you know the Copyright Alliance? http://www.copyrightalliance.org/content.php?id=86

  • :/ sorry you have to deal with this. words, pictures, ideas… copying is just too easy for certain people.

    • It’s ok – it’s just the risk you take when you put things on the internet or make an electronic format of something.

  • I’ve come across copyrightspot.com and myfreecopyright.com so far.

    There’s nothing you can do to prevent people from copying or stealing, but you can at least register your work so you can prove that it is indeed yours.

  • I’ve had it happen before, and a DMCA notice served to get one of those sites taken down quite quickly. A lot of the time I’ll notice a submission on Reddit that turns out to be something I’ve made, and when that happens a quick note saying “hey guys, this is spam and I actually made this” with a link to the original source will be enough – your comment will get voted to the top and the original submitter will say sorry for submitting copied material (if they didn’t know it was copied), and your site gets a ton of friendly visitors as a result that day.

    Once one of the owners of one of the spam blogs actually wrote me back to apologize and agreed to only feature half of the pictures and then finish up with a link to my site, so no DMCA notice there. He then proceeded to copy and paste from a ton of other sites though. -_- So that site will probably get taken down soon enough when they find out.

  • My sister-in-law has a wonderful and very popular website (http://orangeyoulucky.blogspot.com/) where she posts her graphic art to the ooohs and aaahs of all her fans. She had been hoping for a while to get fabric made from her designs, and was pretty mad one time to find that it had been done – without her knowledge. It was done by a reputable company who had hired an outside contractor to create a pattern, and that person had simply lifted the pattern from her blog. In the end, the company apologized and destroyed the fabric. Not an ideal result – I was thinking it would have been better if they had sold it and paid her! Oh well. At least her complaint wasn’t ignored.
    ( http://orangeyoulucky.blogspot.com/2010/09/pattern-theft.html to read about it)

  • That seems to happen all too often with designs. People will rip off anything to make a buck. 🙁 I’m glad the company stopped selling it, but yeah they should have just paid her for it!

  • Rob

    Try making your site difficult to pull info off of (disable right-clicking)