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.

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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?

Dr. Wagner has a PhD in Linguistics and is dedicated to learning and teaching languages online and abroad. She has studied in Quebec and Australia, taught English in France, and is currently based in the US.