Teacher Voice: What to do if someone uses your writing without permission

9th May 2014 at 17:31

A thing happened to me last week that was so common I barely, at first, registered it as an offence: an entire blog I had written for the TES last week appeared on an organisation's website. No payment offered, no permission asked. It's such a frequent experience as to be utterly unremarkable. But something about it niggled me this time. Something gave inside me. 

 

 

 

Why should someone be able to do this? What gives them the moral right to simply lift my labour, copy it and use it for their benefit? Had I worked for two hours in a building site, I would expect to be recompensed; at the least I would expect to be asked if I wanted to contribute. But not, it seems, on the internet, which is apparently the Wicky-Wicky-Wild goddamn West when it comes to the rights of the creator. So this time, I fired off a tweet to the offending party, the The Association for Information Technology in Teacher Education (ITTE):

 

 

 
Apparently it's silly season. Was it just a big fuss over nothing? After all, shouldn't I be grateful for the exposure? Well, no. When I started out, I would probably have been keen for this kind of platform, but even if that was the case here- and it isn't- then surely you'd still ask the creator? I mean, I'm not hard to track down. The Borrower still didn't get it. 
 
 
 
If there's no gain, why do it? If you look at the first image, above, you'll see lots of readers for my writing, all driven to the ITTE website. I'm no expert, but I suggest that's the gain (and I have no illusion about my writing quality – but I do undeniably have a kind audience). So, after a fuss, my content was removed. But the tone wasn't exactly repentant. After an email fired off to the TES asking me to back off (which is odd as I was tweeting from my personal account; plus how incredibly gauche and patronising. The TES, rightly, did no such thing). I even had a few DMs that were essentially 'Leave me alone', to which I responded that all that they needed to do was apologise for using a writer's work without asking, and commit to always doing so in future – or paying.  No reply from that point onwards. I'm told that other writers' content is still on the website. I wonder if permission was asked. I doubt it. Way to go ITTE, great handling. 
 
 
The only reason this might seem a small issue is because it's so ubiquitous. We just expect our stuff to be taken and pimped. It might even be legal in many cases. But the moral point is, I think, undeniable. My work: my creation. I'm a teacher blogger who writes for the joy of it sometimes and, incredibly, for payment at other times. Sometimes both times coincide. The assumption of "I'll have that, cheers" needs to be challenged, and I'll challenge anyone that takes my work without asking. I'll almost always say yes, incidentally. 
 
 
So, someone put me in touch with some lawyers who came up with the following suggestions for what you can put at the bottom of your blogs as a way to make it clear that if someone wants what you've worked over, they have to respect your moral rights as creator. Please feel free to use it. I mean, for free. See? That's what permission looks like. 
 
 
 

SUGGESTED COPYRIGHT DISCLAIMER WORDING FOR BLOGGERS

 

The examples below are suggested copyright disclaimers for insertion into the footer of a blog.

 

Example 1 – No copying without your express written consent

 

“© [INSERT NAME OF COPYRIGHT OWNER/AUTHOR] (the “Author”), [INSERT NAME OF BLOG], [INSERT YEAR OF BLOG POST].

 

The content in this blog post is the original material of the Author.  Any unauthorised use and/or duplication of some or all of this material is expressly prohibited without the prior written authorisation of the Author.  A failure to comply with this notice may be met with an enforcement action.”

 

Example 2 – Partial copying without your consent, subject to clear attribution of you as the Author

 

“© [INSERT NAME OF COPYRIGHT OWNER/AUTHOR] (the “Author”), [INSERT NAME OF BLOG], [INSERT YEAR OF BLOG POST].

 

The content in this blog post is the original material of the Author.  Any unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material is expressly prohibited without the prior written authorisation of the Author.  Excerpts of no more than [INSERT NUMBER OF WORDS] may be used without prior authorisation, provided that full and clear credit is given to the Author and [INSERT NAME OF BLOG] with appropriate and specific direction to the original content (such as the insertion of a hyperlink in any copied text to this original blog post).  A failure to comply with this notice may be met with an enforcement action.”

 

Example 3 – Full copying without your consent, subject to clear attribution of you as the Author

 

“© [INSERT NAME OF COPYRIGHT OWNER/AUTHOR] (the “Author”), [INSERT NAME OF BLOG], [INSERT YEAR OF BLOG POST].

 

The content in this blog post is the original material of the Author.  Use and/or duplication of some or all of this material is permitted on the condition that full and clear credit is given to the Author and [INSERT NAME OF BLOG] with appropriate and specific direction to the original content (such as the insertion of a hyperlink in any copied text to this original blog post).  A failure to comply with this notice may be met with an enforcement action.”

 

Key Points to bear in mind when using this suggested wording:

 

  • Your work is still protected by copyright, even if you decide not to apply the suggested wording above to your blog footer.  Copyright in your work arises automatically as soon as it is “fixed”, that is when you write it down or post your content.
  • The suggested wording is not a silver bullet strategy to avoid copyright infringement and cannot guarantee the protection of your work.
  • The wording will, however, highlight that you are the owner of the original copyright material and remind others of their legal and moral responsibilities when using your work.  Any infringer will then effectively have been put “on notice” so that they cannot claim to be unaware of your rights.

 

 

 

Creative Commons

 

As an alternative to the suggested copyright disclaimer wording above, you could use Creative Commons ("CC") licences, but it should be noted that applying a CC licence to your blog or other original work is irrevocable.

 

Essentially, a content creator (such as a blogger), can use one of six different licences made available through the CC which once applied governs how their material can be used by others.  The licences give flexibility to creators, such as whether to allow commercial or non-commercial use of their material and whether to allow derivative works (such as modification and adaptation).  Each CC licence has different conditions ranging effectively from “all rights reserved” to “some rights reserved”. 

 

The blogger does not have to “register” with CC to take the benefit of a CC licence, as CC offers its licences, code and tools free of charge and without obligation.  The CC licence is valid as soon as the content creator “applies” it to any material that it has the right to license.  A licence can be applied either through following instructions on the CC website (see link - Marking_your_work_with CC_license) or via the insertion of a written or typed statement onto the work for offline material (suggested wording is available on the CC website).

 

 

I hope this is of some use to people. And next time someone "borrows" your work, why not "ask them to stop"?

 

And tell me.