Digital Copyright

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Do You Know Who Owns Your Words?
by Mike Banks Valentine

Writing for the web creates a lot of new questions about who
owns all those words circulating out there on web sites, in
ezines and in ebooks. What about the CD's created from many
of those words in all those digital forms all over the web?
Instead of books or articles or columns, it's all being re-
named "Content".

In a 2nd Circuit Court decision last year, six freelance
writers won a case against the New York Times, Newsday and
Time for copyright infringement. Their work was re-sold as
digital content on a CDROM and later published on the web.

Their claim that they did NOT relicense their work for use
on the web or in digital compilations and were entitled to
compensation when that content was re-sold was accepted by
the court in a judgement against the original publishers of
that content.

That decision was upheld by the Supreme Court in June of
2001 by a 7-2 vote. But what about articles offered free by
by writers online?

Many writers online offer their articles "Free" for use on
the web, in ezines or in ebooks available online. But in fact
are being paid by the publishers by requiring that "resource
boxes" be used, such as the four line blurb following this
article. This is, in fact, a form of payment and is agreed
to by those writers in exchange for the traffic, publicity,
subscriptions and exposure gained when readers visit the
authors web site, subscribe to their ezine or see advertise-
ments run for a fee on their web site.

"Content" is proliferating, professional "paid" writers
work is becoming less valuable online and some professionals
are shouting, "ENOUGH! We want to be paid for our work!"

An article this week at "" discusses how to
raise the ire of any professional writer by asking them to
write for free.

In an earlier article by the same author, (Janet Roberts,
associate editor of "") many articles by
online writers are labeled "advertising in disguise".

I'll buy that definition in many cases. I'll buy it in this
case. I'm advertising my weekly newsletter and my web site
by offering opinion and insight on the web. And it works!
I've written openly and widely that content I provide is
just like an ad for my web site and my business.

Advertisers pay to have their ads appear in my newsletter
and on my web site. You might say that my "advertising in
disguise" attracts advertising to support my advertising
if you want to see that advertising as inherently wrong.

But I'll also ask then why is it that articles are well
read and syndicated across many networks of web sites and
ezines. Those web sites and ezines WANT that content and
believe it benefits their visitors and subscribers.

It's not advertising, it's content, it's free and I am a
professional. What does that all mean? I leave it to you to

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July 29, 2001