Tuesday, March 8, 2016
Recently I answered my office phone at the end of a long day. The caller was upset, but eventually I learned that part of the concern was about something the caller thought I had said. As I tried to make heads or tails about what the caller was saying, I realized the concerns were triggered by a book I knew nothing about. Nonetheless, the caller was telling me I "was in the book." How could that be true?
With a bit of research after the phone call, I was able to find the book in question. It turned out it was someone's 2016 self-published book, advertised on Amazon. When I reviewed a copy of the actual book, I was surprised to find that a rather lengthy comment I had written for the Elder Law Prof Blog appeared in this book, right down to a missing period in my original post. Indeed, much of the book appeared to me to be this sort of "cut and paste" effort. Only occasionally did the author identify an item in the book as "reprinted with permission."
I had never heard of the author of the book and I had not been asked permission to use my Blog item. In addition, although the author of the book said nice words about my work, the context in which my item appeared was not acceptable to me. I have asked the book's author to delete my piece from all future printings of the book.
Folks, to state what I thought was obvious, this blog is copyrighted. While copyright symbols are not necessary to protect creators' rights, the notice -- "(c) Copyright 2004-16 by Law Professor Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved." -- appears at the bottom of every webpage for each of the blogs appearing on the Law Profs Network.
Speaking for myself, it is, of course, permissible to quote my blog items, with proper attribution. As long as you use common sense about the length of any quote, you don't need permission to do that. You can also use hyperlinks from your blogs to our blog. But we draw the line at you copying our posts into your own publications. For reprint or republication rights you need to ask and get permission.
People often do request permission to reprint our posts. I get this request most often when my posts analyze a new law, a new case or discuss a legal trend I'm seeing emerge. My co-blogger, Becky Morgan, and I frequently give permission for appropriate republication or reprinting. We are authorized to do so by the company that holds the copyright. Personally, I like to make sure that the version to be used is updated, and I look for misspellings or typos. (Those pesky problems can creep into a Blog all too easily with the fast-pace involved in creating this daily, ongoing commentary.) More importantly, sometimes I also say "I'm sorry, but no," especially if I feel that the intended use is inconsistent with my thinking on the topic, or with my plans for the Blog post in question. The "rights" of a copyright holder are about more than just compensation!
Please respect the copyright on this Blog! Write or call if you want permission to reprint an item. If you have general questions about Blogs and copyrights, here is a useful discussion by Mark Fowler, an experienced copyright attorney in New York.