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  • There’s a weekly alternative newspaper I used to let print some of my posts. I started asking for cash, and they paid for a few months, but stopped. I told them — in writing — to stop using my posts, but this week, again, more than a dozen of my posts were reprinted.

    My question: When I sue them for copywirght infringement, how much do you think I’ll get?

Viewing 11 replies - 1 through 11 (of 11 total)
  • Mark (podz)


    Support Maven

    Twice as much as half.

    We cannot know. We don’t know how much it impacts you, the nature of the agreement, what their legal advice was etc etc.
    And suing is expensive. Very expensive.
    I’d get free legal advice and go talk to a competing paper.

    As someone who has worked in worked in publishing for almost 40 years and who has run newspapers, I have to say that Podz’s advice to “go talk to a competing paper” is brilliant.

    That is, assuming there IS a competing paper. Every town had at least two and many had several 30 years ago. Now most have one daily.

    Since this is an alternative weekly doing this, go to the daily.

    Talk to the highest-up editor that you can in whatever the appropriate department is that might run/buy your pieces … and also ask that person if they think there is a story in the alternative weekly’s “stealing” your copy after you asked them to stop doing that?

    Should the daily buy rights to your stuff, they will take care of the legal end of shutting down the weekly’s unauthorized use. Newspapers have media attorneys on retainer. If the daily decides there is a news story in the weekly’s thievery, then you get to put public pressure on the weekly, embarrass it, and probably end the thievery.

    Copyright and intellectual property lawsuits are tricky. A good intellectual property lawyer will bill about $25k per month on a case and the case will drag out for 10 months to three years or more if both sides fight.

    What will you recover?

    Have you registered the copyright on each piece that has been used without compensation? If so, then you are entitled to punitive damages. If not, then you are entitled only to the actual monetary loss that you can establish.

    How much value, reputation (monetized), future earnings, etc., can you document that you have lost as a result of this unauthorized use?

    And then, not knowing more details, it may be that you don’t have a case at all. Depends entirely upon the nature of the material being co-opted, what licensing language you have on the site, what agreements you have made in writing with the weekly, how they are using the material and many, many more little things.

    Bottom line: I think a lawsuit would cost you much more than you would recover if you prevailed. If you were really, really lucky, the court might order the defendant to pay your legal costs. But most often these things are settled long before trial and both sides eat their own legal costs as part of the settlement.

    That said, copyright infringement sucks.

    And the growth of the internet and blogosphere have created a culture in which many people seem to think they can take and use anything they like that they find on the web.

    For instance, I’m shocked at how many people think — even tell others that — Google Images is a good source of royalty-free art and photos.

    It’s not. It’s an index of images on the web. And most are subject to copyright.

    Way long enough here


    ken – you were impressing the hell out of me until you posted that long signature… signatures aren’t acceptable here at all, and i’d expect after you having been here for 9 months, you’d know that by now… considering no one else uses them. 🙂

    Geeze. Just started using it yesterday. Everywhere. Decided to start promoting my site, even though it’s not quite ready yet. Didn’t realize the sigfile rule here. Should have, I suppose. But I’ve just been training myself to add it to everything everywhere. So can I get in and edit it out of this?

    Not seeing a way to do that.

    Also, unrelated to being disciplined for committing a no-no, I should clarify something I wrote earlier. IP attorneys tend to bill $10k to $25k per month on a case while doing research and depositions and so on.

    [sig removed]

    As well as the suggestions from Ken, I can add that a common way for newspapers to respond when confronted with material being stolen by another media is to put in a piece with a mistake — then apologise profusely after it has appeared elsewhere.

    If there is a media column in any of the other local media, you can then point out the error to them.

    But sometimes other publications just have too thick skin. I’ve heard of an instance of a newspaper taking items without even reading them properly, so that an item supposedly was reprinted with a sentence stating: “If this item appears in the Weekly Whatsit it does so without the authority of the author”.

    I’ve been told that story from several sources but I actually saw a TV guide from one paper copied by another where the program descriptions became more and more outrageous such as plot descriptions telling what might happen to the other paper’s staff.


    as long as you have a copyright statement at the bottom and you clearly explain that somone may not reproduce this content in anyway… yes you can sue the crap out of them.

    Thanks for disappearing the forbidden sigfile for me.

    Uaslam, in the United States anything you write that has literary value has copyright protection from the moment you write it. You don’t need the copyright notice.

    You DID need to place the symbol or notice on your work until revisions in the copyright law in 1978 and the late ’80s declared that was no longer necessary.

    And you can only collect *actual* damages unless you have formally registered the copyright. If you HAVE registered the copyright, then you can also sue for punitive damages.

    who’s gotten much more shy about inserting his shiny new sigfile

    Mark (podz)


    Support Maven
    might be interesting reading.

    Yup – copyright lately IS a whole can of worms. Anyone who has access to webmasterworld can do a search back about a year and a half for some amazing threads in re “fair use” etc.

    The ONLY way to really get advice about your rights as regards copyright and fair use is talk to a copyright attorney/solicitor.

    And you might like to look over…. is another great resource…

Viewing 11 replies - 1 through 11 (of 11 total)
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