Understanding Our Digital Age Copyright and Trademark
Legal Basis:“Until 1976, creative works were not protected by U.S. copyright law unless their authors took the trouble to publish a copyright notice along with them. Works not affixed with a notice passed into the public domain. Following legislative changes in 1976 and 1988, creative works are now automatically copyrighted.”
We have taken the time, in this article, to explain to our audience (you) exactly what our copyright and trademarks mean to you, why, and how they exist. This notice should also serve as an explanation and deterrent to those who may choose to engage in the activities of website scraping, content scraping, website harvesting, intellectual property theft, and other unethical or illegal activities that violate copyright and trademark.
As the Internet has developed, it has become necessary to define, to some extent, the copyrights and trademarks asserted by this website and its related properties and what is not considered copyright or trademarked material. In this case, we identify several web properties under the sole proprietorship of Fara Consulting (Michael Fara). These brands and monikers are: Windows 7 Forums (“windows7forums.com”), Windows 8 Forums (“windows8forums.com”), Windows Vista Forums (“winvistaforums.com”), Windows Forum(s) (“windowsforum.com”). We assert trademark over these terms without violating the “WINDOWS” mark and its related ownership, whereas we maintain a good relationship with Microsoft Corporation.
Full Text Copyright: As a business, Fara Consulting asserts copyright on all text at the time the content is immediately created by any user of these websites. Obvious exceptions are works that may already be copyrighted on another online or offline publication, i.e. articles already written about Microsoft Windows or any materials published by Microsoft Corporation, and so forth. An example is that while we assert sole copyright over a thread, post, blog, or article about Microsoft Windows, we assert no copyright or trademark already owned by an entity such as Microsoft Corporation.
In an effort to prevent potentially hundreds of thousands, if not millions of authors, from having to pursue their own copyright law, we assert copyright over material posted on our websites to protect our business interests, to protect the integrity, dignity, and respect of the authors, and to prevent mass copyright infringement by spam sites.
In Fara vs. WebFusion, Ltd., an arbitration panel sponsored by the International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN; essentially the governing body of the Internet), in a UDRP complaint, established that while we do not own or seek to own the “WINDOWS” mark, we have been doing business under the titles of Windows Vista Forums (WinVistaForums.com), Windows 7 Forums (Windows7Forums.com), and Windows 8 Forums (Windows8Forums.com) since July 2005. This gives some jurisprudence, albeit from an arbitration panel, that we have had a bona-fide intent to use these marks for the procurement of goods and/or services. Thus, the U.S. trademark office does not require registration of what is obviously a service in active use. Our copyright is designated to:
- First and foremost, to protect the attribution, interests, artistic, creative integrity, and dignity of the original author(s) and participant of all website content, including members, volunteer staff, representatives of the business, and the business itself.
- This includes all authored threads and posts, the structure and design of threads and posts that may be unique to this website, including the full text and unique graphics, code, and scripting where applicable, but nothing that would infringe on the trademark or copyright of any other entity whether it be individual or corporation.
- Protect the ability of the website to monetize on content in an ethical way that can be disabled in order to continue operations, expand operations, protect the interests of the business, and ultimately, compensate at least some volunteer team members for their work.
- Keep the business and its owner solvent.
- Ensure that copyrights and trademarks which are not under the domain of Fara Consulting are never infringed upon or misrepresented but protected under:
- Fair Use to ensure the ability to exercise free speech in an unbiased, public forum.
Under common law, the text content of Windows7Forums.com, Windows8Forums.com, and its related properties are © 2005 – 2013 Fara Consulting. U.S. law specifically allows for bona-fide copyright. We use timestamps, experimental date and times in the site headers, and other tactics to prove creation dates. If any doubt remains, the copyright of these websites has been registered with the United States Copyright Office, Library of Congress, United States Government, and is pending official review: Case #: 1-895687191. In principle, this website supports the efforts of the Creative Commons License with Attribution and the GNU Public License as a remedy to growing digital media copyright problems, but is currently pursuing traditional copyright and trademark methodologies.
In 2013, we identified at least two websites, originating in the nations of Turkey and Vietnam, the combination of which had taken the full text of several websites: UbuntuForums.org, Windows7Forums.com, and AskUbuntu.com (a production of Stack Overflow).
Stealing and Reproducing Content for Money
We have become aware that, rather than attempt to spam our website with advertising, which we have spent years making extremely difficult, some website owners are engaged in the illegal act of "website scraping". This process involves copying chunks of other websites to publish advertisements. Under this scenario, the offender is copying content that is not theirs, which he or she never contributed to, in order to make money at any cost. The offender typically has limited to no interest in the content itself, except for the money it can provide by formatting it in a confusing way that is often presented out of context and without attribution. These sites form the basis of "clone websites" that hold no true intellectual or educational value whatsoever. Further, they are often flagged on search engines as "duplicate content", as by their very nature that is what they are. These websites take away the dignity, integrity, and original intent of the authors by denying them, as well as our website, attribution and compensation for mass-redistribution. They offer nothing original of their own. We currently pay a hefty some in server hosting and licensing fees, only to see years of work being copied by some guy in Vietnam out of greed alone.
How is this illegal?
In almost every case, this practice seems to be used by the offender to make money off of the work of others. In classical form, everywhere around the world, this is known as plagiarism. In February 2013, we identified multiple websites which had copied tens of thousands of full text pages from Windows7Forums.com, UbuntuForums.org, AskUbuntu.com (a property of Stack Overflow), that had become the basis for 100,000+ page clone websites in both cases. These offending sites were Windows7Home.com and Windows8AZ.com. It is important to note that at no time was our database or user data ever accessed directly in a security breach. The perpetrators, from Turkey and Vietnam, used crawl bots, similar to what sites like Google, Yahoo, and Bing use, to create these clone pages. The alleged perpetrator of the most successful of these sites refused to take his site down until his webhost pulled the plug after over 1,000+ pages of evidence were submitted, and pages from the webhost’s own library were shown to be copied. Based out of Vietnam, this entity or individual, Dang Tran, owns over 362 domain names, like "windows8az.com", which is apparently using to solely make money. Most of the victimized websites use a Creative Commons (CC) license for their website content with an attribution requirement: the person republishing must give full attribution to the content owner. We know this was not the case with our content, or theirs: no attribution was given and in some cases misattribution was given. Code was copied and proprietary images and attachments were linked to for the purpose of monetization. The other perpetrator, Aliye Nalaka, owner of Windows7Home.com, threatened extortion, until they pulled the site down themselves, as these e-mails were being CC’d to Google, the web host, and their registrar. In particular, this person claims to be “Orkun Noname” on the official domain name registration, which is also sad and ridiculous. In both cases, we filed complaints. In one case, over 200+ DMCA complaints were filed with Google to protect our members and the structural integrity of our website, as well as that of others. Should the perpetrators re-instate this content, we hold within our rights the ability to seek legal remedies for damages.
The Copyright Act of 1976
Our website employs multiple copyright protection systems that prevent the mass-retrieval of information by unauthorized robots, which, in turn, often copy text to monetize on. Our main server, headquarters, owner, and business originate from the United States of America. In this case, 17 USC § 1201 clearly states “Wherefore, in the use of a copyright protected system, it is illegal to circumvent such system for the mass-retrieval of information by unauthorized robots, which, in turn, often copy text to monetize on.” This law foresaw and attempted to prevent the practice of the mass-download and republication of copyrighted materials. These security technologies currently exist on our back-end as a trade secret, but have been revealed to Internet registrars, web hosts, and Google, to explain how this law has been broken on a mass scale.
The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1984
18 U.S.C. § 1030 makes it illegal to access any computer system in a way which may negatively impact interstate commerce. This law was originally designed for government computers, but the interstate commerce provision of the act has seen an expanded definition over the years. In particular, recent amendments to the law, considered a crime to even conspire to access a computer system whereas access has been explicitly restricted where such access may damage interstate commerce. This is a federal law effecting most computer systems conducting commerce throughout the United States and outside of it. Our Terms of Service already prohibit DMCA and copyright violations, and therefore, we have reason to believe that such “website scraping” violates this, as well as many other state and federal laws protecting against the unauthorized access of computer systems.
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act
While the DMCA is a controversial law, prior to the Copyright Act of 1976, the last law on the books was written in 1909. The DMCA exists to resolve copyright and trademark disputes that earlier laws did not cover or anticipate – primarily Internet-based copyright disputes. It is generally recognized internationally under treaty obligations as the gold standard. The DMCA prevents the activities listed above when a website is copyrighted or trademarked.
Common Law Standards
Under the most basic common law, and changes in the copyright law in the United States, a piece of work is copyrighted as soon as it is created, for so long as the copyright owner can prove it. In fact, copyright notices need not be placed on the footer of websites any longer, under existing copyright law. Our web properties currently allude to this standard under our Terms of Service, insisting that use of the website, in any form, constitutes an agreement to respect all regional and international laws, copyrights, trademarks, and the DMCA.
How Our Copyrights Protect Our Members
If you are concerned about losing your copyright by writing on our website, this may be a legitimate concern, as you voluntarily surrender copyright over all material you submit to the website upon using it. However, this is done because we can hardly coordinate one person, let alone dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of people to take swift action against someone who is breaking the law and stealing your writing, without attribution, to make money. Our Terms of Service makes it clear that the original author of a work posted on the forums should have no issue using it outside the forums. Further, websites that respect copyright and trademark law can use excerpts of content – with attribution to both the forum website and the author of the content – without difficulty. Many websites do this without a problem using simple hyperlinks in the midst of an article, blog, or forum thread on 3rd party sites. It is those perpetrators listed above who are mass copying large portions of our website who are breaking the law. This website and its related forums currently hold over 600,000+ pages of material. We must have a uniform way of protecting this content. For more information, please visit our Terms of Service. The uniformity and unique location of content hosted on our website ensures that our website continues to exist. Wholesale copying of all or chunks of our website without any kind of attribution, and especially misattribution, damage our ability to serve data and maintain a growing database and archive of information far into the future.
Here are some examples of filings we made in February 2013 to protect our websites and members (authors):
As we have always stated, “Windows 8 Forums is an open discussion forum, and member of the Microsoft Partner Network. This website is not owned or operated by Microsoft Corporation. All trademarks are copyright their respective owners.” This does not include mass copying of our articles onto other sites without compensation (in some cases you could call this a form of reverse spam). We have spent many years keeping the forums open to the public at the expense of a great deal of time and money. We continue to protect the dignity of our members in a public environment by preventing fraud schemes such as those listed above through clear and concise copyright registration. In order to access the content published on the forums, visitors are required to access our servers and not those of a third party phishing or web scraping site. This is the only way we continue to make a broad range of affiliations with companies like Microsoft, the customers of whom the website was established for.
Published February 26, 2013 - Rev 0.0.1