On the trail of an (im)poster

Well, I had an interesting (and busy) day learning the ‘ins and outs’ of what to do when someone takes your intellectual property and passes it off as their own.

As you may have seen from my previous post, I discovered that authorcourse.com had reproduced my entire blog on Johannna Skibsrud and Gaspereau Press without any attribution to me whatsoever. And needless to say, without permission. They had, in fact, put the words “by Author Course” at the top of my blog on their site.

At the bottom of the pilfered blog is a link that says ‘Google blog search getting published.’ Nice of the thief to tell me which door they entered in order to steal my material.

What to do about it, however, was a  challenge. There is no contact info on the authorcourse.com website except an email address that isn’t active. And although I posted two comments at the bottom of the blog asking either for attribution or deletion, I got no response.

With the help of my Facebook friends, and my Absolutewrite buddies (thanks guys!), I set out to find out what could be done.

Brian French tracked down the owner of the website using http://who.is/  That got me an address. Unfortunately, the contact information didn’t include an email address or a phone number.

I contacted wordpress. They quickly got back to me pointing out that although the site uses their free software it isn’t hosted by them. They provided two links:

http://www.plagiarismtoday.com/stopping-internet-plagiarism/3-finding-the-host/
http://www.plagiarismtoday.com/2009/07/16/6-steps-to-find-a-hosts-dmca-contact/

Using these, I found out that the host was hostgator.com.  Meanwhile, Medievalist, a regular contributor on Absolutewrite, had reached the same conclusion: “That’s a scraping blog, meant to serve ads. Your best bet is to go upstream to Host Gator ….You’ll need to send them a DMCA complaint; read how here.”

Following her advice, I emailed Hostgator setting out my concerns. Then I sent off a ‘cease and desist’ letter to the registrant using a downloadable template from  ‘stock letters’ at http://www.plagiarismtoday.com/dmca-contact-information/.

By the time I got back from the mailbox, Anne Devereux had been in touch with Victoria Strauss at Writer Beware. She provided this link on how to take down plagiarized materials: http://brainz.org/dmca-takedown-101/  

Again, super helpful. It turns out that the legislation that governs this is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or DCMA and it’s a law with sharp teeth: up to $ 100,000 for a copyright infringement. And, as it turns out, you can go after the server for copyright infringement too.

Hostgator emailed me to say that an email complaint isn’t sufficient compliance with the DCMA: either fax or snail mail is required or their online DCMA form.  I tried the online form first.  Nothing happened; no notice of confirmation, nothing to indicate it was sent or received.

So I did up a formal letter with the requisite information and faxed it off to Texas. (By the way, although I used my name and my law firm address as contact information,  a poster at Absolutewrite.com points out that the alleged violator receives that information and that it can easily end up in the public domain.)

Shortly afterwards, I had a response from someone at Hostgator thanking me for bringing this to their attention. They asked for 48 hours to try to resolve the situation. I’ll keep you posted.

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3 Responses to On the trail of an (im)poster

  1. mp says:

    unfortunately, you’re screwed if the offender offshores their server, like Josh Bempechat in california did when I sent his original host a DMCA takedown notice.
    his freedom domain dot com page still includes an article he stole from an online repository, without any attribution, or any of my footnotes.

    He, unfortunately, has racked up a lot of money fighting claims that people aren’t able to enforce when he offshores his host servers.

    Like

    • Peggy Blair says:

      Buggers, eh? Hostgator has been great — they’re disabling the content in a few hours. They said it actually wasn’t them who had disabled it earlier today — it might have been offline for some other reason.

      Like

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