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Be Original: Your Copyright Questions Answered

It is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. It's also a real good way to make people angry, and the Internet makes plagiarism oh so easy.

A House of Straw

Three little pigs went to build their web sites. The first little pig built his web site using graphics that he had gleaned from other sites on the Internet. His content was cut and paste, word for word from other sites and it only took him a couple of hours. The second little pig was crafter. He carefully reworded much of the copy. He redid some of the graphics and added his own. It took him a couple of days. The third little pig worked long and hard to make his own graphics. He spent days writing and rewriting his content. His web site took weeks.

Which one has the strongest foundation when the big bad wolf comes calling? Don't build your web site on a house of straw.


Remember the first two little pigs? Someday the big bad wolf's gonna send them a letter that might read something like this:

We, {insert name}, do hereby give notice to {insert name} of a violation of U.S.C. Section 501(a) as defined as: "Anyone who violates any of the exclusive rights of the copyright owner as provided by Sections 106 through 118... is an infringer of the copyright." for {insert copyrighted material, URLs, descriptions, etc.}
Under the Copyright Act, we may be entitled the following recourses:
  1. Injunction, both preliminary and final, with nationwide service and enforceability (Section 502);

  2. Impounding and, in appropriate cases, destruction of infringing articles (Section 503);

  3. Actual damages (Section 504(b));

  4. Profit of the infringer "attributable to the infringement and ... not taken into account in computing the actual damages," with burden on the infringer to prove deductible expenses and elements of profit attributable to factors other than the copyrighted work (Section 504(b));

  5. Statutory damages subject to various limitations. At any time before final judgment is rendered, the copyright owner may elect to waive actual damages and profits and to request statutory damages as determined by the court (Section 504(c));

  6. Costs and attorney's fees, discretionary with the court (Section 505);

  7. Additional remedies, including criminal sanctions under Section 506.

  8. Failure to cease usage of said copyrighted materials will result in legal action under The Copyright Act.

Summing It Up

The reason we don't build our web site's out of straw is because they need a solid foundation if we expect them to grow. A solid foundation starts with original copy and graphics. Don't be a pig.... be original.

For more information on United States (and Canadian) Copyright Law:

Did you know?

Copyright law at

Copyright law in Canada

About the author:
Tom Chaplin is a computer specialist in the newspaper advertising industry. He runs Another Empty Bottle at, an alcoholism site recommended by Infoseek, Excite, Lycos, Webcrawler and Looksmart.

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