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I am an attorney using Avvo. Is re-posting my answers or legal guides a copyright violation?

Atlanta, GA |

So, I'm an attorney (not a copyright attorney) who has recently started using Avvo.

I want to take some of my answers and legal guides (which I may have originally written for somewhere else) and re-post them, publish them, etc. If I do this, am I violating copyright law. Avvo states in their Terms of Use: "

You acknowledge and agree that any materials, including but not limited to questions, comments, reviews, suggestions, ideas, feedback, plans, notes, original or creative materials or other information, provided by you in the form of e-mail or other submissions to Company, or any postings on the Site, are non-confidential and shall become the sole property of Company....

I ran out of room to continue the quote.

Attorney Answers 7

  1. Best answer

    I think that is aimed at potential clients using the site; I think the relevant section for things like legal guides and answers and such would be in the next section:

    "If you post User Content to the Site, unless we indicate otherwise, you grant Company and its affiliates a nonexclusive, royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable and fully sublicensable right to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such User Content throughout the world in any media."

    In fact, I know so - Section 18 refers to "questions and answers" and "guides" specifically.

    This would mean that you retain the copyright in what you've created and can do with it as you like, but that Avvo has a license to do just about anything with what you've posted, as well.

    No information you obtain from this answer is legal advice, nor is it intended to be. You should consult an attorney for individualized advice regarding your situation. No attorney-client relationship is formed by my responding to your question.

  2. It seems that under AVVO's terms, you agree that all of your submissions are the property of AVVO. Frankly its a strange statement. AVOOS position will be that it has the copyright to your submission and that you do not have any licensing rights to repost them elsewhere. Obviously, using a tool provided by AVOO for reposting (like Facebook connect) would be permissible. From a liability standpoint, AVVO would be better off getting an unlimited worldwide license to the submissions and leaving the ownership with the attorney submitting the work, but this is not the case here.

  3. Hi,

    I agree with my colleague regards to the approach. This really should be drafted differently and framed as a license. I am greatly skeptical as to whether a court would uphold an exclusive transfer here. I would probably look into it much more carefully if you intend on posting anything of commercial value or have meaningful plans for that content.

    Obviously, it is not the intention of Avvo to exploit us or our postings but I don't like that language either.

    I'm sure some of our other IP colleagues will chime in and offer some insights as well.

    Best regards,
    Natoli-Lapin, LLC
    (see Disclaimer)

    The law firm of Natoli-Lapin, LLC (Home of Lantern Legal Services) offers our flat-rate legal services in the areas of business law and intellectual property to entrepreneurs, small-to-medium size businesses, independent inventors and artists across the nation and abroad. Feel free to call for a free phone consultation; your inquiries are always welcome: CONTACT: 866-871-8655 DISCLAIMER: this is not intended to be specific legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. No attorney-client relationship is formed on the basis of this posting.

  4. Fascinatng question. I am glad you raised the point. As attorney's, we all have no excuse or defense as we understand AVVO's intent, offer, and the attorney's consent making a binding contract (offer, consideration, and acceptance) but for what means and to what enforceable end?

    Obviously, re-posting poses no issues (in fact, I also suspect many attorney's have seen the same question so many times, that they have stock answers they re-post).

    In the case of AVVO publishing your answers, they clearly have the right. For example, if AVVO wanted to publish a book "Answers to Common Copyright Questions" they could use posts made by you and other attormey's. (Although I this does not give them the right to use your name/reputation.)

    Now, if you wanted to publish a book, "My Answers to Common Copyright Questions" and used answers you had written before and posted on AVVO, is this legal? It would be a difficult case to claim the words you had written before would not be the same words you would use again? Did your knowledge change?

    On the other hand, if you post a complex legal theory, flow chart or other "valuable" intellectual property, then you have not only published the information to AVVO's benefit and potential future use of, but you have diluted your rights by making that information public knowledge in the first place. In response to this, many attorney's provide links to their legal guides or information sources independent and outside of AVVO (thereby not relinquishing any rights to AVVO).

    Welcome to AVVO!

    My disclaimer is simply that Avvo already has an adequate disclaimer.

  5. Thanks to everyone who has provided helpful responses and analyses of of Avvo's terms of use. You may be interested to know that many of my postings on Avvo have been picked up by several "news aggregation republishers" such as IP360, and republished on Twitter and Facebook. IP360, for example, is a "news aggregation web-site" that provides summaries and links to content published elsewhere concerning recent developments in IP law. Several of my Avvo answers recently seem to have been embedded into the IP360 web-site, among others, and they show my name and picture as author (which is flattering but done without the permission of either me or presumably Avvo). These news aggregation sites often publish a two or three line summary of the article (or answer to a question), followed by either a link to, or an embedded version of the article. Is this "fair use"? I have no idea given the hostility of some judges to copyright claims against news aggregation web-sites, but applying traditional copyright law concepts, such embedding and creation of derivative works should not be fair use. As many of you who have followed the saga of Righthaven appreciate, courts seem to be bending over backwards in some jurisdictions to protect these news aggregation web-sites even in the face of strong attacks by mainstream media groups. For some reason, some courts believe that hyperlinking does not involve making a technical copy and therefore, cannot constitute copyright infringement--but the final word has not been spoken on this. I personally believe that Judge Posner and others who have developed hypertechnical definitions of "copying" are wrong, and this remains a subject of great controversy. Attacks on hyperlinking seem off limits because this is the heart and soul of the internet---but more serious thought needs to be given to this in the context of news aggregation web-sites. What I realize more every day is that current copyright law is not up to the task of dealing with the internet and new media, and Congress needs to develop a new framework for protecting and enforcing copyrights in the digitial/internet age----including small claim courts to deal claims that some of us may have for copyright infringement that may only be worth a few dollars.

  6. Let us not confuse assignment of copyright with giving license to use content. Assignment of copyright means parting with ownership to the works altogether. Licensing your work means giving permission while retaining copyright ownership. All you’re doing here is licensing, so of course you can repost and publish them. The question is whether you can stop AVVO from publishing your answers and guides even when it looks like you granted them an irrevocable license. There may be some arguments on that point.

  7. If you want to take your Avvo answers and repost them (a better way, certainly easier, might be to just link to them), I would suggest you just do it and not worry about Avvo. It's your language and it's your content. I will might have a implied license or actual license to use it, but it is highly unlikely they can obtain and enforceable license to prevent you from using your own words. It's also unlikely they would ever try to enforce such an exclusive right, even if they thought they had it, as the backlash would be a sight to behold.

    I am not your lawyer and you are not my client. Free advice here is without recourse and any reliance thereupon is at your sole risk. This is done without compensation as a free public service. I am licensed in IL, MO, TX and I am a Reg. Pat. Atty. so advice in any other jurisdiction is strictly general advice and should be confirmed with an attorney licensed in that jurisdiction.