How should I respond? - I was Plagiarized
6 years later I discover my exact article, word for word, is now attributed to the newspaper guy who started the website. I wrote two articles for his site, now 1 is attributed to me. 1 is not.
Using the "Wayback Machine" I have been able to capture screenshots of the article when it was correctly attributed to me. I may be able to come up with other evidence by scouring my old computer hard drives. Also, the website does have advertising and is a money making venture.
How should I respond to this?
6 attorney answers
Unless it constitutes a fraud that causes actual harm, plaigerism is not a legal wrong -- it's an ethical wrong. Ethical wrongs are bad, of course, but the law can't, and shouldn't, provide a remedy for all ethical missteps. Society has other ways to deter and respond to such missteps.
Because you granted the website owner the right to display your articles on his website you very, very likely do not currently have a viable copyright infringement claim.
Two points, however: (1) Your own Virginia-licensed intellectual property attorney should evaluate whether you have the right to rescind the copyright license you granted and (2) evaluate whether the federal courts in the website owner's jurisdiction will conclude [as other courts have done] that removing an author's name from a digital copy of a copyrighted work violates the DMCA protections afforded to "copyright managment information" [see 17 U.S.C. 1201 - 1202].
If you can rescind then the continued publication of your article would constitute copyright infringement.
And if removing your name does violate the DMCA copyright management information provision then you'd be entitled to a statutory damages amount of at least $2,500 up to $25,000 per violation [which would dramatically skew the settlement negotiation dynamic in your favor].
In short, you may have a remedy -- but only your own attorney can provide you with actionable advice. Good luck.
The above response is general information ONLY and is not legal advice, does not form an attorney-client relationship, and should NOT be relied upon to take or refrain from taking any action. I am not your attorney. You should seek the advice of competent counsel before taking any action related to your inquiry.
First question is if you have any agreement with the local newspaper and/or that writer. In this agreement, perhaps a work for hire type agreement, it might have stated that you were producing the items for the newspaper but they would own the rights to the articles. If so, you have no recourse. If not, see below.
Send him a letter (make sure you keep copies for your records) outlining the claim, namely that you drafted the article and it should be attributed to you, not the other author. If he refuses, you could consider copyrighting the article (protection is still available to you after all of this time). Ultimately, the ad revenue is likely VERY minimal and your damages might end up being less than what it costs to register the copyright. You should be able to find sample letters online that you can augment to fit the facts. Hopefully it was a simple oversight and he will change the credits.
The information and materials provided are just that - informational - and do not constitute legal advice nor do they establish an attorney-client relationship. I am licensed to practice law in Colorado, Washington DC, and Florida (inactive). Please note that no attorney-client relationship is made until a representation agreement is signed and you receive an engagement letter. Remember that until there is an attorney-client relationship, there is no attorney-client privilege.
You may own the copyright to your article since it appears that you never signed anything transferring copyright ownership to the article, and you were not an employee.
However, you willingly provided the article for the purpose of the website, and the owner of the website may have a non exclusive license to use the article for the purpose intended.
In terms of the use you saw with the misattribution, you may be able to sue for copyright infringement depending on the circumstances.
You should discuss with an intellectual property attorney.
Legal Disclaimer- the information provided herein is not legal advice. Transmission of this information is not intended to create, and receipt by you does not constitute, an attorney / client relationship. Although effort has been made to ensure that the answers are correct, Law Office of Walter Tencza Jr. cannot and does not offer any warranty, express or implied that the answers contained are accurate statements of law. This document is provided for informational purposes only. Viewers must not act upon any information without first seeking advice from a qualified attorney outside the context of this document.
Whatever the legally correct answer is, this is not worth getting a lawyer involved. Sounds like you maybe ought to start your own blog.
Every case tells a story. We'd love to hear yours. Ben Glass is licensed in Virginia. You should consult an experienced, board certified attorney in your area. Obviously, no attorney client relationship is formed by participating in Avvo.
You do not state whether there were any terms and conditions regarding the work you had published years ago. If there are none, and no work for hire agreements, then you own the copyright on the works. More of the facts need to be disclosed to determine whether there are laches defenses, etc. so I advise you to see an intellectual property litigator to determine whether you have a good viable case. Good luck.
It is unlikely, after all this time, that you have a cause of action, especially given that you likely signed some pretty serious disclaimers as part of getting your work published. Talk with a local contracts attorney for more information.
This post is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship, nor should the information contained therein be considered as legal advice. Each case is unique, and posters should seek independent counsel to handle their legal problems. This post is merely intended to be educational in nature. I am not your attorney, nor do I agree to appear in court for you by posting this information.