Yesterday I posted an overview of a website called Lawblogs.net that was content scraping a number of legal blogs. The extent to which the content scrapping occurred varied, but there were definitely multiple instances of complete posts being pulled from legal blogs’ RSS feeds and beings displayed on Lawblogs.net.

Matthias Klappenbach, the person behind Lawblogs.net quickly modified the functionality of Lawblogs.net, as outlined in this post at his blog:

1. I removed the iFrame which was visible to navigate to popular posts or back to LawBlogs.net when clicking on a headline. I was never sure about the iFrame, which is why I put it up for discussion here. However removing the iFrame is the right decision at this time.

2. I further shortened the content snippets displayed on LawBlogs.net. Never will an article be shown with more than 400 characters. Full articles were at no point in time shown on LawBlogs.net. In the past depending on the post length, LawBlogs.net displayed up to 50% of articles.

3. I have removed the blogs for which authors reached out to me. If you want your blog removed please drop me an email at matthias@lawblogs.net or – even easier – let me know by clicking on the question mark in the bottom right corner.

So why still ads?

The motivation behind the site is not money (as stressed before) and the site is not my main income. However I need the site to break even to continue running it. That’s it…

Update 1 – 1:30pm PST: I made some minor edits to get by thoughts across a little better..

Update 2 – 4:00pm PST: I have found an issue where posts in rare cases were indeed displayed in full due to a bug in my system (how “lucky” that Keith found it). I’m very well aware that displaying articles in full is well outside of legal bounds and should never have happened. I have fixed the issue and sincerely appologize for the mistake.

These changes address my personal issues for the site – somewhat. There are still a number of issues remaining.

One, my name and material, as that of the rest of AboveTheLaw, remains on Lawblogs.net. I’m fairly certain that my last blog post made it clear that I want it removed.

Two, not all RSS feeds or content are created equal.

There Is Not One License To Rule Them All

There are a variety of ways to license the use of one’s content. Some people reserve all rights under copyright law. Other people choose to use licenses that allow sharing and reuse of their content. Typically speaking, this later category generally falls under some sort of Creative Commons license. For the unaware:

Our free, easy-to-use copyright licenses provide a simple, standardized way to give the public permission to share and use your creative work — on conditions of your choice. CC licenses let you easily change your copyright terms from the default of “all rights reserved” to “some rights reserved.”

Creative Commons licenses are not an alternative to copyright. They work alongside copyright and enable you to modify your copyright terms to best suit your needs.

But there are still restrictions content creators can place on the use and sharing of their content under a Creative Commons license.

[toggle title=”A Note On Fair Use” state=”close” ]There are also times when a person’s content can be used at will, under the Fair Use Doctrine. Fair use is a limitation and exception to the exclusive right granted by copyright law to the author of a creative work. In United States copyright law, fair use is a doctrine that permits limited use of copyrighted material without acquiring permission from the rights holders. Examples of fair use include commentary, search engines, criticism, parody, news reporting, research, teaching, library archiving and scholarship. It provides for the legal, unlicensed citation or incorporation of copyrighted material in another author’s work under a four-factor balancing test: 1)Purpose and character of the use, 2)Nature of the copyrighted work, 3)Amount and substantiality, and 4)Effect upon work’s value. A full analysis is beyond the scope of this post, but needless to say, Lawblogs.net use of other blogs content is not sustainable under the four-factor balancing test. [/toggle]

For example, Kevin Underhill, author of Lowering The Bar, uses an Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Creative Commons license. Meaning that while you can re-publish posts from his blog, they cannot be used for commercial gain. Advertising is commercial gain. As such, displaying any of the content from Lowering The Bar within a website supported by advertising is in violation of the license.

There are still likely dozens, if not hundreds, of such violations on Lawblogs.net as the Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Creative Commons license is one of the most common licenses used by blogs. The authors of these blogs don’t need to tell Lawblogs.net to remove their content. Their choice of license serves as proactive public notice as to how they wish their content to be treated. Lawblogs.net had a duty to inspect the licensed used of the content of each of blogs from which it pulled content. It did not, and so violated the copyrights of the blogs’ authors.

There are other blogs that retain all copyright protection:

This feed is for personal, non-commercial use only. The use of this feed on other websites breaches copyright. If this content is not in your news reader, the page you are viewing infringes the copyright.

Again, personal, not commercial use. This author is also restricting his posts to only his website and personal news readers. It is not to be displayed on any other website. Lawblogs.net is in violation of this blog’s copyrighted use as well. The author of this blog does not need to tell Lawblogs.net to remove their content because Lawblogs.net had a duty to never take it in the first place.

Furthermore, by having a blogs content appear on Lawblogs.net, there is likely an implied voluntary association between the blog and Lawblogs.net in the minds’ of the average reader. That is, a blog has chose to have its content appear on Lawblogs.net and not taken without their permission.

As Klappenbach still seems to fail to grasp intellectual property laws, so I’m going to address it briefly with a hypothetical.

The $100 Bill On The Front Porch Hypothetical

Courtesy Thomas Galvez

Courtesy Thomas Galvez

Adam is walking along and sees a $100 bill sitting on someone’s front porch. No one was around, but Adam could see that the $100 bill was on someone’s property (to be lawyerly about it, their curtilage). But since no one was around, Adam decides he’s going to take the $100. But Adam is nervous about taking the $100, because he knows he took it off of someone else’s property.

Instead of spending the $100, Adam decides to put it into a savings account and just earn interest of off it. This goes along for sometime, with Adam happily earning interest on the money, while at the same time feeling good that he actually didn’t “steal” anything, because the money is sitting unspent in the savings account.

Some time goes by and Bob, the owner of the aforementioned property, steps outside and realizes his $100 is gone. Bob, being a diligent homeowner, has 24/7 video surveillance of his front porch. Bob reviews the video and discovers that it was Adam who took the $100 bill.

Bob confronts Adam about taking the $100 bill. Adam says, “No no, I was just holding on to it. I didn’t steal it. It’s right here. There you go,” and hands Bob a $100 bill back.

  • Has Adam stolen the $100 bill from Bob?
  • Is the interest gained on the money while Bob’s $100 bill was in Adam’s savings account theft?
  • Did Adam have permission to take the $100 bill from Bob’s front porch, just because it was sitting there unattended?

Leave your answers in the comments.

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UPDATE: Lawblogs.net has now folded. See comments below. Also see Josh King’s post on Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Creative Commons licensed content here.

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