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Copyright Issue

Posted: January 12th, 2012, 6:36 pm
by bravesamwise84
I created a blog which was meant to be a writing exercise, and it was a lot of fun. Eventually I invited some friends to contribute to the blog, and it was fun at first, but began to get really complicated and I decided I really didn't want to do it anymore. I gave them the blog, but took down my content and asked them not to feature my writing, but to feel free to continue the blog in whatever way they chose with their own writing.

A week later, they restored my writing with a backup, deleted my public announcement that I was quitting, and wrote their own that made it sound like they had permission to post my writing. There was also evidence that they were going to try and make money off the project. They never returned my calls or messages, and I eventually in frustration wrote a couple blogs detailing my situation but not the names of who was involved. I contacted, who actually took down my content again. I found evidence that these contributors were planning to switch hosts and feature my writing again, and got really worried, and tired of the issue in general.

After a couple weeks, I had decided to let it go, and stop caring whether they posted the writing or not. This week I was contacted by a man claiming to be their attorney; his concern is over the "public allegations" I made against those contributors. I had written a blog talking about what had happened, but hadn't specifically mentioned the names of those involved... and a week or two ago, I actually deleted those blogs, since I had decided to let the whole affair go.

This attorney tells me that his concern is with "defamation and libel" and asked me to make a public statement retracting what I had said before. I'm lost as to what to do, and don't even know how to google what kind of attorneys I might want to speak to. Do you have any kind of direction or advice for me?

Re: Copyright Issue

Posted: January 12th, 2012, 6:55 pm
by Doug Pardee
You don't say where you live, which matters quite a bit. Laws vary from place to place.

What I'd do, where I live (California), is to ignore the lawyer's letter. He's not threatening anything, and from what you've said, he can't threaten anything. He's just asking, and is using his letterhead as a way of getting your attention. This is a routine activity for lawyers.

I'd save any documentation I might have, then just put the whole matter behind me. In the really off-chance that someone did eventually file suit, that would be the time to consult a lawyer.

That's what I'd do based on what you've written. Whether or not it's sound advice for where you live, and the true situation you're in, I don't know.

Re: Copyright Issue

Posted: January 12th, 2012, 7:23 pm
by bravesamwise84
I live in Idaho, and so did the contributors until one of them moved to Utah this November. The Lawyer is based out of Utah.

Re: Copyright Issue

Posted: January 12th, 2012, 10:19 pm
by polymath
What a mess these fairweather friends are making of things. Seems to me they're maneuvering to ursurp your intellectual property so they can exploit it without worrying you will assert your rights.

They cannot use your writing without your permission. Period. The lawyer ploy is an attempt to goad you into making a mistake so they improve their standing. That's closer than I care to get to litigation, which can be costly, and tends to in general scare people in the right into surrender.

What is it that they think about your writing has sufficient value to engage in legal brinskmanship? Is it a unique milieu? Some original theme or situation or some such that they want to exploit and will bully you off your ownership of the intellectual property to do so? I see a potential scenario where they may have a piggy toenail of a legitimate standing, that you and they developed a potentially marketable concept through collaboration. You stepped aside. They want to go forward without you. They'll resort to any reasonable means to put you aside so you cannot assert a future claim if they make something valuable out of whatever it is.

My best advice is to diligently document as much as you can to cover your backside. If they pursue the matter, you'll be prepared to take what action is necessary to protect your rights.

If you reply to the lawyer, do not make any admissions. Not even to say since the adversarial blog posts didn't name names there can be no defamation or libel, which while true isn't absolute proof. Don't mention them at all. Do not under any circumstances publish a retraction or write a letter with same to anyone. That's tantamount to an admission of malicious intent, what they want, it seems to me, so they can steal your property legitimately. Timely removing the adversarial posts is enough to show there was no overt intent to do harm.

You might ask the lawyer to spell out the bases for the accusation, though. Put him on notice that way that you're no pushover. He might make a mistake that will serve your interests, like stepping over the line of ethical conduct, which could impact his license to practice law, if he is in fact a lawyer to begin with. Wanna play badminton with live handgrenades? Return the volley by asking for details.

Anyway, something smells fishy to me.

Re: Copyright Issue

Posted: January 13th, 2012, 2:29 pm
by Ryan
What kind of content does the blog specialize in? Are they or you making money off the blog? If they gave you credit, it would drive traffic to your own site and give you exposure. Involving lawyers seems like a lot of headache and money. Hope it pans out without too much time, emotion and cash.

Re: Copyright Issue

Posted: January 13th, 2012, 3:22 pm
by bravesamwise84
I did respond that I would not take back anything I had said because it was true, and I countered with an offer to "buy me out", starting at five cents per word and thirty dollars for the URL. They haven't responded to the offer, but are pressuring me to tell them "what I want to see out of a negotiation" and the lawyer keeps saying things that seem to be trying to convince me that I know they didn't commit plagiarism, and that I have publicly made a serious and offensive accusation against them.

For now, I have stopped responding, because frankly I'm scared that I'll mess something up. I am emailing a few experts on the situation, but meanwhile this is really upsetting. I think you're right, that they are trying to goad me into saying something that will hurt my case.

The funny thing is, the blog isn't worth any money, and it really was just a writing project for fun. That's all. It would all be quite simple if they had just left my content down. They took it down eventually, when they were contacted by Wordpress about it, but now there's this lawyer situation...

Re: Copyright Issue

Posted: January 13th, 2012, 5:14 pm
by Mira
Wow. I'm so sorry this is happening to you. I would feel very betrayed and targeted in this situation.

Here's my take:

I would completely ignore this. I would be surprised, frankly, if this were a real lawyer, although I suppose it could be a friend of a friend. What type of lawyer would take on a case like this? Lawyers are so unbelievable expensive, I can't imagine they could afford this type of thing.

I think you are dealing with some disturbed people. I would not respond in any way whatsoever, it's just going to encourage them. And I think you're right to be worried about making a mistake, they may be trying to trip you up in some way.

Ignore it, ignore them, refuse to respond to anything. You don't owe them a response on any level.

Although....if you start to feel as though they are harrassing you, you have the right to stop them. There are usually lawyers you can consult for free, and certainly there are agencies set up to protect people from harrassment. Just for peace of mind, actually, you may want to consult a lawyer about this. You can usually find a non-profit agency that provides lawyers, libraries usually set up lawyer question times, there are on-line sites called "ask a lawyer" and all kinds of places you can get some legal support.

Again, I'm sorry you have to deal with these people, but I know that you'll win out. They are in the wrong, not you.

Good luck!

Re: Copyright Issue

Posted: January 15th, 2012, 5:20 am
by writersink
I personally would sent them threatening messages and cry alternatively. However, this is not the best advice from a legal perspective. I'll just echo what everyone else has said: don't say anything, and ignore any messages- they are obviously trying to get you to react in a way that will show you in a bad light: remember, if a person attacks a burglar, they could be the one prosecuted. As for your "friends" having a lawyer... absolute tosh. They cost a lot of money and the law is obviously on your side. You are in the right and therefore have no need to be worried. Document anything they send you as evidence. If you want to find an attorney, just ask anyone for advice and they will direct you to the right people.

Seriously, these people sound like bad guys I would make up in a book.

Re: Copyright Issue

Posted: January 15th, 2012, 6:00 am
by bravesamwise84
Thanks guys, I am still waiting to hear back from a lawyer, but your advice really helps. If nothing else, it helps me to stay a bit sane, and to know that I don't really have much to worry about in the end. It also helps make it easier not to respond, which is tempting at times. :D