We are SharpShark.io - a blockchain-powered tool for intellectual property management
Hello everybody! We are SharpShark, a startup that protects, monitors, and helps with the monetization of intellectual property.
We want to tell you about one case where we helped remove unauthorized content.
Although this case occurred in the Russian-speaking sphere, the algorithm of actions used is universal, with more than 170 countries having signed a general agreement on intellectual property.
Copyright is an amazing thing. It has existed since 1886 (the Berne Convention and its legacy DMCA and EUCD), perfectly regulated internationally. The rules of application are described, there are tools and legal precedents, but only a few people observe them. Why?
In this article, we will use our latest example to analyze how to remove an article from the internet that was stolen from you, and give a couple of tips on copyright protection in general.
Intellectual property is divided into industrial property-patents, trademarks, know-how, and copyright.
Important! Today we are only talking about text and image related copyright, though the intellectual property sphere has over forty segments.
Alexey is the editor-in-chief of Delobank's corporate publication. Sasha and Lera have been developing their project in the field of intellectual property for two years. The article was checked by lawyer Vladimir Popov.
About Sasha Ivanova, Lera Panina, and Alexey Berezovoy.
We studied editing together at school and have extensive experience in the media sphere. Even during our studies, we took a copyright course and know the central principles:
1) We distinguish property rights from non-property rights;
that is, the right to be called an author from the ownership of intellectual assets.
2) We understand when these rights arise.
Copyright arises at the time of creation of the work, when the text is written, the logo is drawn, or the photo is taken. But the author should create proof of their authorship in advance in order to quickly resolve any disputes.
3) We know what ironclad proof of authorship looks like.
4) We are aware of the various traditional ways to create proof of authorship:
- The "envelope method"
- Using various escrow services
- Registration with a notary.
We will discuss them in more detail later.
5) We know the difference between honest borrowing and plagiarism.
More information can be found in the materials from the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
That’s enough theory, let's look at how it works in practice.
A month ago, an article was stolen from Alexey. Sasha and Lera helped him remove the unauthorized copy from the Internet, although the owner of the site did not engage in communication.
We will share the processes used, and at the end, we will give templates and practical tips.
On August 25th, Alexey published an article about franchises. A day later I saw that another portal — let's call it "The Money Village” - reprinted the text word for word, without putting a link to the original source and without citing the author. The original content is here.
screenshot of the original
text from the copy
This was an extreme case of plagiarism: taking someone else's content and passing it off as their own.
We won’t translate the screenshots — but don't worry, it won't affect your understanding of what happened.
2) A letter of request to the site owner
It took 30 minutes to find their contact info and write an email.
It didn't work.
Alexey immediately wrote to the portal.
The email was ignored.
Why it didn't work:
The violator never considered the consequences. He thought, "Well, it's just a text on the Internet.” However, it wasn’t just a text, but a copyrighted object with consequences for anyone who violates it.
3) Angry Facebook post
30 minutes after detection.
It also didn't work.
Having gotten no response, Alexey published an angry post on Facebook (FB).
It seems that "The Money Village” was not included in the post
At this time, Sasha and Lera were conducting a legal experiment and decided to help.
4) Pre-trial claim
The next day.
Still didn't work.
Sasha requested authority from Alexey to deal with the violators. A simple correspondence sufficed.
The standard that was used:
Federal Law No.149-FZ, 27.07.2006 (as amended on 03.04.2020) "On Information, Information Technologies, and the Protection of Information"
Article 15.7. Extrajudicial measures to cease the violation of copyright and (or) related rights in information and telecommunication networks, including the Internet, taken at the request of the copyright holder.
We applied the Principle of an Abundance of Evidence, in a simple way - " the more, the better”
Google says: "When we receive a valid takedown notice, our teams carefully review it for completeness and check for other problems. If the notice is complete and we find no other issues, we delist the URL from search results”
How to achieve completeness:
- Examine the content and identify all violations. Literally, study each paragraph for violations.
- Select a legal norm for each violation.
- Provide evidence.
How to be precise:
- (The) proofs must be mathematical (metric data, measurement of the uniqueness of the text as a percentage, publication date, etc.)
- You need to attach ALL relevant links, including those of the legal norms.
The Money Village did not respond to the pre-trial claim.
Why do I need to make a claim? Before applying to the official authorities, a person must "take enough actions to show goodwill" — that is, try to resolve the issue directly in a pre-trial manner. (Federal Law)
5) Complaint to the host
After waiting 72 hours, a claim was sent to the host. We could have sent the claim to them immediately because Alexey had already contacted the portal owner.
The claim is the same as the one sent to the violator.
The next day, the content was removed, now the address shows an ‘Error 404’ message.
The host blocked the site very quickly because the risks for it are incommensurable with the revenue from hosting one site. "Look for who benefits." And don't forget to show your gratitude, the principle of goodwill cannot be ignored.
We won pretty quickly, but if we didn't succeed, the next steps would be as follows:
6) Complain to the provider or the hosts’ association.
7) Complain to the main search engines: Google, Yandex, Yahoo, Bing.
8) File a lawsuit.
It is advisable for higher authorities to prepare more concrete/bulletproof proof of authorship — one that meets the standards of the Berne Copyright Convention. That is, it must contain the name, date of creation, and the work in an immutable form.
There are no exceptions, even for Banksy.
Recently, Banksy lost the copyright to one of his works, because he presented it anonymously — that is, one of the three criteria was not met.
If it is clear how to achieve justice, then why is online media so poorly responsive to theft?
— Not everyone has a full-time lawyer.
— Not everyone knows about (the) DMCA/EUCD.
— There is an opinion that it is useless.
— The cost of removing content is greater than its production and distribution.
The last one is the most important. Let's calculate the costs.
Finding a copy via anti-plagiarism services or a simple search takes (at least) 30 minutes per article. Fumbling around with emails/letters takes a few days… And all this is "not your own" work.
This is related to salaries and lost profits resulting from the loss of traffic and reduced uniqueness of content.
Attention and emotions
The process is accompanied by defocusing and a whole range of emotions from anger to powerlessness.
It turns out to be a long, expensive, and seemingly hopeless process.
It makes sense to go to court if the amount of compensation exceeds the cost. In the case of articles, it will not work: by the time a decision is reached, the article will no longer be relevant and collect views, and the compensation will not cover the cost.
Therefore, the best solution is to reach a decision in a pre-trial order.
However, copyright is protected by law. People are aware of their rights and even sometimes defend them. The question is the amount of effort.
Collecting evidence and writing letters is labor-intensive. Therefore, we suggest using our guide and stocking up on evidence in advance.
There are several options:
- No way to make proof
Publishing on the site doesn’t always work as proof — it is not an immutable form. It is better to prepare something that complies with the law. Otherwise, it will be like Banksy's case. Who knows how advanced the violator will be or how compliant the host will be?
- The envelope method (don't believe it!)
It is cheap and aggressive. The envelope method is an urban myth. Only in the movies, does a lawyer take a rabbit out of a hat, or in this case, an envelope from a briefcase, open it, and miraculously win the trial.
In fact, the envelope can only be used once: once opened, it no longer works as proof. Additionally, the envelope may get lost, burnt, or wet.
From $15 per item. Prices usually start from around $15 per piece for both private and public services. We won't list the names of any private ones, but one good example of a public service is the Russian Authors' Society.
- WIPO Proof
20 Swiss Francs per item. This is similar to escrow but in a digital format. The service is represented by the office of the Intellectual Property Organization itself. It is convenient, you do not need to go anywhere.
- For technocrats: Immutable databases
Such databases meet the requirements of the Berne Convention — the content is stored in an immutable form. Their advantage is that they are free to use. And the downside is that you have to figure it out yourself.
You can use: IPFS - InterPlanetary File System; it's like torrents, only for texts, photos, and videos. (Almost) any blockchain.
In IPFS, it makes sense to save the entire work, and in the blockchain - the hash, its "digital fingerprint". Read here for more info on how to do this.
Save the checklist of “What to do if an article is stolen.”
Create evidence in advance, the more the better.
If you are interested in the topic of copyright and the fight against plagiarism, follow our HackerNoon, Linkedin, and/or Twitter pages. We regularly post on copyright-related topics, and plan to do it more and more often. And feel free to let us know what interests you — maybe, it’ll be the inspiration for our next material!
Valeria Panina and Sasha Ivanova are co-authors of this article, as they both decided to take on this challenge. The illustrations were created by Valeria and drawn by Alexander Kazarinov, the illustrator. Valeria also wrote and laid out the text, and Sasha took care of the case.
The concrete walls were photographed by various wonderful people who shared them free of charge on photo stocks, and only one photographer asked for a link to be included. The editorial photo of the Banksy mural is available to buy on Dreamstime, and reluctantly, Valeria and Sasha bought it for $11 USD. The main text font was created by a Swiss type foundry (Valeria has a license for it), and the second, headline font, is available via a subscription to Redimag (Valeria has a license for it too). Alexander holds the license for the handwritten font in the title picture.
DeloBank chief editor, Alexei Berezovoy, and lawyer Vladimir Popov, aka Menascope, were not opposed to this case to be publicized and sharing screenshots of their correspondences. The personal data of other parties is completely concealed (and not just by covering it with squares like in Redimag). Neither Google, nor any other analytics are used here, so we do not ask you to agree with anything. And the publication "Money Village " does not exist, so any coincidences with real websites are (completely) random.
That’s all, let’s get to work!
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