View Full Version : I could use some help with questions about copyrights.

03-10-2005, 04:54 PM
I am working on what will eventually be a large website. I am trying to write all the content for it until such time as I can afford help. The site will cover a wide range of topics dealing with health related issues.

In trying to cut down on the time it takes to write on certain topics, it would help me to have a much better understanding of copyright. For example, my current topic is Cancer. This includes what Cancer is, what to expect if you have recently been diagnosed with cancer, treatment options, etc.

Granted, there is a ton of info on the net about this subject already. My motivation for this topic stems from the fact that the hospital where I work is in the process of building a large cancer treatment center. I feel it would be nice to have an information base that patients and families can refer to outside of the center as well.

The problem I am having with writing on certain subjects is this...there are only so many ways to write about something that has been written about a zillion times over. It is impossible to be original. What do I do to keep from infringing upon copyright laws?

To be quite honest, I haven't a clue about copyright laws and could use some help understanding them. Reading the info on the net about copyright has not been sufficient to meet my needs.

If anyone can help enlighten me, I would be most grateful.


03-11-2005, 04:01 PM
Mmm interesting! Re 'originality' write as little as possible and then you delte 90 percent of the result. What's left is the real thing! Re 'laws' ... well, keep them and if you find a fork in the road, take it!


03-11-2005, 06:50 PM
LOL aspier. I took your advice and this is what I came up with:

Cancer Kills.

The end.

Not very original I know but it certainly cuts out 90% and more.

Now here's a twist but I must warn you, it is graphic and I am biasedly in support of it. Here it goes:

Kill Cancer.

The end of the end.


03-11-2005, 10:50 PM
rather than write articles on subjects that have been well documented, why not try to find some free articles on sites such as: http://www.goarticles.com ? There are some others but the links escape me at the present time. They are free for use as long as you leave the resource box with the author's info. One drawback is that some of the articles you find there will not be well written so you will still have to do some reading to separate the better ones from the truly bad ones.

That might help cutting down your time spent trying to write original articles and take care of the copyright issues at the same time.

03-12-2005, 12:02 AM
Thank You Moondancer! That sounds like a great idea!

I have to do the Snoopy Dance now. LOL I love Snoopy.


03-18-2005, 03:09 AM
:Lecture: I am a cancer survivor and the answer to cancer is to kill it right now. Okay since I do articles on cancer just email me and I will be happy to contribute and don't worry in my case about copyright because I am only to happy to help others with this disease. In fact a joint collaberation with my mentor we came up with a slogan about cancer survivors. It goes like this. Cancer survivors are people living with cancer. Anything that will get the message out is to me a public service. I do not write sappy pieces but honest articles from the survivor to the care giver. Okay so I will check back with you on this.

04-16-2005, 07:25 PM
To actually address her question,

FACTS cannot be copyrighted. Example: If I said I owned the copyright to "Lincoln was assassinated," what would you think? You are allowed to use any FACT in whatever manner and as often as you like, without anyone's permission.

Only original material can be copyrighted. That includes opinions, observations and conclusions.
There is much confusion about copyright. I would suggest you research it on the Net.

Susan Rand
ePublishing at its Best
Editing/Writing Services
Jobs for Writers

04-16-2005, 11:33 PM
Thank You cattywampus.

What I decided to do was to obtain health info. from some of the .gov sites making sure to give credit and identify the source. The .gov sites have excellent health information.

I realize there is a ton of health info. on the net already however, I want some of that information available on my site for purpose of visitor convenience. Because I am the only content provider I have at the moment, using .gov info. saves me a ton of time and allows me to write original content based on personal experience and research.

My fear is that reproducing .gov info. may come across as being a "cheesy" thing to do. Unfortunately, I see no other option at this time especially because I do not wish to give up the concept of visitor convenience.

Finally, I see it like this....the government taxes money I earn so I'll take their info. to help myself make money so they can tax it. It's an unofficial partnership kind of thing er sumthin' like that. :D


Cathy C
06-06-2005, 05:13 AM
Hi, Gehanna! I'm a new member and just happened upon your thread as my first one!:)

While I'm not an attorney and can't give legal advice, I am a certified paralegal with a specialty degree in Intellectual Property (copyrights, trademarks, patents). You ask some very legitimate questions, and I can answer a few of them and direct you to other locations to find the rest.

First, an "idea" cannot be copyrighted, so the subject matter of your website is not a problem. In the case of Baker v. Selden (1879), the court held that there was a difference between "description" of an item, and its expression. Therefore, if you LITERALLY copy from someone else's book and claim it to be your own you'll have problems. However, only YOU thinks like YOU. So, even if you're drawing from the same sources, your interpretation -- your "spin" will be different than other people's. Otherwise, you wouldn't be starting your own website, would you? :idea: So, the courts decided that if the writing is "arranged differently, and all that had been taken from the original author was the idea, or the art," then there is no violation of law. But one helpful thing is to look at the U.S. Copyright office's website. They have a TERRIFIC FAQ section to answer all sorts of these questions. They're at: http://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/

Hope that helps some! Feel free to ask other questions if you think of any! :)

Cathy C
Visit our website to see the books we write! http://www.ciecatrunpubs.com (http://www.ciecatrunpubs.com/)

06-06-2005, 07:02 PM
Hi Cathy, and welcome to the forum. :Clap:

I, too, was a paralegal and investigator after 35 years as a legal assistant and I am thankful for the information you provided. I agree that "no one thinks like YOU," but isn't one of the requirements of journalism that you keep your personality out of it? If that's true, two people writing an article, say, on treatment for ovarian cancer may well write the same, or nearly the same, article.

I'm also curious about "So, the courts decided that if the writing is "arranged differently, and all that had been taken from the original author was the idea, or the art..." What is the meaning of "art" in this statement? Was the court talking about images, or what? I'll bet if asked, the court couldn't have defined "art" any more than most people can define it.

Thank you for the copyright link. My students are always clamouring for this.

Catty :)

Cathy C
06-06-2005, 07:33 PM
but isn't one of the requirements of journalism that you keep your personality out of it?

Sure, but even objectivity is subjective... :) Gehanna might not intepret the information the same as the person before. Since s/he (I try not to presume gender on these boards) works in the industry, Gehanna will have access to sources that might not ever have been quoted in written text.

Now, in the quoted court case, the "art" being discussed was an accounting program (not software, but a method of accounting that was new.) The plagiarism accusation was based on the concept that someone stole the novel "idea" and, therefore, used similar terms to describe it.

Generally speaking, courts have found plagiarism in cases where more than three connecting words are in the exact same "arrangement" as that which occurred in the original Work. The wording was quite different in the stated case, so no plagiarism occurred.

But... the following sentence (based on the one above) would be plagiarism:

Generally speaking, courts have found that three connecting words, in the same arrangement as found in the original Word, would be plagiarism.

This would not be:

There have been cases where the placement of the words in an identical "order" have been found to be plagiarism by the Courts.

Both sentences say the same thing -- they have the same IDEA, taken from the same SOURCES, but the arrangement of the words is different. Otherwise, there would only be ONE book on every topic in the world, and we all know that's not the case! :ROFL:

Cathy C

06-07-2005, 08:57 PM
Oh, gosh, well, it appears that were it not for the fact that facts cannot be copyrighted, I'd be guilty of the BIG P! Because I do often use more than 3 words in the same order, even though half the time it's in a quote.

I have for some time been trying to isolate what AC (for example) really wants in their articles - in other words, will they/do they pay more for articles that match their wants? I have asked the editor and this is what she had to say:

"We receive a lot of non-exclusive works that have been published in print but offer original web content (since they cannot be found online). Exclusive content will always be original web content, since it has not been published. Once you sell us the exclusive rights, it cannot be resold to anyone else.

"The subject is the primary way we base payment. While you are a great writer, our priority is to pay for content that someone would search for on the web. While general information is okay, for the most part people don’t search in generic terms. For example, an article I recently published about Planning a Wedding in Lake Tahoe is what we’re looking for …..an article on Planning Your Wedding is too general, and unless you’re a wedding professional, your article will be very simple.
"I just glanced at your Bubbles submission. (FYI, you can edit submissions which are pending in the queue, and attach an image). Again, while well-written, not many people are searching for information about making bubbles. A great submission will have a Title that would be a likely – if not popular – search term. And remember, the more specific you can make the title/search term….the better.

"I had another writer ask me the same question earlier today. He proposed writing about Backpacking, but then narrowed it down (based on personal experience) to Backpacking Spots in Costa Rica. The latter is more specific and more users will find this article once we publish it." (Sorry, the color won't work on this one)

So I am assuming that they want my articles to be more specific, less general. Am I reading her right? I'm never sure, because an editor who writes a sentence like "Again, while well-written, not many people are searching for information about making bubbles..." is suspect to begin with! I have also read other AC articles with blatant errors in usage, spelling, etc.

I still think we should form a union to force these people to pay us a decent price for our work. Anybody interested in this possibility email me at mail@pygmypress.com. If I get enough support I'll look into it.

Thanks for reading.

Catty :box:

06-07-2005, 10:20 PM
Gehanna, you might want to check the NAACCR web site at URL http://www.naaccr.org/ for some information.

There are also state cancer registries that will have some limited information. They generally provide statistics to the major sites and doctors. One such registry is at URL http://vdhweb/epi/cancer/about.asp where if you research the site enough, you may find a familiar name. ;)

Cathy C
06-07-2005, 10:57 PM
Because I do often use more than 3 words in the same order, even though half the time it's in a quote.

Ah! See, that's the big difference, cattywampus! When you've attributed the words in a particular order to the copyright holder (the author), then you're fine. It's only when you try to claim the arrangement of words as YOUR OWN that it's a problem!

So, if you quoted the post that I wrote earlier on your blog or on another site, and said "On another board I'm on, Cathy C said..." that's fine. But when you just quote it without crediting the author, THEN you're plagiarizing. Does that make sense??

So I am assuming that they want my articles to be more specific, less general. Am I reading her right?

Yep, you're reading her right. But I'd be careful about submitting ANY article or content that will be EXCLUSIVE, because that means that you're selling ALL rights to it. It's as though you sold your car to your next door neighbor. It's gone, never to return -- and he would take a dim view of your keeping a key to it and "borrowing" it to go to the grocery, even though it's right there handy! You can't post that same article on your website, or sell it a second time, or put it in a private newsletter to your friends without the publication's permission. It's GONE.

But, that said, many authors DO sell all rights. You just need to understand that's what you're doing.

Oh, and what Dave said on resources... :)


06-08-2005, 08:25 PM
Thank you, Cathy. I understand attribution, to a more or less extent. At the bottom of my articles I list my sources (links or books or whatever), but not in the body - some markets do not want links in the body - does that count as attribution?

I have also used photos given with the caveat that the source must be given on the same page as the photo. I told AC this, but I don't believe they did it. A small worry, but real.

I also understand about exclusive rights. AC it is said, pays more for exclusive but I don't see how they could pay me less - I just got an offer of $12.50 for an article over 1,000 words. That's just not satisfactory.

Catty :Shrug: