From the Archives – 5 Copyright Law Myths

(Friends, you may have noticed that I have not been doing much blogging lately. I have been suffering from a as-yet-undiagnosed illness that makes me very lethargic and unable to think clearly. I actually tried to make a phone call with the television remote last week. This has been compounded by a subluxated hip. That means that I took a nasty fall in my usual ungraceful way and twisted my left hip about 90 degrees. It hurts like hell. So while I am dealing with these issues, writing three to five hundred sensible and understandable words at one time is just too tough. Until I can get back on track, I will post some older blogs you may have missed. Thanks for your patience.)

copyright

(This was first posted by me in January 2010; I have updated it a little.)

Most of these things have irked me for a long time. But when I jumped (or maybe belly-flopped) into social media in 2009, I found these myths or misunderstandings were more pervasive and common than I expected, particularly among bloggers. And I still see them all the time. Grrrrrr.

MYTH #1: It’s spelled copywrite.

Okay, a misspelling is not a myth, but it bugs me.  Looking up the proper spelling would take about 15 seconds.

The reason it is called (and spelled) copyright is because the law gives the creator of certain “works of authorship” the exclusive right to reproduce (“copy”) that content.  It is not about writing, per se, because even though certain writings are protected creative content, so are such diverse creations as musical works, dramatic works, pantomimes, graphic works, and architectural works.

MYTH #2: You can’t copy my idea.

The foremost purpose of copyright law is to encourage individual effort as a way to advance public knowledge and culture.  By limiting copyright protection to the author’s method of expressing an idea, and not to the idea itself, others can create and disseminate more work and information.  If I have a great new idea for HR practice, and I blog about it, that idea is not protected and others may use it, even if they took the idea from my blog.  The only thing copyright law protects is the particular words I used to express the idea.  Some ideas are protected by other laws, such as patent law or trademark law, but the requirements for protection under those laws are very different and usually very stringent.

MYTH #3: I wrote that title and you can’t use it.

Names, titles, slogans, and short phrases are not copyrightable. Ever.  This is true even if it is unique or novel.

MYTH #4: I can copy your work because I don’t make money with my copy. 

This is probably a simplification of the “fair use” defense, but it is dangerous and inaccurate.  Under the fair use defense, the purpose and use of the infringing work, and whether that use is “commercial in nature”, is only one of four factors that a court might look at to determine whether there is actionable infringement.  Not making money with the copy is not definitive.   I don’t have the right to copy someone else’s blog and paste it here, no matter how much money I make – or don’t make – from it.

Determining if a copy is an infringement or is fairly used is actually very difficult.  There is purposefully no specific number of words, lines, or percentages.  Each complaint is determined on a case-by-case basis.  The best way to avoid any complaint from a copyright holder is to always get permission.  Acknowledging the source of your copy does not legally replace permission.

MYTH #5: I can copy your work because it does not say or show ©.

Under current law, neither notice (©) or registration is required for a copyright to attach to a given work.  A copyright is attached to original expression the moment it is fixed in a tangible form.  But registration of your copyright, while not required for your rights to attach, is desirable for a number of reasons.

 

If you are looking for more information, the U.S. Copyright Office has an excellent website with a great FAQ section.  It will even tell you how to protect your Elvis sighting.  I will be happy to answer other questions in the comments.

My Last Dance

Most of you know that I used to be a uniformed police officer in suburban Detroit.

During that time, I was no stranger to dancing, partying, and generally having a good time. Once when I was working midnights, I got off work at 7:00 am and went to a neighborhood bar with a group of fellow officers. I didn’t have to work again that night, so I didn’t leave that bar until 2:00 the next morning.

We drank, danced, sang from the stage unaccompanied (pre-karaoke), danced more, and generally had an epic good time. Friends came and went during the course of that 19 hours, but a few of us stayed the entire time and created a local legend.

But when Maren Hogan crooked her finger at me from the dance floor of a bar in Atlanta, on the second night of the annual SHRM conference I recently attended, I shook my head and stayed put on my bar stool. A short time after that, a lovely young woman who had been dancing approached me, leaned down, and gently asked, “are you alright?”

I guess I looked lonely sitting there on that bar stool alone, watching others dance, talking to no one.

I wasn’t lonely at all. I was at a massive HR conference, blogging, connecting, networking, and learning. I went to the bar and had one glass of wine and networked a little, and enjoyed watching others dance. But I didn’t stay long.

I needed to get back to my hotel and blog.

I’ve had plenty of opportunities to party and have a good time in my life, you see, and I have taken advantage of all of them. But blogging, and being a part of the HR Blogger Network,  is a new an exciting opportunity that I want to maximize as long as I am able. I am part of a group of professionals that is smart, insightful, encouraging, and helpful. To be a part of that group, and stay excited and energized, all I have to do is keep writing.

Networking and developing relationships face to face is a great thing, and I love to do that. I did plenty of it at the SHRM conference. That young woman at the bar who asked if I was okay?  We had a nice discussion after I told her I was fine, and now we’re connected on LinkedIn.

I would not have made that connection if I was on the dance floor. It’s hard to make a real connection while you are partying and dancing and yelling at the top of your lungs to be heard over the music. And you certainly can’t review your notes, or think about what you learned that day, or write your blog from there.

So I hope no one feels sorry for me – or thinks I’m snobbish – if I don’t join you on the dance floor, or stand up drinking with you at a crowded bar (I’m getting both knees replaced in early September, and they can’t handle to extra pressure), or if I skip the party all together and run back to my hotel.

I’m not missing a thing, because my computer and I have a brand new dance to do. I’m having a great time at this dance – and it may be my last one. I want to make the most of it.

 

 

 

 

Blog Copying is Thievery, Not Flattery

I guess it was bound to happen sometime, but I really didn’t expect it to happen to me. After all, I have this small, focused blog about HR and the workplace, which is not exactly exciting to the general population. My monthly readership barely gets into four figures. I didn’t think anyone would care enough to bother.

But last week, it did happen to me. This blog was copied in its entirety and placed on another site. Yes, I was credited and a link back to my original post was placed at the very end. But these were my words, not theirs, although you can hardly tell by looking at their site. It’s called a copyright violation.

At first I tried to shrug it off, claiming that it wasn’t worth worrying about, and it’s flattering when someone else likes your work enough to use it.

But the more I thought about it, the angrier I got. I was especially angry because the site that took my blog is full of ads from Ad Choices. When my work is copied and pasted on this site – they get the monetary benefit through their advertisers, not me.

I think that ads on most blogs are inherently a conflict of interest. Pet stores want to advertise on pet blogging sites. But what if you really don’t like the pet store? Do you take their money and keep quiet? Do you subconsciously choose your words differently so you don’t offend your advertisers?

I turned down two offers from advertisers before I allowed The Starr Conspiracy’s  HR Blogger Network, partnering with ReTargeter, to advertise on my blog. Yes – there is an advertisement on this blog, in the right column underneath the social media icons. See it?  I agreed to allow HR Blogger Network to advertise because, (1) their ads are inconspicuous and unobtrusive, (2) they target HR practitioners only, which is my basic audience, (3) there is no potential conflict of interest, and (4) I know and trust their marketing guru totally. I earn the cost of about 7 cups of Starbucks Shaken Iced Tea – black, no syrup – monthly. They are awesome and I am happy.

But when other sites take my work without permission and repost it, they are basically feeding their own advertisers instead of mine. They are stealing my earning potential, as well as the earning potential of my advertiser.  If they had asked me, I would probably have offered to write an intro and then linked back to my original site. For free.

But they didn’t ask and now I’m pissed off. Finally.

What should I do? Write them a nasty letter? (I know how to write a cease and desist!) Tell off their advertisers? Have another cup of Starbuck’s Iced Tea?

What would you do?

 

Of Dogs and Blogs

Today my blog is 2 years old.

My first blog was the typical “I’m gonna try this blogging thing”, but my first substantive content blog came a few days later with “What HR Can Learn From Good Pet Ownership”.  It was about my dog Freckles (far left in the picture), who had just died.  Thinking about that first post made me realize that this blog has become a big part of my life, just as my dogs are.

If  Just Joan were a dog, it would be leaving the clumsy-uncontrolled-spontaneous-lots of accidents phase, and settling into a more adult behavioral pattern. Energetic, but not spastic. Curious, but not destructive.

I think I have made it past the puppy stage and into the big girl pants. Part of the reason for this is that I have had some great trainers along the way. They are HR pros, bloggers, friends and others who I admire, and who have encouraged me with comments, fellowship, and advice. If you have ever left a comment on my blog or Facebook, or tweeted, re-tweeted, liked, or +1’d me, then you are a person who has helped me come this far, and I am deeply grateful to you.

Woof.

(I am also posting today for the Human Resource Association of Greater Detroit – www.hragdblog.org – “Do You Have A Paul Revere Or A William Dawes Network?”  It would be great to hear from you there, too!)

Blog Comments – When To Delete?

Four months ago I published a post about HRevolution, that most excellent of all HR conference-type events. In case you don’t want to click here to read the post, I will just tell you that in that post I mentioned Sue Marks, CEO of Pinstripe Talent, because her company was nice enough to furnish the attendees with Meet-Meme cards. I didn’t endorse her company or say much of anything except thank you.

So I was a little surprised to receive notification of the following comment just a couple of weeks ago:

 Now, I presume you will agree with me that the comment is not offensive, vulgar, discriminatory,  or any other negative type that we all agree is fair game for deletion. It contains spelling and grammatical errors, but I think we can also agree that poor writing skill is a problem up and down the social web, and certainly not a reason to hit the delete button.

The issue with this comment is that it is really not about the substantive content of the post, but a politely worded political commentary. Not exactly spam, but . . . close. A troll? Not quite.

Since that comment was posted, I have been thinking a lot about the spirit of free speech and whether, in that spirit, I should allow this comment to stay. I was reminded of a case I studied in law school, which discussed whether private property owners of large open-to-the-public shopping malls should be required to allow picketers and other public speech demonstrations. The argument was that these places have supplanted public parks and town squares as gathering places, and that free speech principles should be allowed to follow the public.

In law school I argued vehemently against such a law, believing that business owners can best determine whether allowing demonstrators on their property was in their best financial interest. Now, with this blog comment, I’m not so sure.  Even though I own my blog and can delete any comment I want to – should I? If the social web is the “democratization of communication”, as pundits claim, do I have a social responsibility to honor that democracy by allowing political comments on an HR blog?

What about you? Would you delete this comment if it was your blog? Does it matter if you agree with the comment? I’d love you to tell me your thoughts.

5 Favorite Blogs From SHRM11

One of the things I was most looking forward to at the recent SHRM Annual Conference was working on my ability to blog faster and more in the moment. Right now I have a problem writing my blog because it takes me . . .  forever.  I’m too busy thinking and analyzing and considering and deliberating. I intended to force myself at SHRM11 to post at least once every day, and even more if I was able to find something to video.

Since I wasn’t able to attend, I read lots of  blogs and watched the tweet stream as much as I could, because I still wanted to see if I could learn the secret to blogging fast and well. Here are some of my favorites that were posted during the merry madness that was SHRM11. (During means not before Saturday and not after Wednesday).

1. FAVORITE SNIPPETS BLOG

In a large conference like this, I like someone to give me a paragraph or two about several different topics, so I can get a real overview of the total conference experience. Long, involved posts about a particular session have their place – if you are interested in the topic and like the writer. But telling me about the weather, the crowds, the lines, etc. really gives me a feeling of being there.  My favorite in this category was “Notes From SHRM11 – Day 1, written by Steve Boese and posted on his HR Technology blog.

2. FAVORITE ANALYTICAL BLOG

Attorneys analyze everything to a fault, and I’m no different, so I am a sucker for a blog that takes some kind of fact and scrutinizes it closely. Sometimes I want to argue back, and sometimes I want to jump up and pump my fist in agreement, but the key is that it makes me think. I’m still thinking about this post days later: “The New CEO of SHRM . . . 2011 Version . . .” from Kris Dunn at The HR Capitalist.

3. FAVORITE ACTION PLAN

A lot of people like to blog about the keynotes and their speeches, and I saw a lot of cool quotes from all of  keynotes. What doesn’t happen as much is translating something a keynote said into a real, actionable “go do it” kind of takeaway. In this category, I like how Charlie Judy, author of HR Fishbowl, took one single quote from Arianna Huffington and turned it into “here’s what to do”  bullet points in “The HR Tribe of Trust.”

4. FAVORITE LIVE TWEETING

Tweeting is a micro-blog, remember? Nobody, and I really mean nobody, can live tweet an HR event the way Jennifer McClure (@CincyRecruiter) can. Based on the #SHRM11 stream, I am not alone in this opinion.

5. FAVORITE VIDEO BLOG

In my opinion, more and more written blogs are going to be replaced with videos in the coming years. I watched tons of interviews, but sound quality and rambling answers made me cut many of them short. My favorite? Not an interview blog at all, but Laurie Ruettimann‘s 2011 SHRM 63rd Annual Conference & Exposition Swag Video. Sure, it’s funny and she talks about a lot of “goofy shit”, but her message about marketing and branding isn’t goofy at all.

A Personal Note For SHRM11 (Day Minus 1)

Just call me Marla Hooch.

Remember her from the 1992 movie A League Of Their Own?  Marla is a powerhouse baseball player, but is socially awkward and physically unattractive.  Even her name is supposed to be funny.

Marla’s character reaches a crossroads in the film when she is a little drunk after a night in a bar, and sings the classic torch song “It Had To Be You” to a gentleman she has met there. Her singing is horribly off key and her gestures overly dramatic and unintentionally comical. She looks and sounds, in a word, ridiculous.

But Marla doesn’t know or care how ridiculous she is, because she is singing with her whole heart and with love to her man. And he accepts her efforts with gratitude and adoration. 

As a blogger, sometimes I think I may look and sound like Marla Hooch to whatever readers I have. I don’t show up on blogrolls, and I doubt that I will ever be on anyone’s “read-this-blog” list. There is probably a large audience of people who are saying to themselves (and others), “Why does she do this? Doesn’t she know how ridiculous she looks?”

I blog for the same reason that Marla Hooch was singing to Nelson: deep, heartfelt emotion, and a desire to use that stage to connect and convey that emotion to the audience – even if that audience is only one person, and even if I don’t do it all that well.

I don’t expect you to love and adore me back (that could get kind of creepy ;-)), but I do thank you from the bottom of my heart if you have read today’s blog this far, because

I wandered around, and finally found
The somebody who could make me be true

It had to be you.

Back to SHRM tomorrow. Thanks again.


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We Have No Secrets – or do we?

I’ve spent the past 30 days trying to decide how to resume blogging after a long, unintended absence.  Being an open and straightforward person, I considered a highly personal “here’s what went wrong” post.  Since I am also an apologist, I was certainly going to include profuse offers of regret, and promise to never let it happen again.  Another consideration was to post as if I hadn’t been gone at all.  Or maybe just say “I’m back” and drop it.  What to do, what to do?

Finally, I consulted the best expert I know – my daughter Amy.  Being a professional writer and long-time blogger, she is highly qualified to advise me.  I know she has my back.

My daughter pointed me toward some resources, and advised me that there are a whole lot of blogs out there that are apologizing for not blogging. In fact, blogs that resume after extended absences generally follow one of the formats I’d already considered: explanation, apology, or acknowledgment only.  Good information, but not the kind of “do this” kick-in-the-butt that I was looking for.

Finally, while listening to one of my old albums, I made my decision.  I’ve been gone, and now I’m back.  I’m not going to explain, because Carly Simon told me not to. :-)

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HRevolution – Rants and Raves

Mark Stelzner as Donald Trump - sort of

Back in March I did a post following a SHRM conference called Rants and Raves.  Since I have no desire to re-invent the wheel, and I find that the title is the hardest part of my blog to write,  I am going to take the easy way out and offer this  HRevolution version.  This time, though, the rants and raves are not mine – at least not until the end.  These are comments made directly to me by some of the attendees, and not based on anyone’s blog post or tweet.

RANTS

NOT ENOUGH TIME BETWEEN SESSIONS FOR DISCUSSIONS/NETWORKING/CONVERSATIONS – This was by far the most prevalent and consistent comment I received.  People did not want to miss the sessions, but they wanted time to start and continue substantive conversations.  The tweet-ups, with a party-like atmosphere, were good for meeting and greeting, but they wanted quieter time for serious stuff, too.  When asked, people were willing to attend a 2-day session in order to rectify this.

NOT ENOUGH SPACE – Several people thought that Catalyst Ranch, while fun and funky, was not large enough for the attendees to find spots outside of the sessions to talk or even break out into a smaller group.  A related comment was that there were just too many people, making the sessions a little too large for comfortable discussion.

GENERAL SESSION/TRACK GRIPES – Some people wanted more topics lead by working HR practitioners and directly relevant to daily HR functions.  Some wanted fewer sponsor/consultant/non-practitioner speakers and facilitators. While many of the people I spoke with felt some uneasiness with the sessions, they did not articulate their feelings or dissatisfaction as well in this area (unlike the time and space rants).

RAVES

EVENT PLANNING AND LOGISTICS – As a member of the planning committee, it is almost embarrassing to admit that this was the number one rave I received. People were quick to recognize the work involved and seemed happy with the food, tweetups, transportation, information, and cupcakes.

CHICAGO – Even though there are rumblings on Twitter about having a future HRevolution in Hawaii or Las Vegas, many attendees commented to me how perfect the Chicago location was for them from a transportation and travel standpoint.  They liked Chicago and the choices it afforded them.

CONNECTIONS MADE – Many people came specifically for the opportunity and ability to meet others and extend connections with online friends and acquaintances.  While some wished they had been able to do more, many were enthusiastic about the connections they did make.

Now that I have reported on the most frequent rants and raves made by attendees (to me), I am going to indulge myself  just a little and give you a personal rant and rave (just one each!) because I can only shut up for so long. 😉

PERSONAL RANT

There have been a lot of blog posts and tweets about HRevolution.  Some were positive, some were not. Fair enough.  I get the distinct impression, though, that many people made their feelings known only through a blog post or a tweet. No personal contact with, or email or phone call to, a planning committee member – even though contact information for every committee member was given to every participant. Was this you?  It makes me wonder if some people actually listened to some of the messages that were given about the value of connection and communication.  If you have something to say about HRevolution – good or bad – say it on your blog or on Twitter, but say it directly to the people who brought you HRevolution, too.  You can’t have influence and credibility in 140 characters,  so make a meaningful connection and help HRevolution – and yourself – move forward.

PERSONAL RAVE

I was a very small part of a talented and dedicated group of people who helped bring HRevolution to life.  I learned much about effective collaboration and valuable teamwork from this experience, and I have to thank Trish McFarlane, Ben Eubanks, Crystal Peterson, Steve Boese, Mark Stelzner, and Jason Seiden for allowing me to be a part of this team. I am raving about all of them!

IT’S YOUR CHANCE NOW

I chose not to personally comment on the rants and raves of the attendees, because I want to know what YOU think!  Were you there?  Do you agree with anything?  Nothing?  Do you have other experiences that could help make an event like this better for everyone?

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Blog Like No One’s Reading

I usually hate “chain-letter” emails or Facebook posts.  You know the ones I mean: “Cut and paste/ forward this message to all of your friends because if you don’t you are a heartless b*tch/ you hate puppies/you will be hit by a bus”.  But I received one of those emails today, and here’s what it said, in part:

I would never trade my amazing friends, my wonderful life, my loving family for less gray hair or a flatter belly.  As I’ve aged, I’ve become kinder to myself, and less critical of  myself. I’ve become my own friend.. I don’t chide myself for eating  that extra cookie, or for not making my bed, or for buying that silly cement gecko that I didn’t need, but  looks so avante garde on my patio. I am entitled to a treat, to be  messy, to be extravagant.

I have seen too many dear friends leave this world too soon; before  they understood the great freedom that comes with aging.

It landed in my inbox at a perfect time, because I had already decided that I made a mistake 6 months ago when I started blogging with two different blogs.

When I started blogging, I was really fearful about  mixing personal and business, HR and handicap parking.  I was worried that no one would read what I wrote, because I was either not serious about cutting edge HR, or I was boring those people who don’t give a crap.  So I started two blogs, one for personal musings and one for HR/business.  I wasn’t happy with this format, though. Then I watched this video:

I’m not worried anymore.  Like the quote says, I am old enough not to care. So this is my “new” blog – which just combines what I liked best of both.  HR University is closed; now I’m Just Joan.

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