Saturday, June 06, 2009

German war on plagiarism with bounty hunters, or German confusion?

An article in The Local begins:

The internet has made stealing content easy, but more German businesses and individuals are starting to wage war against growing online plagiarism.

And there will likely be more severe legal consequences as ideas of intellectual property adapt to the web, Hamburg-based company Textguard told The Local on Friday.

“Believe me, much more is copied than you can imagine, we find this with every search,” the company's founder Claus-Michael Gerigk said. “One example is a poet we worked with, though she was not particularly well-known, a search on 600 of her texts revealed the same number of unauthorised copies.”

IPBiz notes the interesting twist the Germans have put on plagiarism detection -->

Textguard is the forerunner in offering the accompanying service of legal advice for those who discover their song lyrics, poems, articles, books and other texts have been plagiarised.

The company takes approximately 50 percent of whatever monetary compensation their lawyers get from plagiarism cases – effectively making Textguard a bounty hunter in what German weekly Die Zeit called a new movement to “end the Wild West mentality of the internet” on Friday.

In the US, non-lawyers trying this might have a problem in giving legal advice. In the US, lawyers doing this might have a problem with state disciplinary rules.

Apart from these nuances, the article is confused on the distinction between copyright infringement and plagiarism. As pointed out many times on IPBiz, these concepts are not co-extensive. For example, see

The distinction between plagiarism and copyright infringement

Harvard Business Review article: Plagiarize with Pride

The article in the Local mixes the concepts:

“What’s changing is the idea that everything on the internet is free,” Gerigk told The Local. “There is a trend where people are beginning to recognise the value of their intellectual property.”

And plagiarism can be expensive, ranging from a few hundred euros to the “five-digit level,” Karlsruhe copyright infringement lawyer Peter Nümann told Die Zeit.

In the US, while copyright inheres once something is fixed in tangible medium, the right to sue someone requires registration of the copyright. Further, there is a fair use defense to copyright infringement. The Supreme Court case of Dastar illustrated important aspects of trademark and copyright, including the interesting reality that ANYONE can assert authorship of public domain works without violating ANY federal law. Yes, you can claim to have written Hamlet. It would be plagiarism, but it is not copyright or trademark infringement.

As a separate matter, there's Mike at TechDirt who views plagiarism as collaboration. [see
TechDirt: plagiarism as re-imagination and collaboration
]. Better stay out of Germany, Mike.


Blogger Unknown said...

You've never been able to take a quote of mine and keep it in context, have you?


1:13 AM  

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