in reply to Re: How should Perlmonks deal with Plagiarism?
in thread How should Perlmonks deal with Plagiarism?

Alleged copies. A reply noting the allegation and pointing toward the evidence is the best solution. If any copyright holders care to notify PerlMonks (probably via The Perl Foundation, though "/msg gods ..." might give a faster response) of their own claims of unauthorized copying (and request of specific desired action to address the alleged violation), then action will be taken to respond to such claims.

IMO, PerlMonks administrators should not be in the business of judging evidence trying to determine the legal status of contributions, nor of trying to second-guess the desires of alleged copyright holders.

If you are concerned about some copyright holders, then feel free to contact them, notify them of your suspicions of unauthorized copying, and invite them to contact the site admins if they wish action taken regarding the (allegedly) copied material.

I see more value in preserving the accurate record of the (alleged) infringement and even of links to (alleged) copyright violations (such as on-line copies of Perl books) for the possible benefit of copyright holders hoping to investigate any violations over trying to second-guess alleged wishes of alleged owners.

The documentation of the allegations has more moral value in my book then trying to pretend that it didn't happen or that the linked-to material does not exist.

And I believe that site admins attempting to determine legal status and take action based on their guesses actually opens up the site to more potential for legal troubles than does a laissez faire policy.

- tye        

  • Comment on Re^2: How should Perlmonks deal with Plagiarism? (legalese)

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Re^3: How should Perlmonks deal with Plagiarism? (legalese)
by Argel (Prior) on Oct 10, 2006 at 18:59 UTC
    The question in my mind is what does copyright law have to say on this? We certainly have some very, very strong evidence that copyright infringement has occured. By continuing to host it does that make Perl Monks an accomplice or guilty as well? Why is it everyone wants to pretend this issue does not exist? It's the proverbial elephant in the room!

    Personally, I'd be curious to hear what some of our published authors such as TheDamian and merlyn think about all of this.This likely hits closer to home with them and they are likely to give better advice being more familiar (in theory) with copyright law. chromatic has already said the offending material should be removed in node 576948.

      Why is it everyone wants to pretend this issue does not exist?

      I'm not pretending that it doesn't exist. The biggest risk, IMHO, from copyright law is if PerlMonks makes a precedent of proactively enforcing the copyrights of third parties. It can make us liable if there are any cases that we fail to proactively enforce (which will surely happen, probably even if we were to hire a whole department to take on the task of researching and enforcing copyrights).

      If we don't make such a precedent, then the site's legal liability is likely nothing until a notice arrives from a copyright holder. At that point, if we react in a timely fashion, then that should be the end of it.

      In this particular case, I don't follow at all the logic of "remove the material". This is material that was pulled from the public internet. If there is someone with a strong interest in the copyright to it, then I'd expect their wishes to be that proper attribution and a link to the source material be provided. They seem very unlikely (IMO) to demand that the copy be removed. If someone had reproduced a substantial part of a book that is not available on the public internet, then the desire to have the material removed seems more likely (because they'd prefer that people pay for access to the material).

      Also, for these particular cases, I doubt many of the (alleged) copyright holders have much interest in their copyright of the material in question. For example, I'd be extremely surprised if you can find any one of them that is interested in hiring a lawyer as a result of the alleged copying. But if they want it removed, then all they need to do is ask.

      I don't believe that you know what they want and I don't think anyone benefits from making guesses about it. And I think the site has a lot to lose (by gaining a lot of legal liablility) if a policy of proactive enforcement of alleged third-party copyrights is followed.

      As a published author, my concern with copyrights was mostly about making dang sure that I didn't include anything that was copyrighted by someone in my writing. I don't think that particular experience was very helpful in understanding the best policy for a site that accepts and publishes public submissions.

      If you are concerned about copyrights, then contact the alleged owner and/or the alleged copier (the two parties that have both the power and responsibility to do something about it). Why does everyone want to pretend like they don't exist? They are the gorilla and the elephant in the room! If they don't care enough to do anything about the problem, then why should the site admins try to enforce the guesses of fourth parties as to what their desires might be? Such action doesn't make much sense to me. But, more importantly, in the similar scenarios I am familiar with, such action has been fundamental in creating very problematic legal liability.

      I can see some people feeling dissatisfied with such a laissez faire policy; it being similar to an "I don't care at all about copyrights and so refuse to do anything about them" policy. Unfortunately, the legal system has repeatedly shown that caring and trying to help can be "rewarded" quite painfully.

      At a previous company we were forced to not include (under advice from legal councel) nationally certified instructions for dealing with specific emergency situations. I don't think we were even allowed to point our customers to the specific resource, despite having implemented support for this type of resource specifically because many customers wanted to use that specific set of instructions. If we had proactively included or recommended that resource, then we would risk legal liability if someone died (etc.) while one of our customers (emergency services departments) was following those instructions. The emergency services employees would have legal protections that our company would not. I think even the creators of the instructions would likely have less legal liability in such a situation.

      They've had to pass specific "good samaritan" laws in order to counter this legal effect for ordinary citizens trying to help out in emergency situations. But, if you get training as an emergency medical technician or similar, then you aren't covered by such and are advised to avoid helping out in an emergency when you are not on duty.

      There is no "good samaritan" law when it comes to enforcing other people's copyrights that appear to have been violated by third parties based on advice from fourth parties.

      So I'm happy to help deal with copyright violations but only in the manner requested by the copyright holder and only when the copyright holder requests it (at which point I'll likely just give the alleged owner the benefit of the doubt until such time as the alleged infringer escalates to the point of taking the case to a court of law and having the court tell me what should be done).

      - tye        

        LOL, as if I wasn't cynical enough! Thanks for the intersting comments and perspective.

      First "I am not a lawyer". Having said that, I have read the copyright law as well as I could. There seem to be several considerations that affect the seriousness of an alleged copyright infringement. One is the issue of 'fair use', which is a vague and often ambiguous term. Another consideration is the use of the material - whether for profit, or for educational purposes. A third issue is the harm, if any, done to the copyright holder. In the case of Perl Monks, the use is educational. Chances are good that the original author never expected to make any money on whatever he posted on the Internet. And it would be difficult to show that posting the material here caused the person any harm. One thing that appears clear is that anyone who publishes copyrighted material is at least theoretically liable, whether they knew of the alleged violation or not. The logic of this escapes me, but as I said, IANAL. I think Perl Monks will probably be OK in spite of the occasional plagiarized post. Perhaps the question isn't so much what we can get away with legally, but what is the right thing to do - and that, as we've seen, is a matter of considerable controversy.

      More information can be found at