Stealing Public Domain Material? Don’t assume anything!! Check your facts.

Am I the only one who is constantly wide-eyed and open-mouthed at the sheer audacity of some webbies?  Once again Public Domain material rears its head – and so too do the ill-informed people who claim to have ownership of such material or alternatively slam those hardworking folk who do actually take the time and make the effort to create something worthwhile and marketable out of otherwise defunct PD material.
Point in case : Basket Weaving Book (now voluntarily retired pending investigation by author). This is what the webmistress at www.countryweaving had to say – without investigation, reference or consultation – without making any enquiries whatsoever (tut! tut!):
“Dear Readers,
I would like to bring an issue to your attention in the hopes that no one is deceived. Susi Nuss found an e-book (The Comprehensive Guide to Basket Weaving & Techniques for Beginners to Experts by Donnette E Davis) & brought it to our attention because the cover of the book was copied directly from the design of our website. It looked “a bit too familiar”. I realized that the “author” also copied the basket picture on the cover directly from a free pattern on our website. We purchased a copy of this e-book to verify that the content was indeed from our site. Along with content copied & pasted from our site, content was copied from Susi’s site as well as GH Production’s website. Susi searched & documented much more stolen content.
This “author” claims to have received permission. This is not true. None, of the above mentioned, gave her permission to reproduce their information for resale & profit. This is a direct violation of copyright law. Unfortunately, she is based in South Africa. Not much that we can do directly. We did immediately contact the self-publishing website that was selling this e-book. They promptly removed it & refunded our money. There were many patterns included which may lure buyers. However most, if not all of the patterns seem to be or are known to be free patterns available on-line. To charge money for this information is also ethically wrong. All a weaver needs to do is search on “free basket patterns” or other such terms to find many, many free patterns on-line.
One more e-book that needs to be mentioned is called
Basket Making Made Easy. This e-book is often sold under the same title by different “authors”. The web page reads like a TV infomercial, telling you how much money there is to be made by making baskets, how easy it is, etc., etc.
This e-book is also very poorly put together with only about 2 basic patterns that again are free on-line patterns. This e-book is mostly text &/or one picture taking up an entire page. Most of the book is devoted to defining terms & text describing the different styles of baskets (such as a picnic basket & potato basket). All of this is information that my be gleaned by basic internet searches.
These are the facts:
  1. Public domain material may be sourced and utilised without almost any restrictions whatsoever, for whatever purpose, for sale and/or profit etc etc.
  2. Making related enquiries over the internet on a specific subject, if one quotes the source is not “stealing” information.  It is simply boosting the source of the information by corroboration.  What on earth is a Bibliography if not REFERENCE and ACKNOWLEDGEMENT?
  3. Purchasing (or acquiring) PLR material similarly to Public Domain material, gives the acquirer carte blanche to do with the material what they will.  They can claim authorship, ownership, re-hash, re-work, sell, give it away, include it in another production, package it – simply put, they can do whatever the heck they like with it.
  4. If someone is going to go out on a limb and publicly make derogatory and defamatory statements such as has been done, one would assume that they would check their facts first – items mentioned in this above article were NOT included in the ebook in question – no templates were utilised whatsoever.  One would wonder if indeed they were looking at the books (and authors) they were slating!
  5. Not only slating the authors is highly defamatory and opening oneself up to litigation, particularly since no investigation, representation or enquiries were made (I know this for a fact) but stating that a major publishing organisation “pulled” the item when it is NOT the case is providing incorrect information on the Publisher.  Again one wonders at the ignorance, lack of decorum, poor public relations and sheer lack of insight of some people!  Do NOT make statements that are factually incorrect and can be proven to be so.  More specifically do NOT make them publicly where the information can be stored and used to present a case against you!  ALWAYS be sure of your facts before making such bold statements that could significantly turn around and bite you in the bum.
  6. Basket Making Made Easy is a delightful little book available on a few sites, most notably on Amazon.com for an extremely reasonable price.  It is authored by Mohamed Fowroj.
  7. eBooks can freely be found on any number of thousands of websites.  Some examples of really exceptional and high ranking websites with literally thousands if not hundreds of thousands of ebooks and PLR articles and bundles are :
and so the list goes on.
5.    Not all ebooks you find in the public domain or with PLR are full “ebooks” so to speak.  Some, particularly craft books etc. are generally simply PDF documents with no frills and no fuss, no source or reference and comprise of only a few pages.  Many man hours are spent in extracting that information and placing it into another format, after which corroboration is sought so that at the end of the day the creator of this new material is satisfied that he or she has researched as best as possible and will be providing a document of almost unquestionable standards.
6.  Another fact which will jump up and hit people in the face like a wet fish is the fact that simply because you have acquired PLR articles, books or software, and/or public domain software/books or articles, does not authomatically give you the right of ownership and the right to slate anyone else who happens to have the same or similar material.  There are hundreds of millions of internet users out there – not all with the same interests sure, but many of whom have an interest in earning a living from writing or creating books from public domain material and PLR material.  This, simply put to the uninitiated, means that the same package you or I can get for free on www.12345-abc.com is also available to million of others!!  It does not mean because you and I have the package that we have exclusive rights to the material.  What it means is that it is public domain – anyone can have it and anyone can use it, modify it, sell it and share it.  Simple.  Case closed!
Now we ask the question, if one acquires PLR or PD material either by receiving for free or purchasing it, how does one establish whether or not there is a copyright infringement if one is not the original “author” of the document?  Well the simple answer is one cannot – unless one has looked at every single webpage and book on the particular topic.  What one can do and more often than not does do, is seek corroboration from related websites on the PLR material they have already acquired.  Then places the references into the new “work”.  This boosts the referred-to website and hopefully provides some traffic to them for supplying the corroborating information or tips, links, resources… etc etc etc
One would hope that any suspected copyright infringement is pointed out to the author of the final product and that investigations are undertaken BEFORE making unfounded and serious allegations about “theft”, “copyright infringement” etc, whilst in the same sentence making reference to public domain material used in the same production.  All this does is open up an individual or individuals to potential legal arbitration.
The correct and proper thing to do would be to point out to the author that you believe some of the material to be copyrighted and enquiring where the material was obtained from initially, thus giving the author the opportunity to perhaps revert to his her source of the information and make the same enquiries.  After all the only one who is out on a limb here is the poor author who has relied on internet marketing for his source of products and who has, in many cases, paid for such information.
And may I state upfront that the sites mentioned above are well known, reputable sites and 100% above board.  I would highly recommend anyone to each and every one of those sites.  They don’t write the material either – they simply also “acquire” it.
For copyright laws and information the following sites are immensely useful.  I would suggest one makes a copy of each of the copyright laws pertaining to GNU Free Documentation, Fair Use, Public Domain, Creative Commons etc. Wikipedia is a great source of information – so too is Wiki-How – another site providing free information which can be utilised providing one cites the source… STEALING that very same information after citing the source????  uh-uh! I don’t think so!  They format it in HTML for inclusion on a website.
Wake up you folk who stand on your soap boxes terrified you will lose a sale because you have a bit of competition.  It really is time to stop worrying about what other people are doing and get on with your own things.  If you suspect some material of yours has been utilised without your knowledge, confront the “user” in a polite manner – give the “user” the benefit of the doubt.  You don’t have a clue what you are up against or why or where the document was acquired!  If the user is genuine in his or her dealings he will remove the offending information from the document – in some cases remove the document altogether.  This is particular also in cases where images are said to be copyrighted.
I have a standard paragraph in the majority of my books which states:

A variety of clipart resources have been used, most notably Green Label Clipart Collection (Purchased) Microsoft Clipart Collections, Wikipedia, Public Domain images and my own personal collection of PD images purchased and collected over the years. Copyright free images were also sourced through Google. Some of the resources I have obtained via websites over the years and do not have details of the origins thereof. Should you come across any of the artwork in this document that has not been credited appropriately, and know of the origins, kindly let me know in order that I may post the relevant credits and thanks. No copyright infringement is intended in any manner whatsoever.

Another standard paragraph in the majority of PD-based books:

While the contents of this package are in the public domain we have spent many man hours compiling this unit and therefore hold the Compilation Copyright to this Collection. Additionally while you can copy the content of Public Domain material which is freely available, the format, layout, design and images and graphic content, including web pages, i.e. the unit, remains the sole property of Donnette E Davis and/or St Aiden’s Homeschool and/or her/its duly appointed agents.

(In most cases the clipart, if not public domain, even licensed or purchased, remains the sole property of the owner)

Uh!  Hello!!! This tells me something!!  The fact that a document or an image is removed due to suspected copyright violation (not intentionally or specifically by the author, publisher or creator) shows the author, publisher or creator of such work to be above board in his or her dealings and has a genuine lack of knowledge of the source but will remedy any infringement or suspected infringement immediately!  This shows the integrity of an author, publisher or creator who has high ethical standards.  If a webbie  has – for reasons best known to him or herself – a difficulty with visitors to their site utilising information from the site or conducting research based on the information on their site, said webbie being a so-called “expert”, I would suggest you quit being a webbie or alternatively do some homework and realise that visitors to your website are what keeps the site going!
To go off on a tangent because the so-called “expert” has a little competition from an “un-expert” (okay so I know there is no such word) smacks purely of a desperate (and pathetic) attempt to discredit both the creator of a work, and the work itself, in the hope of generating a little sympathy – and possibly a few more sales for the so-called “expert”.  If such “expert” wants to write a book review on the work created, by all means feel free to do so – it is a free world and freedom of speech is allowed – and in fact encouraged – but do it in the correct forum – not a newsletter in the hope of mustering up some support.  Try to remain calm and professional in your online dealings.  You’re not going to make any friends or generate permanent traffic by slandering fellow webbies because you fear competition.  The internet world is a huge place with billions of resources for millions of people, some questionable, some above-board.  Be that as it may, I know where I got my information from.  Do you?

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