Experts Exchange, Google, AllFAQ.org and misappropriation of copyright.

Opinion Piece

I was googling (as a verb) and came across a rather peculiar message at the bottom of Google’s search results:

In response to a complaint we received under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act, we have removed 1 result(s) from this page. If you wish, you may read the DMCA complaint that caused the removal(s) at ChillingEffects.org.


Interesting – never saw that before!

Following the link to Chilling Effects shows a copy of the complaint which has some interesting text in it.

Experts-Exchange makes a detailed itemisation of their registered Copyrights, none of which I find objectionable, however, the complaint then goes on to list several issues against the Defendant, the first and most egregious of which is:

a direct “copy and paste job” lifting the content of Plaintiff’s question and answer forums and inserting them onto AllFAQ’s website. AllFAQ’s question and “Solutions” are verbatim to Experts-Exchange’s questions and “Accepted Solutions;”

From this Experts Exchange is accusing allfaq.org of Copyright infringement against Experts Exchange owned Copyright.

At first glance, this might seem fully justified – but look at what they are claiming copyright on.  Experts Exchange are assuming copyright ownership of content that you, and I, and all their users create by asking and answering questions on their web site.

I looked at Experts Exchange’s Terms of Use and could not find any agreement that users were assigning their rights and copyrights to Experts Exchange. The relevant paragraph is:

“5. Content License

EXPERTS EXCHANGE enables Members to post problems or questions,
proposed solutions or answers, information, comments and other content
(“Your Content”) to its Site. When you post Your Content to the Site,
you understand and agree that Your Content can be viewed and used by
other Members who visit the Site with or without attribution.

You represent and warrant that you own or otherwise control all of the
rights to Your Content and that use of Your Content by EXPERTS
EXCHANGE and its affiliates will not infringe upon or violate the
rights of any third party. Before you use EXPERTS EXCHANGE Services to
post any information or content that is protected by intellectual
property laws, you shall have acquired the legal right to do so from
the owner or authorized licensee of such information or content.

By registering with EXPERTS EXCHANGE and posting Your Content on the
Site, you hereby: (i) grant EXPERTS EXCHANGE a non-exclusive,
perpetual, irrevocable, unrestricted, transferable, fully
sub-licensable, worldwide, royalty-free license to use, distribute,
display, reproduce, perform, modify, adapt, publish, translate and
create derivative works from Your Content in any form, media or
technology, whether now-known or hereafter developed; (ii) grant
EXPERTS EXCHANGE and its affiliates and sub-licensees the right to use
the Member Name that you submit with Your Content for purposes of
attribution; (iii) authorize EXPERTS EXCHANGE to assert and prosecute
claims against any third-party making any unauthorized use of Your
Content, including any use that violates this User Agreement
(“Third-Party Claims”); and (iv) appoint EXPERTS EXCHANGE as your
attorney-in-fact for the purpose of asserting and prosecuting
Third-Party Claims. If you do not wish to have Your Content attributed
to you, then you must notify EXPERTS EXCHANGE at

customer_service@experts-exchange.com
.

Experts Exchange acknowledges that the copyright belongs to the author as “Your Content” and that by posting you are granting them extensive licenses to use that content. You are not assigning your copyright to Experts Exchange.

Now I am glad that their ToU does not attempt to wrest copyright ownership from its rightful owner, that is right and proper.

allfaq.org is demonstrably guilty of screen-scraping the Experts
Exchange web site and I do not condone those actions at all. However, looking at what
they copied – it was the Title, Question and Accepted Solution text –
the copyright of 100% of that is with the original authors, and not
Experts Exchange.

Thus, in my opinion, this complaint against allfaq.org is without merit and should be dismissed.

It would also appear that Experts Exchange has also abused the provisions of the DMCA in forcing Google to remove the content. Google should restore the links.

And finally, Experts Exchange should implement some technical measures to prevent automated scraping. Find better ways to improve your search ranking, and if your competition beats you don’t ask your own members how to do better SEO; be told by them that you have no Copyright Claims on the content; and then proceed to file DMCA take down notices when you know you have no (copy)right.