How to Stay Safe Online

Online safety is a big issue these days- it is difficult to go a week without hearing about it the news somewhere or another! Buzz-worthiness aside, it is very important that protect yourself while writing on HubPages and poking around elsewhere.

At the behest of Tracy Robinson on Facebook, we’ve made this week’s Online Writing Insider all about online safety for writers. As we view it, there are three major facets of online safety:

  • Physical safety
  • The safety of your intellectual property
  • Mental safety

Listen in to the podcast for tips on staying safe in each of these domains.

Thanks for the great subject Tracy! If you have a suggestion for a future Online Writing Insider podcast, we would love to hear it! Send your thoughts to podcast-at-HubPages-dot-com.

How to LEGALLY Use Images In Your Hubs

The Online Writing InsiderThough it might be tempting to type a keyword into Google Images and use the first attractive photo that comes up, adding copyrighted images to your online articles is essentially stealing (and in other words, illegal).

In this episode of the Online Writing Insider (How to Legally Use Images in Your Online Articles), Robin Edmondson and Yours Truly discuss how to go about finding and adding others’ images to your online articles in a legal manner.  Listen in to learn the basics of proper image attribution and Creative Commons licenses, and to also discover our favorite online resources for free (or low cost) images.

If you would like to read a more detailed guide to legal image use on HubPages, check out the tips in our Learning Center.

Is there an online writing issue you would like us to discuss in a future podcast? Let us know in the comments!

A Chat with Edweirdo on Copyright Protection

A while back we chatted with akirchner about copyright issues involving the use of others’ images, charts, and graphs, but we have not recently touched on the process of protecting your own work.  As disagreeable as it may sound, there are people out there who may copy things you have written in your Hubs and publish them elsewhere online under their own names.  Thankfully, you have a right to stop them from doing so, and there are methods by which you can monitor your work to check and see if any of it has been copied without your permission.

Edweirdo has taken a particular interest in this subject – enough to actually create an online tool called the HubDefender.  Below, Edweirdo has kindly taken the time to discuss the issue of personal copyright protection with us.  Enjoy!

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HubPages: A lot of Hubbers are unfamiliar with the rights they have to their work?

Edweirdo: It is a sad but true fact that so many people, not just Hubbers, do not understand the rights they have when they publish something online – be it words, pictures, videos or anything else.
Far too many people believe that once something is published online, it becomes public domain and can be used by everyone and anyone, for whatever purposes they wish. This is exactly the opposite of the truth!
There are two essential concepts that all online content creators (including HubPages authors) need to know when it comes to copyright protection: 1) According to U.S. and international law under the Berne Convention, every creative work is copyrighted upon its creation – you do NOT have to register a copyright with the government or anyone else in order to be protected, and 2) All of an author’s rights are reserved unless the author explicitly authorizes use of their work.

What are the downsides of having one’s work copied by someone else online?

There are at least two significant downsides to having your work copied (I would go far as to say “stolen”). First, it feels awful. We put a lot of effort into creating our Hubs, and to have someone else take that work feels like a violation – and it literally is a violation of our rights. Secondly, and most importantly for those of us who want to earn an income from our online work, you can end up in a position where someone else is making money from your work.
It is not very difficult for someone else to steal something you’ve written and republish it somewhere else. And if they know what they are doing, they can easily manage to have their copy of your work appear on the first page of Google search results – higher in the results than your original work – and now the thief is earning money from your writing that should be going to you!
There’s also the infamous “Google duplicate penalty”, which may or may not exist (only Google knows for sure!).
When it comes to indexing things on the Internet, Google prefers original content. When the same article appears in multiple places around the Web, that content – in all of its locations – can be devalued. This would hurt your original work’s potential to rise to the top of Google search results.

When was the first time you noticed your work on HubPages had been copied? How did you find out? What did you do? And what was the result?

My first experience with content theft occurred just two months after I started writing at HubPages. I found a comment on one of my Hubs from fellow Hubber “englightenedsoul”, letting me know that my Hub had been copied on Blogger. She had read in the HubPages forums about a content thief, and while looking to see if her own work had been copied, she coincidentally recognized a Hub of mine that she had recently read.
I felt sick when I followed the link to the coped content! It included my entire Hub, copied word for word, plus all of my original images. The thief had built an entire blog using stolen content, mostly from HubPages, and had included Google Adsense ads on the blog.
This was my first experience with a content thief, so I didn’t know what to do! I turned to the HubPages forums and learned how to report copied content to Google Adsense – on every Adsense ad there is a little question mark icon and/or the words “Ads by Google” in the lower right corner, and clicking on it takes you to Google’s page for reporting abuse. I used that link to report the thief to Google, and the site was quickly taken down.
I felt a feeling of accomplishment and righteousness that almost made up for that initial feeling of violation, but I was still angry! Why did I only find out about this from a fellow Hubber who 1) coincidentally had read my hub and 2) was kind enough to let me know about it?

You’ve created a service to help people find if any of their Hubs have been copied – what inspired you to create it? And how does it compare to the other resources out there that allow Hubbers to check to see if their work has been copied?

I was reading the forums one day and I saw a post form “thisisoli”, who is the constant victim of thieves, and who posts amusing stories about the take-down requests that he files to have duplicate content removed. I posted on one of these threads and asked him if there was a tool that he used to find duplicates.
Turns out he didn’t know of any such tool, but instead he took time out of his schedule every month and manually entered lines from his Hubs into Google to look for duplicates. When he found copies, he then took the necessary steps to have them removed…
I was shocked to realize that there was so much effort involved in something that seemed like it should be so simple! I figured there had to be an easier way to do this, so I started looking for one. I was able to find two services online that could help, but they both had significant drawbacks.
First I found Google Alerts – this is a free service from Google that allows you to store Internet searches and have Google send you an email whenever new results for that search appear online. By copying a sentence from your Hub and enclosing it in quotes, you can get an alert from Google if that exact sentence ever appears elsewhere online. But what if a thief steals your Hub, but leaves out or rewrites the paragraph that contains the line that you randomly chose to monitor?
The other resource I found was Copyscape. They have a more robust service – you can provide the URLs of the articles that you want to monitor, and they will automatically search the Internet on a regular basis to find duplicates. I looked a little deeper and found the price for a membership – their lowest priced automated search service would cost me $20 a month for just 65 Hubs – more than I was even earning from my Hubs at the time!
As a lifelong computer geek and former professional programmer, my wheels started to turn! The people stealing content were most likely using a text-scraping tool to copy our Hubs, so why couldn’t I do the same thing? But instead of turning around and publishing that content, I could use it to feed a program that could run searches for the text – if it appeared anywhere but HubPages, then it was a copy!
That simple flash of inspiration turned into a four-month-long development marathon. As these things usually do, it turned out to be a LOT more complex than it seemed at first, but I kept at it and eventually I had HubDefender up and running! I came up with a price structure that was much more affordable than Copyscape, even for Hubbers who are only making a small amount of money from their Hubs.
HubDefender uses a resource-intensive process to searche every sentence of a Hub, and it costs money to run such a service. My goal with HubDefender was never to get rich, and I never wanted to take advantage of my fellow Hubbers, so I decided upon a price that is high enough to keep HubDefender self-sufficient, but low enough to be affordable for most Hubbers.
Over time I’ve also added some handy tools to the site. There is a U.S. law in place called the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or DMCA, that defines a specific process for dealing with copyright infringement. When I started writing DMCA requests, I had no idea how to proceed, and I could not find an easy-to-use template for creating one. So, naturally, I created one for HubDefender! When a user needs to file a DMCA request, or even a simple “Cease & Desist” notice, they simply click on a link from their account to generate one with all of the required information in the correct format. The tool even helps users figure out where exactly to email the request.

Could you recommend a basic anti-copyright-infringement routine that the everyday Hubber could adopt? What sorts of things should we do on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis?

The very first thing I would recommend is to let potential thieves know that you know your rights! Even though we are automatically protected by copyright from the moment we create our work, and even though HubPages clearly states on every page that our work is copyrighted, I would still recommend adding a clear and explicit copyright notice to every hub. I add one at the end of each of mine, right before the comments capsule, that simply reads “Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved.” A thief intent on stealing your work won’t be deterred, but an amateur who thinks everything online is free and up for grabs might think twice before copying a hub.
I also think it’s important for us as Hubbers to honor other people’s copyrights. I frequently see instances of Hubbers using images they find online without giving credit to the source of those photos. Every Hubber should know how to 1) find images on the Web that can legally be used and 2) how to legally use them in their hubs. Stealing someone else’s photo without their permission is exactly the same as someone else stealing one of our hubs! I even wrote a pretty popular hub on this subject for those who want to learn the right way to go about it, called “How To Legally Use Images From The Web In Your Hubs”, and the new HubPages photo capsule makes giving proper attribution easy!
When it comes to a basic anti-copyright-infringement routine, I would recommend using HubDefender! Not to toot my horn, but it really is the most affordable way to protect your copyright on HubPages.
If someone really can’t pay for a duplicate content detection service, then there are two free choices – manually search for duplicate content at least once a month, or set up Google Alerts for every one your hubs.
No offense to HubPages, but Hubbers should not rely solely on the built-in duplicate filter to alert them to copied content. As I stated earlier, I have had many of my hubs copied over the past year, and I have never received a notification from HubPages about the copies. HubPages already does so much for its members without charging us a cent, so to expect them to go to the added expense of rigorous duplicate content detection may be asking too much!

Thanks so much for this opportunity to share HubDefender with my fellow Hubbers!

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Thanks, Edweirdo!!

For more information on what to do when you find out that your writing has been copied, check out our Learning Center guide on how to file a DMCA complaint.

Akirchner Explores Copyright Quandaries on HubPages

akirchner - taking the initiative!

akirchner - taking the initiative!

Copyright and correct attribution are matters most of us would rather not think about.  It is, after all, so easy to be ignorant of the rules and conveniently snag photos, charts, graphs, and all other forms of information from other places online and use them to our hearts’ content.  But alas, this would be wrong- and illegal.

In an epic quest for righteous hubbing, the venerable akirchner actually made the effort to look in to the copyright issue, and created a brilliant hub to guide us through the process of legally using images, videos, charts, and graphs on HubPages.

Though I recommend you read the entire hub, which includes not only her own advice but a good number of helpful links and videos, here is a sneak peek of akirchner’s findings on Creative Commons material:

The Creative Commons issue is a huge one and I will not delve into that in more depth so as to keep this readable and easily understood. However, suffice it to say that ANY image that we use that is not our own should be either a part of the PUBLIC DOMAIN or should be licensed for COMMERCIAL USE under a Creative Commons license. If it is not, we are in violation of copyright law. Pure and simple, there are imprints on these images if they are obtained over the internet, and someday, somehow we might be filed against for a copyright infringement for using these images. The creator can efficiently track where and how many times the images are displayed on the internet.

Are there CC licenses on websites enabling us to use images? You bet! If you use the Creative Commons link here, you can search for all sorts of images that are legal to use – whether they are digital images, videos, charts and graphs. Then if you attribute them properly, you will know that you have legally used them.

akirchner also points out many other important copyright issues to consider including…

  • Fair use
  • Use of others’ video content in your hubs
  • The use of charts and graphs
  • The correct way to give photo attribution until HubPages develops a better method (which it will)

Though akirchner was incredibly thorough in her work, there were still some issues on which she was unsure- I’ll share them with you (as you’ll also probably wonder about these things), and include some answers too!

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akirchner: Best practice – flickr image with text capsule beneath pic with a hard link back to Creative Common licensed image – whether it is a chart, graph or digital picture – or how to do this legally?

Simone: For the time being, the best way to offer correct image attribution on HubPages is to include the name of the image’s creator and a URL to its location online.  In the future, we’ll be rolling out with a better way to give photo credits.

Website image usage – only use images from a website that has a Creative Commons license clearly visible – then attribute by text capsule beneath with a hard link back to the website where the image originated?

Yes.  Unless an image has been found via a creative commons search or is specifically listed as a creative commons image, you probably shouldn’t be using it.

Video usage – are all youtube videos acceptable as embedded links to use in the video capsule or do we need to do a Creative Commons search on any and all videos before incorporating them into our hub?

Not all YouTube (or Vimeo, Revver, etc…) videos will be playable outside the main site.  If you can successfully embed a video into your hub and play it, you are free to use it- no creative commons search necessary.

Attribution of videos? If we use an embedded video from youtube or elsewhere, do we need to attribute it as well with a text capsule stating who uploaded the video to the source or regarding licensing?

Videos do not require attribution as they act as direct links to their source, and are not capable of being embedded into and playing on your hub unless their owners are willing to share them.  In other words, if your video plays and embeds properly, you have the right to include it in your hub.  That said, some people upload content (such as movie and television shows) to which they themselves do not have the rights.  For a short time, you may be able to embed and share that video through your hub, however this illegal video will eventually be taken down, leaving you with a video that won’t play.  For this reason, be cautious when embedding videos into your hubs- if you think the person who posted it has stolen the content, avoid using it.  The best way to go is to create your own original content and use that in your hubs!

If we want to use graphs and charts – if we cannot find a Creative Common licensed graph or chart that we need, may we create one and list the source as an attribution but then using graph or chart software to create and image, then post that new image to our hub?

Yes.  Think of it this way: all images of graphs, charts, and tables should be cited the same way that a photograph would be cited.  If, however, the content is written and you are simply cutting and pasting it into a table on your hub, all you need to do is share your source.  Text must be quoted, but is free for you to use if it has been published online- so long as you cite it correctly.  Images are far more complicated- not all of them are there for you to use as you like.  If you see a chart or graph you adore, but cannot use the image, I’d recommend using and citing the data (which is fair game) and creating your own original image.

Fair use – how does it apply to images, videos, charts and graphs on Hubpages if importing from another website more specifically?

That depends on the nature of your hub and what your goals are in writing it, as well as the site from which you are pulling this information or imagery.  I would refer back to the criteria you listed in your hub when making decisions on a case-by-case basis.

Now that we have all of this knowledge, should we go back and redo any images, graphs, videos, charts, etc. that might be considered a violation of copyright law?

Absolutely.  Just because we didn’t know the rules before doesn’t mean that we’re exempt from them.  Law-breaking is law-breaking, so I’d go back and check those hubs!

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What akirchner has done with her personal research and hubbing is similar to what Ohma has done with HubTrails– by starting something independently, she has inspired us at HubPages HQ to take more action.  In the near future, then, you can expect us to publish a series of official Learning Center guides and video tutorials on working with copyrighted material and giving correct attribution.

What’s the moral of this post?  If you want something on HubPages (or heck… the world) to change, start something yourself! The rest shall follow.

Thanks akirchner!!