Zoominfo’s Blatant Copyright Infringement
|Written by Gene Quinn
President & Founder of IPWatchdog, Inc.
Patent Attorney, Reg. No. 44,294
Posted: August 28, 2009 @ 5:58 pm
Every once in a while we do an Internet search to find out what is out there quoting to IPWatchdog.com or me personally. We also try and make sure that others are not infringing upon our works by republishing our content without permission. It is flattering in one sense to have people want to steal your stuff and copy it without permission, but that is, of course, copyright infringement. I authorize some republication, but not much any more. Search engines, particularly Google, punish websites for identical content being on multiple websites. That has been and to some extent still is a tell-tale sign to Google that you are trying to manipulate their search rankings via other than preferred means. So the republication, particularly when not authorized, is something that I do not tolerate. I have even started sending out DMCA takedown notices as appropriate. See Sample DMCA Take Down Letter.
The other day I came across Zoominfo, which had or may still have an IPWatchdog page. This page of their took word for word from the About Us page on IPWatchdog.com. It had some mistakes, and was obviously dated. It had a toll free number that we no longer use, the wrong mailing address and it mentioned we had an affiliation with LegalZoom, which is no longer accurate. See LegalZoom Collaboration Ends. I inquired about updating the information on the page, which I would have done myself. I was not particularly upset, I don’t mind having IPWatchdog mentioned on other sites as long as the information is correct and leads back to us, but I do not want to be penalized by Google or any other search engine for duplicate content. So I would have written something original, changed the mistakes and been done with it. I was told, however, that companies are not allowed to change their own information. You must send them a link to a page on your website and then they will copy the content onto their servers. Well… that was not going to happen.
I told Zoominfo that was unacceptable and if that was their policy they needed to take my page down. Initially they indicated they would not do that and seemed confused as to why I was getting upset. So I decided to send Network Solutions a DMCA takedown letter, explaining that someone they give a private registration to is infringing my copyright. I also sent Zoominfo a letter via e-mail. I was told that they would not accept such a letter via e-mail and I had to mail it into their offices, which I did. E-mail communications back and forth and finally I was just notified that they will be taking my information down from their site. We will wait and see.
The last e-mail exchange, however, attempted to explain copyright laws to me, as well as the reality of search engines and what they did was completely appropriate. I am not about to give them advice on how to run a business that engages in widespread copyright infringement as the core business model, so they really ought not give me copyright law advice, particularly when it is completely wrong.
So as to not infringe upon any rights they have, allow me to share a portion of my reply to them:
You are 100% wrong with respect to your understanding of copyright law. Citation to a source means it is not plagiarism, but citation does not have any implication whatsoever with respect to copyright infringement.
You are also wrong with respect to your assertion that no search engine could function unless they engage in copying. Search engines do not copy blocks of text and deliver it on their own server. They search and provide small portions of text, typically what you identify as the description. By doing this you are giving permission for them to copy that description. If you do not give permission and they take small sections that is fair use. What you do is not fair use. You copy everything, and there is no legally justifiable excuse .
You can believe Zoominfo is a search engine, but you are wrong. You guys are pure and simple copyright infringers.
Robots.txt do allow owners to exclude access, but copyright laws do not require such blocking. The way copyright laws operate is the owner possesses exclusive rights unless they give someone else permission. The copyright laws are completely clear. Copyright owners do not need to take steps to prevent copying. The law prevents copying without permission. The failure to use robots.txt does not give permission.
Eventually there will be a class action brought against Zoominfo for copyright infringement, and you are going to lose a lot of money, and likely have to pay attorneys fees for the copyright owners because the copyright laws authorize the winning party to collect the fees they pay their attorneys.
This is nonsense. What Zoominfo does is plain and simple copyright infringement. The copyright laws do not require owners to block infringement through the use of robots.txt files. Zoominfo copies information from everyone and serves it up on their servers. Their whole business model is based on infringement and without directly copying what they find to their liking their website would not exist.
I recommend that anyone who has a company look into Zoominfo and other website like them. I also recommend that you remain vigilant with respect to protecting your original content. Not only should producers of original content have others take it and build their own websites on the back of hard work by others, but Google and other search engines will punish you for allowing copyright thieves to steal and then republish your information.