Consternation Over Inability to Copy and Paste
|Written by Gene Quinn
Patent Attorney & Founder of IPWatchdog
Zies, Widerman & Malek
Follow Gene on Twitter @IPWatchdog
Posted: Feb 3, 2013 @ 9:05 am
I am pleased to announce that in January 2013 we had our biggest month ever in terms of traffic to IPWatchdog.com. During the last Quarter of 2012 we averaged 89,260 unique visitors per month. In January 2013 we had 101,922 unique visitors, which represents growth of 14.2%.
Readers have probably noticed that we are publishing more articles, and we are lucky to continue to have a growing number of periodic guest contributors and regular featured columnists as well, which likely accounts for some of this increased traffic. However, another thing that almost certainly accounts for this substantial jump in visitors is the fact that in early January 2013 we made the decision to disable copying and pasting from IPWatchdog.com. This has caused some to become quite agitated with us, with more people than you might expect writing to tell us that if they are no longer able to copy and paste our articles then they will no longer read IPWatchdog.com.
So why the change?
1. Free Content and the Advertiser Supported Model
For some time I have known that we have been experiencing what seemed to be a rather large copyright infringement problem. For example, I know of very large entities that routinely would copy and paste our articles, remove links and any advertisement and then mass distribute just the text of our articles. This is obvious, blatant and willful copyright infringement. But what was particularly disheartening was that this was going on within the intellectual property community. Disappointing really, because if those who are in the industry and working with content creators and inventors on a daily basis are all too willing to engage in that type of copyright infringement, what hope do we have as content creators? Those whose livelihoods depend upon content creators and inventors should be the ones who most understand the damage that is caused by widespread copyright infringement.
I have heard arguments from those within the industry that have made it difficult to determine whether laughing or crying is the right response. For example, I have heard the argument that I should be grateful that so many people want to copy and distribute my articles and flattered that people want to read our writings.
It is, of course, flattering that there are many who read what we write on a frequent basis; no doubt about it. But, allow me to state what should otherwise be obvious. We give our articles away for free in what is called an advertiser supported model. Under an advertiser supported model content is provided for free and advertising on the site is the source of revenue. Many newspapers and online magazines employ this model, and that is the model we employ at IPWatchdog.com. We have a great group of sponsors and advertisers and without them I could not devote full-time to IPWatchdog.com. Thus, our free content, advertiser supported model requires us to entice readers to come to our website and read our quality, free content that is full of analysis and insight. It does us absolutely no good when there is widespread dissemination of text without advertisements. That may be preferable to the reader, but it would be an impossible business model to support without being independently wealthy or a benefactor that wanted to underwrite such dissemination.
In terms of sponsors and advertisers… I really do believe we have a great group of folks. We are approached from time to time about advertising and we decline, and we long ago gave up on Google Ads that might advertise things we believe to be inadequate services (shall we say). If you have never looked at the services offered by our sponsors and advertisers, please do. Everything our sponsors and advertisers offer should be attractive to one or another segment of the industry and they make it possible for us to continue to expand and bring content that is both original and unique.
2. Guest Contributors and Featured Columnists
I continue to write many of the articles that are published on IPWatchdog.com, but over time my writing endeavors have started to increasingly focus on interviews with industry news-makers, writing about industry events I attend (such as the AIPLA annual meeting or BIO annual meeting, for example) and the seemingly endless requests for comments on the proposed and final rules promulgated by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Not to mention, when mass media blatantly lies about the patent system I also take up that charge. This leaves little time to write about interesting patent litigations, Federal Circuit decisions and trademark or copyright matters, to name but a few. I also write about biotech and pharma from a policy level, but I don’t have particularized industry knowledge about the business or deep understandings about the complicated science involved. Thus, I have turned to guest writers more and more to cover these topics instead.
What this means most directly is that first, I do not write all of the article published on IPWatchdog.com, which you might think is self evident since in virtually all cases the picture and brief biographical information about each author is prominently displayed at the top of each article. And second, it means that an important part of my daily job now is as a true Editor. We are constantly looking for interesting stories, constantly dishing topic ideas to one or another of our guest contributors or freelance journalists, or looking for the right person who may be able to contribute. Then upon getting contributions I go through them as an Editor would.
The short of it is this — increasingly it seemed many people in the industry were unaware that IPWatchdog.com published guest contributions despite the fact that in 2012 we published 148 guest contributions and we have published a total of 375 guest contributions to date. How could people who read articles with great detail and wanted to talk to me about the topic of an article I didn’t write not know I didn’t write the article when the author is so prominently displayed? It seemed clear that the distribution of text only vie e-mail and other sources was greater than I had understood it to be. This obviously is not fair to those who guest contribute to IPWatchdog.com to get their name out into the industry. Moreover, as frequent readers know, I am not adverse to publishing things that I do not agree with myself. We are never going to publish anti-IP articles, but ignoring what those who have different opinions within our industry have to say makes for an uninteresting echo chamber. Still, even though a particular position is within an envelope of ideas held within the industry I would prefer to be judged by what I write, not what someone else wrote and we decided to publish.
3. Dubious Arguments in Favor of Copying
I have been contacted by more than a few people since prohibiting copying and pasting. Those who take the time to contact me invariably tell me that if they are not going to be able to copy the text and use it for whatever purpose they have convinced themselves is appropriate then they will stop reading IPWatchdog.com. That is, of course, their right. If copying text is a prerequisite to reading freely available, quality content then I am sorry to see them go as readers, but that is their choice not mine. It seems that there is more than meets the eye, however.
In one case an individual told me that he was copying all of the text from all of our articles so that he could search for an article later. That, however, is unnecessary since IPWatchdog.com has a rather good search feature. I know it is good because I use it all the time when looking for articles on a particular topic that I know I wrote previously. Give it a try — Search IPWatchdog.com. That being the case, it seems that the “I want to be able to search” argument is really a specious argument that is being used to justify something else.
In another case I had an attorney at an IP firm tell me that he liked one of the interviews I had done and that other attorneys at his office would surely want to read the interview, but he didn’t know what to do since I disabled copying and pasting. He wasn’t familiar with how he would be able to share the interview with them. Really? My suggestion was to send his fellow attorneys a link. I know… I know… a really radical idea and hardly obvious. I pointed out, however, that once all of the segments of the interview are published I always hyperlink them together. You simply read to the end of the segment and click “CONTINUE READING.” You are magically taken to the next installment and so on. The same is true when I publish an article that is too long for a single segment. So this particular specious argument in favor of copying and pasting was really nothing more than saying: “we want to read your articles, but I want to copy the text so that I can e-mail it to who I want so they can read it without visiting your site.” As mentioned already, that doesn’t benefit me and it doesn’t do anything to benefit our sponsors, advertisers or guest contributors either.
It is quite unfortunate that in an industry where we make a living working for and with content creators of one kind or another, many professionals ignore the rights of content creators. I don’t like that copy protection is necessary but I’m also not foolish enough to believe that the copy protection I’ve installed is foolproof. If someone with computer skills wants to defeat the copy protection they will, but that doesn’t mean I can or should make it easy for our content to be misappropriated.
For those who will continue to read us even with copy and paste disabled, we greatly appreciate you taking a portion of your day to read our thoughts and analysis.
About the Author
Gene Quinn is a US Patent Attorney, law professor and the founder of IPWatchdog.com. He is also a principal lecturer in the top patent bar review course in the nation, which helps aspiring patent attorneys and patent agents prepare themselves to pass the patent bar exam. Gene started the widely popular intellectual property website IPWatchdog.com in 1999, and since that time the site has had many millions of unique visitors. Gene has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the LA Times, USA Today, CNN Money, NPR and various other newspapers and magazines worldwide. He represents individuals, small businesses and start-up corporations. As an electrical engineer with a computer engineering focus his specialty is electronic and computer devices, Internet applications, software and business methods.