Back in January 2012, Warren Communications sued US Signal (1 12 cv-00138 U.S.D.C.D.C.) for unauthorized copying of their PDF format newsletter and is seeking damages of $19M. Warren publishes the Communications Daily which focuses on regulation of the communications industry.
Lesson Number 1: It Pays to Have a Librarian
It is not that hard to create a secure newsletter. The technology has been around for years. BNA was the first legal publisher to introduce electronic newsletters about 12 years ago. From the beginning, these newsletters incorporated security by requiring passwords or IP recognition in order to gain access to the full text of individual stories. Most legal publishers have followed suit and incorporate security devices into their publication format. These publisher protect their own intellectual property but also protect their readers from their natural impulse to share.
So I am completely baffled as to why there are newsletter publishers that fail to secure their intellectual content. Publishers who publish newsletters in PDF format not only fail to secure individual stories, they fail to secure the entire issue of a newsletter.
Is It Time To Introduce an Attractive Nuisance Defence in Digital Copyright Law?
I posit that in our porous digital world, a PDF newsletter creates a dangerously alluring and completely foreseeable threat to the subscribing organization and to each recipient. It is like sending a “digital timebomb” because a PDF newsletter once forwarded can not be retrieved and the licence holder becomes liable for all subsequent copying and forwarding that may result from that “one false click,”
Does an intellectual property owner owe a duty to it’s subscribers to provide more secure products?
|One impulsive act – major consequences|
For now the entire burden is on the subscriber to prevent unauthorized copying and forwarding of PDF newsletters.
- The best risk management strategy is to hire and/or empower a librarian versed in copyright, content and licensing negotiations to act as an effective “risk manager.”
- Negotiate the broadest possible license to cover your firm. Always negotiate in good faith and provide an honest disclosure regarding the number of subscribers.
- Educate lawyers and staff to understand their responsibilities in copyright compliance.
- Technology can also be employed to reduce risks. IT network administrators can create rules to trap and block PDF newsletters from being forwarded.