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Legal techniques to take while implementing online news site

Our most recent plan of launching a new online news services, many legal issues arise.

This site would include news stories by various correspondents throughout the world. Short stories, poems, photographs, musical and art works of culture value and interest will also be published on the site. Lastly, a games section with crosswords, ‘sudoku,’ and quizzes will be designed as well. The site will be funded solely by advertising revenue. As in-house legal adviser, various dangers arise with online sites, in which I will address in this report. Hypertext linking, search engine crawlers and file sharing potentially drain sources of revenue for online sites, thus deep consideration in specifics of the website needs to be considered.

1.  Intellectual property law & Patents

            Intellectual property can be defined as any creative pursuit of the human mind. Intellectual property law identifies specifically which rights coincide with ownership of such property. One idea is that when disclosing specific information without legal protection, exploitation is sure to reduce the economic effect of the invention. With saying this, it is important to evaluate all options involved with assuring that this new site will be protected and given the opportunity to be economically stable for all.

            Most believe that economic needs are in the best interest of society and are best served with some sort of exclusive right imposed on property. However, it isn’t clear that this action has any economic justification involved. In 1994, the GATT treaty contained a intellectual property law portion involving certain copyrights of foreign nations or domiciles including England. These people were defined as authors and composers and were legal residents of their home countries which created the work that was eligible to be restored.[1] The treaty stated that all works must be protected under copyright law as of January 1, 1996. The restored copyright was determined by the law of the restored work’s source country and/or the owner of this right. It was deemed automatic.

            The question lies in the issue of online publishing and databases. Does the concept of copyright extend to these outlets as well? “Databases may receive copyright protection for the selection and arrangement of the content.” In addition, or instead, an automatic right exists and protects against unauthorized extraction of the contents on this database. This right lasts for nearly 15 years from the launch of this database.[2]

            One may choose to either patent or copyright their product. With patenting, anything defined as an invention (no specific definition within the Patent Act) may decide to be patented. A software invention includes something “novel, involving an inventive step, capable of industrial exploitation and not specifically excluded from protection”[3] may be included.

However with patenting, the issue of someone creating a similar item as one you have patented is not covered in any law. It is legal and occurs often. Thus, I do not believe this method would

 create any positive implications for our website.

            Patent infringement can be direct or indirect. With direct, a party, without consent of the person patented, makes or offers to use a product that constitutes a similar subject matter to a patented item. In the courts, they identify essential similar features and compare them with the competing product and the patented product. Most recently in the UK courts, there has been considerable debates as to what constitutes infringement.

            Patenting with computer programs has become an increasingly difficult process. When development relates to the software between hardware and software issues, the laws are not specific. The only issue that occurs is within the Patents Act of 1977 the exclusion of ‘a program for a computer’ is included. Thus, specific computer programs on one’s site may not be patented nor protected. This could cause issues with users downloading these programs and then implementing their own similar site, thus creating a lack of authenticity for the original site.

            Originally, in 1949, there was great williness to consider using patents for software applications. However, the issue was denied. The Banks Committee discussed the matter further but the majority of them were hostile towards the idea. Their reasoning included principle and utility — with principle it was argued that no significant distinctions existed between programs and calculation which had already been excluded from protection. Also, issues of novelty would be difficult to determine and would make granting patents a much more difficult process. Decidedly so, I do not believe that patenting should occur with our website implementation.

1.1 Copyright law regarding photos, articles, logos within the website

               However, a more conclusive option is available for the internet. Copyright is a protection that covers published and unpublished literary, scientific and artistic works whatever the form of expression, provided these works are fixed in a tangible or material form.[4] Thus if you can see it, hear it, or touch it, it can be copyrighted. For example, html coding or internet websites fit the mold for this type of protection. These laws grant the creator (or series of) to reproduce their works and distribute them. This right is an exclusive one and others may be sued for attempting to use these products for sale.

            The issues lies in the fact that copyright protects the expression of an idea, not the idea

itself.”[5]  Computer creations, when such digital art or graphic is created,  can be copyrighted as well. However, the idea cannot be saved, but the actual image can be protected.  For example, open a .gif or .jpg file and look at the properties included —- it states the date you saved it and the date you created it. Thus, giving you direct rights to its copyright.

             In the instance of the online news website, any object within the site can be copyrighted

including the logos. According to the Berne Convention, copyrights exist up to 50 years after the death of the creator. “This applies to any country that signed the Berne Convention and these are

just minimal protections.”[6] This would allow for the continual success and reinvention of this website creation.

            U.K. law originated from common law in the 1700s. Copyright laws give the creators of literary, dramatic, musical, artistic works, sound recordings, broadcasts, films and typographical

arrangement of published editing, the rights to control the way in which their material is used. These rights cover copying, adapting, issuing, renting and lending copies to the public. The creator will have the right to be identified as the author and to object to distortions of their work.[7]  For the articles that our correspondents will write, copyright conditions will last for 70 years from the end of the calendar year in which the last remaining author of a said piece (if multiple) dies.

            According to the UK’s Copyright service, photographers own the rights to any photograph they have taken. There are various exceptions, for example, if the person is an employee of the company that the photos were taken for or was instructed to do so, then the photographer acts on behalf of his employer, and the company he works for owns the copyright of these photographs.[8]              If a photographer has been paid, the payment will be for the photographer’s time for a  certain amount of prints. But why register these photographs? The

purpose is to ensure that you have proper evidence of your work, which ensures that another party may not steal your photos.

            I would highly encourage that borrowing photos does not occur. One must obtain written from the copyright owner and in many cases pay a fee for this right. Only the copyright owner can give you permission directly for consent. If the images are published online, contacting the webmaster in the first instance may be appropriate. However, the site may provide specifics details for these situations. This draws the conclusion that anything published (for our purposes online) can and should be copyrighted to ensure authenticity of the original creator. Thus, when creating the site, we need to take great care in preparing a conclusive list of items within the website that need to be copyrighted and following through on that claim.

            With technological development occurring at a constant rate, it has become more easy for computer users to obtain and distribute copyright work.[9] Within UK law, copyright material that is sent over the internet or stored on web servers will be protected in the same way as material in any other media. It is suggested that on every page of a website, the international copyright symbol  © should be placed along with the copyright owner’s name and year of publication. Thus, I believe we should implement this concept into our creation of this online news website. Up to 1985, it was uncertain if copyright protection extended to computer software. The courts believed that the source code listings of these programs were protected because they resembled written English.

            Copyright within electronic publishing includes the sale, rental or lending of a work that [10]is stored on either a disk or CD-rom or through network communications of the World Wide

Web. Thus just because an item is on the internet, doesn’t mean it hasn’t been copyrighted. Internet service providers risk the chance of being liable for copyright infringement since

copyright is infringed when someone other than the person copyrighted for a piece of work authorizes another to use it.

With Sukodu, the concept of copyright is more complicated. The original game creations

 was done by a Japanese company, however patenting is in process. The company owns the right to the name with a trademark, so anyone that uses the game and names it “sudoku” is in fact validating that legal right. However, if one asks for written permission to use the game on one’s sight, the issue would be more understanding. My honest legal opinion would be withdraw the idea of Sudoku on the website, to rid ourselves the chance of legal action in the future.

1.2 Internet-related problems with creation of websites

            Another issue involved with the internet is file copying and sharing. These cases have significantly risen since internet access is feasible almost anywhere. This has also been made easier by the creation of peer-to-peer file sharing programmes that allow one to access a library of files of movies, music, text files and photographs for instant, and often free, download. This

may directly affect the interests of those copyright owners who are being infringed upon by these type of programs.[11]

            Another reoccurring issue is internet linking. A direct legal liability may occur with the concept of free linking through the world wide web. Links can be unlawful when they are

designed to confuse viewers, to evade court orders or promote illegal conduct by others.[12] As new techniques are created, courts are continuously being challenged to carefully analyze the practical, technological and business circumstances surrounding these claims.

class=WordSection2>            The Internet was created so to allow researchers to reach documents in complex networks more easily and efficiently. Linking is a powerful tool used on the net, and for this very reason, it has been very successful among users. Links have made the web a channel for free distribution of information,  and during the early days of the internet, when researchers and educators were the primary users of the web, its utility and necessity was not put into question. This started to change when a greater number of companies began to sell products and deliver services via the new medium.[13]

                After five years of world-wide cases, it has been discovered that in some cases internet links can be unlawful, however they occur in a variety of rare cases. Linking laws began with the Shetland Times headline-linking case in Scotland in 1996. Tim Berners Lee, the software expert who developed the World Wide Web for the Internet has argued that free-linking lies at the heart of the Internet. In his development he sought to facilitate connections among computers and to make them within a network much like the connections within our brains. Universal free linking

of information was essential to his idea — that the web was designed to be a universal space of information.

class=WordSection3>            Historically, sites have welcomed links from others. To date, web site owners have made money primarily from the sale of advertising at their sites. The advertising rate is set by the number of people who travel to the site. From a revenue perspective then, web site owners are indifferent as to how a person accesses the site — whether directly or by linking to it from another site. Both types of access record the desired “hits” to the site that can increase advertising revenue. The conventional view then has held that sites welcome linking from others because it increases traffic, advertising rates, and, by inference, revenue.[14]

            Under  copyright law, the user’s act of linking is unlikely to constitute infringement because it is probably protected by an implied license or under the copyright doctrine of fair use. However, countervailing policy considerations including netiquette, the site owner’s ability to

combat unwanted linking technologically, and the First Amendment interest in maintaining the free flow of ideas and information on the Internet are important issues to consider as well.

          Thus, when creating links for the website, I believe we should be careful in placement and intention of doing so and taking care to not replicate the ideas of other online news sites that

already exist. While their rights do not apply to that aspect, we must develop an appropriate attitude on the issue, so that if someone were to attempt to do that to us, we can assure them that while creating our product, we did everything in our power, to be as fair and original as possible when in their same situation.

class=WordSection4>          Another significant revenues’ risk is caching. In a recent court case against Google, it was decided that the cache feature, in which users can access snapshots of webpages when they view these sites with Google, are not a breach of copyright. “Use of the material is fair use,” the court say .[15] Google refers to its cache to assess whether a page matches a search term. If it had to scan and assess every live web page in real time it would be a painfully slow search engine.

Access to the feature can be found at the foot of individual search results, where the word ‘cached’ appears as a link if the service is available. Google does not run the feature for sites that haven’t been indexed nor where site operators have requested that their content be left uncached. Such requests can be made with meta tags, the hidden HTML of a web page that provides information for a search engine (The Register).

            However, this concept can drain various website of revenues. If computer users are given the opportunity to save screen shots of web site, they can then access them anytime they’d like based on the saved site. This will cause a misrepresentation of site hits for website because while the user is accessing the same information again, they are not going to the website directly to do so. Thus, this behavior worries website because advertising sales are based on a fixed rate of

how many hits a website receives. The more caching that occurs, the less hits that are received, and less advertising revenue that occurs. In our case, this could be very detrimental because our launch and maintenance of this website will be affected directly and completely by advertising revenues.

            Google promotes it’s cache as a back-up service that users can access if the original page is unavailable but it highlights each cached page as one that may not be the most up-to-date. This

is the only positive thing that the serach engine does for website.  The concern of breaching of

 copyrighting was brought to court in Nevada in early 2006.

            The courts wrote: “When a user requests a web page contained in the Google cache by clicking on a ‘Cached’ link, it is the user, not Google, who creates and downloads a copy of the cached web page. Google is passive in this process. Without the user’s request, the copy would not be created and sent to the user, and the alleged infringement at issue in this case would not

occur. The automated, non-volitional conduct by Google in response to a user’s request does not constitute direct infringement under the Copyright Act.”

            While there is no proof whether search engines such as Google profit off of this feature, it is an important thing to consider. While, our website and our creation process cannot directly fight against this habit, we can ask to remain an un-cached site. However, great thought needs to be made in the use of our website — while the initial use is to inform, should we allow people to reference article for future reading?  It is important to take into account the effect of it and be somewhat concerned with the future effect of the behavior on our success. Within the UK,  the E-commerce Regulations protect search engines. They provide that a company like Google will

class=WordSection5>not be liable in damages (or other remedy or criminal sanction) where the caching is “automatic, intermediate and temporary for the sole purpose of providing a more efficient service.”

                On Google’s website, they state their policy of complying with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. This act established in U.S. law in 1998, criminalizes production and dissemination of technology that can circumvent measures taken to protect copyright. In many aspects of the definition, Google is not complying with this Act.

          Title II of the Act: Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act creates a safe place for online service providers including search engines against copyright liability if they adhere to certain guidelines and block access to specific sites if they receive a notification from a copyright holder on a claim. While, the law is effective in its way to heighten penalities within copyright infringement. Explanations of online guidelines is vague in language and allows for website to have advertising revenues taken away just because of a various feature that has more users utilizing their search engine instead of another.

2.0 Preparation for creation of website – A Legal Checklist

            When preparing this website, it would be a good idea to create a legal audit of the site before it’s even launched. This could alert us of various things that we may have overlooked in copyrighting before it is a fatal mistake. The precise legal standards for Website aren’t easy to define because the law is still developing.[16] When preparing to create an audit, we should begin by  identifying the types of content and services that will be provided. Within the web site’s content, we need to take great care at being accurate with all information.

            Often, the issue of defamation occurs in which what you may say about a person or a business can hold you liable in many cases monetarily. Generally, a statement is defamatory if it

is: (I) false; (ii) made or “published” to a third party; and (iii) tends to injure the reputation of the person about whom it is made by lowering the respect, esteem or goodwill in which they are regarded in their community, exciting adverse or derogatory feelings against them, or by

dissuading others from dealing or associating with them.[17] In this case, we will have a series of people reading all content published on the website. I believe that by having a variety of readers we may be able to stop any situation such as this from happening before a simple mistake drains

our revenues.

            Ultimately, everyone is responsible for what they do or say on the Internet, which remains a key concern. As the publisher of these works, we will be held directly liable for any issue concerning these pieces. We must take extra time to be as accurate as we can to ensure legal safety for our website and our employees. I highly suggest that we initate all the work that is presented on our website, no articles are borrowed even if permission is asked for. Often times, when asking for permissions for objects or text, legal issues may come into play, even if

permission was given by the one who is the copyrighted owner. It is in our best interest to create all of our own content.

2.1 Creation of Terms & Conditions section of website

            We also must be sure to create a Terms and Conditions section within our site that names the author of pieces responsible for any privacy issues involved with their context.  For example, the BBC media outlet, has a Terms of Use section included on their website. This section

include the concept that by using their link legally binds the user to the terms that are listed. The terms take effect immediately upon visiting the web address. And if someone doesn’t agree with the terms, they should not access the works of the website. They also explain that they may change these terms at any time, which is the important part because of the fact that Internet law is constantly changing. And if certain issues occur, the company may wish to change some terms

and conditions they have previously implemented.

            I believe we should use the following skeleton to implement similar ethical and privacy concerns for our website much as the BBC did. “You may not copy, reproduce, republish, download, post, broadcast, transmit, make available to the public, or otherwise use bbc.co.uk

class=WordSection6>content in any way except for your own personal, non-commercial use. You also agree not to adapt, alter or create a derivative work from any bbc.co.uk content except for your own personal,

non-commercial use. Any other use of bbc.co.uk content requires the prior written permission of the BBC.”[18]

            They take great time to explain that all the information, names, images, pictures, logos and icons are copyrighted. This gives us a great deal of advice in what we should implement in our own type of news media website. As mentioned before, we will also comply a conclusive list

of all the items on our website and will copyright each of them. This seems to be the trend of British journalism news sites.

            Links to these notices, disclaimers and terms of use should be prominent and clearly marked. [19] The link should be posted on every page because if someone uses a search engine to be directed to a specific page, they may bypass this important notice for users. I take great hesitation in suggesting a chat room or message board on the site — both create great liability issues for us and also contain a variety of other privacy issues. I would highly suggest that including either of these features be concerned at great risk.

class=WordSection7>            Continual audits of the website after implementing is also important because of the constant evolution of Internet law. Great legal considerations should be shared on a bi-weekly basis (when applicable) to all webmaster or other employees (when applicable), if they so apply

to the business doings of the company. If any legal situations arise, it is essential that I am contacted immediately to properly evaluate and execute a solution to this important issue. This is especially important in the issue of users “borrowing” items that are placed on our website.

These copyright infringements need to be dealt with in an immediate sense.  Copyright infringement occurs whenever copyrighted material is transferred to or from a website without authorization from the copyright owner.[20]

            With saying this, a plan of action will be implemented before launching the official site. It is important that great consideration is taking in the beginning stages so to ensure the greatest amount of success and the least amount of legal problems in the future. This legal education will alert employees of other serious issues to take care of while working throughout the whole creation and launch of this innovative website. It is important that “you know what you expect to

accomplish, what your site visitor will get out of it, what it’s going to cost, and how it’s going to be built and maintained.”[21]

            Ultimately, this online news site will seek to teach users something a topic or maybe motivate them to take action about a specific event occurring in the world around them. By

class=WordSection8>setting this content goal, it is easier to set forth all the important issues to take care to accomplish these results we seek. By creating this site by merely the ad revenues we allow, you must be

careful not to override your journalistic obligation to not attempt to sell a product. By choosing where to place these ads, perhaps at the bottom of the page, users will not feel they are customers, but still information gatherers on their chosen news website. However, it is these ads that will generate the money to launch it, so we must take consideration in attempting to help them as they have helped us.

            Our goal essentially is to create a content site that educates readers on newsworthy topics. With the advertisers who choose to work with us, their trouble is that they want to attempt to get people to their site (Will-Harris). But we want them to stay on ours. Ultimately, our advertising revenues are based on how many people we can get to our website; the more visitors, the higher advertising rates can be implemented.

            With the internet’s ever-increasing range of website, many use it as a form of advertising. However, our choice of becoming a content website, gives us the opportunity to earn advertising revenues to fund the implementation of our website. There are various contractual issues involved in website development. There are plans that are similar to that of software development agreements, which should be in writing and clearly spell out the rights and obligations of all parties the web sites includes.

class=WordSection9>            The legal perils of web sites have yet to be fully examined but there are some dangerous but manageable trends developing for web site developers and web site owners alike.[22] We may be asked to put forth a proposal which will outline in specifics the format of our website, this can be quite a time consuming task. However, without this, we may discover another website that has a similar web plan has the one that has been specified in our plan.

            It is important that our launch date is specific and in writing. In one case in the UK, Virgin Interactive Entertainment (Europe) Ltdy Blue wall Ltd. & Ors., Virgin agreed to a variation of the delivery date, but there was no written agreement prepared which outlined what was to be delivered and when, under the revised agreement. Bluewall was developing two computer games, which they were unable to deliver on the delivery date. They claimed that Virgin had agreed that the revised delivery dates were flexible and that the product was to be delivered at an Alpha version stage. Virgin refuted both these points. The Court found in favor of Virgin. One wonders if the developer had a limitation of liability clause in the contact in order to limit the damages payable in such a dispute. In our case, I would like to create this limitation of liability clause to ensure our product is completed as asked.

            Great consideration needs to be taken in the intellectual property ownership of the site. Do we want to own all of the property involved with the site. Should the writer maintain their

class=WordSection10>own copyright issues? Will we allow for the release of logos for media outlets or will they remain closely copyrighted? All these questions and more, are important issues to consider while attempting to achieve the greatest legal success that is possible in launching a new website.

            The issue of protection for specialized databases has been battled within Washington.[23]

Prior to 1991, most courts refused to grant copyright protection for databases that did not contain any originality. Sui Generies is a database adopted by the European Union to protect the investment a person makes in creating a database. This issue was battled in court in 1991 with Feist Publications, Inc. v. Rural Telephone Service Co., Inc. The court recognized that the selection and arrangement of facts could determine originality for copyright protection, this copyright would be considered “thin” in their eyes because it only aligned itself with the arrangement of said facts. This procedure is different in which it protects this said investment from any abstraction of substantial parts of what it contains. I believe that by implementing this protection, we can better keep a hold on the investment we are putting forth.

The outcome of this battle could have a significant impact on the market for information,

which in turn could affect activities dependent on that information, such as research for academic and commercial purposes. The article provides an overview of the roots of the current debate and the arguments for and against some of the recent proposals.

 2.2 Summary of legal decisions and procedures

PLAN OF ACTION FOR LAUNCHING WEBSITE:

!          Creative specific list of all logos, photos, articles, etc. that will need to be copyrighted. Be sure to decide whether authors will maintain copyright rights or all pieces published on the site will be owned by the company.

!    Create a terms and conditions section that details the rights of users on the website. This would name the author of pieces responsible for any privacy issues involved with their context. Also, stating the immediacy of these rules taking place while borrowing the web pages. Be sure to include that these conditions may change at any time.

!    Have various editors reading content for any issues of defamation or libel. These cases can be costly and by taking care to rid pieces of these issues now, further legal issues won’t occur.

!    No borrowing of others works allowed on the website. Create a “no way out” policy in which all things copyrighted will not be released by any means. This will make keeping track of articles less stressful seeing as that they will not be published anywhere else on the web.

!    Chatroom or message boards on the webpage because of their easy ability to create legal issues for both users and for the web owner. Many libel and defamation issues come into play on these outlets as well because of their easy access ability and freedom of speech features. By creating comments section for each article, readers can still interact with writers and offer suggestions but cannot use the outlet to showcase their opinion about a

BIBLIOGRAPHY

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[1]           Bender, Mitchell. “GATT Treaty.”  2.  Jacobs, Ian, LeHors, Arnaud,
[2]Raggett, Dave. “Are databases protected by copyright?
[3]Lee, Matthew. “Patentability of Software-Related Inventions.”
[4]“What is copyright protection?” 2003 June.
[5] Stannett, Mike. “Intellectual Property.”
[6]“Effects of copyright protection.”
[7] U.K. Copyright Service. “UK Copyright law.”
[8] “Photograph Copyright”
[9] Stannett, Mike. “Intellectual Property.”
[10]“Copyright and the Internet.” 2004 September.
[11] “File Sharing and the Internet.”
[12]Sableman, Mark. “Link Law Revisited: Internet Linking Law at Five Years.”
[13]Garrote, Ignacio Javier. “Linking and Framing: A Comparative Law Approach.”
[14]O’Rourke, Maureen. “Legal Issues on the Internet.”
[15]The Register. “Google cache not a breach of copyright.”
[16] Foster, John. “Liability and Legal Issues.”
[17]Foster, John. “Liability and Legal Issues.”
[18] BBC. “Terms and Use.”
[19] “Is your web site legal? Corbin Ball Associates.
[20] Stanford Library. “Copyright and Fair use.”
[21] Will-Harris, Daniel. “Taking the plunge: What to consider before building, or rebuilding a site.”
[22]White, Steve. “Web site liability: A practical analysis of the risks.”
[23] Band, Jonathan & Morrison, Jonathan. “Sui Generis Database Protection – Has the

   Time Come?” 1997 June. D-Lib Magazine.

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