Last updated: 01/06/2009 10:48 a.m. EST
Updates: OutGayLife.com has removed some copyrighted material. Other material, including newly found, copyrighted material, remains live on the website network. Updates are found at the end of the article.
An LGBT website network operating under the banner of OutGayLife.com is possibly guilty of violating copyright and intellectual property laws for its reposting and republishing of news stories, features, blog posts and articles from LGBT publications, blogs and mainstream press and news organizations.
Based in Edina and Bloomington, Minn., design and SEO company Moonviper.com operates the network which owns at least 21 other domains. Each of the almost two dozen other domains point to the same or similar content. Other websites in the network include MyGayRights.com, MyGayPride.com, BigGayTrip.com and several localized domain names such as DCGayBars.com, GayPalmBeachOnline.com, MyGayPheonix.com and SFGayLife.com. WHOIS information on the domains revealed Eric Wood was the registrant. Contacted by InterstateQ.com via phone on the morning of Monday, Jan. 5, Wood identified himself as the owner of Moonviper.
Browsing the network’s webpages, InterstateQ.com found at least 17 separate cases of possible infringement on the copyrights of LGBT publications, blogs and mainstream publications. The possibly illegally posted material included at least seven articles from the Asheville, N.C.-based gay newspaper Stereotypd (formerly, Out in Asheville) and its gay news blog.
Other instances of possible copyright infringement included republished content from The Advocate, the nation’s premier LGBT news-magazine; an op-ed from the blog of former Washington Blade editor Chris Crain; a blog post by The Atlantic‘s Andrew Sullivan; a blog post from New America Media, a coalition of over 2,000 ethnic news organizations; and several blog posts from BoxTurtleBulletin.com, a premier LGBT blog researching the anti-gay and ex-gay right.
Wood’s websites also reposted, in a five part series under the title “Editor’s Picks,” the entire content of Newsweek‘s “Our Mutual Joy,” a popular article on gay marriage and religion.
There were also almost 300 separate cases of republished content from The Associated Press. In each instance of reposted AP material, Wood’s websites cited the source as the Zimbio.com network. According to the Zimbio terms and conditions, network members are not allowed to republish “content whose copyrights are owned by an independent third-party, including but not limited to content from our various partners.”
Zimbio spokesperson Tony Mamone told InterstateQ.com, “Zimbio licenses content from the AP, for use on the Zimbio.com website only. Members are not allowed to re-post this professional content elsewhere on the web.”
The Associated Press has been known to take swift action against other news organizations and websites found to have republished their content without permission. Many bloggers have complained of The AP’s attempts to have as little as one quoted paragraph removed by a website operator.
Screenshots of possible copyright infringement by OutGayLife.com can be seen at the bottom of this post.
Wood, based in Bloomington and Edina, Minn., said that he did not know republishing the content was illegal and that “from time-to-time” publications contact him and request to have their content removed or a link back to the original material published.
Wood said he receives a large portion of his content from automatic feeds and that his company is making a move to a user-submitted content model.
He said that Stereotypd (Out in Asheville) had contacted him requesting to add a link back to their original material. He said he’d not yet had a chance to do that.
Porscha Yount, Stereotypd associate publisher, said that she had contacted Wood requesting the link back and when she did not get a response, instructed the publication’s attorney to contact Wood and demand removal of the copyrighted pieces. She said that the attorney might not have yet contacted Wood due to the holidays.
“Publications have individuals working really hard to write stories that have original content and that are interesting to their readership,” Yount told InterstateQ.com. “For someone to take that and claim as their own is, quite frankly, theft. ‘Copyright infringement’ sounds fancy but really they are just stealing content.”
Yount said she was most upset about the theft of a “Milk” film review. “Our writer paid to see the film and spent three days after that writing the piece,” she said. “He used his own knowledge and his education to write the piece and worked really hard on it.”
Wood said that “copyright law is difficult. That’s why there are court cases.”
Addressing copyright infringements as they relate to advertising on his website, Wood added, “If some company sends you email and you complain about it, often an ISP or website like Google will determine that it is or is not spam. That’s not their job to determine that. It’s not an ad network’s job to determine whether or not there’s copyright infringement. They don’t know what agreements may or may not have been made. They would need to make sure that all their ‘T’s were crossed and ‘I’s dotted before they made a decision.”
Wood refused to commit to removing the copyrighted material on his website as brought to his attention by InterstateQ.com. He said there are “many sides to every story” and seemed ambivalent toward the instances of copyright infringement on his websites. He said he does not currently have a professional or business relationship with The Associated Press.
“I would assume that there’s thousands of other sites, literally thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of very similar sites as mine,” Wood said, asking InterstateQ.com why he was the only one being contacted. “All you would need to do is go and look at WordPress.org or Blogger.com or Typepad or any of these user submitted sites. You would find ten thousand times what is on my website.”
By 12:30 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 5, after being contacted by InterstateQ.com earlier the same day, all AP content had been removed from OutGayLife.com’s network. Newsweek‘s “Our Mutual Joy” article had also been removed.
Contacted again by InterstateQ.com, Wood said he removed The AP and Newsweek material “because of copyright” and after coming to the conclusion “that it’s not worth the battle.”
The OutGayLife.com website network, affiliated with design and SEO company Moonviper.com, sells advertising for its several websites and is a member of the Gay Ad Network on Adify, a popular advertising network used by premier LGBT news publications and blogs.
[Ed. Note: InterstateQ.com is a member of the Gay Ad Network.]
The Gay Ad Network’s program terms and conditions require website operators to ensure “that materials posted [on] the Web Site or Blog do not violate or infringe upon the rights of any third party (including, for example, copyrights, trademarks, privacy, or other personal or proprietary rights) and are not libelous or otherwise illegal.”
By becoming a member of the Gay Ad Network, Wood would have had to agree to the terms and conditions, which also require a website operator to “represent and warrant that … the Web Site or Blog will not … conflict with or infringe upon or violate any copyrights, trademark rights, patent rights, trade secret rights, rights of publicity or privacy or other rights of any third party,” and that “the Web Site or Blog will not violate any federal, state, or local law, rule, or regulation.”
Mark Elderkin, Gay Ad Network founder, told InterstateQ.com that if a site were accused of copyright infringement they “would immediately remove them from the network and then verify if that’s the case.”
Elderkin added, “[The website] would need to prove they are not infringing on our terms and conditions.”
Elderkin said he would have his head of publisher relations review the OutGayLife.com website today. “If this is happening, we will send him a notice and pause the campaigns.” He added that many sites use RSS feeds to draw in content from other sites, and that accusations of copyright infringement in these cases aren’t as clear-cut an issue.
Content from LGBT and mainstream publications are generally protected by copyright. Most, if not all, publications require parties to receive prior, written permission from editors or publishers before their print or online content is republished by an outside party.republishing the content that appears in print or online. Content from blogs usually require those republishing the content to cite the source and provide a link to the original material.
Wood did not note on his website whether he gained prior written permission to republish material from the publications and did not cite reposted blog contents’ original authors or link to the original sources.
InterstateQ.com contacted The Associated Press seeking comment on copyright infringement and intellectual property issues.
Updates (01/06/2009): As of the morning of Jan. 6, Wood had removed many of the possibly illegally republished articles and posts from his website network. Many others, including the op-ed from Chris Crain and the blog post from Andrew Sullivan, remained live. The entire content of a blog post from BoxTurtleBulletin.com remained live with an addition of an “original source” link. The post’s original author remained uncited. An article from UK Gay News and GayRussia.ru had been removed, as well as articles from Stereotypd. Posts from GoodAsYou.org were also removed.
Updates (01/06/2009, 10:48 a.m.): More stolen content found at OutGayLife.com’s network including the entire content of an opinion piece originally written at Bonilogue.com but posted on OutGayLife without attribution.
Stay tuned to InterstateQ.com for more on this story.
Screenshots of Possible OutGayLife.com Copyright Infringement
UK Gay News/GayRussia.ru
Screenshot 1 – Original article appeared in Russian on GayRussia.ru. UK Gay News translated the article with permission and posted it both at UK Gay News’ website and at GayRussia.ru. Reference comment below.
Are you the victim of copyright infringment?
If you believe your content has been republished on OutGayLife.com’s network, possibly violating copyright infringement laws, contact Eric Wood with Moonviper and OutGayLife. You can tell him to remove your copyrighted content or place links back to the original source:
MoonViper Business Services
580 California, San Francisco, CA 94104
This contact information was updated on Nov. 11, 2009. Wood now resides and works in San Francisco, Calif.