Dear Rich: Website Copyright Woes and Songwriting Credit Questions

Website copyright woes - Pyragraph

From Dear Rich: An Intellectual Property Blog.


Dear Rich: For at least seven years I had a website that incorporated my name. I am a poet, playwright, essayist and teacher of creative writing. The site functioned as PR for me—I could refer potential employers to it, or clients who might want to hire me to be their editrix or writing coach. It was created for me by a good friend who is not a professional in this field, and hosted by GoDaddy. As time went on my site became obsolete. It was difficult to update because my friend had used a clunky non-professional platform, and it was not phone-friendly. I decided to upgrade.

I had someone else create a new site for me with the intention of a smooth transition, continuing to use the domain name. However my friend, when he heard that I wanted to change, abruptly cancelled the old site before the transition could be completed. I was then told I could not get my domain name back for something like 60 days. In the interim, unscrupulous phishers swooped down and got my domain, I’m assuming with the intention of holding it for ransom. I put up my new site under my name but using .net instead of .com. When I Googled myself though, I saw that the dot.com site is up and running and when I clicked on it I saw it was a garbage site: it features a shapely half-naked lady and a bunch of Asian text (I think it’s Japanese; can’t tell). It may be for massage or something. I feel fairly certain that there aren’t any Japanese massage therapists/hookers who have my name. This is literally the first thing that comes up when one Googles my name. After that there’s pages and pages of my published work and all the things I worked so hard to create and publicize.

I can live with using the name .net instead of .com (although I would prefer .com), but it bugs me to have this garbage site up. I feel like it’s a distraction and somehow affects my credibility. Do I have any recourse? I don’t even know the identities of the people who did it. 

You haven’t been the victim of a phishing scam—that’s an attempt to get sensitive information by pretending to be a legitimate website. You may be the victim of cybersquatters and your rights and recourse were detailed in this post (and also in this post, too). By the way, your former domain is not being used for shady sexual practices. According to the Google translation from Japanese (see above), it is for an acne treatment.


Dear Rich: I wrote for a website for many years. It was on a volunteer basis—I wasn’t paid. I am now starting up my own website. I would like to repost many of my stories on my own site. Can I do that? Do I own the copyright for the material I wrote for the other site? Do I have the right to request that the other site take down my material?

Assuming (1) you never executed any agreements with the website, (2) you weren’t an employee of the other site, and (3) you didn’t co-write any of the articles with someone else, then  you would own the copyright in the material you created. That gives you the right to reproduce your stories wherever you wanted.

The other site. We don’t know what your arrangement was with the other site but you may have created an implied license based on your behavior. That is, the fact that you posted at the other site, implies you granted them a right to display the material. If there is no implied license (and no evidence granting rights to the other side), you can ask to have your copyrighted materials removed.


Dear Rich: I use an artist name with a last name that is not my legal last name and has no relation to my birth name. I have no interest in legally changing my last name, and all my music copyrights are filed under my legal name. My question is when I credit myself on a CD with “music and lyrics written by….” can I use my artist last name, or should I use my legal last name? I find it visually confusing to have one artist name on the CD and a different last name for “music written by.” But am I legally obligated to use my real last name?

You’re not legally obligated to credit your songwriting with your “real” name, but many artists do it. Sometimes they do it to personally acknowledge the songwriting, sometimes to simplify copyright registration, and sometimes just to make it clear whose name goes on the check. If you’re going to credit your songs to your stage name, that pseudonym should be included on the copyright registration and at your performing rights society (ASCAP or BMI).

Photo courtesy of the Dear Rich Blog.

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About Rich Stim

Attorney Richard Stim specializes in small business, copyright, patents, and trademark issues at Nolo. He practices law in San Francisco and has represented photographers, software developers, craftspeople, publishers, musicians and toy designers. He is the author of many books, including Music Law: How to Run Your Band’s Business; Patent, Copyright & Trademark: An Intellectual Property Desk Reference; and Profit From Your Idea. Stim regularly answers readers’ intellectual property questions at Dear Rich: Nolo’s Patent, Copyright & Trademark Blog. Rich is also an author on Intellectual Property Law Firms. Stim also produces audiobooks, such as Nolo’s Crash Course in Small Business Basics, and performs and records with two bands, MX-80 and angel corpus christi. You can also find Rich on Google Plus.

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