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Thread: Question: File Sharing copyright concerns?

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    Question: File Sharing copyright concerns?

    Hi all,

    I'm very new to WDF (As you can see), and I hope to be posting a lot more. So my question is:

    I want to develop a "file sharing" website of sorts, I don't want to go into more detail than I need to, but what kind of copyright concerns do I need to have? Is the content uploaded by the user their responsibility or will I be responsible for the content that is uploaded? Let's say some examples of the content I'm imagining are various kinds of college course materials.

    I'd appreciate some input so I don't develop an entire site then realize that my whole idea is just a setup for me to get sued or something..

    Thanks!

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  3. #2
    WDF Staff mlseim's Avatar
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    You are responsible for what is contained (all files) in your webhost account.

    There is one way around this ... I've seen this done on Free sheet music for piano | PianoFiles ... the members log-in and only list the files that they own. There are no files stored on the site. Members email other members to "trade" files (in this case, it's copyrighted sheet music). The copyright infringements are violated by the members and not by the website owner.

    College course materials are probably a lot of copyrighted PDF files ... which could be copies from textbooks? You would have no way of knowing that. There are not only legal issues, but ethical issues as well.

    I should finally add that most college students already have their own "social sharing network". They probably would rather do it between themselves than use your filesharing system anyhow.


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    Thanks for the honest reply msleim,

    Textbooks were one of my considerations, but once I thought about copyright laws I decided that would be an avenue best not pursued, I think some of my target files were things like old tests, old homeworks, old notes, etc.. I know when I take a class I try to get my hands on all that. So, I guess my next question is would materials like these be copyrighted by the university, since theoretically the content would be "created" by the user, although the original product was from the school.. if that makes sense.

    Most of this is done through email and dropbox now, and only if you know someone. I was hoping to create a searchable central repository for information like this.

  5. #4
    Unpaid WDF Intern TheGAME1264's Avatar
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    The best thing you can do for copyright issues is check out Content Theft, Plagiarism, Copyright Infringement | Plagiarism Today . Jonathan's got all sorts of stuff up there related to copyright, and chances are you'll find something in there that will apply to your situation.

    One thing that might apply is the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act), and more specifically its safe harbor provision. The safe harbor provision basically states (to the best of my knowledge...I'm not a lawyer, so you have been disclaimed) that if you're a DMCA-compliant host and a site on your server allows users to upload content, sooner or later users are going to upload things that are in violation of copyright; if they do so and you're properly informed, you will take the offending material down. I'm not sure whether or not you have to turn over any user info in relation to it (I don't think that you do), but you do have to take the file down. If you do that in a timely manner, you're safe. Among other sites, that's how YouTube operates.

    By the way, this is for the US only. I'm not sure how it applies internationally. Again, that might be a question for Jonathan...he knows a heck of a lot more about that stuff than I ever will (it's what he does for a living). Depending on your site and the scope, it might be worth sending a couple of bills his way.
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    Senior Member Webzarus's Avatar
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    So I saw this question posed this morning and since I have several college level interns, I thought I'd ask their opinion.

    1 told me that during his orientation several years ago, sites and sharing of old test data, etc were discussed during their "code of ethics" class.

    basically, they were told, if caught using file sharing or plagiarizing work they are expected to do ( don't know how they would know, but I have my suspicions ), they would be asked to leave the school and forfeiture of all funds.

    the second person said, they had heard about a site similar, and there are notes on the boards around school asking if there are file shares , etc.... But she wants to actually learn something and do the work herself, and expect everyone around to do the same. Sure, her and her friends do study groups and share notes, not the same thing....

    school is not JUST about learning, its about dealing with life issues, and how you handle those issues. Says a lot about character to actually want to do the work as opposed to just getting someone's study notes.

    I will say, I wouldn't expect either of these interns to tell me that they would use something like this, but knowing the attitude they take here and their work effort ... I would t expect them to do it.

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    Senior Member Webzarus's Avatar
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    Then there are professors that actually want the students that make the effort to have the advantage over those that just want to "skate by"...

    One professor I know, is actually a programmer, he created a DB of his course work and possible questions that could be asked on the course and study guides he references... When he goes to give test, his program randomly selects questions for each person taking the test, and prints the test with a code# on them, along with the answer sheet for that test with the same code #...

    He said, rarely does this program generate the same test for anyone in the same semester.

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    Thank you for your input. I'll have to read some of those copyright links, TheGame.

    Webzarus, also thank you for asking your interns about it. Honestly my idea for the website wasn't to skip out on work, more to get an idea of the coursework for a class before you take it, or give you an idea for what the test questions might be like.

    Honestly I really want to jump into a development project that I can do in my own time that will challenge me and expand my knowledge using certain technologies I want to learn. I've just been bouncing ideas around in my head of something I could see filling a niche somewhere. I could see all sorts of college students using a site like this..

    Anyway, thanks for your input on the copyright issues. Maybe I should look into a project that will have a 0% chance of me getting sued.

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    WDF Staff mlseim's Avatar
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    I had the feeling that the OP was talking about materials like from booklets, books, etc. I didn't think the OP was about test copies and written papers. Either way, there are issues that would make the idea bad.


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    Unpaid WDF Intern TheGAME1264's Avatar
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    Not the least of which would be the inevitable ridiculous backlash from the educational community.

    "The materials are outdated." Yeah, because history and math change so much from year to year.
    "You lack the context of the lesson that only a lecture can provide." Yeah, the first 5 minutes of it...you could friggin' record a YouTube clip and put all the useful information on it. The other 70 is just you trying to justify your existence.
    "You're allowing students to cheat." So does every essay writing and homework site out there. How about if you get a little smarter and, I dunno, think of new lesson plans and ideas that can't be easily circumvented?

    If this were done in Canada, you'd lose just because there would be arguments like this that would be far too stupid to argue against, but that people would also gravitate to because post-secondary education is the new church...or Jonestown, take your pick.
    If I've helped you out in any way, please pay it forward. My wife and I are walking for Autism Speaks. Please donate, and thanks.

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    WDF Staff AlphaMare's Avatar
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    Webz - where are you located and if I am willing to relocate can I be one of your interns? Do you have an age limit?
    Webzarus likes this.
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