How It Works
E C Legal believes that the internet contains hundreds of millions of plagiarized text passages that amount to actionable breaches of international copyright law with millions more being created every year.
E C Legal has been told that the publicly accessible internet contains 510 million live websites and 1.193 billion registered domain names. Google has indexed 48 billion individual webpages. 103 million websites were added in 2013 along with 328 million new domain registrations.
E C Legal has access to software that can scan individual sentences from randomly selected websites. This scanning process finds more than 20% contain copyright infringements that we see as potentially actionable at law.
A much larger percentage contain plagiarism, but plagiarism is a broader concept than a breach of copyright. Many types of copying can be plagiarism but do not amount to actionable copyright breaches. For every 10 examples of plagiarism you find on the internet, only one is likely to be an actionable infringement under copyright law. For instance, copying from Wikipedia is plagiarism but is not a breach of copyright as Wikipedia gives express permission for anyone to republish it’s content. You can plagiarize from the public domain but the public domain cannot sue for copyright infringement. Further, rules on plagiarism are set by each academic institution and vary widely. Public institutions may choose not to apply copyright case law.
E C Legal looks for actionable copyright infringements with the following characteristics:
- a significant proportion of substantially similar text between the two sites;
- one site has the earliest first publication date with evidence from two independent sources;
- no citations, references or linkbacks refer to the earliest site;
- both sites were live and active at the time scanned;
- the infringing site was operating for profit or gain;
- the earlier site was protected by copyright and was not in the public domain or protected under lesser regimes such as Copyright Commons, GNU or MIT licenses; and the later site is not a member of the class of excluded sites known to produce false positives.
The law requires an actionable copyright infringement to have more than one or two identical sentences. This is especially true for common or unoriginal sentences. What is required is enough copied text to prove that it is statistically impossible or at least highly improbable, that the similarity has occurred coincidentally. In practice, E C Legal sees this as requiring at least five or six copied sentences are required to make “a significant proportion of substantially similar text”.
Why do these actionable infringements remain unenforced?
Traditionally, in the world of physical publishing, one of the most difficult tasks for the plaintiff in a copyright infringement allegation is the calculation of actual loss. Calculating actual loss was usually time consuming and expensive, and often resulted in low numbers that made the whole action uneconomic.
The internet, however, makes calculation of actual loss a much simpler exercise.
For instance, assume your daily website advertising income is valued at a minimum of $131 based on data provided by Alexa.com for your domain. The software used by E C Legal determines the proportion of your site contained in the infringing site (8.00% for example), giving a proportionate advertising revenue loss of $10.48 per day. The software calculates the duration of the infringement in days for you. The value of this loss over 1054 days (in this example) is therefore $11045.92 USD. Applying a penalty multiplier of 2 to 5 times (this is a fair and just estimate based on current case law) gives a total actual damages amount of $55,229.60 USD in the current example.
The difficulty in obtaining the data and undertaking the above calculations is, we think, one of the main reasons copyright infringements have not been prosecuted. The process for a single site could take weeks. For this reason, most website owners have never had an accurate idea of how many times, how much or who has copied their content. Without any real proof of infringement it is understandable that website owners have failed to enforce their rights.
The software now available to E C Legal makes the evidence available at a reasonable cost.
Multiple cases help keep the cost down.
E C Legal is building a portfolio of cases with claims of copyright infringement. As the number of cases we handle increases, there are efficiencies created which will allow E C Legal to handle these matters in a way that makes it financially viable for the claims to be prosecuted to a final, and hopefully, successful conclusion.