May 2014 Update: We often get questions about article spinning copyright infringement law. Several years ago, to answer those questions, we wrote the piece below addressing legal rights as it relates to re-worked Web content. But FYI: Since then, article spinning is no longer as Google-friendly as it used to be.
***Original Article Starts Here***
What Is Article Spinning?
“Article spinning” is a popular method of producing web content.
To “spin” an article means to use software or humans, or a combination of both, to reword an article. If done properly, the reworded versions appear dissimilar to search engines spiders, thereby increasing the prestige of the website on which they’re hosted, without getting a negative score from the search engine for duplicate content.
When Is Article Spinning Copyright Infringement?
When a person spins their own content to put on multiple sites they own, it’s not a problem. But what about spun articles that use someone else’s content? Is it copyright infringement to take the work of someone else, and use software or a human to reword it to appear different?
The answer is, “Yes, Article spinning copyright infringement is a real thing!”
Copyright laws don’t only protect the original version of an article. If you reword someone else’s content, it’s considered copyright infringement in many situations. If a plaintiff can establish proof of access, by a defendant, to the allegedly infringed content, and a there is a substantial similarity between the spun and original articles,copyright infringement can be claimed. Proof of access is easy to establish if the infringed content was located online for public viewing, since anybody with Internet access would have the opportunity to view it.
Testa v. Janssen Gives Case Law Standing For ‘Spun’ Content Being An Act of Copyright Infringement
But what if the infringed content is not publicly available? In Testa v. Janssen (1980), the plaintiffs owned rights to a song called “Kept on Singing.” The defendants made a song called “Keep on Singing.”
The plaintiffs alleged the defendants copied, even though the two songs weren’t identical and there was no proof of access. The Court ruled, however, against the defendants’ motion for summary judgment and permitted the case to proceed. Why? Because the purportedly infringing content was “strikingly similar,” which, in the judge’s mind, was enough to constitute “proof of access” on the part of the defendants.
Although it concerned music, the Testa decision can be applied to “spun” content. If someone believes their private content was infringed, but cannot prove access by the infringer, Testa establishes that a striking similarity between two works is sufficient to proceed with a copyright infringement case.
Testa may also be applicable in cases where, for example, an eBook or software code has been copied, but the owner cannot prove access by the defendant. If the eBook or software is strikingly similar to the original, it is possible to pursue a copyright infringement case, notwithstanding the lack of proof of access.
Contact An Online Copyright Infringement Lawyer
This article was only a brief summary of the law on article spinning copyright infringement. For professional advice, contact a qualified online copyright lawyer.