Summary: Internet Law & How It Affects Search Marketing with David Mink (@dmmink) #seochat

Guest: @dmmink from Dream Systems Media. He is the Chief Legal Officer for Dream Systems Media and regularly speaks at conferences like SMX and PubCon.

By the way, this is NOT LEGAL ADVICE and I AM NOT YOUR ATTORNEY… now I feel better 🙂 ~@dmmink

How do you publish shareable information and maintain legal rights to it?

You need to have “copyright” in the information you publish if you are to maintain legal rights to it. So, the real question usually is – how do you know whether your work qualifies for copyright protection? The simple answer is it must be: 1) fixed in a tangible medium of expression; and 2) ORIGINAL.

Good read on copyrights and international settings –

@shuey03: What is a tangible medium of expression?
@dmmink: A tangible medium could be on paper, on a blog, on a website… something you can touch, see, etc.

@aknecht: But does just putting in a copyright symbol or message really mean anything if it hasn’t be registered?
@dmmink: Good question @aknecht. So, limited copyright rights are inherent with the publishing of original content, but to enhance those rights you will need to register with the US Copyright Office.
@aknecht: but costs to reg with US Copyright Office can add up & that doesn’t protect you in other jurisdiction.
@dmmink: True, that costs can add up. however, there are international copyright protections available!

@dan_patterson: I remember hearing once that if you write something original, it’s technically copyrighted by default. Is this true?
@dmmink: That is what I mean when I said you have limited copyrights inherently with writing ORIGINAL content.
@kmullett: Yes, but in Indiana, if you go through the actual process you can get 3x damages. (as I understand it). I was told you have 90 days after seeing an infraction to do it and still recieve 3x damages.
@AnnieCushing: But don’t you have to register before someone violates copyright for it to have teeth?
@kmullett: That is not what I was told by an Indiana lawyer.
@dmmink: Unless you register your copyright you cannot really enforce it. i.e., registration allows you to bring suit
@kmullett: Wow, that was not my understanding of it. The registration just strengthens it I was told by multiple lawyers.

@JadedTLC: You don’t have to copyright your online work. Hundreds of “poets” sued eUniverse and won a settlement.
@Thos003: You could always print a physical copy and mail it to yourself prior to publishing… #CheapCopyright
@kmullett: Ahhh the poor mans copyright. I have actually done that but I can’t get a straight answer on enforceability.

@atraine: Give us an idea of costs to get copyright filed, etc. for protection.
@dmmink: Last time I looked registration costs were around $45.00 per original work of authorship and then attorney fees if you use one.

Where does someone turn when their content is being used illegally?

  1. Register your work for copyright with the US copyright office so that you can legally fight copyright infringement
  2. Sending a cease and desist letter is a practical step to avoiding a lawsuit
  3. Contact a copyright attorney and bring a federal lawsuit for copyright infringement (provided you have a registered copyright)
  4. For you do-it-yourselfers and link builders see from @debramastaler

So, kind of a long answer… but you have a lot of options! Good news! @debramastaler does a great job of explaining step by step how you can use the DMCA to essentially force hosting companies to take down copyright infringing websites. She also provides valuable tips for discovering copyright infringements and finding their contact information. to essentially force hosting companies to take down copyright infringing websites. She also provides valuable tips for discovering copyright infringements and finding their contact information.

Another helpful read if your facing copyright infringement

@shuey03: Do cease and desist letters even work?
@dmmink: In many cases, cease and desist letters are very effective and they are quick, cheap, and easy. so, it’s a good 1st step.
@Matt_Siltala: I think that’s the key. They scare enough to be effective. then move to next level if not.
@JadedTLC: They work if you have a big company. If you’re a blogger (small) it may not work.
@VillageAdsSeo: Cease and desist letters work quite well. I’ve used this tactic twice. Cease and desist letters work best when sent from an actual attorney’s office. #PersonalExperience.
@ashbuckles: Sometimes cease and desist letters are just enough. Other times you have to follow thru.

@shuey03: Is it a physical letter or does an email work?
@dmmink: In my experience, physical letters work better.

@kmullett: Yes, many hosting providers express concern it will cause them headaches if they take something down erroneously.
@dmmink: True, but they can’t afford not to take it down… they do not want to lose their “safe harbor”.

@ashbuckles: Private domains are similar to hosting companies b/c as the owner, they’re not interested in illegal ownership.

@supernaut76: ha! disclaimers – gotta do it #SEOChat
@dmmink: It’s never too late for a good disclaimer! Lawyers like disclaimers just about as much as SEOs like links 😉

When purchasing a domain, is there anything to keep in mind to avoid legal issues?

You want to make sure that you do not register someone else’s trademark as your domain name. There goes all of that money, all those links, all those rankings, etc. Because trademark law may allow the trademark owner to usurp the domain name from you. I would recommend searching the Trademark Electronic Search System before registering a domain.

Note, responsibility for determining whether a domain name infringes on trademark rights lies with the domain name registrant. Rather, it (domain name) must be used as the actual identity of your products or services. FYI, it is possible for you to receive trademark protection in your domain name. To do so, you must prove that your domain name is not just an address to direct people to your web site.

The funny thing about trademarks is they were actually designed to protect consumers, not businesses. To protect the consumer, trademark law says only 1 computer company can use the term Mac and/or the apple logo. Example: I am computer shopping. Research tells me I want to buy Mac. Problem is every company is claiming to sell Macs. By using their name, logo, slogan, etc. and thereby confusing the buyer into purchasing the wrong product. For basic information on trademarks see and . Of course, Apple is receiving protection. Their trademark rights allow them to prevent competitors from stealing their goodwill.

@kmullett:Can’t remember the case, but a guy lost his Facebook Page (vanity url and page) because he had a trademark name. The sad thing is it doesn’t stop a large company from trying to bully clients with lawyers. Recent issue with that one. Nasty stuff.

@shuey03: What happens if you own a domain name an two years later someone copyright’s the name? can it be taken from you?
@dmmink: In that case, you would most likely be safe. What we are worried about is when the trademark exists prior to the domain.

@mikehalvorsen: Don’t expect to be able to protect your rights when you choose a generic domain name. Just common sense. And don’t think that just because you have a domain name you have rights as a business. You have to register it as a business.

Has the FTC’s internet endorsement guidelines killed paid reviews as a link building tactic? Why or why not?

NO!! It just requires that you use the technique with more planning. You must cross your t’s and dot your i’s. I also addressed this topic in a video interview with Mike McDonald of WebproNews – . I actually spoke on this subject at PubCon Las Vegas in 11/2010 and have the slides from my preso here

The FTC believes that the general public is savvy enough to identify a paid ad via the radio or the tv, but not necessarily online. Therefore, as a “consumer protection” tactic they released the new guidelines which require that social media endorsers. And, that advertisers be responsible for

  • Advising bloggers of their disclosure responsibility.
  • Monitoring the statements made to make sure they are substantiated.
  • Establishing procedures to guide endorsers into making the necessary “clear and conspicuous” disclosures.

The FTC has several hypotheticals that I would advise you read

Internet Law & How It Affects Search Marketing with David Mink (@dmmink) #seochat

On Thursday, April 21, 2011 Search Marketing Weekly will be hosting an #seochat on Twitter. David Mink (@dmmink) will be our guest answering questions about Internet Law & How It Affects Search Marketing.


Starts at 7:00 pm Mountain Time
About 1 hour long
Use hashtag #seochat
Host: Greg Shuey

About David Mink

David Mink has been at the forefront of web development for years. David received his Bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University in Marketing. He then went on to receive his Juris Doctorate at the University of Alabama.

David has personally provided Internet consulting services for over one thousand businesses in the past several years. He has also developed eCommerce training curriculum for a number of business learning companies.

David enjoys group trainings and has presented Internet Marketing and Internet Law seminars at several Universities and corporations across the USA. David is the Chief Legal Officer for Dream Systems Media, and is a licensed attorney in the state of Utah.