Sunday, January 16, 2011


Due to recent events, I feel I need to address some issues concerning ownership of T&T's content. I apologize that I have to write this entry.

There are some people who don't understand the concept of intellectual property and copyright law. Maybe they have the misconception that it is just words on the Internet and therefore it must be free. But that's far from the truth.

In T&T's "footer" that appears on every page of the blog (and just added recently to the top right corner) is our copyright © statement. It clearly states:

All rights reserved, do not reproduce in whole or in part without the express written consent of Trials & Tribulations.

"..written consent.." That's pretty clear, right? I mean, even a fifth grader could understand that. Before you use T&T's content, you need to write and ask for permission, first.

What is copyright, represented by this symbol © specifically? Here is an excerpt, from Black's Law Dictionary, 8th Edition:

Copyright: The right to copy; specif. A property right in an original work of authorship…fixed in any tangible medium of expression, giving the holder the exclusive right to reproduce, adapt, distribute, perform and display the work.
Copyright infringement: The act of violating any of a copyright owner’s exclusive rights granted by the federal Copyright Act, 17 USCA §§ 106, 602. A copyright holder has several exclusive rights in copyrighted works, including the rights (1) to reproduce the work; (2) to prepare derivative works based on the work; (3) to distribute copies of the work; (4) for certain kinds of works, to perform the work publicly; (5) for certain kinds of work, to display the work publicly; (6) for sound recording, to perform the work publicly; and (7) to import into the United States copies acquired elsewhere.
Criminal infringement: The statutory criminal offense of either (1) willfully infringing on a copyright to obtain a commercial advantage or financial gain (17 USCA § 2319)…
Direct infringement: … 3. Copyright. The unauthorized copying, distributing, or displaying of — or the adapting of a derivative work from — a copyrighted work.
Intellectual property: 1. A category of intangible rights protecting commercial valuable products of the human intellect. • The category comprises primarily trademark, copyright and patent rights, but also includes trade-secret rights, publicity rights, moral rights, and rights under unfair competition.

T&T is a different type of criminal justice blog. We don't just read stories about horrific crimes in the mainstream media (MSM) and regurgitate them. We create our own content. We perform research on crime stories. We either watch a complete trial online or in my case and CaliGirl9's, personally attend a trial and report on it.

All of us at T&T have a deep interest in the criminal justice system. That's where our passion lies. Our participation in various crime forums goes back almost nine years. For myself, I'm well known in that community for my trial attendance and reporting. Although T&T is not affiliated with any MSM, the Los Angeles County Superior Court's Public Information Office has now recognized me as a member of the media. This is a huge honor for myself and T&T.

In all my years of following crime stories, attending trials and reporting on them, I've never experienced blatant copyright violation. Never. That is, I never experienced it until I reported on the Dr. Conrad Murray preliminary hearing. In the crime forum community, there are strict, understood rules about taking MSM and blog content and posting it. For MSM stories, you are allowed to post a "fair use" snippet from the story and then post the link where individuals can read the full story. For crime blogs, unless it is an accredited source, usually you are not even allowed to post the link, much less the gist of the story. Because of T&T's hard earned reputation, the big crime forums like WebSleuths and In Session now recognize T&T as an accredited crime reporting source and links to T&T can be posted there.

T&T is not a Michael Jackson Fan web site. T&T writers are not fans of the decedent. I did not attended the Dr. Conrad Murray prelim because of who the decedent was. I attended because of the whole concept of someone hiring a doctor to put them to sleep~~something so reckless, so beyond what a normal, thinking rational person would ever do. I did not attend this prelim for the specific benefit of Michael Jackson's fans.

To track how well we are doing, T&T has a visible stat counter. To date, T&T has over 1.4 million viewers. Behind the scenes, T&T can see where the the links are coming from. After the second day of covering the Dr. Conrad Murray prelim, imagine our surprise to see our web hits noticeably increased. When I went to these web sites and twitter accounts, a troubling picture emerged. My entire Dr. Conrad Murray prelim content was being re posted, without obtaining written consent; essentially violating the copyright. The unpaid time, energy and personal sacrifice I put into my trial coverage was being copied in its entirety without my permission. I went to many of these twitter accounts and web sites. I even took the time to translate foreign language sites to see what they said. Everyone should note that near the bottom of the right column, right above the LABELS listing, there already is a language translator link on T&T.

On January 5th and 6th, I did receive some written requests to use T&T's content. I responded to every single person who took the time to comply with the copyright. I also posted an entry, directed to the readers of the Dr. Conrad Murray prelim coverage. The instructions in that post are very clear about link-backs and unedited draft entries. However, there is nothing in that post that states you can build an entire web site dedicated to T&T's content, present it as your own and not even give credit on the front page of that web site to T&T or me, Betsy A. Ross, aka "Sprocket." Although I write under a moniker, I've not been "anonymous" since the first Phil Spector trial in 2007, when the late Dominick Dunne mentioned my real name in one of his Vanity Fair articles. In fact, my real name is clearly posted on my blogger profile page. I would never send someone my content and remain anonymous. I remind readers again, that there already is a translator link on T&T.

Any web site or twitter type account that posted T&T's content without contacting T&T first violated T&T's copyright. Any web site or twitter account that posted T&T's content without the correct link-backs to specific entries violated T&T's copyright. Any web site or twitter account that posted T&T's content in draft form without the exact wording of the unedited draft entry statement at the top violated T&T's copyright. In our book, that's criminal infringement. That's theft.


Karen said...

Thanks for being so professional. As I understand it, you are quite willing to share content when someone asks permission and provides appropriate credit. Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

That is a very clear and concise explanation to what theft of copyright is, Sprocket. I think you have a right to be upset about the misuse of your hard work. I think it's sad someone would display your whole blog articles as their own.


Michelle said...

I whole-heartedly concur. The time and energy that one puts into their work should absolutely be respected. The process for linking others to it is very clear. Thank you for all the thorough reporting that you and the others on T & T do.

Nian said...

Very well put. I'd have thought that the recent outcry over the "Cook's Source" website's editor's mistaken belief that anything on the Internet was public domain would have wised some people up. Apparently not.

Anonymous said...

It is very clear stated what to do, if you want to use the content. It is a shame that some people think that they are "more equal" than others. I understand that you are upset and thank you for writing this blogpost for clarification, since it has been circulated that you are fine with it - which is far from the truth - as we can read.

Anonymous said...

Sad when people don't know the meaning of copyright!

wfrostphoto said...

Shades of the Judith Griggs episode, Sprocket. Contrary to what many users of the Internet believe, it is not a free for all. Posting an article on your own blog is not the same as leaving your car on the street, with the keys in it and the engine running, available for every joyrider to take it for a spin.

I've recently been learning more about copyright and touch on it here . You and the other T&T authors might want to consider periodically registering your material with the copyright office, it will give you a lot more leverage when dealing with content thieves.


CaliGirl9 said...

This past week has been very interesting at T & T. The Jackson fan base can be rabidly fanatical to the point of blindness and loss of all reason. Many of the comments that were rejected were personal attacks on writers who may have said something that they did not agree with—especially discussions of how ill Michael Jackson really was. Hiring a doctor to put you to sleep is not the behavior of a normal, rational person. If it was, we'd all have just that, and it would probably be part of Obamacare.

It is so very sad when people wrap their lives around and worship someone so flawed. So—human. If only we were all as fanatical about being kind and respectful toward one another, this world would be a far better place. Isn't that what MJ was said to have wanted? Kindness, acceptance?

What those rabid fans failed to see was we are on the same side here—a physician's reckless behavior caused a human being to die. Doesn't matter who the physician was or who the deceased was. We are all witnessing the unfolding of a case that has had far-reaching effects on the way anesthesia care is delivered, and it is my hope that lawmakers will come up with ways to make the law a bit more punitive toward physicians practicing specialty medicine well outside their own chosen specialty, and prescribing and administering drugs they know little about.

Maybe that will be Michael Jackson's final, lasting legacy. A good thing indeed.

Anonymous said...

I agree with every word Caligurl posted!! Also, Sprocket, even though I wasn't all that interested in this case, I checked in to see what was up, every now & then. You've always been a top notch reporter, & I thank you for that !

katfish said...

I'm not a "huge" MJ fan, but like many a babyboomer,I've appreciated his huge talent since he was a boy.
Just as I have enjoyed MJ's many talents, as a true crime buff, I've also enjoyed the talents and dedication and integrity of the writers here at T&T.

Your post makes it very clear that copyright infringement is illegal.

I doubt MJ would be very pleased with those who claim to be his fan's, yet would show such a blatant lack of concern for the creative rights of others.

Anonymous said...

thanks for your reporting (and other contributors). i am not following the MJ trial... i followed both spector trials and others. your reporting has always been superior to msm.

blatant disregard to copyright laws is ignorance. be thankful for sprocket's hardwork and follow the law. i am sure MJ was a staunch supporter of copyright laws.


Gisela - Mi Tributo a Michael Jackson said...

Dears Betsy and T&T team

I was one of who requested to you the written permission to reproduce your information in my blog and translate it into Spanish, and you kindly gave me permission to do so.

However, I began to see the behavior in the community of fans what are described here. So I decided to only send via links directly to your blog, and include a link to the Google translator for the translation in Spanish, but translated directly the content of your blog.

That is: I decided not to publish anything more than links. Even I added your disclaimer and a Spanish translation of it, to make clear: who is the owner of the information, who wrote it, who did the work.

I am very respectful of the work of others, always, because I like also to receive respect for my work.

I totally agree with you: Who does not respect the work of others, the intellectual property of others, commits a theft. In your country, in my country and in the world is the same.

And that is precisely given the events that I do not approve at all, I realized I could not control someone did misuse the information belongs to you, if published in my blog; and that is the product of your hard work

Still greatly appreciate that you gave me permission to post it on my blog. But above all your great work, and that at least for me, it was very useful and helpful.
And thank you as well as huge, you have my respect.

I never lost sight of the exact proportion of things.

I was always aware that you are not fans of MJ or at least did not go there as fans of MJ, but as people interested in criminal trials.

A work that I personally find very interesting. A lot. I know that if I could make it; serve me to learn about many topics.

I do not know what more to say. All I can do is apologizing, even though it was not me who committed these reprehensible acts. Because despite that, I belong to the community of fans of MJ.

The most absurd of all is that MJ was a person very respectful of the work of others. And it was all for people, he did mention in the credits though apparently were a little work. He always did it. He recognized the importance of everyone's work.

You can be sure that the vast majority of fans of MJ, actually follow his example.

I apologice. And I reiterate my gratitude Huge! For your hard work.

I hope you understand my bad English.

Gisela Figueroa.

Sprocket said...


I understood your English perfectly. Thank you for your comment.

tiya said...

I concur with Caligirl9 entirely )except for the comment about Obamacare :) )

Some of Michael Jackson's fan base has an irrational loyalty towards him and you have gotten a taste of what it can happen when one makes balanced comments about him.

I loved MJ but not the idealized version, so I was thrilled that sprocket wasn't particularly an mj fan - and that the court reporting and T&T team comments reflected a more nuanced view of Jackson and his choices. I also very much appreciated your comments in the comment section and how you let others with professional knowledge, like KZ, add to the conversation.

I did see your material on MJ websites, after I found Trials & Tribulations, disclaimer. I wondered what you would do, if anything. I am glad you have taken a principled stand.

I also hope that the unfortunate comments of MJ's fans won't deter you from covering the trial if you are able to do so. I agree that it's an important trial with far-reaching implications for the use of anesthesia and other drugs. My nephew is in medical school, planning to be an anesthesiologist - his teachers are asking that the med students follow the trial once it starts if they can find a way to get details of it, not simply msm comments.

I directed him to your site and he has passed the link on to other med students to read the pre-trial material. So you have already done a very important job and you also have much support from MJ fans who appreciate him for the brilliant performer and flawed human being he was.

Anonymous said...

This is great Sprocket. This is clearly a violation. We should all respect each others wishes & not do something that could get us in trouble with the law or make someone upset at what we've done.
Stealing someones work is just plain wrong.

Tami aka Johnielee

Anonymous said...

@ Sprocket and CaliGirl9 - Thank you once again for the information you have made available to the many MJ fans who have visited your site.

It's a terrible shame that a blatant breach of your very clear copyright statements have been disregarded by one person in particular.

What is even more terrible is that this person, along with a few others who have been disrespectful have given the impression they speak for the MJ fan community as a whole.

The person who breached your copyright is well known to a lot of us in the community. Her behaviour has been called into question on more than a couple of occasions. However, not all fans are aware of this.

Other fans act defensively because they are sick at heart and angry with the way MJ was treated during his lifetime and haven't yet learned how to deal with those feelings in an appropriate way and so lash out at what they sometimes incorrectly see as a negative.

These people are also not representative of the MJ fan community as a whole but are usually the ones who get noticed unfortunately, which results in all of us being regarded in a negative light.

The majority of us only want the truth and so are grateful for the unbiased reporting of the Conrad Murray preliminary you have provided, without which we would not have the insight given to us by all the time and effort you have put in.

To say thank you again doesn't truly reflect the gratitude we, in the fan community, feel for what we are able to read from your blog. I have returned many times to check on various points in the testimonies. We weren't able to get such detail anywhere else on a day-to-day basis and that detail continues to be available here. I have also visited other areas of your blog with interest and have "bookmarked" your site for future reference.

So I will say thank you again. We, the MJ fan community as a whole, have greatly appreciated your efforts and we are sincerely sorry for the stress the actions of some have caused.

SugarEd Productions said...

You have been nothing but gracious and generous with all of your knowledge and content since the time I first came to know you in Spector one. This is a crime, and unless the offenders correct it immediately, I would be pleased as punch to see legal action taken against them.

Rose said...


My readers pointed you out to me during the Pelicano trail and since then you have always been gracious about sharing as long as you get the credit and the link back.

Our readers love the in-depth time you spend on any trial or case you cover. You provide a diary that allows all of us to "feel" as if we were there seeing and hearing what you are telling us.

We congratulate you on the hard work and the recognition you so richly deserve as "media" by the Los Angeles County Superior Court's Public Information Office.

We spend hours and days on our content and I remember when that was copied and put on a lot of sites with no credit it is a horrid feeling.

You are the greatest.

Ken and Rose Turner

Barrier Island Girl said...

I believe I first starting following your blog during the Phil Spector trial and I have always been impressed by the time you have put into your blog, plus your professionalism.

I am terribly upset to hear about the situation you've encountered and hope that it is quickly rectified without the need and expensive of a lawsuit, despite the fact that you would obviously win any legal action. This is certainly a time where you have to stand up to those who steal your hard work and essentially your property.

So sorry you must go through this stressful situation. Your followers recognize your hard work and stand behind you 100%!


Anonymous said...

I'm sorry that you've had to take the time to address this issue again. I appreciate your work and blog.


KZ said...

I add my outrage to yours for the violation of your work and intellectual property. Theft of thoughts, ideas, visual products, and prose is plagiarism, whether it is a student term paper, or Internet content. And in the case of copyrighted material, it is a crime. I don't know the specific individual you speak of, but if this individual has been around the Internet for a while, she is WELL aware of how to properly cite material back to the source, and has CHOSEN to steal content. In my book, that is much different from simply "not knowing".

And, of course, theft of content smacks of a complete lack of personal and professional integrity.

Anonymous said...

Sprocket, I am a fan of your trial coverage as I have often said. I appreciate the efforts and expenses you have gone through to give your readers an "in person" account of trials. I appreciate the other contributors to T&T like Ritanita who has provided such in depth coverage of the Casey Anthony matter in Florida. Countless hours of unbelievably researched data!

You have posted, pled, and now forcefully stated the facts about the theft of your material. What a shame that any of it was necessary! I know nothing about those who have stolen from you. I don't read other sites and certainly no fan sites, but I do know that what has occurred is dishonest and disgusting!


hetherfly said...

I am a huge fan of your work and that of your associate bloggers. I am saddened that you needed to address this issue, but think you have done it in a clear, concise and focused manner. I fully support your position.

Claudia said...

You guys work too hard for a great blog to be abused in this manner. Keep up the good work Sprocket.

Anonymous said...

So outrageous, I hope you take legal action against these people. It's exactly like stealing songs from MJ.

KZ said...

I'm sure you've already looked into this, but is it possible to post your material in a format that would prevent cutting and pasting? Is this possible with this template?

Sprocket said...

IF, (and that's a BIG IF; it's a VERY remote possibility at this point; I'm not really interested in having my content stolen again by MJ fans) I decide to attend this trial, T&T will be looking into that possibility. It may mean we have to move the blog off of blogger, or put it in another format altogether. (Another thing we are not too keen on either.)

Some individuals think that they have done nothing wrong. They still have T&T © copyrighted content on their web sites. They think adding links and the disclaimers made it all okay.

I will say this again, if anyone copied and pasted T&T content to another web site and did not contact T&T prior to that for permission, then those individuals violated our copyright. It's really that simple.

Sprocket said...

I've been reading here and there, people's opinions about the case.

Some think that the DA's office can up the charges. That is such a remote possibility that it's pretty much certain it won't happen.

But let's say, evidence did come out at trial that could be argued was grounds for a 187; a second degree murder charge in California.

I asked some legal sources on that. It's their opinion that for the DA's office to bring higher charges, they just can't "add on" new charges at the end of the case and have the judge give jury instructions.

From my understanding, the DA would have to present a new preliminary hearing to add on more serious charges. It is doubtful that will happen in this case. I think the DA's office charged him with with the most serious charge that they could. I don't think (my opinion) they are going to learn much of anything new at trial.

However, we will learn quite a bit more at trial. We will learn if there really was propofol floating loose around in that slit saline bag with the 100m. bottle of propofol inside it. We still don't now how full that bottle was when FLEAK collected it. Her testimony at the prelim was, "I don't remember."

We do know that ALVAREZ's testimony stated he saw a milky looking substance in the bag.

Sprocket said...

100ml bottle. Sorry. My typing skills suck.

Anonymous said...

Sprocket the minute I saw that you were covering the Dr.Murray pre-trial I knew the MJ fans would come here. They are obsessed beyond belief. It has nothing to do with Dr.Murray or the trial. For them it is finding out personal info. on MJ. I'm so sorry you had to deal with them they are nuts & obviously wouldn't leave the man alone either when he was alive..

Anonymous said...

I am sorry, but the poster above me should not generalize from one person to the whole MJ fan community. This is not fair. There are many, many decent people in the fan community and NO it is not about finding out personal info about MJ and it is about finding the responsible ones for MJ's death.

To all, on behalf I am very sorry that it had to come to this, but please don't judge a whole community based on the wrong doing of a single person.

With respect!

Sprocket said...

I can say this about the Michael Jackson fan base. They certainly are endlessly passionate in their particular position and/or beliefs.

King of Pop Soulja said...

The sad thing is, I'm certain any Michael Jackson fan that reads this blog entry knows exactly WHO would stoop to such despicable behavior. Its not the first time she's stolen people's intellectual property...certainly won't be the last. Just sayin!

King of Pop Soulja said...

I'd like to add. There is a very simple way to protect your content. All you have to do is add the html to prevent right click.

Anna said...

Hi Sproket

I hope this doesn't scare you out of covering the Murray trial. I am of MJ fan myself but I don't want the hear the fans version of what happened in court. I certainly hope that all of the passionate fans of MJ are not going to always be associated with these fanatics. Trust me we are not all that way. However, there is an MJ fan community that propers online on twitter, facebook and fansites that is very divided with many factions. Some of the factions even have people leading them all vying for attention and really the spotlight. There are just as many rabid fans as there are rational ones like me.

I know I speak for many when I say I want fair reporting, the whole truth and nothing but truth. I hope this case will interest you enough to cover the trial. However, I wouldn't blame you if these marginal groups of MJ fans have scared you away.

Thank you for your hard work in covering the hearing, thank you and this whole site for your devotion to reporting truth and justice in every trial or hearing that you cover.

God bless you and take care,

Anna said...

Sorry I spelled your name wrong Sprocket. I'm not a master at typing myself, LOL.