How do you show that someone copied your work?  After all, they may have arrived at the exact same set of software instructions to achieve the same result….??  They may have, per chance, compiled the exact same client list or wrote the very same text. Not? A Mr Dixon was quite creative.

Some among us might remember those magical fax (or “telefax”) machines that appeared in the mid-eighties, together with “big hair”, New Wave and punk rock.  You would use your fax machine (in Jo’burg, London.. somewhere..) to phone your mate’s (or client’s) machine (somewhere: the next office or as far away as Durban!) and when you hear the change in tone, you stick the page on which your letter is printed, into your machine.  Your mate’s machine then spits out a copy of the letter!  I am still amazed. Problem was – there was no directory to confirm your mate’s fax number.  Short of driving to Durban to ask for his fax number you could (land-line) phone him or (snail-) mail him!  The white pages were no good and the yellow pages were slow to catch on and were, in any event,  incomplete.

Along came a Dixon.  Dixon conceived the idea of compiling a directory of users of telefax equipment.  This he did by obtaining lists of purchasers from distributors of such equipment and also by canvassing any such purchaser telephonically.  His directory was a great success.  So much so that some other crowd copied his directory and sold the copied directory in competition with Dixon’s original directory.  Dixon complained of copyright infringement.  The infringers argued that they had also contacted suppliers to obtain info on fax users and canvassed purchasers of fax machines directly.  Of course, nothing stops them from doing this and if the allegedly infringing directory was arranged alphabetically, one can believe that they could arrive at exactly the same compilation that would seem like a direct copy albeit created through their own hard work. There was one huge problem.  If they had worked hard and contacted fax machine users directly to compile their own directory, why had they included in their directory a fictitious company that Dixon had invented!? Case closed.

You would be well advised to include fingerprints in your copyrighted computer program, text, source code, art work, compilation, client list and the like, to make it easier to proof copying.  Fingerprints can range from unnecessary code, unique fonts, a subtle, almost unobservable, combination of different fonts, incomplete items, double spaces after commas but not after full stops, fictitious entries, three open lines between paragraphs or a pattern of two open lines followed by three open lines between successive paragraphs, and the like.  You would probably know best how to subtly mark your work so that others won’t notice when they copy your copyrighted work.

Once fingerprinted, keep accurate record of what you did!

Contact us to learn more tricks of the trade…. 🙂