Bonnie Lowe Jones of Jones Law, LLC, in Dawsonville GA, representing USARplus, contacted Service Dog Central demanding that we remove "false and defamatory" and "misleading" information from our site (see the article "Service Dog Certification -- Spotting Fake Certification/Registration/ID").
In her communication, Ms Jones claimed,
"In fact, USARplus does not offer “certification” of any type to its members," and, "USARplus does not claim to “certify” service animals, nor does it claim to provide government-compliant identification of any kind."
But according to USARplus' own advertisement on Google AdWords,
"Service & Therapy Animals - _www.usarplus.com_ - ID and Certificate. Your animal is now recognized by the ADA/DOJ"
According to Ms Jones,
"Your fallacy presumably lies in the belief that these cards are meant to identify animals as
“service animals”. However, these cards are actually meant to identify the owners
as registered members of USARplus."
However, the cards themselves say nothing about membership but instead say in large print "REGISTERED Service Animal."
According to the front page of the usarplus site:
"Keep your service or therapy animal identification current by renewing your ID cards and certificate now! Businesses, airlines as well as the Transportation Security Administration and other agencies will be less likely to challenge your rights to travel with your animal."
And according to their "about" page:
"While education is still a very important necessity for business owners and employees, there is no doubt that having a registration with USARplus and being able to present valid identification of their Service Animal has made life increasingly tolerable for people who would otherwise have felt discriminated against and embarrassment because of their disabilities."
Their attorney says they aren't selling official looking ID for the purposes of convincing business owners and the public that their dog is a service dog, but that's clearly what they state they do on their own website. They even use the US Department of Justice's official logo on each card they sell.
A wise woman once told me that if you have to think about it too long or explain about it too much, that's an indication you are trying to convince yourself something is right when you know in your heart it is wrong. Why was it so important for Ms Jones to state several times that they weren't selling ID or certification? Why did that matter? It's not illegal. Why was it better if they were presenting their members with ID cards to show they were members of usarplus instead? Could it be an inkling that there is something morally wrong with selling service dog ID even if it is legal? If there is nothing wrong with it, why not call it what it is? Why pretend it is something else altogether? Why not be honest and up front with people?
Again, according to Ms. Jones, representing USARplus, in reference to their violation of this site's copyright when they copied what was at the time the bulk of our FAQ and posted it on their site without permission,
"Yours is a public website which provides instructive and educational
material for general viewing. Accordingly, USARplus is not unilaterally prohibited
from excerpting language from your site. Our client’s only error was in failing to
give proper accreditation when it previously published material from your site on its
Does she not understand copyright??? Pretty much all sites on the internet are public. They are for the most part put out there to communicate with the world at large. That has nothing whatever to do with copyright.
Ms Jones' business has a website that is view-able by the public. It contains instructive and educational material for general viewing on legal issues in it's own FAQ. Does that then mean that I can copy and paste their entire 6 page FAQ to my own site if I just say I got it from them? I think not. I think she would have a very different view if it had happened to her.
According to the US Copyright Office,
"Copyright, a form of intellectual property law, protects original works of authorship...."
"Section 107 contains a list of the various purposes for which the reproduction of a particular work may be considered fair, such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Section 107 also sets out four factors to be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair:
1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
2. The nature of the copyrighted work
3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work"
Let's see. They took the content for commercial purposes, to promote their business. They took a significant body of work written in a distinctive style, a style so distinctive that that is how it was recognized and reported to SDC.
"Copyright protects the particular way authors have expressed themselves. It does not extend to any ideas, systems, or factual information conveyed in a work." (US Copyright Office, see link above)
They did not copy a bit here or there to illustrate something or for the purposes of discussion or critique, They took 17 individual question and answer pairs which filled 7 pages on their own website.
Courts have determined fair use of copyrighted material to include “quotation of excerpts in a review or criticism for purposes of illustration or comment; quotation of short passages in a scholarly or technical work, for illustration or clarification of the author’s observations; use in a parody of some of the content of the work parodied; summary of an address or article, with brief quotations, in a news report; reproduction by a library of a portion of a work to replace part of a damaged copy; reproduction by a teacher or student of a small part of a work to illustrate a lesson; reproduction of a work in legislative or judicial proceedings or reports; incidental and fortuitous reproduction, in a newsreel or broadcast, of a work located in the scene of an event being reported.”
-- Report of the Register of Copyrights on the General Revision of the U.S. Copyright Law, 1961
Does any of that sound like what they did? It doesn't to me. Now ask yourself why they didn't just read our FAQ, learn from it, and write their own....
Should we address the wisdom of threatening legal action against a community of more than 1,500 members of your target demographic? Service Dog Central is a community driven site. As of March 12, 2012, we have 1,633 registered members in our community. Our members are people who have a service dog, are interested in service dogs, or have a family member or friend who has, or is interested in getting, a service dog.