I never thought I'd be writing an OQ column about intellectual property, but here we are:
I'll make this short and to the point, because I'm honestly at the end of my rope with just how disrespectful, inconsiderate, and shady some folks who play this game are.
Without going into too much detail, we removed some folks from our guild a few weeks ago; they tried to poach our members and couldn't, so they ended up stealing our charter instead.
I found out because I noticed them advertising in trade chat, so I scoped their website out. Lo and behold, there were MY words I worked so dutifully on, for many hours, over the course of a few weeks, with my co-GM and other officers. This charter was the result of almost a year's worth of questions, concerns, comments, and experiences we all have shared since forming our guild, and to see another guild just blatantly rip it off was infuriating.
The drawback to the openness of the Internet as it currently exists is that it's very easy to steal or repurpose content. Piracy is rampant and comes in many forms. Heck, a number of sites out there simply repost WoW Insider's content and pretend that it's theirs. It's rather infuriating to me to see my columns on some random jerk's site. I won't link to them because I don't want to encourage them in any way. Needless to say, I sympathize with you, PO'ed!
I've since taken screenshots and written an explanatory post on my guild's website, and we've started some back and forth on the realm forums too. It is there I found out that yet ANOTHER guild, this time from our old server, has ALSO blatantly copied our work!!! If I was irate before, I am absolutely livid now.
I know there likely isn't anything regarding copyright infringement I could really get them on, but all the same, it doesn't quite feel like enough to just "call them out on it."
Regardless of problems like this, however, I'd rather have an open Internet than one that is constrained by too many laws. The controversial SOPA bill, for example, would have been a disaster. The Internet serves too many important functions to restrict its use so tightly, especially in societies that are less free than what we enjoy in the United States and other democracies.
Before we call for stricter copyright laws, let's keep that in mind.
I am not a lawyer or an expert on this matter in any way, but a few basic facts are easy to research, and I'll share with you what I've found.
You do have rights to the charter that you wrote. Legally, when anyone writes a document, they own that document -- at least in the U.S. You can register a copyright for your content if you choose. That makes it much easier to prove ownership to a court, although it seems like a big hoop to jump through for something like a guild charter.
Even if you don't register it, you are still entitled to add "All Rights Reserved" or a copyright symbol to acknowledge your claim to the content of the page.
None of this is likely to deter spiteful former members of a guild, or anyone else, but it's worth mentioning.
If any reader has more expertise to share on this issue, I urge you to post it below!
It may be too late for this, but I would urge you to begin (or to reboot a dialogue) with a polite request that they remove the charter from their sites. Being reasonable and "nice" encourages the same from them. If they respond with insults or brazen refusal, at least you can walk away knowing that you were the reasonable one.
If anyone of "authority" might be willing to help you, it would be the hosts of their guilds' web sites. I doubt the hosts will do anything in response, but you never know. They might be convinced to ask their customers to remove the copied charter or at least begin a conversation about it with them.
To prevent future copying, you could hide your charter on a member's only page. However, I don't recommend this. It's an important recruiting tool. You want prospective members to be able to see it and learn what your guild is all about -- especially if it's such an amazing charter that people have been ripping it off! That's a compliment, in a way.
The best revenge
While I'm sure the situation is aggravating to you, success is the best revenge. My advice is to ignore these idiots. Focus your energy on making your guild as awesome as possible.
Since their poaching efforts failed, I imagine that you're doing a pretty good job right now. Keep at it and don't let their shenanigans distract you.
Officers' Quarters keeps your guild leadership on track to cope with sticky situations such as members turned poachers or the return of an ex-guild leader and looking forward to what guilds need in Mists of Pandaria. Send your own guild-related questions and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.