Wednesday, 04 February 2009
Stolen Blog Posts
[IMPORTANT EDITORIAL NOTE – PLEASE READ: On Sunday’s Elder Music post, I wrote about using the same word for all security questions. A couple of commenters and several emails mentioned that it was a terrific idea to always use the same password.
There has been a misunderstanding.
It is not a good idea to always use the same password, especially on banking, credit card, retail and other websites that hold important personal information. In fact, it is impossible depending on the minimum number of letters required for the password.
I was referring to the security questions some websites ask when you register so that later they know you are you when you need to retrieve or reset a forgotten or lost password. They ask such questions as your first-grade teacher’s name, favorite pet’s name and most frequently, your favorite song, movie or book. It is fine to always use the same word for this purpose, but not for passwords themselves.
I am recovered now, but on Monday morning I was spitting mad.
Bill at prairiepoint referred me to a commercial, advertising-supported website called intent.com that had posted, in its entirety, my recent story about the Eee pc with no byline and no link to Time Goes By. Additionally, they had not requested my permission - as some websites occasionally do - and there was a copyright notice at the bottom of the page that anyone would read as meaning intent.com owned the material.
Here is a screen grab of the story on intent.com and as you can (almost) see, there is no byline, no banner from my blog, no blog name and no link. (Sorry it's not more visible, but the text is small and cannot be enlarged without losing portions of the page.)
There is no staff or corporate contact information on the website, so I wrote to the publicist whose email address is listed (I suppose that means the owners are interested in media coverage, but not in communicating with anyone else) requesting that the page be immediately removed.
In two phone calls and two emails from her, the publicist idiotically insisted to me that there was a link to my blog. It was within the story, she said, pointing to another blog post at TGB. Anyone working as a publicist who does not understand that an internal link is not a citation or byline let alone that copyrighted work cannot be reprinted without permission is way underqualified for the job.
Equally idiotically, she kept repeating that Intent.com is owned by someone named Mallika Chopra as though I am supposed to know who that is and it would ameliorate my anger.
Later, googling around, I discovered that Ms. Chopra is Deepak’s daughter. I am deeply unimpressed and even if President Obama or the Queen of England owned the website, I would object to my work being published without permission and appropriate citation.
Most frequently, unauthorized reprints of Time Goes By stories show up on scrapers – websites set up by unscrupulous people with the sole intent of earning GoogleAds money. Domain owner names and web hosts are almost always hidden making it impossible to stop them.
Less often, but enough to infuriate me, Time Goes By stories turn up on “legitimate” websites as this one did. I surround that word with quotes because there is never a reason for stealing people’s work. It is not possible to happen accidentally and therefore it is always intentional.
Some websites and bloggers subscribe to the Creative Commons copyright method which allows varying degrees of reprinting, but always requires proper citations and links. This kind of copyright is always prominently posted on those sites. Mine happens to be the standard U.S. copyright. Either way, reprinting is an infringement of copyright if permission has not been sought and granted.
From time to time, I notice that some bloggers (yes, even some elderbloggers) reprint entire stories from other sources – newspapers, magazines, websites and blogs. Whether you cite the source and the author or not, it is an infringement of copyright to do so. In fact, even when there is no copyright notice, works are considered copyrighted when they are published.
There is, however, within U.S. copyright law, a “fair use doctrine” which under certain circumstances allows small portions of others’ works to be quoted as in this excerpt:
“In general, the less that is used in relation to the whole, e.g., a few sentences of a text for a book review, the more likely that the sample will be considered fair use.”
[Follow that link for more than you ever wanted or need to know about fair use.]
So far, I’ve not heard of anyone or any media corporation pursuing a personal blogger by legal means for unauthorized use, but even if you are unconcerned with that possibility, reprinting entire stories without permission is wrong, and sourcing and linking to the original material when quoting is the right thing to do.
Later on Monday, Ms. Chopra emailed to say my story had been removed and that one of her site’s “users” had posted it. A user? That begs the question, who’s running the store? Never mind – if I go there, I’ll be angry all over again.
The thing is, if someone at Intent had asked permission to post the story, I would have granted it. That’s all it would have taken, a polite request, to have avoided my ire and this blog post.
[At The Elder Storytelling Place, Alan Ginocchio (also known as Alan G.) has some thoughts on Sharing Your Passions.]