« REFLECTIONS: Darwin | Main | Age and Human Hairiness »

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.


blogging bug image 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.)

Intent

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.”
- Wikipedia

[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.]


Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:35 AM | Permalink | Email this post

Comments

Happens to me far too often. Entire article lifted and placed on another site with bylines and copyright notices removed. Fortunately, an email to the webmaster usually works, but I wouldn't hesitate to sue to get one taken down.

It is obviously a problem, made worse by professionals, including attorneys who do it, lifting entire news stories without permission simply because their name is in the text.

Keep at it, we all need to continue to protect our copyrights, before the concept gets so diluted that everything gets stolen online.

It's good that you caught it, Ronni. The nerve of some people!

I have a friend with an internet business who has to spend a fortune shutting down companies who steal his entire website, graphics and all.
Usually when people reprint my stories they give me credit. But then, I mostly write about cats, so my stories are only appreciated by other cat lovers.

Wow! Ain't grand to be so good at what you do!

Wow! Ain't it grand to be so good at what you do!

It is hard to believe that from a 'professional.' I have seen that with those who are well-meaning but post an article in its entirety even with the credit. The issue is it keeps the reader from visiting that site which in some case is a loss of revenue to the original author. I think a lot don't think about it and figure most of their readers won't follow up a link, but a link is still the right way except as you say for a certain number of lines to inspire the reader to follow up that link.

When I want to use someone else's art or more than a small amount of their work, I do contact the creator and get their permission as well as what link they want used. The other consideration is giving them my own link so they can decide if they want their work there. If my writing isn't of like mind to what they do, they might not want their work displayed on my site.

Oops! Guilty as charged. I learned something valuable today. In my last two blogs I copied and pasted articles I read in the NYT and on Truthout. I hope I don't get sued. Ignorance is not always bliss.

Gary Larson’s “The Far Side” cartoons have garnered a lot of legal publicity on the copyright issue. I absolutely love those cartoons and would probably post one everyday if I had my way, but he has gone out of his way to warn people about the use of his work without his permission or that of his legal staff. That includes the publishing of a public letter explaining the emotional cost to him and his staff for such violations. Yet, many completely disregard his warnings and put themselves in extreme jeopardy.

Newspaper articles present a real challenge to bloggers because they are the ultimate in blog fodder. It’s always advisable to just link to the article if the subject newspaper has an on-line version of the newspaper. But in many cases with those on-line newspapers, the link will work once and then you will be required to join the on-line version to view any further articles. This will obviously deter most visitors to your blog from pursuing your post any further in those cases. If possible and it is a generic article, not unique to a specific newspaper reporter, try to find a reference to the subject on one of the news service websites such as Reuters, NBC, ABC, etc and link to it in that manner. If, on the other hand it is some local news event or function, you can often find it being carried by your local television station websites so again, you can simply link to the article via that source. Then everything is cool!

Alan G...

Fewer and fewer online newspapers require registration to read stories and I have never linked to those that do. They are mostly small town papers who have not kept up with the advantages of viral publicity.

It's their loss, as the big-name newspapers have learned. The New York Times, Washington Post and others now list blogs that write about their stories which helps show how popular the stories are and leads readers to more information about the topic just as blog posts lead readers to the newspapers.

The Writer's Union and at least two writers' magazines have suggested that writers Google their names regularly to see where their work is being used, but I don't know how to check on my articles.

I use Photo Mechanic to embed my name in all my photographs.

Years ago a newspaper used three of my photographs with an AP credit. When I objected, the editor in question claimed they weren't mine. I went further up the chain and a correction was printed the next day - and I got paid.

Ronni, I stopped reading one of the ElderBlogs after noticing that the blogger was not crediting a lot of her posts to the original author/cartoonist/etc.

Now I'm confused. Can I legally copy a newspaper editorial written by a syndicated columnist such as Mark Shields if I give credit?

What if there is no link? I have found articles from Truthout, etc. that can be sent to a blog, but not blog spot and no link.

Darlene...

Entire stories - news, editorial, feature, whatever and syndicated or not, - may not be reprinted in their entirety without permission from the copyright holder whether that is the the writer, publication, syndicator or anyone else.

When you see the green Creative Commons notice on a website, it links to the copyright and reprint permissions page where there is an explanation of approved use.

Quoting excerpts is explained above. Any kind of quotation should include the name of source with a link to its page. The date of publication can be included too as a convenience for readers.

When quoting from a book or other publication that is not online, the title, author and year of publication should be noted.

To clear up another confusion that's come up in email, titles of anything - books, movies, TV shows, magazines, newspaper stories, musical works, etc. - cannot be copyrighted.

Here is a link to the Citizen Media Law Project's article, "Linking to Copyrighted Materials."
[Please copy and paste, as I don't know how to link text in a comment.]
http://www.citmedialaw.org/legal-guide/linking-copyrighted-materials

Mallika Chopra erred by not publishing any credit for your authorship of that article or mention of its source, TGB. Had she done what she should have, you'd have been thrilled over the reach of (and extra exposure for) TGB and gained lots of new hits to your website.

What Darlene does, and what I've done often--is called DEEP LINKING. The article explains it in greater detail, but it's the most basic kind of link--placing a link on our site that leads to a page on another site. The article says, and I quote: "No court has ever found that deep linking to another website constitutes copyright or trademark infringement."

I spent the last 20 years in book and magazine publishing, and I'm fairly aware of sources with good information on these kinds of issues.

Regarding m.e.'s note on "deep linking": all that means is linking to the page on a website that contains the story you are referencing - something you should always do when linking. It doesn't help the reader to link to the site's homepage and then need to hunt for the story.

It is still an infringement to reprint entire stories without permission.

Ronni--While I, myself, have tried to follow the practices that you outline and while I have explicitly granted permission for use of any of my postings on my own blog, I am pleased to see you address this issue. I get really uncomfortable in reading some blogs, because they don't seem to be complying with copyright law. A huge kudos to you!

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Related Posts