“Write it and they will come.”
Dang! I thought that meant fans; not thieves!
When I logged on to the computer yesterday morning, I found that someone in Australia liked my 13 Best iPhone Apps post so much that they lifted it, in it’s entirety, and put it on their splog.
A Splog is a spam blog; in this case it is one that is trying to drive traffic to their site where I guess they try to sells apps. I did not poke around enough on the site to find out.
Actually, this theft falls more under the title of “Blog Scraping” but “I’ve been Blog Scraped” as a post title just did not have the same ring to it.
Blog scraping is the process of scanning through a large number of blogs, usually through use of automated software, searching for and copying content. The software and the individuals who run the software are sometimes referred to as blog scrapers.
Scraping is copying a blog, or blog content, that is not owned by the individual initiating the scraping process. If the material is copyrighted it is considered copyright infringement, unless there is a license relaxing the copyright. The scraped content is often used on spam blogs or splogs.1
Lorelle VanFossen of Lorelle on WordPress wrote a fantastic article on What Do You Do When Someone Steals Your Content. She sums up some of my feelings on the subject:
Copyright laws were designed to protect those in society whom we celebrate and honor, often representative of the lowest paid workers, the artists. We don’t expect to take freely work from our doctors, lawyers, plumbers, electricians, mechanics, or others whose work we value and honor with compensation. We expect to pay them. And if we don’t, the collectors will come after us.
But there is something about a writer, poet, composer, and photographer that makes people expect their work needs no compensation. Just take it. Have we glamorized the “starving artist” notion so much, people think taking income producing content from them without compensation is okay? That a “link back” is credit enough for their hard work and expertise? Where did our society go wrong in that value judgment?
My site and my writing are copyright protected. I took immediate action on the issue. I emailed, tweeted, and messaged the guy on his Facebook page. We will see if I get any response at all. I rather doubt that I will because it looks like he has all of this automated and there is no real human looking at any of it.
I have already found the name and address of the person who stole the content. (I am NOT a good person to trifle with since I am VERY good at finding hidden information on the internet.) I also have a good friend who practices copyright law in Sydney – who I hope I do not have to use. (The thief is in Surry Hills, NSW.)
It is a sad state of affairs that this even happens. The amount of time I spent yesterday messing with this – to create all the documentation necessary if I do have to take more steps; to research all my options for dealing with it legally, etc. – is frustrating.
But equally, I feel it is important to take action when something like this happens. If people say “Oh, I can’t be bothered” or “It’s just a small thing” or any other type of “letting it go”, it just gives thieves the tacit message that it is okay to steal or at least that there are going to be no repercussions to stealing.
It brings to mind Pastor Martin Niemöller’s quote about the rationalizations and apathy that allowed the holocaust to occur. Yes, human lives are much higher stakes than plagiarism of a blog post, but the act of rationalizing inaction and the resultant apathy are not all that much different. On that note, I just used his “First they came for the Jews . . .” poem as the basis for the poem below.
First they came for the photos;
stole them, used them in print, and on websites
and almost no spoke out
because they were not photographers
and the photos looked good.
Then they came for the artwork;
forwarded emails of images without attribution
and almost no spoke out
because they were not artists
and the emails were fun.
Then they came for the writing;
reproduced it on splogs and in term papers
and almost no spoke out
because they were not writers
and the content was easy to get.
Then they came for the rest;
left garbage, rubble, and slop in its place
and almost no one spoke out
because there were no photographers,
no artists, no writers left to speak for it.
There are some good sites for helping combat plagiarism and theft. Copyscape.com has a tool that can help you tell if your content has been plagiarized. Plagiarism.org is a site that also has good information but it appears to mainly be aimed at stopping plagiarism in students papers. Lastly, I just found a great article by Sanjeev Mishra, founder of Internet Techies: 7 Online Plagiarism Checker to Find Copied Contents. The title of the post says it all.
- Blog scraping. (2012, November 8). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 19:55, November 7, 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Blog_scraping&oldid=521974294
- Lorelle VanFossen. (2006, April 10). What do you do when someone steals your content [Blog Post]. Retrieved from http://lorelle.wordpress.com/2006/04/10/what-do-you-do-when-someone-steals-your-content/
- Top photo: Photographer Angel Herrero, (istockphoto.com #3413901)
- Middle photo credit Adchariya Chanpipat (123rf.com #9862787)
- Bottom: Anti-Splog logo. http://premium.wpmudev.org/project/anti-splog/ and http://wpmu.org/announcing-the-ultimate-anti-splog-plugin-and-an-akismet-like-service-for-splogs