Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Discuss Amongst Yourselves...

As I mentioned in my previous post, a certain website (you'll never find me linking to it!) has been taking liberties and stealing my posts. Natasha was kind enough to send me this link, How To Defend Your Blogs Copyright. I thank her. I wanted to share it with you in a post just in case you're ever in a position where you need it! Because apparently--and everyone may already know this--it's not all that unusual. I think there are people who really and truly just sit around and steal. Steal from other blogs. Sometimes one or two blogs. Sometimes a wide range of blogs are targeted. In almost all these cases, the people in question are blogs that are using ads--programs like Googe's Adsense or Adwords (and the like)--as a way to try to make money. The more posts one has, the better the potential for making money I suppose. (I'll try to make this post 95% general; 5% personal. I don't want to give the impression I'm whining. I'm not. But if I can help even one person prevent this from happening or... discourage even one person from doing this...then it will be worthwhile.)

Which leads me to a discussion topic. What are the rights and wrongs of copying? Are there certain things it's okay to take, to copy? Are there certain things that are off limits? How can you tell the difference? Suppose you're a new blogger and you're clueless. What are the rules here?

That's what I'm asking YOU.

I'll also be sharing my thoughts. I think as bloggers, most people follow certain rules.

Memes. Anyone and everyone can copy memes. I mean the whole idea of a meme is to spread it around. True, you should be providing your own answers, playing along with whatever the meme is--whether it is answering questions, creating lists, creaking lists of links, posting pictures, etc. There is a LARGE community of meme events--Weekly Geeks, Booking Through Thursday, Waiting on Wednesday, Mailbox Monday, Bad Bloggers, Library Loot, Tuesday Thingers, etc. These events have everyone doing the same thing, but they showcase differences. Everyone may be copying the question or activity--it may appear on hundreds or thousands of blogs--but each answer will be different.

Challenges. When a challenge hosts writes a post, it's not really a big surprise to see large portions of it (or it in its entirety) being posted at challenge participant sites. I think this is understandable--it is always more convenient to have a list of the rules on your own site than just a link that is easily misplaced. Again, it's also a way of spreading the word about the challenge. As long as a link to the challenge host/challenge blog/challenge sign up post is provided, I think this is fine.

Opinion Posts/Articles. If I read an article somewhere online--a blog, a newspaper, a magazine--I usually provide a link. But I may quote two or three sentences for reference. To orient readers with what I'm responding to. Is this okay? Is this a good thing? Bad thing? Are we starting to cross a line? Does it depend on if I'm just mentioning it or if I'm contemplating it? Really pulling in my own thoughts and opinions?

Links. I'm going to assume--presume--that linking to an article/post/blog will always be an okay thing. If I say, Read this post about the Cybils winners that can only be a good thing, right? No complaints that I'm spreading the word, right? If I'm reviewing a book and feel inclined to link to other reviews of the book...or to link to the author's website...it can only be a good thing, right? You're spreading the love. Saying go forth to these other sites. They're good. They're great. You might want to read them, follow them.

Press Releases. I don't always do many press release type posts but occasionally I get emails from people--publishers, authors, bookstores, publicists, media people--that are press releases. That are asking me to spread the word about this, that, and the other. I'm assuming--presuming again--that since it's for release everywhere, (and sometimes they say for immediate release) and since the primary purpose is to spread the word, and since I'm being encouraged to post about it...that it would be okay then to copy whatever it is.

Quotes. When is it okay to quote something? If you're reviewing a book, should you quote? how much can you quote? how much should you quote? Is the author/publisher going to get angry with you for quoting from the book? It's just my humble guess that it's good to quote in book reviews. You're showing your readers why they would want to read the book. You're giving examples and supporting your review. That being said, I think you could go overboard. I don't think it would be right to quote an entire chapter or entire picture book unless you had the permission of the author/publisher. But a paragraph here and there from a novel? I don't see that they'd be anything wrong with that. I do try to always mention if I'm reviewing from the ARC. It doesn't stop me from quoting a few sentences if they're good. But I always say that it's from the ARC so it may not match what is in the 'real' book. I've never had anyone complain about anything I've done. I'm assuming if an author or publisher was unhappy they'd let me know.

What if your entire blog consisted of links to other posts? Is there such a thing as too much linking? How much of a post needs to your own? Your own content? Your own thoughts?

Entire Posts. Here is where there is really no excuse. It is never okay to just cut and paste an entire blog post into your own blog. It's not good web etiquette to go to someone's site, copy an entire post, and cut and paste it into your own blog, publish, and call it done. That's not blogging. That's stealing. And it's wrong. I have come across--and I can't remember whose blog it was--maybe if they read my blog they can jog my memory, but it is someone whose blog I follow and have been following for months now--a situation where someone's post was copied to another site--I think it was about Twilight or Stephenie Meyer--and when the original author posted about how she didn't like her post being copied and posted on another site--that she didn't have permission to do so. The person was like, "you should be flattered. I gave you credit. There's your name. There's your blog name. I did nothing wrong." Even taking and copying an entire post and then linking to the original is unethical in my book. There is only one legitimate excuse, one situation where that is okay. If you have the permission of the author--the blogger--and you obtain permission beforehand.

Is it flattering to be linked to? Yes. Is it flattering to be quoted--in brief at least? Yes. I wouldn't have a problem with someone saying, "Becky reviewed this book. And here is what she had to say, 'One or two sentences quote.' Read the rest of the review here." But that's a whole other story. It's not flattering to have your posts stolen. Repeatedly. It's offensive.

And I also want to thank everyone in the Kidlitosphere yahoo group for being so wonderful, so supportive, and so smart! They've given me a handful of suggestions. And I'll be acting on some of those in the next day or so. I have contacted the person who has registered the domain name, and I hope that he/she will see about stopping this. I do think it's ironic that even the post on their theft was stolen. I don't know if you can see that in the screen shot or not.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


MissDaisyAnne 10:58 PM  

Thank you for bringing this to my attention, you bring up some very important questions, insights. I have read (somewhere?) "that blogs are considered online journals and are thus not like a published article or magazine, etc." I am frankly unsure as to how we should legally see our blog's.
The pictures I use are either pictures I've taken, or they were released to be used in whatever way, or to be used with the exception of no front and back cover texts, etc.
Quotes and poems I use are mostly from a very long time ago, I don't always use the whole poem, only a portion of it.
I try very hard to not quote from the book I reviewed.
I make mistakes all of the time, having a blog is a work in progress, it evolves, especially my education of all of it.
Since I am begining to write more of my own voice on my blog,it does concern me about someone stealing what I've written and posting as their own.

Amy 11:14 PM  

If you do too much outbound linking it leaks search engine placement :)

I also think it's polite to link to a blogger if you find something or learn something on their site. (a hat tip) But some blogs are purely resources..as in they get all the best information from the web and collect it on their blog. I think that usually that helps who they are linking to, though.

Tony 11:49 PM  

Stealing anything is terrible! If you want to run a blog, use your own work! I blog a lot myself, and would be angry to find others using my work. Thank you for bringing this to my attention.

Tony Peters
Kids on a Case: The Case of the Ten Grand Kidnapping

Natasha @ Maw Books 11:54 PM  

I agreed with everything you said. Quoting is fine, mentioning a short passage from somebody's blog and then directing them to the rest of the article is fine. Taking the entire post, even crediting the author, without their permission is stealing! There is no good excuse for it.

I think there are some things that are in the public domain. Such as lists, meme's, etc. Heck, I posted all the Cybils winners. That's spreading the love. But I still linked to them. I never once claimed to have the original post.

I quote books. Using short passages for purpose of review falls under fair use. Mention I said short. I can tell when publishers are checking to see if their books are being posted online because of the keywords that come in. They are called long string search queries. They are really long. If for example, I were to search for 2-3 original sentences that I wrote, I should only find it on my blog. One came in for a passage I quoted in the book called Tears of the Desert. I loved the book and encouraged everybody I knew to read it. I never heard from the publisher even though I knew that they checked it. It was nothing but "go buy this book right away because this passage was amazing!" There was a another time where I had a commenter copy and paste the entire first chapter of Breaking Dawn into the comments of one of my posts. The comments! The publisher found me fast! I received an email the very next day asking me to remove the copyrighted material or face legal charges. I was planning on deleting it anyways, but boy did that make me move fast! It was a long search string query that found me out. Which by the way, doing this yourself is a great way to see if anybody is scrapping your blog posts.

I've seen Darren at ProBlogger get his stuff stolen on a regular basis. And believe me, he's quick about it too. I've seen him twitter people asking them to remove his copyrighted material.

I also only use photos that are either mine or from a certain free usage stock agency.

Anyways, I hope you get them to act quickly. There website is really, really strange. One thing I'm sure you wish you didn't have to deal with.

Chris 1:04 AM  

I felt so upset when I found out that someone's been copying your whole blog!! We all put so much work into our blogs, and you most definitely put TONS of work into yours!! It's horrible that someone else would just come along and blatantly steal it all and call it their own. That's never ok. I don't think it's a problem to point someone over to another person's blog and say "read this interesting post" but to downright just steal the whole thing is really disgusting. I hope this stops now!

Anonymous,  3:14 AM  

I'm so sorry, Becky - what a horrid thing to happen! It's also so stupid - what can be the point of doing such a thing? Unfortunately the world is full of idiots, and they come in all shapes and kinds... And I'd say you have a perfect right to feel personally offended - after all, you put in so much work and heart into your blog!

I truly can't imagine that any author or publisher would mind short quotes - after all it helps to give an idea, a flavour, of the book. Surely that can only be a good thing? L.

Cloudscome 5:26 AM  

Becky I am so sorry this happened to you! What a hassle to have to track them down and insist that they stop. But I just wanted to say I was so proud and pleased at the other kidlit bloggers for jumping in and helping you figure out how to deal with it. It makes me glad to be part of this community! The kidlitopshere is really a great place to hang out, isn't it?

Anna 8:23 AM  

Thanks for generating such a great discussion. It's always best to use short quotes and links and be sure to clarify where they came from. With the War Through the Generations Challenge, we're taking great care to post only a snippet of participants' reviews and provide a link to the full review. When we use news stories, we summarize a few points, cite the source, and provide a link. As a writer (personally and professionally), I find stealing very offensive. Sorry about your situation.

Diary of an Eccentric

JLS Hall 10:07 AM  

How awful! It's hard to believe anyone would steal a whole blog, but I guess there are all kinds of thieves out there. But it seems to me that plagiarism is always a no-no, whether it's print or electronic.

These points you raise are all very pertinent problems in the computer age - not only for bloggers. My husband works for a government agency that's also wrestling with many of the questions you've asked, and the problems they're having are pretty typical of those faced by everyone working with online information right now. Nobody really knows exactly how it should work, or what's really acceptable usage because it's all so relatively new. Rules and conventions are still evolving.

In general, I would say that linking to other blogs or websites is a perfectly acceptable procedure. I think, simply by the act of placing something out there in cyber space, you're inviting people to read your content and refer others to it. That's what the Internet is all about. But quoting is more problematic – just as it is in printed literature. Traditionally, the "fair use" concept allows for short quotations of copyrighted work without getting the copyright holder's permission, and most authors don't have a problem with that; but even the US Copyright Office admits that it's always safest to obtain permission in advance. And just to confuse the matter a little more, they point out that copyright protects the particular manner in which an author expresses himself; it doesn't extend to ideas, systems, or factual information in the work (so lists of award winners, dates, etc., would be fair game).

I usually try to keep my quotes very short in my reviews – especially if it's a very recent work I'm writing about. The newer the book, the more likely it is that the author or publisher is going to be lurking someplace nearby, keeping a watchful eye! Of course, I guess as blog authors, we're all going to have to be more watchful from now on.

Jackie M (Literary Escapism) 1:17 PM  

So completely agree with you. I had this happen to me awhile ago. I contacted the girl and she said she didn't do it, but when she clicked on the 'share this' button I have on my site, that's how it got cross posted. I don't believe that since that would be a seriously flaw in my opinion. Another friend had an entire interview copied and posted elsewhere - now that took balls.

To the infringer - Seriously? If you're going to take the time to have a blog, why not write your own posts? Copying from someone else's is not only lazy but unethical in my opinion. A lot of us in the blogosphere take a lot of pride in our sites and we love it when people quote or link to us. When we link to each other, we're helping each other out by opening another line of traffic. However, if someone can read the article someplace else, why would they go to original site? If you like a particular post, link to it and send people there.

Chris 2:12 PM  

Ugh! That's bad. I think I've been copied (ages ago). I found it through Technorati but didn't really understand it at the time and didn't do anything about it. I just did a search- through that link (Amy?) and didn't find anything so that site was likely taken down. I feel better armed now.

Booklogged 5:15 PM  

Outrageous! I've never heard of anyone copying a whole post. Your anger is justifiable. Hope you get the upper hand and this stops soon.

Michele at Reader's Respite 10:44 PM  

Interesting....so they were copying your actual reviews? Wow, that's pretty blatent. One of the things I've noticed is that many authors who guest blog or provide "interviews" for blogs simply send out the same post/interview to every blog on their mailing list. So two different blogs could post the exact same "guest post" verbatim.

But I'm sure that isn't what you're talking about here, but pertinent nonetheless.

Hope you can resolve the situation easily!

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