Well, my low opinion of humans in general was reinforced several times this week. The first incident was my first significant experience with straight-up content theft. Anyone who has read a lot of my posts will know I have a fairly liberal attitude to copyright. I am more than happy for people to use my content on their site with the appropriate acknowledgement and link back to this blog. The more my stuff gets out there the happier I will be.
You have to do a combination of very specific things to piss me off on this front and this week someone perpetrated the perfect combination of everything I regard as the worst possible behaviour. They stole an entire post. There was no commentary or additional contribution from them. There was no link back to my blog or attribution of the source. And all of this was on a site plastered with advertising. In other words, they stole my work for their own personal commercial gain. Or put another way; they were slimy, miserable worthless fuckers.
Oh, and on top of that, THEY WERE DUMB AS SHIT!
As Tom put it, why would they steal something that was free? The full story: the post in question was the one about my voicemail prank. In the post, I included a grab from Tom’s Pigeon Weather blog that was the inspiration for my post with a link to the source (see kids? that’s how you do it!) The losers who stole just did a complete copy and paste which picked up the link to Tom’s blog. Tom got a referral from this in his site log and followed it back to check out the site. There he discovered the wholesale theft being perpetrated and tipped me off.
I politely suggested (seriously, I was quite polite) that these dumb fucks provide an attribution if they were going to steal my stuff. They took it down altogether and put up same lame comment along the lines of how it wasn’t funny in the first place. That’s their call, they didn’t have to take it down. I specifically said taking it down wasn’t necessary, if they provided a proper link and attribution I’d be a lot less pissed off. Truth is, I think they realised what a seriously fucking stupid thing this was to do and they panicked because they thought I was coming after them.
One of the things that made them really dumb was that they were using my work to make money without my permission which did give me a legal avenue if I wanted to go after them. What made them really dumb was that they were doing this on a Blogspot hosted blog. Now I didn’t read the terms and conditions of use (who does) but I’m pretty sure there’d be something in there about this sort of behaviour getting you shut down pretty damn sharp-like. And on the off chance they had been making money they would have lost everything and had no grounds for recourse. I’m pretty sure this was the alarm bell that made them react so quickly.
Quite a while ago, a full-on splog used some of my content. I found out because they provided a link to my blog. When I checked it out, the entire content of the splog was snippets of content from other blogs with links back to the source material. All surround by masses of Adsense ads. A pretty shitty way to earn a living in my book but I figured, hey, another link, another step up the Technorati rankings. So I’m serious, provide a link back and I’ll let you get away with making money from my blog.
For those interested in such things, here’s my recommended behaviour:
Links: it’s all fair with linking in my book. If it’s online you can link to it. I know some companies (and probably some individuals) get their knickers in a knot over this but what they should get is a fucking clue. Take it offline if you don’t want people to link to it. Don’t try to break one of the fundamental pieces of web architecture.
Small bits of content with no links: this is rude, don’t do it. If you are going to quote someone else, it’s good form to link to the source. If you do this all the time (use small bits of other people’s content without links) expect to be very unpopular.
Small bits of content with links: using someone else as inspiration and building on it or responding to it is A-OK. In fact, in my humble opinion, this is the basis of the web in general and blogging in particular.
Whole posts, including a link back to the source: doing this without adding any value is bad form in my book. It really is trying to cash in on someone else’s work/creativity. If you do this, I’d call you lame but I wouldn’t call you a criminal.
Wholesale content theft without attribution: I think I described my opinion of this adequately above 🙂
Any of this is made worse (morally in my mind and, I suspect, legally) if you are doing it for commercial gain. You might make some short term gain but I really think that anyone who dishonestly makes money off other people’s work will be shut down before too long. The nimrods who stole my stuff are lucky they responded because I had a revenge plan all thought out. If they wouldn’t be fair regarding my stuff OR if I found a pattern of content theft on their site I was going to put my revenge plan into action. If I saw they were making their whole site out of stolen content, I would have gone after them whether or not they took my stuff down.
To tell the truth, I was slightly disappointed I didn’t get to put my master revenge plan into action. If they had been stealing other content I was going to publicise them on Digg etc. with a heading along the lines of “Is this site stealing your content? They’re stealing everyone else’s.” Nothing like a bunch of angry nerds to bring down some frontier justice – internet style.
Another moment of “people are morons” zen for me was when I put Mr Angry Uncut up on YouTube. For those of you who have never looked at my videos on YouTube, they aren’t exactly setting the world on fire. On average, they score a couple of hundred views over a couple of weeks. I haven’t really worked out how to promote myself on YouTube, not honestly, anyway. Hence the nekkid lady embedded in the middle of the uncut video. Oh, and I used the following description:
“Behind-the-scenes raw uncut action! The stuff you were never meant to see! It doesn’t get hotter than this.”
Which from a certain point of view is not a totally untrue way to look at the video. Okay it’s utter bullshit. But would the YouTube viewers be stupid enough to fall for it? Ummmm, only about 8,000 of them in the first 24 hours. Goddammit why can’t these sad sacks look at some real videos instead of spending their whole lives sniffing out porn? I hate being right sometimes.
The internet really is fucked. I still want to be a cyberstar though.