How Big A Problem Is Blog Plagiarism?

from the doing-the-math dept

I'm always surprised when I see some well known blogger flip out over the fact that spam blogs are copying their content. It's happened for many years -- and happens to us all the time. Is it annoying? Absolutely. However, is it worth making a big stink over it? Probably not. The latest to suddenly notice the trend is Om Malik who has started a big discussion on blog plagiarism after coming across a site that was copying his (and other VoIP bloggers') content. So, why isn't it worth getting upset over? First of all, it's a very fine line. How different is it from some random site reposting someone's content and an RSS aggregator reposting content. For example, here's Bloglines reposting Om's content, which it's done for years. Should he be upset about that? People say their complaint is that others are making money off of their content -- but that's not a realistic complaint. The NY Times book review makes a ton of money off of other people's content -- by adding value to it and promoting it. Obviously, you can argue that scraper sites don't add value, but some people could find them useful as aggregations of content. Sites like Unmediated and Davenetics' Newsmonger (which appears to be down right now) don't do anything other than repost other people's content (including our own) -- and yet we don't hear too many people complaining about them "making money" off of bloggers' content.

One major difference is that the site Om is specifically complaining about is taking his content without crediting him -- which is a more reasonable complaint, but not quite what everyone seems to be talking about. However, when that's happened to Techdirt we've discovered two things -- and both suggest that all this debate is a waste of time. First, when we shoot off a quick email to the sites asking for proper credit, we almost always hear back with an apology, from some "new" blogger who isn't quite sure how it all works, and they usually fix things right away and start giving us credit. It helps, by the way, that we first thank them for finding our content valuable enough to reuse, and then ask nicely for proper credit. However, much more importantly, the sites that (1) don't credit properly and (2) don't respond to such emails almost always disappear within a month. Why? Because no one reads them. Who goes out and finds some nameless site that's obviously reposting content? The people who would find such content interesting almost definitely are reading the original sources, and will know immediately that the site in question is ripping people off. So, the complaints that these sites are "taking money" from the original sites is probably bogus as well. They're not taking money away because no one's reading those sites.


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  1. identicon
    Keith, 28 Dec 2005 @ 11:28am

    Re: Almost sounds like you are appoving of this be

    Well, "is it worth it" (concerning cost/benifit) and would a person or entity be "right" in suing, are two distinctly different things. When I was running marketing for a computer manufacturer the ads I created, and the systems I offered, were revolutionary at the time. Enough so that a few disreputable firms actually copied my "copy" right out of the ads and created their own. Did we sue? No, because as you said it wasn't worth the trouble or cost.

    However would I have been right, or would I have "supported" someone who chose to do so, yes. Part of the problem with out society today is that it's not worth it to protect your interests anymore and because of this people with questionable morality will steal whatever it is they want without fear of reprisal or remorse.

    My interpretation of your original post, Mike, was that you were saying it was silly to be in a huff over something as prevelant or insignificant as plagurism. That was my interpretation, correct or incorrect. But without attaching that belief to you, I would say that it is a common enough mentality today and very sad to say. Can we change it? Problably not easily but we should certainly try. What right does anyone have to steal anothers work without authorization or credit AND in some cases to profit from it? None at all.

    So yes I'd support anyone who seeks to protect their interests in any justified matter. But if a site says "you may freely use this material so long as credit is given to this site" then go for it since approval was given by the author.

    Sorry for the long winded post :)

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