Overhype

by Mike Masnick




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
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Dec 2005 @ 12:11pm

    Re: Almost sounds like you are appoving of this be

    • These days, almost all things are copyrighted the moment they are written, and no copyright notice is required.

    • Copyright is still violated whether you charged money or not, only damages are affected by that.

    • Postings to the net are not granted to the public domain, and don't grant you any permission to do further copying except perhaps the sort of copying the poster might have expected in the ordinary flow of the net.

    • Fair use is a complex doctrine meant to allow certain valuable social purposes. Ask yourself why you are republishing what you are posting and why you couldn't have just rewritten it in your own words.

    • Copyright is not lost because you don't defend it; that's a concept from trademark law. The ownership of names is also from trademark law, so don't say somebody has a name copyrighted.

    • Fan fiction and other work derived from copyrighted works is a copyright violation.

    • Copyright law is mostly civil law where the special rights of criminal defendants you hear so much about don't apply. Watch out, however, as new laws are moving copyright violation into the criminal realm.

    • Don't rationalize that you are helping the copyright holder; often it's not that hard to ask permission.

    • Posting E-mail is technically a violation, but revealing facts from E-mail you got isn't, and for almost all typical E-mail, nobody could wring any damages from you for posting it.The law doesn't do much to protect works with no commercial value.


    From... 10 Big Myths about copyright explained

    ...Did I just violate copyright law by quoting that website, even though it was referenced as the source to where this text came from?

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