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. icon
    Mike (profile), 27 Dec 2005 @ 12:22pm

    Re: Almost sounds like you are appoving of this be

    Copyright infringement is copyright infringement, period.

    I never denied it was infringement. I only questioned whether it was worth making a big stink about it, and then posited that it is not worth it.

    I find it amazing that you would imply that it's ok to steal another persons work without authorization and without crediting the author.

    Again, I'm not implying that it's "ok." I'm saying that the amount of time and effort wasted going after it is really *wasted* and could be spent on much better pursuits.

    Whether it's "realistic" or feasible to police something is entirely another issue, but that has nothing to do with whether or not it's right or wrong to steal the content.

    Again, not the point. However, if you're going to complain about stuff, doesn't it make sense to do a cost/benefit analysis of how much time and effort you're wasting over something so trivial?

    And as for making money off others content, blog or not, that should be terms for suit and I'd certainly hope the author would have the ability to prosecute to the full extent of the law.

    So, would you support Om suing Bloglines and those other sites that are commercial endeavors and make money off of his sites as well?

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