We've mentioned for years that Techdirt content is regularly copied
and placed on various spam blogs. They're all over the place, and it's not hard to find. If we listened to some people
, we'd be spending all our time sending off DMCA notices and venting angrily on insular blogs about how much more successful we'd be if only everyone else were responsible for blocking that infringement. But, of course, we recognize that most of the spam blogs get no attention at all, and anyone who does actually stumble across them, and like them, will quickly realize that the content comes from somewhere else, and will eventually find their way here and (hopefully) stick around. In fact, the site that merely scrapes our stuff without credit will probably have what little reputation they might already have harmed even more by such poor internet etiquette.
Of course, every so often, we see such things happen with larger sites. A few months ago, for example, a well-known blog that we like (and have linked to quite often) posted an exact replica of one of our articles (word for word), but with one of their author's names on it. I won't say who it was, because it's not that important. We were a bit surprised by this, but mainly because we didn't see why they would want to hurt their own reputation like that, as people were bound to notice. I sent a quick email to the editor and the writer, saying that (1) we were absolutely fine with them keeping everything the way it was but (2) we just wanted to see if perhaps the item was posted in error because it seemed out of character (the site posts all original content). Within a few hours, we got multiple apologies as they explained the snafu (involving them using a new aggregator, and the writer sending one of our article to the editor just because he might be interested in the story, and he got confused, thinking it was the latest article). They also posted a really unnecessary public apology, which we told them they didn't need to do (in fact, we told them they could keep the original article up). Basically, no big deal in the end. No threats. No DMCA. No screaming about copyrights. Just a friendly email and knowledge of how reputations work and everything worked itself out.
Point being: rather than relying on copyright or screaming about infringement, there are often much more effective ways of dealing with such things. Take, for example, the way Cracked (one of our absolute favorite websites, and it should be one of yours too) recently handled the UK's Daily Mail's decision to copy a Cracked article on horrible tourists
. Rather than going all DMCA, screaming about infringement, Cracked did what Cracked does best, and brought the funny, publishing a "sincere apology" to the Daily Mail
admitting that Cracked authors get "fabulous space-time powers" and the most logical explanation
for what happened was that Cracked contributor XJ Selman, went forward in time, copied the Daily Mail's Sunday column, then went back in time, and pre-published it 24 hours earlier. Obviously.
we at Cracked are in the wrong here. Yes, our Saturday article flat-out plagiarized The Daily Mail's Sunday article. But how did this happen?
You see, when you sign up to write articles for Cracked -- which absolutely anyone can do, more information on that here -- you don't simply get the opportunity to pen monkeyshines for one of the most popular comedy websites on the planet. No, a singing jewel will descend from the heavens and mystically bless you with fabulous space-time powers.
Now, the Daily Mail (right, we've heard the Daily Fail jokes, no need to remind us) already has about the crappiest reputation that a newspaper (and, I use the term loosely) can have. So, perhaps this does little to harm their reputation. But what this absolutely does
do is raise Cracked's reputation
among lots and lots of people, for responding to someone copying their stuff with typical and fitting humor and wit.
And, really, that's a point that we've been trying to make for over a decade: when faced with these kinds of situations, so many people get so focused on "punishing" other people, without ever bothering to think about what it means for their own reputation. Yet, when there are opportunities to embrace those things to enhance
their own reputation, so few seem willing to do it. Yet, as with so many things, Cracked has it right. The Daily Mail is a joke already. Rather than blasting off a DMCA notice or some sort of legal threat, just make the most of things by reacting humorously and boosting your own reputation.