After a couple of recent incidents where renowned/respected bloggers that I know have had content ripped off I thought I’d share my thoughts on what we (as bloggers) can do / should do about it…
So… What protection do we have?
… thinking about it, that’s probably a bigger question than the one I’m going to answer, so let me re-phrase: what does Matt Groves do to protect himself?
Obviously, I can answer that question, whereas the broader one is a bit too much for me to handle today!
Before I get into the main body of
my inane ramblings this post I want to say something about voice.
Everyone speaks with their own voice. Everyone writes with their own style – especially in blogs where you’re not shackled by corporate conventions/standards and can truly write in your own way.
Therefore, it stands to reason that anyone looking at the blog full of plagiarised content will “feel” that something isn’t quite right, the language structure and prose will change from one post to the next, to say nothing of personality coming through…
I tend to write blog posts in quite a conversational style, which is (obviously) in stark contrast to the authoring I do in my day job, therefore it will be easier to tell if a blog post was written by me than it would to tell if, say, a proposal was my handiwork (although that ought to be easy enough – they’re freaking awesome!!!!)
^^^^^^^^^^ Look: personality, voice, that’s me speaking!! ^^^^^^^^^^^^^
You can tell it’s me because it’s
wanky and arrogant my voice…
So, onto the main body
I use a Creative Commons Licence on my Blog and on my Picasa web albums, you can read more about Creative Commons here: http://creativecommons.org/about/licenses/
I personally use a Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 UK: England & Wales Licence (see: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/uk/), which basically means that:
- I must be given credit (attribution) for my works. So you can use what I've published, as long as I am given credit (I like to get link love!)
- You cannot use my works commercially
- You cannot alter or transform my works
All of the above CAN be done if a waiver is obtained (i.e. permission sought). I’ve had 2 requests of this nature, and I’ve granted the rights requested on both occasions. Why wouldn’t I?
After signing up for a CC Licence, make sure it’s visible. Mine is at the bottom of the page template in Blogger (like a master Page in .net)
Note: attribution to the people who created the theme I use ;)
Aside: this made me notice that the date was still 2009, so I’ve updated that with a bit of js that automatically updates the year!!
Secondly, CYA with a disclaimer…
Mine is here: http://www.mattgrovesblog.com/p/disclaimer.html
expertly crafted random text thrown together by me, in no way does this constitute a legal statement written by a qualified IP lawyer!!!!
The relevant bits:
“Given that it is a personal blog, the content is mine (and licenced under the Creative Commons Licence), and does not represent the views, opinions or positions of my employer (past, future or present) or any other organisation/body to which I may (or, indeed may not) be associated.”
This protects all parties from anything I say impacting my employer or other body/organisation. It re-iterates the licence point made above.
“I am a human being, albeit an amateur and constantly learning and evolving. I am therefore prone to error. Some of the content here relates to technology. Technology is always changing. Any information (technical or otherwise) I convey through this or any other channel is consumed entirely at your own risk.”
Use at your own risk. If i was to write a post that said to solution to SharePoint error 0x800xxx was to jump out of the window of the tallest building you can find (I know it feels like that sometimes!!) then I’ve covered myself with a “use at your own risk” statement.
“Some people comment on my posts, they are (as you are) free to say whatever you like in comments, I do not moderate comments or take any responsibility for them as I didn’t write them!”
So, if you (unlikely, as I'm sure you’re a sane and rational person) or anyone on the internet (there are a few now, so I’m told) comments and they say something offensive (etc) then I’m taking no responsibility for it!
I use Google Analytics, it works for me (although in some respects lacks things I’d like) but it is available to anyone and is at my favourite price ;)
Tracking usage is a good way of spotting abnormal behaviour, and is, I understand, how Dave spotted what was going on with his content.
It’s something I’d recommend you do anyway, stats will help you understand your audience better (although nowhere near as well as direct interaction!), and as you get really good analytics for free I see no reason not to do so…
Fourthly, do something about it…
If you find that someone has ripped off your content, explain to them what they’ve done and ask them to correct it (e.g. by removing their post or by giving proper attribution).
Some people will do it out of ignorance and educating them in a polite and non-confrontational manner is (in my opinion) the proper first step. this could an email, a tweet, a comment on the post, whatever you feel is the most appropriate communication medium.
If they fail to take corrective action, that’s when you should (in my opinion) name and shame, use the social platforms to their full effect ;)
Dave’s solution was quite innovative, he replaced the images with the one below, nicely done mate!!
Dave has also blogged about this, here: http://www.sharepointedutech.com/2010/11/17/what-do-you-do-about-stolen-blog-posts/
Mark’s post on the topic sums things up quite nicely: http://www.endusersharepoint.com/2009/06/07/the-ethics-of-reposting-articles-sharing-vs-plagiarism/
And if you still get no joy, then as Ant Clay put it (in Dave’s post) “go legal on their ass”
I am assuming he means ‘seek legal advice’, and nothing like Ving Rhames (as Marsellus Wallace) said in Pulp Fiction about ‘getting medieval’ – violence isn’t normally in Ant’s character ;)
And, of course, if you’ve got as far as 'name’n’shame and they then correct things, I strongly suggest a retraction/correction of your public statements (as Nick did in the Lightening Tools example below).
Get it here: http://www.tynt.com/
What tynt does is use some js to grab the copy event and insert additional text into the copied text, so when someone copies and pastes into a blog post/email/etc it includes the attribution and they have consciously remove it (which would therefore breach your CC Licence!).
I implemented this today on this very blog – try it now, copy this post and paste it into Word/Notepad/whatever, I quite like it ;)
Sooooooooooooo much better than what many people did years ago in using js to block right-click which was (is!) really annoying where you were wanting to “open link in new tab” as I often do…
Obviously having other websites reference and link you is good for SEO, except in an example (earlier this year) for Nick, Brett and the guys at Lightening Tools where a an Agency hired by another Gold Partner were using underhand tactics to increase search engine ranking – read more here: http://www.lightningtools.com/blog/archive/2010/08/23/content-and-code-ndash-a-bunch-of-nice-chaps.aspx (and Nick is right, they are nice chaps down there!).
This tale goes to show the risks of hiring external agencies to increase your traffic, whereas what I’m talking about here is the use of linking to promote page ranks in a legitimate and above-board manner. And to give link-love and proper attribution!!
Most of your readers won’t steal/plagiarise your content, but like so many things in life, it’s the few that you need to worry about, not the majority.
Apply a Creative Commons licence to your blog/website/photographs/content.
Have a disclaimer.
Monitor usage with analytics tools.
Check out the Tynt tool.
And, if it happens to you, do something about it!
But be calm and reasonable – don’t fly off the handle…