Blog Post Piracy

piracy1b.jpgSteve Rubel of Micro Persuasion writes:

Two weblogs are republishing my content without permission. One is called “Advertising, News & Information.” This site is profiting off my content by running Adsense. The other is called Podcast Rebroadcast.

This appears to be a common problem. Jason Calacanis wrote in June that we should call these people out. I am doing my part. Beyond going to partial text RSS feeds – which I am loathe to do – I have really no other course of action right now other to email the site operators, which I have done.

There is, of course, copyright law. The creative commons license for Rubel’s blog states that the work must be attributed to its author and it cannot be used for commercial purposes. The pirated post doesn’t contain his name on the post or the name of his blog, but it does at least have a link to the original post on Rubel’s blog. Is this sufficient enough attribution? As for commercial purposes, the blog copying Rubel’s posts is displaying Google Ads.

The Advertising News & Information blog appears to go by the name of Surferdiary.com Advertising Blog, and it appears to contain copied posts from a variety of different blogs. All say “Posted on [date] by Administrator” at the top, and all seem to have a link called “Source” that links back to the original post.

surferdiary2.bmp

One of the ironies is that the Surferdiary.com blog contains Rubel’s very post complaining about the piracy of his postings.


What makes this interesting is that the copyright norms in the blogosphere are generally quite loose. Although many commenters to his post are sympathetic to his plight, many are not. Consider this comment:

So is it fair to say you’ve joined the ‘control’ gang but maybe without knowing it?

Another commenter writes:

I guess I’m confused how this is different than most aggregators, which also redisplay your content.

There are probably hundreds of sites that do that with our content, and as long as they link back to us, it’s hard to see why it’s a problem. They’re just helping to get more people to read what you have to say.

One commenter states:

I personally find the irony here pretty funny. Bloggers initially called out newspapers for not being open enough and now that the top bloggers become ever more powerful they are starting to act just the same. Perhaps it is human nature…

Yet another:

The best way to deal with content theft, when it’s simple scraping like this is to ignore it — that’s right, ignore it.

Should he ignore it? Or does it call for a response?

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8 Responses

  1. Eric Goldman says:

    This is a complex question because blogs may be creating some type of implied license by setting up an RSS feed; and if the blog uses a Creative Commons license, that may be further granting express or implied rights. I’ve blogged on this dilemma at http://blog.ericgoldman.org/archives/2005/08/blog_content_ag_1.htm . Unfortunately, I didn’t come up with any great solutions. Eric.

  2. Greg Lastowka says:

    Dan> Should he ignore it? Or does it call for a response?

    His IP right, his call if he wants to use it. Like Eric says in his post, even if there is an implied license in using RSS that somehow persists despite the CC no-commercial use license, it’s trivial to revoke.

    On the broader issue of policy, this is not about “piracy,” it is really just a debate about spam in disguise. To explain, take a look at this:

    If you follow the links to these sites that use Batman images, you’ll find that some of these sites are probably taking some original material that may be protected by copyright and adding some commentary, etc. (just like the defendants were in the Free Republic case). Arguably this is about “piracy” too, right? But even if there may be IP problems with some of these sites, I personally think the Net may be better off with this kind of content + commentary out there (others might disagree). This is generally how copyright norms operate between bloggers — they repost generously, but tend to add value and properly attribute.

    But what if an unlicensed reposter doesn’t add any value? Hypothetically, let’s suppose there is a site that posts an RSS feed from somewhere else and tacks on Adsense for revenue — that’s all. Just the Adsense serving as spam that didn’t exist on the original.

    Like the spam problem, this isn’t about creative reuse, it is about misappropriation of attention. All our Net norms may be against it, but it produces a sufficient revenue steam that creates sufficient incentives to make people violate the norms. Like spam, the answer is probably to make targeted regulations to reduce the incentives and promote technical tools that will have the same effect. And, as I said about meta tags a long time ago, I think a technical fix will have more value than a legal fix (though undoubtedly it will just switch the dynamic to a new form of norm-violation and free-riding).

  3. Bruce says:

    The issues seem pretty clear to me in this particular case. There’s an express license, and it indicates that republication is only permitted upon, among other things, sufficient attribution. A mere link does not qualify as sufficient:

    “You must keep intact all copyright notices for the Work and provide, reasonable to the medium or means You are utilizing: (i) the name of Original Author (or pseudonym, if applicable) if supplied, and/or (ii) if the Original Author and/or Licensor designate another party or parties (e.g. a sponsor institute, publishing entity, journal) for attribution in Licensor’s copyright notice, terms of service or by other reasonable means, the name of such party or parties; the title of the Work if supplied; to the extent reasonably practicable, the Uniform Resource Identifier, if any, that Licensor specifies to be associated with the Work, unless such URI does not refer to the copyright notice or licensing information for the Work; and in the case of a Derivative Work, a credit identifying the use of the Work in the Derivative Work (e.g., ‘French translation of the Work by Original Author,’ or ‘Screenplay based on original Work by Original Author’).”

    If Rubel wants a quick fix, he could send a Section 512 takedown notice to the web host.

  4. Bruce says:

    P.S. I just noticed the owner of “Podcast Rebroadcast” posted a rejoinder on Rubel’s blog, in which he claims his sole purpose was to republish Rubel’s blog in a way that would get around school filters. He claims that “The site accredited your site as the source of the post, and linked directly back to your site and its content.” It’s impossible to tell now whether the republished content complied with Section 4(c) of the CC license, because the Podcast Rebroadcast site is now down.

  5. Blog Post Piracy Debate Continues

    This weekend’s posts about blog content theft are generating some great discussions that I wanted to link to. You can view others here and here. Concurring Opinions (Written by a prof. at GWU Law School) Adam Green Garrick Van

  6. Blog Post Piracy Debate Continues

    This weekend’s posts about blog content theft and splogs are generating some great discussions that I wanted to link to. You can view others here and here. By the way, did you catch that the New York Times wrote

  7. Jonathan says:

    I agree with Bruce, the quickest way to handle this is either with a cease and desist letter or a 512 notice. I’ve found when dealing with my own plagiarism battles that those are the quickest means to deal with these matters.

    If he is bothered by the reuse of his work, he has every right to shut it down and I hope that he will. While I’m all for reasonable reuse of work, I have to say that the adage of giving an inch and taking a mile seems to apply with these sploggers.

    Just my experience though.

  8. New York Times article tackles Splog (Spam Blogs)

    Maybe we need a certification system for blogs. Or for Google to change its ranking engine to only give weight to links from sites reviewed by human reviewers.