21 December 2015

On the Perils of Blogging ...


Dear Readers

There’s been a theft, of sorts … Not quite “There’s been a Murr-dahh!”, as TV’s Inspector Taggart used to say. Certainly nothing quite so dramatic, but still …

I logged on to Twitter on Sunday morning. Twitter is a great source of up-to-date reading material. It’s always interesting to see what articles or blogs people have posted links to, and it’s always nice to see when people have commented on or shared links to the blog posts I write here on Waymarks. Hence I was initially quite chuffed to see a familiar photo pop up in my timeline. It was familiar because it was a photo I had taken. A quick glance at the accompanying text suggested it linked to my latest blog post on Singapore’s “T’ang Shipwreck,” which was heartening, but something seemed odd. 

The image was of a bronze statue from Tibet or Nepal ... The image had certainly featured on my original blog post, but it’s not an object from the shipwreck which the title of the article refers to … Curious I clicked the link (which wasn’t recognisable as it had been shortened using Bitly). To my baffled surprise it didn’t take me to Waymarks but instead it took me to an almost identical version of my original blog piece on someone else’s blog entirely! 


https://twitter.com/MongolsSilkRoad/status/678511524638547968


My latest blog post has been appropriated in its entirety without my permission.

I quickly overcame my stunned and rather uneasy sense of disbelief. Surely there must be some mistake? A closer look showed the blog piece had duly been credited to me (which was a small relief), but checking back on Twitter and then on my blog itself I could find no message or notification from the blogger who had purloined my piece. He doesn’t even follow me on Twitter! Fortunately I follow him, or else I might never have seen or been aware that this had happened.

I sent him a message, and he replied immediately. But here’s where I found myself posed with a bit of a dilemma.

Here are the facts:

1. He did this without asking my permission and without even having the courtesy to notify me.
2. He had duly credited me as the original author and there is a link back to my blog.
3. I pointed out what he’d done was at best impolite.
4. He apologised and said he would not do it again.
5. Hmmm ...
6. I still feel annoyed about it. 


https://twitter.com/MongolsSilkRoad/status/678511524638547968


I am uneasy about letting my piece stand on his blog. It has after all been appropriated and modified in its entirety without my permission. But it could have been worse, I suppose.

It has flagged up an important issue. Posting anything on-line automatically makes it fair game for poaching. Funnily enough only a few days before I’d been part of a discussion on copyright and the terms of ‘fair use’ with some fellow bloggers on Twitter. From time-to-time I, myself, have used other people’s work (mostly images) on my blog. I’ve always sought to source material which is clearly in the ‘public domain’ or that would reasonably count as ‘fair use’, and if copyright infringement has appeared to be a potential issue I’ve always sought permission to use the image from its owner wherever I can first. It’s amazing the generosity I’ve encountered in this respect. I’ve never yet been turned down in fact. Hence I’m sure if Mr Van Roon had simply taken a moment to ask me first I may well have been only too happy to give him the thumbs up and say “go ahead.” After all, this is why we blog – to freely interact and share with one another. In essence Mr Van Roon has disregarded the fundamental etiquette and goodwill of blogging.

It’s sad that this kind of thing occurs. Looking at my site stats his appropriation of my blog post has sent very little traffic to my blog, even though the link to the piece as it appears on his blog which he posted on Twitter has been ‘liked’ and ‘retweeted’ by a fair few people. Should I be flattered and grateful he has shared my work on his evidently quite popular blog? Is this a kind of free publicity? Or have I been robbed? … His blog is mainly a digest of recycled works by other people raked in from across the web. One wonders how much effort that takes compared to me sitting down, writing the piece, editing it, selecting the photos, editing and arranging them, before actually posting the finished piece to my blog? It probably takes him only a fraction of the time and effort. Is this just sour grapes, or am I right to still feel disgruntled?


http://eccentricparabola.blogspot.co.uk/2015/12/the-tang-shipwreck-singapore.html
 http://mongolschinaandthesilkroad.blogspot.nl/2015/12/the-tang-shipwreck-singapore.html



I’m more than aware that Waymarks gets mined daily for images. The site stats tell me that “Google image search” is a major source of traffic to the blog. Sometimes I can even see the search terms (“Leonardo’s Venusian Man” is an oddly regular one which actually quite amuses me). This is why I often keep the images fairly low resolution; that and the fact it makes the blog load easier and more quickly on your browser. I resolved early on that “if it’s too precious, I won’t post it.” But sometimes you don’t realise how precious something is until someone else nicks it!


https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=to+blog+or+not+to+blog&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjYj-2Th-3JAhUBSBoKHdRECE4Q_AUIBygB&biw=1280&bih=699
  

Maybe today’s blog post, so to speak, is purely tomorrow’s digital-microchip paper? … But it’s the principle of the thing which bugs me most here. He could have asked. It only takes a moment longer than the moment it took to pinch the piece. And if he had, we’d both be smiling now, rather than one of us frowning quite hard at the other.

8 comments:

  1. Can understand the frustration Tim. As you say if he'd only asked it wouldn't have left you feeling your entire post had just been 'lifted'. I've had a few folk ask to use something and always say yes. And a great post in the first place! Must try and incorporate your blog into my Wordpress alerts so I don't miss any.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Many thanks, FifePSY. I really enjoyed your most recent post too. I think the strangest thing was seeing something I'd spent time & effort creating re-shaped & re-packaged. Which is funny because I often write for other outlets and it's always interesting to see how editors present your piece when it's eventually published. I quite enjoy the anticipation this entails, but this felt more like a reverse polarisation of that. If he'd not credited the piece so clearly I think I'd definitely have made more of a fuss.

    As for keeping up with blogs, I'm sometimes the same & have to rely on my RSS feed not to miss some! Also, I sometimes regret I didn't set Waymarks up on Wordpress, it seems like there's more of a connected community of bloggers over there. Blogspot is a bit lonely!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Have just found out that it very easy to add a Blogger account to Wordpress reader so sorted!.

    ReplyDelete
  4. It's a rip-off! As a curating editor in my professional job the correct etiquette is to say excellent article on such and such, go and have a look at it on this link. This directs the traffic to the original source which should get the traffic and the acclaim. I agree with you about images – sometimes there is a grey area about where an image comes from where there does not seem to be an owner but for a full blog article with a contact button there is no excuse.

    This may be help:
    https://lorelle.wordpress.com/2006/04/10/what-do-you-do-when-someone-steals-your-content/

    Must admit that I find things seem to go wrong with Blogspot blogs and I find Wordpress a lot easier to follow. I follow your blog without problem but noticed some comments I left on your interesting Madrid post have gone. Or you deleted them with contempt! Or it could have been my own incompetence.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hello Alex, thanks for the message of support and for the link (I'll have a proper read through of that in a bit). Sorry to hear you've been having trouble posting comments here. I've set the blog up so all comments are moderated by me before they appear on the site, hence it may take a while for me to get to them - there should be something that says "awaiting approval" when you click 'publish', but if it's not always working I can add a headline in to be double sure (which I'll do now). As such, I was only notified of two identical comments on this post but none on the Madrid one sadly, so I'm not sure what the glitch was there. Definitely no contempt! - Your comments are always welcome and much appreciated!

    ReplyDelete
  6. This has happened to me several times - my entire local history blog, hosted on Blogger, has been fed into someone else's web space. It drives me mad. It's so bloody rude and is also fundamentally dishonest. I also run an online magazine with a friend, using WordPress to manage the database, and the entire thing was syndicated into someone's website that aggregated all topics on the same theme to provide a central resource - with no credit to ourselves and no links back to our site and no contact details to yell blue murder at the site's owner. I figured out a way of contacting he/she/it in the end and got the owner to stop feeding our content into its (no gender available) site, but just yesterday I was doing a search for something on Google and found that someone else was doing the same thing with the magazine, which means that my friend (the techy one) is now doing the research on how to prevent it happening in the future. It's the deep moral dishonesty of appropriating someone else's content that gets to me.

    ReplyDelete
  7. That's awful, Andie. But good for you for pursuing and not letting them get away with it! It must have been such a hassle though, and what a waste of time and creativity too. I've no idea if the tech could be possible, but if only there was a way of locking blog posts so content could be linked to but not copied wholesale. As I say, I do feel blogging is fundamentally about sharing, but there is an etiquette / simple politeness which should be automatic, I feel. I think everyone would benefit more in that way, it's not too much effort to ask after all.

    ReplyDelete

I'm interested to hear your thoughts. Please leave a comment.