Wednesday, January 11, 2006


Jim, he of the Place to Pull Off the Road and Pee, has had some issues recently with Content Theft.

Seems that some Thievin’ Asshole in Singapore (we think) lifted the content of one of his recent posts, word-for-word. Verbatim.

In Bloggy-World, linkage and snipping little bits of other people’s material is common practice. But there are rules, and there is etiquette. The Forms Must Be Obeyed.

When you use someone else’s material, it’s polite to get permission. If the material is covered by a Creative Commons license, it’s usually no issue to borrow from someone else, provided you attribute it properly and you are not using it to make Filthy Lucre. If it’s covered by a standard copyright, advance permission is required, except for purposes covered under the Fair Use doctrine.

Music and video downloads? I ain’t touching that one here. But free content isn’t always free for the taking, in a moral sense. The only real question you should ask yourself is, “Would Momma approve?”

Normal practice, when borrowing the Intellectual Property of others, is to excerpt it and include a link back to the source. That way, the creator of that Intellectual Property is assured of proper credit, and at the same time has the opportunity to share some of the traffic it generates.

And when using someone else’s image files - or similar-type content - it’s appropriate to host them on your own server. Hotlinking - slapping an image up on your site and having the HTML img tag refer to the other person’s server URL - is a No-No. It is, simply put, theft of that person’s bandwidth.

The Gaping Asshole that stole Jim’s post - go to his site for the details - did none of the Right Things. She (we think it’s a she) lifted Jim’s post in its entirety, with nary a word of attribution or a link back to Parkway Rest Stop. And, as bad as that was, she also hotlinked the photograph that accompanied Jim’s post.

A quick survey of the Offending Site revealed that just about every photograph on it appeared to be hotlinked. This person, whoever it is, either doesn’t have a clue, or just doesn’t care.

After Jim asked her to remove the post, he was ignored. Well, not ignored, exactly. She took down her bulletin board and shut off commenting. “If I can’t see you, I can ignore you” seems to be the operating philosophy.

I haven’t included a link to the offending site for a couple of reasons: One, if you want to see the site, Jim has a link in his post. I don’t want to direct any more traffic there. Two, the site is a real clusterfuck, a Dog’s Breakfast of bad writing, stupid photographs, and horrible music videos that play automatically when the page loads. Trust me: it ain’t worth the aggravation.

As far as Blog d’Elisson is concerned, I haven’t had any issues with Content Theft. I’ve had some of the pieces I’ve written for McSweeney’s lifted from time to time, but in all cases either McSweeney’s or I were credited. That’s good. On the other hand, it may mean my stuff is Shite that is inadequate even to attract thieves.

I have had experience with plagiarism, though.

Back in the late Cretaceous era when I was in university, I was involved with the campus Humor Magazine, a venerable publication with a history stretching back to 1882. In - what? - 1971, thereabouts, we published an article entitled “Frank Merriwell Returns,” a satirical look at what would happen if the hero of a turn-of-the-century series of Boy’s Stories came back to school today. Naïve vintage-1900 Rover Boys type meets early 1970’s drug-and-promiscuous-sex culture; hilarity ensues. That sort of thing.

It was a semi-forgettable piece, but I remember it well unto this day.

About a year later, we received in the mail a copy of the Phoenix, Rensselaer Polytechnic’s humor rag. I’m still not sure why they sent it - whoever “they” were. A backhanded thank-you? Currying favor with the Big Boys?

But in that magazine there was something that got our attention. There it was: “Frank Merriwell Returns,” word for word, complete with copies of the exact same illustrations we had used in our article. Copies: it looked as though they had been crudely, yet painstakingly, hand-illustrated, using our pictures as models. No credit; no explanation; no nothing.

What the fuck?!!?

Now, here’s something to chew on. These self-same Content Thieves - who knows unto what depths their depravity went? Did they cheat on exams? Undertip their Painted Women? We can only guess...and we can only wonder which buildings, chemical plants, weapons systems, and aircraft they subsequently went on to design.

Remember: When you steal Intellectual Property, the terrorists win!

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