Monday, August 10, 2015

Starving the Thief

Last week an innocent e-mail from one of my blog followers alerting me to a potential typographical error revealed a much greater travesty. It turns out that my blog content, from images to text (word-for-word) has been stolen wholesale and used to produce another blog, "Beauty of Insect." My blog has essentially been cloned, with no way to contact the anonymous administrator of the imposter blog, no comment feature enabled, nothing. The other blog is clearly just out to accrue advertising revenue. This has led me to incredible frustration with the Google Support Team that oversees violations on Blogger; and also raised personal and ethical questions for me.

Until the time this case is resolved, I do not foresee posting any further content. I'm sorry. I hate to do this. I have some really neat stories pending, but I am not going to "feed the thief."

I do not know how long "Beauty of Insect" has been doing this. I have "Google Alerts" on my name and blog title, but not on individual content, and I'm not sure how to do that, or if it is even possible. Online content thievery and replication is rampant, and many of my colleagues have simply given up trying to overcome it. Others have had to all but abandon their regular business to devote the energy required to prosecute offenders. Chief among these superheroes is Alex Wild, a leading macro photographer who even started a Facebook group devoted to photo thievery and how to stop it (or at least slow it down).

I went immediately to my own Facebook friends upon discovery of this crime, and received advice and links within hours. One friend, an attorney, even began the process of writing a DMCA takedown notice, only to find Google requires one to file a takedown notice for each post for which there is plagiarism. That is well over sixty-five (65) notices at last count.

"DMCA" stands for the "Digital Millennium Copyright Act," and is meant to protect original online content from unauthorized duplication (copyright infringement); but your content does not even need to be copyrighted in the usual legal sense, to be able to invoke a takedown notice.

The Google Support Team has at best been slow as molasses to respond to my attorney's requests, and compliance with Google's requirements. She is working for me pro bono, no less, and I have an incredible amount of guilt and humiliation considering what she has gotten herself into.....with no obvious light at the end of this tunnel to date.

Should the DMCA takedown notice ever be honored, the perpetrator will be required to remove their blog, or have it done for them by their ISP (Internet Service Provider). What a waste of server space it is currently.

Meanwhile, I struggle with competing sentiments and ethical boundaries. On the one hand it is incredibly flattering to think that my creations are so coveted by others that they are willing to take the risk of using them without my consent. Maybe one indication of your "arrival" as a blogging superstar is this kind of criminal enterprise at your expense.

On the other hand, and perhaps this is what I most object to, is that they are accruing revenue with stolen content. This is revenue (or at least potential revenue), that I will never see, but have more than earned in time, my own money, effort, sweat, and tears. This is then a financial crime, not "merely" plagiarism.

One interesting point was brought up in conversation with some of my incredibly intelligent, worldly, and observant colleagues on Facebook is that there are cultural differences in the perception of what exactly is infringement. Many overseas cultures do not interpret this behavior as being wrong, let alone criminal; but the bulk of traffic on the internet streams through the U.S.A., where we definitely do frown on copyright violations. How do we resolve these differences? There is an increasing movement to segregate the 'net, such that each nation is able to establish its own rules, and hide from what is perceived to be the "prying eyes" and bullying policing of America.

I already owe my followers here a great deal for their loyalty, and support through donations. I have one last request of you all. Should you ever, ever see my content elsewhere on the web, disassociated from my name, my blogs, my Facebook pages, or Flickr photostream, please contact me immediately with the offending URL!. I will do the same for you. Thank you for your patience and understanding.

5 comments:

  1. That is atrocious behaviour! And I don't know how, or if, it can be stopped. These stolen posts get cloned and cloned again and again.

    I've run into my own content, duplicated anonymously, and loaded with ads, more than a few times. I have written the "perps" whenever I could track down a contact address, but never once got an answer, let alone a halt to the thefts.

    I will definitely notify you if I see any of your comment elsewhere.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This is terrible and frightening.

    ReplyDelete
  3. terrible Eric. And you are right about the cultural differences. my husband is a scientist and was invited to china by a another scientist -- when he arrived not only was the lab an exact replica but science papers were copied including graphics -- it apparently was meant to flatter. it did not. and was freaky

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I cannot imagine, Laura. Thank you for sharing that experience, though. We live kind of insulated lives here.

      Delete