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Malice in Wonderland

Take more napsby Yvonne DiVita, BlogPaws Co-Founder and blogger at Scratchings & Sniffings

There's malice in wonderland! What do I mean by that? I mean, someone…multiple someone's, at times … is stealing content from other bloggers, like me! Or you! 

It's a reoccurring issue across the net, and here at BlogPaws. "Isn't everything on the Internet free?" someone will assert. "It's the Internet… how can it not be free?" Meaning, "I can use this, can't I? And, if I forget or neglect to cite the source, well, that's okay. It's the Internet."

The short answer is a resounding, "NO!" in all caps. The long answer is a bit more complicated. Jodi Stone, from Heart Like a Dog, recently wrote a fantastic article on her blog discussing this issue and sharing her experiences. She's given us permission to share that post. 

Before I add Jodi's post, I want to say one little thing – one of the learning points of her post, not related to the copyright issue, is the quality of Jodi's post title: Speeding is Against the Law. I'd like YOU, dear pet blogger, to comment here on why that title is a learning  point, and what you learned from it. Thank you.

Now, here's Jodi's post and a comment from me at the end of it:

I apologize in advance for the length of this post.

Blogging has no rules.

At least none that I’ve ever come across.  With that being said, I think most of us would agree there are some basic expectations about the content that you create on your own blog.  It’s yours, right?  You wrote it, laboring over every word, read it and re-read it before you hit publish. And you expect that people will read what you wrote, perhaps make a connection with you.  Maybe something you’ve written will encourage someone to consider something they would never have considered.

That’s why we blog isn’t it?

To make connections, educate people and develop a sense of community.


But what if someone violates the expectations?

What I’m speaking about here is something called content scraping.  The first time content scraping crossed my radar was a week ago.  If you’re unfamiliar with the term (don’t feel bad, I was too) I’ll sum it up:

Content scraping is someone going to your blog, and copying something within a post, whether it be the entire post or a small snippet and putting it on their blog as if it’s their own. You can read more about it on here.

Don’t be impressed, I read about it at Something Wagging. :-) She found it first.

I heard it again on Monday on the Peaceful Dog blog, Kirsten apparently had an entire blog post copied word for word without benefit of crediting it back to her.

In the comments of both posts I said something along the line of plagiarism is stealing and stealing is wrong.  I agree with Pamela, my content is out there for all to see, and read.  If you use it though, give me props, add a link back to my blog and you and I are good.

Taking someone’s work without attributing it to them doesn’t fly in my world.  Nor in Kirsten’s.  She took the appropriate steps and the blog was shut down.

But what about pictures?

I remember over the summer, Roxanne from Champion of My Heart had one of her photos used in a promotion.  If I’m recalling correctly, she posted something on facebook and the person/entity in question offered to take it down.

Sunday night a fellow blogger had quite a lengthy post on his facebook page.  I’m not sure if any of you follow the Idiot or not.  About a week ago now, he was locked out of his wordpress account.

An excerpt from his facebook page:

The Idiot Speaketh

“As many of you know, my “THE IDIOT SPEAKETH” humor blog was recently deactivated by WordPress. After four days and five email requests, I finally have received word from WordPress on why my blog was dropped.

Digital Content. (DMCA)

Basically, in the current digital world, any photograph, graphic, artwork, cartoon, video, audio file, etc. that YOU did not create yourself, is considered copyrighted. You cannot publish any of these materials unless you have the expressed consent of the person who created the content.

This would include basically all of the content on GOOGLE IMAGES, BING, YOU TUBE, etc. If you did not put the material there, you do not own it and cannot use it.

So, all the images of places, animals, people, celebrities, politicians, cartoons, etc. in the FIVE years of the blog, are the reason that I was dropped. Apparently, considering that I had probably published 10,000-15,000 photos, cartoons, graphics, etc over the course of the five years, WordPress received enough requests from copyright owners that I was considered a habitual offender.

Some of you are OK, because I know that you do not use any photos or graphic materials on your own blog. Many of you only post photos of your family or pets. That is fine, those are your photos. If you did not create your Header or your Avatar yourself, beware. If you have used GOOGLE or any search engine to download photos or materials, beware. If you have posted videos from YouTube, beware. If you have reposted funny cartoons, beware. You may be safe because you do not have the large amount of material on your blogs, but you too are liable to one day find your blog gone, forever.

On the other hand, I believe I did just as 95% of the blogging world does on a daily basis. You can read through hundreds of blogs and can instantly recognize that there is no way the blog author created all the digital material themselves. Do the people who write religious blogs only use the pics of Jesus that they took themselves? Do they only publish paintings of Jesus that they painted themselves? Did they write to the Vatican for permission to use these materials? Common sense says no.

I won’t use the “I was just doing the same thing everyone else was doing” defense because it won’t matter to WordPress. Everyone on the highway speeds but speeding is still against the law.”

Where do we stand?

Mostly I only use photos of my own dogs, occasionally I will use a picture from one of your blogs (always with a link back) and very rarely I use an image I retrieve from google, but I always try to link back to the page I found it on.

Ganked from Something Wagging

But I don’t get the express written consent of the author.

What do you think about this?  Are you of the mind that I am, that if I attribute the image or content to the author or website I ganked from it’s okay or do you agree with WordPress that express permission is required to use someone else’s content?  Does it make a difference if someone is profiting from your material?

(Note: The excerpt from the Idiot’s facebook page is used with his written permission.)

YD: my comment: 

There’s a lot to be learned from Jodi’s post and all the
comments it generated, so I hope you’ll hop over to her blog and read it
completely from beginning to end
, especially the comments. And, for the record,
I actually like it when bloggers share my content (a sentence or two, or one
paragraph perhaps – it’s called ‘fair use’) with a proper link back to me. And,
pictures also.

I’m not guarding my pictures with a sentry. Just let the world
know you got it from my blog.

That doesn’t mean everyone needs to be that way and
photographers definitely need to be more strict. I’m just saying that, as a
blogger, you may use some of my content, as long as you give me credit. To
learn more about the thinking behind sharing on the web, visit the Creative Commons
website and see what they offer and suggest. Remember to RESPECT your fellow bloggers by NOT using content without following the "fair use" guidelines and citing where it came from. It's not hard to ask permission now, is it?

Yes, you may use 'some' of this post as long as you follow these RULES from Creative Commons.

p.s. to the 'rules' of blogging, generally, they're called guidelines and bloggers post them in their sidebar – see the guidelines on my petblog here: (scroll down a bit, they are on the right hand side, mid-page) http://www.scratchingsandsniffings.com/  They don't include copyright information because that's where Creative Commons comes in.  

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  1. Excellent post and very helpful. I have certainly used Google images in past, but haven’t done it in 2012! It’s really unfair of Google to post those images when they are not the owners either. I have recently found a few photos of Mario on Google Images (cats) and resent they have posted them under images. How is it that they are able to get away with that and we can’t! (I know – who’s going to take on Google!)

  2. We loved Jodi’s post and made numerous comments. Content Scraping has been a HUGE pet peeve of mine…..
    As for the blog title…it was great because it attracted attention “Speeding is against the law” because I bet ALL of us thought it had to do with driving lol. It didn’t have anything to do with the blog post (in my opinion) but it got people to READ the post

  3. I believe the title has other implications. Everyone speeds. Not all get caught. Same with using pics. Many bloggers use content. Not all get caught when the content is not theirs. Content scraping has happened to me. I contacted the blogger and they removed. No credit to me at all. Great article, Jodi. Ty for sharing , Yvonne

  4. Someone did try to take on Google about the images being used. It was decided that a thumbnail, low quality image such as Google Image Search shows is perfectly legal and does not violate copy write law.

  5. Jodi wrote a great post! I’ve had my content scraped and it made me more aware of how I use content. I use my own pictures, pictures covered under creative commons, or pictures I’ve gotten permission to use.
    Speeding is against the law but everyone does it. Does that make speeding okay? Is it only okay if you don’t get caught? If everyone jumped off a bridge would you do it too(used with permission of my mom)? While there are no written rules or laws for blogging, that doesn’t mean anything goes. I wouldn’t walk into my neighbor’s house and take something without asking, so I don’t think it’s too much to take the time to email another blogger and ask. besides it will make someone’s day knowing you appreciate their content enough to share it.

  6. Purrrr Always assume content is copyright protected.
    Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) https://www.eff.org/wp/unintended-consequences-under-dmca
    You can use TinEye to look for your photos online. http://www.tineye.com/
    flickr.com allows authors to use Creative Commons copyrights. Da lady uses lots of them on her blog with proper attribution as required. Some allow derivative works. Some can even be used for commercial works. So if you upload to flickr, make sure to set the copyleft!
    Da lady uses a wordpress plugin called tagaroo to find pictures. http://tagaroo.opencalais.com/
    I’m a bad boi. Da lady should pay more attention to da laws in my bloggy.

  7. My content has been scraped several times. The good thing is it made me think hard about what rights I wanted to keep to my words.
    In the end, I’m happy to have my content shared far and wide. But I worry my words being used to sell a product I disagree with. So I’ve placed a Creative Commons license on my pet blog allowing it to be used with attribution by non-commercial sites.
    After all, I’m very thankful that photographers are willing to allow me to use their images under the Creative Commons. I think it’s only fair to share the love.
    Thanks for opening up this important discussion again and for sharing Jodi’s post. She makes even the most tedious topics fun.

  8. Borrowing with a link back is not okay for me. What if I don’t like your blog or your opinion, or your use? What if you want to use a photo of one of my cats and draw a target on it because you hate cats? Contacting me for permission allows me to exercise my right to decide where and how my images appear.
    When we learned to quote others’ work in writing papers and articles, we learned to give people credit for their original words on the spot. Just because bloggers usually answer to no one but themselves doesn’t mean they don’t have to follow accepted practices.
    I have a copyright that appears on every page of each of my blogs, and it appears at the bottom of every blog post. When people have asked me, I rarely say “no”.
    I find my images in Google images and Yahoo images being given away for free all the time even though they contain an embedded digital copyright, so what are people supposed to think?

  9. Woof! Woof! Major scaping happened to our blog 10/2010. We did 2 blog posts about it. It was very upsetting but we have shut down many sites that copied from us. We are taking precautions and thinking moving to WP would help … not at all.I guess it is the negative side of blogging. Great title SPEEDING … definitely caught our attention. Golden Thanks for sharing. Lots of Golden Woofs, Sugar

  10. This is fantastic! You got the title implication – Jodi really draws people in with that title and it is so appropriate, but it doesn’t scream, “I’m gonna tell you why you shouldn’t violate copyright!”
    Great advice here. What questions about this topic were not answered for you… tell us so we can find out and report all the updated or newest info on this. I especially love that folks are thinking about what happens to their content – I am naive, I guess. I tend not to think about bad people stealing my content – only good people.
    What a great conversation this is! Many thanks to Jodi for getting it started!

  11. Thanks so much for showcasing this post Yvonne, the conversations that came from it were very eye opening. Like you I am naive, never thinking that someone might steal my content and use it for something I didn’t agree with.
    From my perspective I always felt (like I was taught when doing research papers) that giving credit to the original author was enough and it would seem this is not the case. Since I normally don’t use other’s photos (Pamela’s was to prove the point) I will definitely be contacting owners when and if I should use their content. I’m also checking into that Creative Commons, it’s on my ‘to do’ list. 🙂
    Many thanks again, for showcasing this post.

  12. Well stink. I don’t use other people’s photos or material without permission. But I do post YouTube videos. My thought was that they all link back to YouTube and the person who created them, giving them more hits via my blog. It’s obvious that they’re not mine. So seriously? Dang it. Thanks for posting this. I’m going to go cry now. 🙁

  13. I loved Jodi’s title, and I’m so glad you decided to use her post as a guest post of sorts. Jodi’s blog always makes me see things in a new light, and I often get a good laugh too. 🙂

  14. REALLY interesting. I consider it a compliment when another blogger uses something from my blog…the pet blogging community is a warm and friendly place and it seems everyone is happy to give appropriate credit. I’m not aware that I’ve ever been a victim of scraping, however I use a LOT of visuals on my blog. I try to create everything myself and when necessary I’ll purchase a stock image or illustration to incorporate into a graphic. I’ve not made a big deal out of watermarking images, etc…but maybe I should take a couple of small and subtle steps.
    : ) Glogirly

  15. I had the strangest thing happen today…My blog post was reblogged to a blog called Latin People News out of Miami…They did give credit and a link, but did not ask permission…Strange that they chose to reblog a post about veggie dog treats, especially since most of the site is in Spanish. So am I upset? Not really, more like perplexed at how they found it and why they chose to use it. You can check it out here http://latinpeoplenews.com/

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