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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Where I Ask You All for Advice

In the past few days I've had one person quote me without providing links back to the original article, and another take huge chunks of text (more than 50%) and print it on his blog.

Both of these practices bug me. Now, I write with the hope that more people will be exposed to my evil ideas so that in the future it will be easy for me to take over the world. (I'm opposed to anything messy, like coups, so mind control seems the better solution.)

Anyway, I sent an email to the guy who quoted (and vehemently disagreed with me) asking him to add a link and got a reply about since when I'd quoted him I linked in the 3rd paragraph (which was where I actually, you know, quoted him) he didn't think what he'd done was any different. He did add the link, though.

So, this morning I started to write an email to the guy who used over 50% of my post in his post, and then wondered if I've just gone off the deep end.

I know how critical it is to blog success to have people link to you and to link to other people. I always credit my sources with links, and if your blog directs me to another source and I quote that source, I'll put in a hat tip [blog where I learned about this] at the bottom of the article.

So, what think ye, brilliant readers? Should I say something or should I just be pleased that other bloggers are reading what I've written?


clobbered said...

"Should I say something or should I just be pleased that other bloggers are reading what I've written?"

Neither? There is no reason to be pleased at pathetically poor attribution practices. On the other hand saying something will probably do bugger all besides raising your blood pressure.

You are bigger than all this.

Todd X. said...

You're right. Lack of attribution is essentially plagiarism.

TheLabRat said...

To me, the 50% quote post is a bigger deal than the lack of link back post, particularly if 1) the 50% quote post is not making it clear it is a quote and 2) the lack of link back guy at least mentioned you by name/blog title. Which brings me to... did either/both at least make it clear they were quoting and who they were quoting? Because in blog terms, I can totally understand getting a little caught up and forgetting to grab the link, as long as you remember to at least name the source. Now if these posts were something that they were getting paid for (like BNET contributors or something), then it's particularly unprofessional.

Josh S said...

There are professional standards, which I hardly expect from, you know, professional journalists these days, let alone your run-of-the-mill bloggers. These standards say that you should recognize copyright, cite your sources, and (in online publishing, anyway) provide links to source material/quotes. If professionalism is important to a person (and on the internet it should be, since professional reputations can be impacted), these standards ought to be followed.

Since I've grown cynical, I hardly expect that such standards will be followed. Heck, when a major newspaper has a headline on their website that quotes two paragraphs directly, then links to an external, unaffiliated site with a registration hurdle to see the remainder of the article, my standards are lowered immensely. (See how I linked to the the site I'm talking about there, possibly providing clicks and ad views and revenue to an entity that annoyed me earlier?) Or when a leading paper refers to a bill proposed in some legislature, but neglects to link to the government website that spells out the bill's actual language (most states keep them pretty up-to-date these days).

But even if my idea of professional standards are unlikely to be met, there's still such a thing as common courtesy. If someone mentions a comment that is noteworthy to you, others might be interested in tracking that back to its source. Whether you agree or disagree, a site that provides an interesting viewpoint, opinion, or information deserves to get the (vanishingly small) benefit your link might offer in terms of page views, ad revenue, or professional reputation.

This benefits the person you are quoting, your own readers (who may want to see both sides of the story or check your facts), and yourself--you never know when you might want to return to a once-visited blog to set someone straight or engage in lively repartee.

As for EHRL, I'd tell the link-back guy that you would appreciate a link, even in the third paragraph or at the bottom of the article. Just as a courtesy. Don't expect much, but you're entirely justified in asking.

As for the 50% quote, I'd guess that's someone attempting to get hits based off your work. There might even be some claim of copyright infringement, though I'm not sure it's worth getting litigious over. But writing an email--or even posting a comment directly on the blog--politely asking for attribution and a link-back is entirely justified and reasonable.

In fact, if the 50% guy doesn't respond, I'd add a link in the comments. Simply say, "Hello readers of XYZ Blog! I'm EHRL, the original author of the content above. If you'd like to read more of my thoughts--or even if you just want to disagree with them--please visit my site at Thanks! EHRL"

Sometimes it's oversight and a helpful reminder is enough.
Sometimes it's 'theft of ideas' (copyright infringement) and you have to play tough or do it yourself.
Sometimes it's ignorance of etiquette, and an opportunity to educate the wily denizens of teh intarwebz.

apu said...

The first guy - well, I guess you can ask him for a link, but if he doesn't oblige, too bad. The second one is worse since it is really just plagiarism. Unfortunately, without a legal notice, few people who copy bother to pay attention, even if you were to write and tell him. Worth doing anyways, IMO - plagiarists shouldn't be allowed to get away like that.

Suzanne Lucas said...

I should be clear that both referenced me by name, and the 50% guy did put a link in, but honestly, when you've already read that much of the article, I imagine you're less inclined to hit the link.

Suzanne Lucas said...

Josh--blogger marked your comment as spam. That's why the delay in posting. sorry about that.

Clobbered--you're right, I shouldn't let it bug me.

Add to that every day I get requests from some chamber of commerce or professional association saying, "Can we reprint your article, in it's entirety, for free, in our magazine/newsletter/Christmas card?" At first I was flattered, now I'm more like, "Does anybody pay for work any more?"

Adam said...

As a fellow blogger (with far less of a fan base), I think ideas are often recycled, but content surrounding these articles should have credit given where it is due. Your claim is totally justified.

Kerry Scott said...

If it's a reasonable person, I ask them to remove copyrighted material. Some people just don't know how much is too much in terms of quoting.

If it's a jerk or a spammer, I report the copyright violation directly to the hosting company. I did five of those last week alone. The hosting company removes the post (or sometimes the whole blog, if it's a spam blog) within hours. Problem solved, and it also demonstrates to these types that copyright is not just a suggestion.

KellyK said...

I don't think it's at all unreasonable to ask. It's probably best to have a clear idea in mind of what you want when you ask. For the 50% guy, do you want him to reduce what he quoted (and by how much), pull the post entirely, or what?

Don't let it bug you, though.

Anonymous said...

If even Chuck Norris can't get away with it, neither should this guy.

Kick butt and take names, and don't stand for plagiarism.

JoAnna said...

Did the 50% guy have your words in a blockquote, plus include your name and a link? If so, I don't see a problem with that.

If not, I DO see a problem with that, because he's promoting confusion. People's eyes sometimes skip over quotation marks so people may read your words thinking they're his, and that's not okay. I would definitely e-mail him and request that he put all of your words in a blockquote format at the very least.

Anonymous said...

So, obviously you don't want to provide these losers with any free advertising when they are already taking such liberties with your intellectual property, but I would be interested to see who had the audacity to disagree with the beloved Evil HR Lady. In my stint of reading your blog, I can't remember a time when I disagreed, which isn't to say that it would be impossible to disagree, just a little unlikely.

Jesusita said...

I think since the smaller portion were attributed to you (even if without a link due to pettiness on the part of the person using it), that would be fine. It's actually more appropriate to put WHERE he found it (the actual webpage, even if he doesn't actually link to it), due to the proper way of attributing writing. (Why do people think if it is on the internet or they are writing on the internet proper attribution is not necessary? It's still someone else's work.)

The second one? I do not think that using 50% of an internet work on the internet would constitute fair use (look it up on the US copyright site, for those who aren't use to the legal term). There is no set number of lines or percentage of use, but if his article is basically just agreeing with your article and reusing your information for the same purpose, that is not fair use. That is stealing someone's hard work and trying to get something from it. The appropriate use of this would be to say something such as, I feel that [insert person] has said what I believe just as well or better when he/she wrote "[insert quotation of a line or two]". Check out the rest of the article on his/her own website here [insert link]. Anything else using such a large portion of your writing would seem anything BUT fair use.

I hope it goes without saying that direct quotation by EITHER of these guys should have direct quotation marks around it, so there can be absolutely no confusion on the part of the reader that they are quoting someone else.

That all said, I would definitely contact the second guy immediately and have him explain how it constitutes fair use to use a large majority of your work, even with attribution. Just because I attribute the work to the copyright owner doesn't mean I get to use the whole thing for my own blog post.

(By the way, I am a former English teacher with a husband who is currently a college writing teacher. There are indeed set ways of attributing something in writing, and those always include helping the reader find exactly where you found it ... including internet addresses when necessary.)

Suzanne Lucas said...

Anon, 8:04 PM, you're too kind. if you want to read where he disagreed with me, here's the link:

To my amusement, most of his readers agree with me. Heh.

Anonymous said...

If they're attributing, then they're mostly in the clear. Linking is a courtesy, but not a legal requirement, and in my opinion, not worth losing sleep over. There are some who, when disagreeing with someone, deliberately don't link so as not to give the person with whom they disagree additional traffic from humans or search engines. That's mostly in cases of serious political disagreement, though.

But even with attribution, 50% is way beyond any interpretation of fair use. I think a short note expressing appreciation for using your stuff, but stating that you and BNet depend on traffic for income, and you'd prefer that he use less of your article and link people for the rest of it, is totally in-bounds. Whether you use actual copyright law terms like "copyright" and "fair use" is up to you - it may be perceived as too aggressive if you do, or it may be more effective.

Anonymous said...

Heck, it even bugs me (as a reader) to see that a professional blogger (who blogs in another language) goes "idea shopping" on your or AAM's blog without at least giving a hat-tip for that. And he's not even copying or crudely paraphrasing.

People sharing stuff they like with others, elaborating on it, discussing it, or putting their own spin on it is the essence of internet 2.0. But the "web" part of it only works when you attribute ideas to where they came from. Otherwise, it's not the internet, it's a pond full of stepping stones - maybe you'll be able to spot and hop to the next one or maybe not. So anyone who considers himself a blogger should make it his business to build the web by attributing ideas correctly (within the bounds of the reasonable, of course).

As for 50%-guy, that is just wrong. When take text from someone else, you need to show which parts you took and where from. Anyone who passed the 6th grade should know that.

(On a side note, thanks for the great blog and good luck with taking over the world!)

Deanna said...

Dear Evil HR Lady,
You have not gone off the deep end. I think you should email him. I'd start by thanking him for using your words in his blog. Then I would and let him know that you would "love to collaborate with him in the future. Any chance you could quote me next time? I will defintiely return the favor".....see if that works!
Conflict Resolution Specialist! :)

Doug in Canada said...

Hey Suzanne,
Good thread - but your comment "does anyone get paid anymore" leaves me wondering just that... Does anyone in the blogosphere ever get paid? As an HR guy in Canada, I'm more hands-on than virtual, but aside from being immensely informative and entertaining, do you do your "stuff" for love or money? And if it is for money, can you share some generalities about how you reap an income from your great blog? Or are the undying thanks from your readers income enough? I've got no ambition, but plenty'o'curiosity...


Bob said...

To be honest, that's the way the net is least they're not copying your blog and slapping up ads for it! At best you can send them a (polite) note about it, and most people will likely fix it.

As for 'journalistic standards', I laugh whenever I see that phrase in relation to online content. On the internet, there ARE no standards!

Anonymous said...

The paraphrasing blogger? Well, at least he added a link. I agree that it's a pathetic attempt at journalism and sadly ignorant.

Online HR Documents said...

I agree that you should get a link as good online etiquette, but there is nothing saying that he has to provide a link, so unfortunately it is at his discretion.

Kim said...

You're totally in the right to be asking them for a link back. If the bloggers have ads on their pages, they could b violating the terms of the ads by plagiarizing your posts. So, you can also take a step to contact whomever runs the ads.

If they don't have ads, there isn't much else you can do besides ask for whatever it is you want, whether it is credit or for them to remove it.

How did you find this though?? I never know how to look for such things.

Erin said...

I agree with The LabRat. If the quoter didn't provide a link, but did mention you by name, that's WAY less offensive than the blogger that lifted 50% of your text. With the first person, I think you handled it well by asking them to provide a link, and I think they handled it well by complying with your request. With the second person, I'd give them one (short) chance to fix it, and then I'd out them publicly for plagiarism.

Anonymous said...

You're not being unreasonable. And tell the guy to go to his library to learn the proper way to cite a source - our college library offers help with this for FREE!