acc_theft

They come in the night, while you are sleeping. They take away the most precious in your blog: Your content. It’s the content thieves who are not finking about the work you’ve had to do in blogging so far.

Oh, My God! What The Fink Happened?

Recently I’ve been a victim to content theft. Most of my posts were taken and republished on another blog, along with the pictures in them that were simply hotlinked. So not only wasn’t my content uniquely attributed to me anymore, but the thief also rewarded me by stealing my bandwith.

The Problem

Apparently, a lot of people out there think that everything that you find in the net is free to use and to share. If you’re one of them, which I hope not, then you are a moron and should get a smacked bottom by whoever is sitting next to you. Everything that has been put in the net by someone, is protected by copyright. I know that YouTube and all other videoportals don’t exactly help making that point clear, since videos are pushed on the darn thing faster than the admins can check on them and say: “Don’t do it! This is not yours. Did you ask for permission?” Most common for image theft is Googles image search. There is no indication which pictures are free to use and which are not. And it is also lacking a warning1.

What I also hate, is FeedAggregators. Blogperfume, one of my favourite blogs about blogging, should be ashamed for advertising on themes that can do that. I know they didn’t make the theme, nevertheless I believe they didn’t fink about the fact that it could be used to grab content from their site. Official sites like Technorati gather your content making it impossible for readers to get to the blog with one click. First you have to get through a lot of stuff like blog reactions to make you see how authoritative2 this blog is.

What You Should Know About Copyright

So let me get this clear, once and for all, what copyright is.3

“Copyright law is essentially a system of property” and “its province is communication”4.

The first part means that copyright can be sold, donated or leased like a property5. Its province is not machines or processes.6 Also, it is not concerned with titles, slogans or other business symbols7. Copyright protects works of art and literature, and that means also any sort of graphic or text in the net. To be more specific in the matter, let’s look how the U.S. constitution defines copyright:

“[copyright protects] original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed, from which they can be perceived, reproduced or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.”8

We can see that there are three criterias to fulfill to make something copyright protected according to U.S. law.

  • Fixation: The work must be in a tangible form, i.e. for music in the form of notation. For the internet you may apply the same as a real piece of paper, but in practise its tangible form would be the data on the harddrive.
  • Originality: You have only copyright for what is your own words. Quotes do not fulfill the criteria of originality. As everything might have been written or drawn anywhere, derivational works can be copyright protected as well.9
  • Expression: Theories and facts are public domain and not copyrightable.10

What you can do against content theft

First of all, you shouldn’t be too upset. Obviously, somebody found your post so good that he/she decided to take it and make it his/hers, the little schmuck. Then, you should be upset. After all it is your work on which you have spent hours, if not days, if not months, if not years.

When you find your text being stolen:

  1. Contact the (blog/website) owner. If you cannot find a name or (email) address, use Whois to find it. In an email you state your case11
  2. When the owner doesn’t respond, contact the host of the website. You can find out the host by using Whois.
  3. Inform search engines about the theft.

When you find your images stolen, you can prevent hotlinking with the WP Image Protection Plugin. I have been using it on FinkAboutIt.com since the first content thefts. However, it will not help against people who host your images on their blog by themselves. Therefore, be sure to add a copyright inside all your precious pictures. Although they are already protected by Copyright, some idiots will still think they are free to take.

Conclusion

The majority of people don’t steal content on purpose. It’s just that they don’t know better. I wonder why they have never learned about plagiarism. Is it that they are just consuming, not giving a fink about who created what? Or is it a lack of productivity and the little they do they don’t care about? Is it a gathering and hunting of things, instead of a taking it on, making something new?

Whatever the reasons may be. Here are a  some constructive suggests for solution:

  • Schools, teach your students about plagiarism.
  • Students, spread the word to your friends & family.
  • And blogowners, link to this article.
  1. The information about copyright is so hard to find, I even had too google the page. []
  2. that means popular []
  3. As you go along my article, notice how to give proper attribution and quotations. You can use footnotes like this and in addition to that you should use blockquotes. []
  4. according to Strong, The Copyright Book, 1990. []
  5. e.g. like a piece of land []
  6. They would go to the patent law. []
  7. i.e. TM law []
  8. according to U.S.C. §102(a); highlighting by me []
  9. e.g. Somebody translates a text. His translation is copyrightable by him, but not the original text by the other creator. Copyright would only protect the illegitimate use of his translation. []
  10. Therefore I don’t have to attribute heaven is blue or there is gravitational force to anybody []
  11. Lorelle provides a template for that – see section “Contact the Thief“. []

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