November 6, 2010

The Internet And The Common Thief

Many bloggers and other internet publishers, license the use of their stuff under some form of Creative Commons License. I do. But Monica Gaudio goes one step further with her material at Gode Cookery Presents. Of example she wrote, “A Tale of Two Tarts is © 2005 by the author Monica Gaudio” at the end of her discussion of and recipes for fourteenth and sixteenth century apple pies. But that didn’t keep Cook's Source from stealing her stuff and then responding arrogantly to her reasonable request that they make a contribution to a charity as compensation.

Here’s part of the email Monica Gaudio received from Judith Griggs, managing editor of Cook's Source.

Yes Monica, I have been doing this for 3 decades, having been an editor at The Voice, Housitonic Home and Connecticut Woman Magazine. I do know about copyright laws. It was "my bad" indeed, and, as the magazine is put together in long sessions, tired eyes and minds somethings forget to do these things.

But honestly Monica, the web is considered "public domain" and you should be happy we just didn't "lift" your whole article and put someone else's name on it! It happens a lot, clearly more than you are aware of, especially on college campuses, and the workplace. If you took offence and are unhappy, I am sorry, but you as a professional should know that the article we used written by you was in very bad need of editing, and is much better now than was originally. Now it will work well for your portfolio. For that reason, I have a bit of a difficult time with your requests for monetary gain, albeit for such a fine (and very wealthy!) institution. We put some time into rewrites, you should compensate me! I never charge young writers for advice or rewriting poorly written pieces, and have many who write for me... ALWAYS for free!"

And just to add a little irony, the email ended with this,

This electronic message may contain information privileged for the addressee only.

Please be advised that the Cooks Source email addressee is not intended to be transferred to any other addressor, and any copying, distribution or use of the contents of this message is prohibited.

Internet copy is protected by copyright! No matter how tired they may be, those who steal that copy without permission are thieves pure and simple. Arrogance with or without irony is never just compensation.

Via Pharyngula

Posted by Duane Smith at November 6, 2010 3:25 PM | Read more on Odds and Ends |

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Comments

I had the same thing happen to me by a well-known columnist. Because I was just a little blogger, it was assumed I had stolen it to him. (Turns out this is called "reverse confusion.")

It also turns out that your creative writings are yours whether you post a copyright statement or not. (Turns out this is called "implied copyright.)

It's theft, straight up, and that infuriated me.

I got a lawyer, and we sued the columnist who used the excuse, "I was really busy and didn't have time to write my own article." (No. I'm not kidding or exaggerating!)

He lost. I won. Turns out I could only get the money I could prove I was out. That was approximately $100.00 plus attorney's fees. He paid them.

I got not much more than the satisfaction of his being fired. Not even a public apology.

Posted by: Mandy at November 6, 2010 9:31 PM

Let's cut to the chase with hard-hitting questions.

1) How do we enforce copyright in the Internet Age without restricting knowledge and data?
2) Taking for granted that knowledge must not be restrained, is it possible that the protection of knowledge product is being abandoned in order to build a robust knowledge service?
3) What exactly are we defending when we defend copyright? Fame? Money? The power to rest on our laurels and still collect a cheque?

Posted by: Glen Gordon at November 6, 2010 9:47 PM

The web is public domain? Oh, yeah?

1) The most effective way to enforce copyright in the world of the the web is to complain to Google. It must be done by the individual who owns the copyright, Show that your work has been plagiarized and Google stops listing the site. What does that do? It cuts off the money,

Complaining to Google not only cuts off the income, it also will set off flags if the same site gets reported by someone else. (Monica should have contacted Google -- and if she included that horrendous condescending note from a managing editor, of all things, , it would get flags set on that in-it-for-money site.)

And, yes, they have a department that handles plagiarism cases. I'll look up the url and get back to you out here.

Glen,
The word for unauthorized use of intellectual work is plagiarism.

3)All these thieves make money on someone else's work. That part seems to have passed you by.

As for 2, nonsense. Intellectual rights are still protected. Why do you think there are plagiarism checkers out there? And for goodness sake, the vast majority of the stuff out there is pure crap.

Please do not try to find excuses for theft. There are legitimate ways to use the work of another in cyber space... and these ways always include only a small part of the item and a link.

Posted by: rochelle at November 6, 2010 11:55 PM

Here we go - and you can be sure that the on-line journal that treated Monica so shabbily is using Google adsense.:

https://www.google.com/adsense/support/bin/answer.py?answer=18386

Posted by: rochelle at November 7, 2010 12:06 AM

Rochelle, evidently you're using me as a punching bag. In your irritated haste, you mistook my straight-forward questions as tacit approval of plagiarism and all I can say is that you're dead wrong about my intentions. I ask these questions in order to (hopefully) get people thinking about what this copyright issue is really about and not what it seems to be about. Sadly, it's not about personal protection even though it seems that way.

"The word for unauthorized use of intellectual work is plagiarism."

Duh, and I certainly am against plagiarism. But I'm looking way beyond that level of thinking. To effectively protect copyright in the Digital Age at all is to create a fascist internet where all data transfer is tracked. I don't know about you, but I think we're all done with East Germany.

Let's be realistic here. We don't live in the 1820s. Data can now be copied and pasted in seconds. In the 1820s it was rather hard to copy an entire book without making the effort unprofitable so plagiarism had safe limits. Not now. The internet has permanently destroyed all such obstacles to plagiarism. So we need to deal with this fact rather than pretending we can live in the 1820s again like naive Luddites.

You will NOT be protecting the copyright of average people by creating a fascist internet. You'll be creating an internet that promotes corporate interests at the expense of the people, something that can be argued is already happening as we speak. And you will have squashed the one good thing about the internet: the freedom to share perspectives, ideas and discoveries without stifling government intervention.

Posted by: Glen Gordon at November 7, 2010 12:19 PM

Glen,

I’m a little weirder out your use of the expression “fascist internet.” Are we headed toward another example of Godwin’s law with the requirement that the number of people in the discussion grows larger? While I am concerned about government or private internet tracking, even by Google, I’m far from clear what that has to do with copyright.

Just like in the old print media, internet copyright is and I think should always be enforced by a complaint filed by the owner of the copyright against whoever appears to have violated that right and Google can help with this. As Rochelle said, they can also help limit it. By the way, Mandy is correct about implied copyright. We enforce copyright in exactly the same way in the internet age as we do and did with regard to non electronic media. And that includes various forms of boycott as well as legal action (or the threat of legal action).

Copyright or other limitations in an electronic media no more restricts access to knowledge than such things do in print media. The truth is that even with copyright, electronic media availability is much greater than print media availability. Just ask anyone who has waited a couple of months for something via interlibrary loan!

I’m also not exactly sure how copyright limits availability. Nothing keeps you or anyone else from referencing my stuff. You just can’t copy it beyond the bounds of fair use for use in a profit making context, without my expressed permission. Of it were protected by copyright, you couldn't use it at all, again beyond the fair use criteria, without my permission.

As to why we might want to enforce our copyright or creative commons licenses: depending on whom and under what circumstances, fame, money, “the power to rest on our laurels and still collect a cheque” may all be factors. Done of these are intrinsically evil. Many people seeking work as professional novelists, for example, can only get royalty only based deals. Having someone steal their work takes money straight out of their pocket. That’s not exactly resting on their laurels. It’s being paid for their work. Am not certain there is a direct analogy in online publication but as time goes by there may be. You do see it to some extend in electronic publications that are behind a pay wall. I have my own issues with some, but not all, of this but that is not a question of copyright but a question of who is and isn’t being paid. The same concern applies to traditional scholarly journals. The fact is I’m a proponent of open access, particularly were the author does not get paid for his or her work anyway but open access and lack of copyright protection are two different things (not that anyone said otherwise).

As for me, the two times I have sought to enforce my creative commons license were when someone else was using my stuff in a commercial endeavor. If they are going to be paid, so should I!

Rochelle,

I find Google a multi edged sword, most of which is positive. It is a wonderful search tool and in so far as third party publishers and authors agree, it is a wonderful source of more developed information. But I’ve had my problems. At the macro level, they often don’t respond to user request very well and on one occasion I didn’t contact them because someone, far wiser in the ways of Google than I am, told me that what I was thinking of asking them to do might well make the issue far worse rather than better. While there may a few exceptions, Google only really works in the enforcement of copyright if the infraction is via an online electronic media.

Posted by: Duane at November 7, 2010 6:29 PM

I don't know how to respond anymore considering that each word I type is misinterpreted.

"I’m a little weirder out your use of the expression “fascist internet.”"

Do you honestly mean you've never read of corporate fascism or see its relevance to world issues past, present and future?

"While I am concerned about government or private internet tracking, even by Google, I’m far from clear what that has to do with copyright."

Then read Human rights and a cozy copyright conundrum for a clearer understanding.

"And that includes various forms of boycott as well as legal action (or the threat of legal action)."

Time is money. Legal action is not always the answer and complaining to megalith bureaucracies like Google who are notoriously slow to deal with problems is unlikely to be effective. We have to be realistic and pick our battles carefully instead of being idealistic and having one solution for everything.

"As for me, the two times I have sought to enforce my creative commons license were when someone else was using my stuff in a commercial endeavor. If they are going to be paid, so should I!"

Yes, so legal action has to be weighed against expense in a non-idealistic, case-by-case basis. The question however is how much profit could these people honestly stand to get for their publicly-viewable crime and why aren't you (or the charity of your choice) making more money on your own product than your imposters? You may be Mr Moneybags but is your time and energy even worth pursuing the infringement? It obviously depends on the nature of the infringement but in a vast majority of cases, I'd doubt that legal suit is worth it.

It seems overall that the people screaming "We must protect copyright" the loudest are the very ones still stuck in 1820 who can't steer their brains away from their restricted, "product-oriented" conception of their role as author or artist.

Authors or artists are not just product producers. They're service providers. Unlike data-based products, we can't mass produce services which is why any jerk who steals books and slaps their own name on it are small potatoes in the grand scheme of things.

Mimicry is the best form of flattery afterall so just milk it for the advertising, no?

Posted by: Glen Gordon at November 7, 2010 10:53 PM

This might be applicable to this topic. This is a video of Lawrence Lessig's EDUCAUSE keynote presentation (Nov 10, 2009). His talk is about copyright in the present (digital) age, particularly how it impacts the fields of Science and Education.
« http://blip.tv/play/lG2BregsAg »
(there is video in the video, it just begins after his self-intro).

Posted by: Busi at November 9, 2010 7:58 AM

Busi,

Thank you for reminding me of Lessig's speech. I wish I had thought of it earlier in this discussion. Aside for a little quibble here or there, I tend to agree with him. The question for me is what is the proper “business model” and what “ecology” should I properly promote as I think of my own blog. Within that context, I have chosen from among the least restrictive Creative Commons Licenses. I even believe that that is the proper approach for most blogs, in fact, for most online publishing media. But that is my decision and I’m not sure I’m in any position to know the business model and proper ecology is for Monica. As far as she has considered these questions at all, by asserting traditional copyright, she has made her views on this known to all potential users. Just as I want people to honor my Creative Commons License, I think potential users should honor her copyright. It’s really just that simple.


Glen,

I hope my response to Busi and Lessig's speech will help better inform where we agree and where we disagree.

Posted by: Duane at November 9, 2010 11:08 AM

Duane: "I hope my response to Busi and Lessig's speech will help better inform where we agree and where we disagree."

Nope, you've cleverly avoided explicit description of your remaining contentions and shockingly exploited another's copyrighted work just to beat around this bush. ;o)

But seriously now, I spied this video months ago so I know that the speaker gives a good talk and he competently lays out the problems. I give it a thumbs up too. Yet what he avoids clarifying is a *practical solution*, much like you idealists here.

When the speaker weakly ends his intelligent monologue with the same philosophical questions we're already pondering, the ones that led me to google up his speech in the first place, I was a bit annoyed quite frankly. If one never speaks of solutions, how can we be certain that one understands the problem? So I'll break away from this trend and talk about doable solutions.

These are the facts on which I base my views:

01: The internet's not going away.
02: Publishing is now mass-produced due to the web.
03: This mass production leads inevitably to a valueless copyright.
04: Enforcing copyright online is now ineffective.
05: Enforcing copyright online is now pointless.
06: The value of digitalizable products (music, books, speeches, blog articles, etc.) tends toward zero over time.
07: Ergo, wasting valuable energy on valueless copyright for an eventually valueless product is utterly insane.
08: Idealism explains this insane behaviour.

What here is disagreeable? Nothing. And what's our solution? Here's the People's plan of action in bite-sized jots:

01: Stop pretending your product has eternal economic value. (Drop the ego and can the laurels.)
02: Use products as expendable advertisements for your service.
03: Focus on your service, not your product, because it is that which has value in this new paradigm.

It's a realistic solution that idealists won't like. And for others, you can take Prince's lead and fade away quietly into irrelevance, chasing after dragons and unicorns. What was the correct thing that Prince should have done? He should have encouraged his fanbase to use and remix his work freely while building on his entertainment service. Oh well.

Posted by: Glen Gordon at November 9, 2010 6:59 PM

Glen,

Wake up. There is more on the Internet than academic articles.

01. Internet's not going away.
Don't be too sure about that. I'm waiting to see what happens when the latest sun-eruption finally reaches earth and then what will happen to all those satellites?

02: Publishing is now mass-produced due to the web.
True.

03: This mass production leads inevitably to a valueless copyright.
Dead wrong.

04: Enforcing copyright online is now ineffective.
Wrong again. If you know what to do, that is.

05: Enforcing copyright online is now pointless.
Hardly.Out in the real world it's done everyday.

06: The value of digitalizable products (music, books, speeches, blog articles, etc.) tends toward zero over time.

The whole point of the on-line content sites is perpetual pennies, daily. So, now these thousands of authors are supposed to just lie down and let someone else reap their pennies? People on these sites are writing for income and many depend upon those pennies to survive.

Contentspinners (yes, there is such a thing) are more an irritation than a problem because spinners are computer programs that throw in synonyms and the re-published stolen content reads as gibberish.

The serious problems are those such as Monica G.'s -- and it keeps happening. As a result, Content writers run weekly checks for plagiarism. There is, in fact, a standard procedure to follow. If the soft-soap way does not work (and it does more often than you appear to think), you can go to Google complaints -- because the sites that steal are getting those pennies through Google Adsense. Plagiarism is specifically against Adsense Terms of Service.

07: Ergo, wasting valuable energy on valueless copyright for an eventually valueless product is utterly insane.

Strange, there are on-line authors (whom I happen to know) who are still getting income from articles written 5 years ago. And, as you know, here today and gone 10 minutes later is the usual life-span of Internet copy.

08: Idealism explains this insane behaviour.

Insane behaviour?To protect your income? Tell that to a single mom who is getting her income from her articles on a content site. (I personally know of several.) This aspect does not seem to be included in your "basis" -- though I'd call them premises, because that is what they are.

It's not idealism, Glen, it's dollars and cents. And Monica G. should still complain to Google... if they did it to her, they are doing it to others and that on-line-magazine site should be closed down -- or get a new managing editor.

Posted by: rochelle at November 9, 2010 11:42 PM

Rochelle: "01. [...] Don't be too sure about that."

I assumed you were a serious commenter.

03: [...] Dead wrong.

Whatever. The consistent, diminishing economic value of a mass-produced product is basic economics.

"04: [...] Wrong again. If you know what to do, that is."

You missed the part where I explained that wasting valuable time on valueless rights is fruitless. So do what you must and lose money and time. Good luck. It's alright though. We can learn to disagree if you're too angry to talk right now.

"05: [...] Hardly.Out in the real world it's done everyday."

And each day in the real world, the fight is lost. Prince is again an example: lost legal fees, lost time, even lost fans. In all that time, he could have focused on his business while his fans advertised him for free through word-of-mouth and opensource remixes. A fail for him.

"06: [...] People on these sites are writing for income and many depend upon those pennies to survive."

This is hilarious considering that you're talking down to an avid blogger. And who are you? We don't know because you have no link under your name. You're just "Rochelle" among millions in the world distinguished only by a mountain of anger.

And further what could you possibly expect me to do about modern reality? Just deal with it. If you know something doesn't work, why keep doing it?? Money's not going to fall on your lap so stop being egotistical.

"07: [...] Strange, there are on-line authors (whom I happen to know) who are still getting income from articles written 5 years ago."

Which proves nothing. They won't be getting that income for long and they'll have to rejoin reality again, the plane of existence where most people work very hard for a living. Expecting to get a cheque from outdated books is especially nonsensical. In economic terms, it's called "market bubble".

08: [...] Insane behaviour?To protect your income?"

Your hysterical strawman attacks are getting boring. I never said this. I suspect what's really driving your anger is not copyright so much as your lack of organized business planning. Your shallow copyrights won't help you there.

Posted by: Glen Gordon at November 10, 2010 5:15 PM

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