On Blog Etiquette and Content Ownership

It's time for a friendly reminder:

It's not cool to steal content from somebody else's blog to put on your own.

If you're quoting 98% of somebody else's blog post on your own blog, you're pirating their content.

A quick excerpt and a link? Those are awesome. All bloggers, authors aspiring to share their message with the world, love and respect the shout out. Thanks for sending traffic our way. Thanks for telling us that you've enjoyed something we've written, enough to point it out to others.

But there are way too many people out there who take an entire blog post and quote it on their blog. When you do that, you're stealing our content, and you're stealing our traffic.

Tracking the traffic to my blog and to its specific posts, and tracking the comments I receive in response, these are how I measure the value of my blog. This is a strong component of how many bloggers measure the value of their blogs. If you duplicate my content elsewhere, you are impeding my ability to measure. People might visit your site and see only your copy of my words, and not see the copy on my site. That means that I don't see the traffic. People might comment on the copy on your site, and not mine. I won't see those comments. You confuse Google, and you risk search engines ranking both of our sites lower based on the perception of lesser value due to duplicative content.

Stealing content like that is not fair, nor is it right. It doesn't matter if you think we're over reacting; the law is very clear. I own those words, the contents of everything I post; you do not. I get to control what happens to my content, and you do not. Duplicating entire posts goes far beyond "fair use" and is potentially legally actionable.

Perhaps I'm a bit more familiar with copyright law and fair use guidelines, and the importance of ownership of one's writings, because I live with a writer (and I worked in print before I came to the online realm). I don't think I'm that out of the norm, though, and it does bum me out to people not pay attention to the rules.

My recommendation is that if you ever find your content substantively duplicated on another site, file a DMCA take down notice with the site owner. If the site owner ignores you, file a second one with the ISP. The ISP (or upstream) will usually not ignore it, and they will often take the entire site down, if the site owner doesn't comply.

My apologies if you feel that sending a DMCA notification is a draconian measure. I can understand -- I myself have been on the receiving end of baseless DMCA takedown requests -- but this is an actual, legitimate use of the law. These are real copyright violations. And a site owner or content publisher is given an opportunity to rebut the allegation and hold their ground, if they are doing something they feel is defensible.

(BTW, this problem is essentially why I set the RSS feeds for my sites to only show only the first bit of a post, and not every entire post. This is because there were a couple of lame, fake anti-spam blog sites out there that aggregate content from RSS feeds without asking, and were posting entire copies of my posts without my consent. Besides chasing after the sites to knock it off, I modified my RSS feeds to make it less easy to automate content theft.)

My apologies for the off-topic rant. We'll return shortly to our regularly scheduled topics.