Thursday, June 25, 2009

Another Day, Another Rip Off?

What is it about the Internet that causes people to rip off content with absolutely no shame? Is there some Web protocol that I'm missing that outwardly encourages or tolerates this behavior?

Thanks to Google Alerts, I constantly find my articles posted on unknown (to me) websites with little or no credit to me or the publications I write for.

I don't even hope for permission or compensation any more, but credit would certainly be nice.

It really angers me to find something like I did today: Not only was an article that I worked extremely hard on posted on a site I'd never heard of, but there was no identifying information for me (beyond my byline) or the publication where it originated.

What's worse, the offending website seems to have obtained the article from an online syndication service. That means this company is making money by distributing my work without my permission, while violating the copyright of the publication that did pay me.

Arghhhhh ....

If you want to recommend an article, that's fine. But link to it so folks can read it on the site where it is originally posted. If you want to include a short abstract with the link, to catch peoples' attention, no problem.

But please don't do an uncredited, unauthorized copy-and-paste of the entire content. That's just wrong.

I've lodged my complaints over today's violations, both by phone and email. We'll see what kind of response I get. Based on past experience, I have to say I'm not holding my breath.

Has this happened to anyone else? If so, how did you handle it?

UPDATE: I did get responses to my complaints, both from the offending website and the syndicate. I haven't been able to connect with the syndicate yet, but the email exchange with the website representative had what my editor characterized as a "snotty" tone - on their part.

The idea that came through loud and clear is that my request was unreasonable and unacceptable.

However, when I pointed out the lack of copyright and the professional and legal confusion that could easily result from my name being on something that's unlabeled, the piece was removed from the website quickly.

My editor assures me he'll bring this up with the corporate suits responsible for such matters, and make sure it doesn't happen again. I'm still not sure the fault is on our side, but I'm very glad that rattling the cage got some action.

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