Copyright, Auto-blogs, and an Outdated System

via Death to the Stock Photo
via Death to the Stock Photo

Today, I find myself incredibly frustrated by the internet, our outdated copyright system, and the lack of help out there for independent bloggers. Yesterday’s coffee post ended up at Destinary.com, a site that appears to take bloggers’ content and publish it without their knowledge or permission, in its entirety, to drive traffic and advertising revenue. This site is very similar to Tinseltownnews.com, a site that posted my full Princess Bride post a few weeks ago.

The two share almost identical copyright pages. Their suggestions for avoiding copyright infringement are to stop WordPress promoting posts (which would limit exposure to potential new readers), to make posts private or password protected (which would add another step for readers, who already have so little time), and/or to publish only summaries rather than full text (which would again add another step for busy readers). The pages also suggest an unawareness of the terms “public domain” and “fair use.” Both are bandied about, but in ways that don’t actually make sense. “Public domain” doesn’t mean anything that is published on the Internet, which is how the sites use the term; “fair use” doesn’t mean just taking things so long as you provide a link back.

The sites claim to be powered by WordPress—or at least they have a line at the bottom suggesting they are, but after looking deeper into the sites, they aren’t hosted by WordPress, so I’m going to have to do some more investigating and composing of thoughts and ideas. That the content disappears from the blogs after 7 days is a problem, as it limits permalinking, which is a generally a must-have in Internet copyright infringement cases. Screenshots are a good ally in this case.

These sites are auto-blogs, and the idea of that gives me the shivers. Now I can imagine, perhaps, usefulness of such software. It’s not the program I’m annoyed with, as it’s just a program. But the way the person, or set of persons, is using this software is a problem. This is not a person combing through blogs, reading them and deciding which ones would be best used, truncating posts and making sure the independent bloggers that are powering these sites get credit—it’s software set up to comb entries for keywords and categories and reprint them, site unseen by a human, on a blog full of advertisements. In other words, this is use of auto-blogs to make money from other bloggers. A post never need be written if others can just be copied over with advertisement added to collect revenue.

It’s long past time that we revise our ideas of and enforcement of copyright, especially on the Internet. Filing complaints is time-consuming and confusing, and it’s not always clear where or who you should go to or even what rights which person holds. Auto-blogging is just one of many ways of infringing on or taking someone else’s work—-more sophisticated than copy and paste, but they essentially amount to the same thing. I don’t know what the solution is, but there has to be a better one than just allowing content theft.

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51 Comments

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  1. I’ve decided to take advantage of Destinary’s automated skimmer. Since they’ve reposted several of my travel related posts I’m now including this in all future travel posts, which hopefully their automated skimmer will include with the rest of the material:

    “By the way, if you’re reading this and other material authored by me on The Destinary website, this post was not “Posted on (fill in the date) | By destinary” as they’ve been erroneously claiming; this material was in fact reposted. The Destinary have also been claiming the right to do so, without links back to the original and without full attribution (“by R. Doug” and a nonworking link is not proper attribution) with a rather bizarre interpretation of U.S. copyright law in which they claim I’m responsible for changing my RSS feed settings so that they cannot skim my material for commercial purposes. That would make reading my blog less convenient for you, which I’m not willing to do. As such, I’ll be running this little diatribe on all travel related posts until they cease and desist, along with this:

    “© 2015 R. Doug Wicker (RDougWicker.com)
    All right reserved — that includes you Destinary

    “Final note: Considering this is a site run by a travel agency, you may want to rethink doing business with them.”

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    1. ha! Not a bad idea.

      I have managed to avoid being on their radar much anymore by changing the tags I use, but it is bothersome. There are other blogs that do this same thing, though, and I’ve been caught by them a few times, as well. Such a horrible practice!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, Destinary fell into my little trap. They ran in full my latest travel post, including the aforementioned information on their skimming practices. I hope they enjoy their visitors reading that.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Terrifying. Thank you for alerting me to this awful practice; in my naivety, such a thing had never occurred to me. Dreadful abuse of the system. xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh I had no idea that this software was out there. I am, unfortunately, not all that surprised at its abuse. I am surprised that there doesn’t seem to be a real way to combat it aside from tampering with blog settings that could hurt my own blog’s readership.

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      1. Damned ironic that we, the ‘small’ bloggers should have to risk harm to our ‘babies’ in order that the Great White Sharks of the blogging world can continue to go their revoltingly predatory way through oceans lliterary and non-literary.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Glad you’re raising this one Diana. I believe in true Andy style the Wandering Poet has threatened some of these with legal action and had his blog removed. So if you see it happening to you it’s worth a shot contacting them, even if it’s via email.

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    1. I commented back and forth with the Tinseltown site several times to no avail. They maintain that they’re not doing anything wrong and that WP is actually encouraging them to do this. That part really concerns me, and I’m trying to figure out what they mean. The Destinary site doesn’t even have contact information up.

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  4. Reblogged this on Sourcerer and commented:
    Diana and I rarely reblog one another, but I want this back out there one more time before the weekend. If you missed it, it’s about automated blogs that pull entire posts from the WordPress tags and use them to generate ad revenue. That is a lousy way to make money. We’re non-commercial, and we’re aware of just how tenuous any claim we have to copyright for our stuff is. But we believe in fair use. If there were any real promotional value for the blogs that having their stuff ripped off like this, it might be different. But there’s not.

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  5. So, after thinking about the first one for a while now and seeing the second one it’s time to use minor profanity on the comment thread. This fucking pisses me off Ooops! that wasn’t so minor 😉

    Now, I’ll try and give you the concise version of the rant. It’s not the potential of my own authorial rights being violated that makes me angry enough to drop an f-bomb. It’s the fact that here were are, tiny little bloggers, trying to have fun and get people to read our writing at the same time. And when we use other peoples’ work, we always keep it to 20% of the text or so (and really 100 words whenever possible) and we always link back. And our links are permanent unless we take something down. And we’re not making any money because we’re so small, we’re not even sure it’s cost-effective to pay for premium accounts at this point, much less deal with the hassle of ad revenue. And here they are copying the whole thing, leaving it up for a week, using it attract advertising money until it’s done all the good it can, then deleting it.

    That offends me in so many ways I can’t express it properly. It’s against everything I stand for. It offends my senses of justice and fair-play. How hard would it be to set it up to just pull the first three paragraphs? And really, the amount of storage space required to maintain a year’s worth of blog archives is negligible. But of course, then there’d actually be a reason for someone to click an unpaid off-site link.

    Most everything I post is intended to be used, shared, discussed, poked-fun-at, and otherwise enjoyed, as long as it’s not mean-spirited and I get a link. On most weeks, I give most of the prime posting slots to other bloggers and I spend my time working to make the weekends as good as weekdays. All that said, I will be even more angry when one of my original photos lands on one of these sites.

    Questions: Do you suppose they have a separate set of bots that they use to cleverly inflate the click-throughs on the ads? I’m wondering if there’s even a significant human presence there at all, or if it’s some script-writers siphoning money out of the economy. Can’t imagine any person who’s even halfway savvy spending much time on those sites, and don’t know all that many people who click on internet ads.

    The only two ways I see that it could be stopped:

    1. WordPress tracks and bans these sites.

    2. The domain host takes them down.

    Either of those options is too big for one person, or even a handful, to accomplish.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I also tweeted the link a second time, pinned it to my profile, and tweeted a cryptic message to all our followers that they should look at the tweet I just pinned. What is it we used to say? “It’s called Sourcerer for a reason.” 😉 Saying that always cracks me up.

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        1. 🙂 Indeed. I’m glad that you and so many others passed this along, as it’s an important thing for bloggers to talk about. We’re in a weird, liminal space as far as copyright is concerned, and it’s all too easy for blogs to be exploited, apparently.

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    1. I can’t either. That’s part of the issue I have—-if my content were just removed, or if there were just part of it there that pointed back here, I wouldn’t be so bothered. The fact that posts only stay up for 7 days suggests to me that they know what they’re doing; copyright claims aren’t going to be responded to in just a week, and after that the permalink and offending stance is gone. Of course, there are screenshots, which I have, but as the most that happens is usually being asked to remove the content and given a warning, there’s little anyone will do, at least from what I can tell.

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        1. These are linked back to me, which is the only way I found out that they were copied. But I have a problem with my entire post being copied and put onto a site so that someone else can earn money from the advertisements. If it weren’t monetized and/or was someone pulling just part of a post, so that there would be a reason for users to come to my blog, it wouldn’t be as bad. The way it’s set up is obviously just to earn money without from advertisers without having to write content.

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  6. Reblogged this on DBCII and commented:
    Great post, and though I tend to save re-blogs for Sundays, I think this one needs consideration.

    Oh hey, and look, this is the *appropriate* way to share a post by someone else… use the existing share features, that promote a post while still making you click through to the original post to see the content! Please do make that click-through!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is the best comment on a reblog I have ever read.

      I had to resist the temptation to reblog this immediately myself, but I have a schedule and we can’t have the same thing at the tops of two blogs. I’m saving the old ammo until this is buried by three days worth of posts and gone from the news feeds.

      Thanks so much for reblogging it!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing it there. It is really frustrating, mostly because there isn’t a real precedent, and it’s difficult to figure out who to talk to and what to say about it. This is proving to be a productive conversation about it all, though, if for no other reason than alerting people to the issue.

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        1. Absolutely. Small blogs are at a real risk of being taken advantage of, and there doesn’t seem much to be done until more people are aware of the problem so that we can make some real noise about it.

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    1. Yes—and there are even more ways to steal intellectual property now with fewer consequences because of the technology that we have. It’s a conundrum.

      Like

    1. I regularly search through my spam folder to be sure I don’t miss anyone’s comments, and I found pingbacks to both of these in the spam folder. You’re pinged, and there’s a link to your blog on the autoblog if this happens, but since the whole post is there, it’s unlikely that anyone will click through. The keepers, at least of Tinseltown, claim that you get a reader hit every time someone clicks your entry on their page, but considering that they’re not even WordPress powered, I highly doubt that.

      Liked by 1 person

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