The Bitch Slap: That is Not Yours

online copyright theft

I bought this shit at iStockPhoto, yo.

If you’re reading this, you most likely click through to a wide variety of websites each day. From Facebook and Twitter, RSS feeds and things your friends send you via email (LMFAO – you have to watch this). Many of you are fortunate enough to have your words and creations shared in the same way across these channels. People like your take (or not), think you’re funny (think you’re an asshole) and they want to share your message with the people that they influence, care about and who give a flying monkey’s ass about what they think is worth having a gander at.

This week’s bitch slap is about shit that isn’t yours. Shit you don’t have a right to copy, repost, or reprint. It’s not yours.

I’m in New York City this week, speaking at BlogWorld Expo East. Oddly enough, on the topic of “Naughty, Naughty Blogger: the Legal Implications of Blogging.” My co-presenter was none other than Janet Cullum, a leading Intellectual Property attorney with Cooley LLC, and from whom I picked up some pretty serious knowledge. I’m going to share that with you today.

Yesterday, I read a blog post from Matt Inman of The Oatmeal. (Yeah, you might know him – bestselling book, a million plus hits a day on his website. Yeah, him.) He’s having a bit of a problem with FunnyJunk.com allowing user-submitted copies of his work without attribution or linkback. Aside from the epic arrogance and fucktardery of the commentators at FunnyJunk saying he’s ungrateful, an asshole and worse (like “kill the oatmeal” – comment subsequently removed, yet not before 9 jackwagons gave it an upvote), Matt’s not the only artist with stolen images on the site. There are sites around the web that make sunshiny-fucking-day business out of the advertising revenue that comes from people wanting to view stolen content. It’s bullshit to the Nth degree.

When you go got the trouble to create anything and put it online, the law offers you implied copyright. You don’t have to apply for copyright protection for every piece of content you create (this is fact). So when unsavory sites around the web seek to gain financially from content that’s scraped and otherwise stolen from other sites, they are, indeed, practicing copyright infringement. That’s legalese for:

That’s not yours, you don’t have permission to use it and TAKE THAT SHIT DOWN!

It happens to The Oatmeal. To 27B/6. XKCD. RedheadWriting. Copyblogger. And it’s possible you patronize a site that profits from stolen content.

You’re getting bitch slapped.

Here’s the thing: we owe a debt of gratitude to the people who create things that make us laugh, think and want to share. When I was in school and writing a research paper, I had to include those stupid fucking bibliographies, footnotes and endnotes. PAIN IN THE ASS. But if I didn’t, I’d get my ass hauled in for plagiarism and then get the privilege of redoing the paper. Again. With thoughts that were my own.

People who have their content stolen shouldn’t be grateful to the people who left click/save or the sites who allow the upload. They should be pissed. Saying they should be grateful to thieves is the same asinine argument that a shoplifter offers a retailer: “I couldn’t afford it/your prices are too high so I stole it.”

You can’t steal movies via Bit Torrent. It’s against the law.

You can’t steal music (remember Napster?). It’s against the law.

You can’t simply use something because you find it online (hello, Cook’s Source).

You can’t be an anonymous commentator and say the solution to this problem is to “kill the oatmeal.”

Quit being a douche canoe (which is a statement of opinion and thus, not defamation/libel) and give credit where credit is due.

Here are some guides for sharing the content you find online:

  • Use only what’s necessary: When referring to another source online (image, text, otherwise), use only enough as is necessary to make your point. That’s a quote. An excerpt. And in the case of images, it’s NOT reposting the image unless you’ve acquired the appropriate license.
  • Just because it’s online doesn’t mean you can use it. For fuck sake, learn this, would you? I’ve screwed up, you’ve screwed up. We thought something was funny and we saved the image and reposted it. Quit it. Everything online pretty much has a copyright attached to it (just like everything on this site). If you take it, you’re breaking the law.
  • Ask the question. Hey, Mr. Blogger/Cartoonist/reporter – can I use that? I get requests multiple times each week to use my content and I share my guidelines. No more than 50 words quoted with a full linkback to the original source. I’m soooo grateful when people ask. Be one of the people that creators appreciate instead of hate.

So what do you do when you find that people are stealing your shit? Well, there are a few bits of recourse for content creators:

  • DMCA: The Digital Millenium Copyright Act – read this, know it. When you have issues with other sites stealing your content, submit a takedown notice. There are subscription services who will do this for you or you can do it yourself for free.
  • Send a request to the offender – Be nice (though it’s easy to not want to be) and request that the offending content be taken down. State that you own the copyright. Sign it. File it on your computer.
  • Contact the offender’s web host – Every hosting company has a customer service department. Use a site like this to find the hosting provider and then give ’em a ring. Hosting companies take things like copyright infringement and privacy quite seriously, as their lifespan as a service provider depends on it.
  • Have your attorney send a C&D – It’s legalese for “stop that shit right now.” It’s a formal legal correspondence to request that someone ceasing the practice of something that’s in violation of the law. It costs money, but your shit is worth it, right?

And for the record, I’m not fucking Matt Inman. He’s someone I’ve followed for awhile now and actually got the chance to meet over a burlesque show and a burger earlier this year when he came through Denver. Bottom line, he’s no different than you or me – he creates, and that means he’s entitled to certain protections under the law.

Stand up. Don’t be a prick. Give credit for what you use because you want people to give you credit for what you create. There’s enough pissing and moaning on Twitter about not being credited as the original source on a fucking retweet, so extend your gall to those who don’t properly credit in other cases as well.

This is a slap we all need from time to time, as the internet ain’t free and contrary to what David Meerman Scott might say about content wanting to be free, it ain’t. In my opinion, nor should it be. That’s like telling my attorney he should share his mad skillz with me for free. Bonkers, I say.

Click it, share it, give credit and like water in the desert – use only what you need. If you’ve ever had anything in your life stolen from you, it sucks and the web makes it easier than ever to swipe shit and go undetected. If you have a story to share, share it, because I think we’re all in somewhat of the same position.

And now…you’ve been slapped.

74 comments
Mike Asbury
Mike Asbury

Where have I been all your life?!?  Gotta admit that I plan on spending a lot of time with you this weekend.  I absolutely LOVE this site (and the voice you've given it)!

Jake Davidow
Jake Davidow

Fucking love this post! There is a level on anonymity that the internet gives people - and with that is a lowering of moral/ethical standards. It's like the lord of the flies - with no one to know what shit you're getting up to would you still go out and do it? People don't shoplift because there is the risk of getting caught and your ass kicked... However online douche canoes (is that yours?) abound and the level of fucktardation is off the charts - but it's great that there are bloggers like you throwing it down. Right on!

Mazarine
Mazarine

Question: Is there a website or a service that can keep track of what you write and check that none of your content has been stolen or reprinted on other websites? More than just a google alert for your name?

Kate Molloy Carpenter
Kate Molloy Carpenter

Same rules apply for pictures!  Microstock or clip art- don't steal, people!  I'm a new reader, love the blog... 

The Redhead
The Redhead

You rock on with your awesome C&D self, Robin! Nice work :)

J.D. Meier
J.D. Meier

> the people who create things that make us laugh, think and want to share Hats off to these people.  In the words of The Black-Eyed Peas, "I Just Can't Get Enough ..."

Farnoosh
Farnoosh

I am ever so glad I came to your session, fabulous Erika, and thank you again for putting this information out there. I've had my photography stolen AND manipulated by a crazed woman obsessing to be me (should be flattering .. yeah, wasn't!) - and Yahoo & Flickr were very cooperative. I was lucky. Thank you again and it was lovely to meet you at Blogworld.

Steve_thomas
Steve_thomas

I really enjoyed this post, Erika.  Thievery of "creative content", especially by those who lack any degree of creativity themselves is deplorable! Even moreso when perpetrated by those who should (and do) know better and do it, anyway.  I'm want you to know I really love this blog. . .what you say and the way you say it leaves no doubt as to your sentiment and meaning.  You rock.  BTW, I want you to know I posted a link to Redheadwriting on my own blog (Walking The Cat) and used a link to your blog post "Ink".  Not to worry, you got complete credit for the post.  "Ink" is one of my favorites from among your many really, really relevant posts.  Love Ya!!

buy steroids uk
buy steroids uk

is there anyway to really prevent content theft/reposting ?

Robin
Robin

Wonderful information. People have been stealing my text and images for years. As an Extension educator, I gladly share my info and images for educational purposes but have been quite upset to see my work used for commercial purposes. One very large international company actually scanned one of my photos from a magazine to use for advertising their product. Several frustrating emails to no avail until I used the very efficient phrase, "Please cease and desist use of this image or I will turn this over to our legal department." Movement within minutes. Keep fighting the good fight!

The Redhead
The Redhead

The weather in NYC has been great this week! A few of us might be getting together later tonight - I'll ping you on teh twitterz.

The Redhead
The Redhead

Great! Thanks so much for the links!

Eric Terrell
Eric Terrell

Happened across this via The Oatmeal's facebook (as have others I have no doubt) and I wanted to say this is beautifully put.

Brandon Yanofsky
Brandon Yanofsky

I agree with you, but I had a random thought pop in my head that I'd like to see your opinion on this. As the music industry was having music stolen by napster, it sat around and complained with lawsuits. Then, people found ways to monetize off it. Like David merman Scott says about grateful dead. Is it possible we content producers might turn into the music industry? Again, not a fully formulated though, so feel free to tear me a new one if you think I'm being idiotic.

Sam Turri
Sam Turri

Thanks for writing about an important issue that doesn't always get the respect it deserves. Query: What about fair use? Such as when I used the Bing logo in a post about Bing? Fair use is an actual thing, right?

Leon Noone
Leon Noone

G'Day Erika, You tell em kiddo!  I ran an offline business for 30 years. I've been online for three. The biggest surprise online has been the appallingly low ethical standards..Lack of attribution and dead-set plagiarism are but two of them. Bitch slap on ma'am. Regards Leon

Kellie J. Walker
Kellie J. Walker

"Amen!" to this post. For years, I've gotten irked and downright pissed off at friends who want to "borrow" my CD's and DVD's so they can copy them. They just blink dumbly at me when I point out that it is the equivalent to walking into a store and stealing a hard copy of same. The crazy thing is that one of them works in the music business locally. Really!?!?! C'mon. Grow up!

zevelle
zevelle

i am a photographer but new to the whole "on the world wide web" game (yes, shuck your bloody mouth i live under a rock).  kind sir, what is this tool to find our altered images? ahthankyewverymuch!

Brian Watkins
Brian Watkins

Totally. There is a feeling of violation that goes way beyond "hey, that's not cool." Aside whatever objective value there may be to a piece of your writing, it's a part of you, and watching that part of you being whored around twists the stomach.

Brian Watkins
Brian Watkins

I wrote a post along similar lines this week when I discovered one of my articles posted on a blog that essentially is nothing more than reposting, verbatim and in their entirety, articles by various authors. The person targets ezinearticles, since their policy states that whatever an author posts can be reposted as long as it's unaltered. I still think this is a crappy way to run a site - benefiting content-wise and SEO-wise from others' work.

SL Clark
SL Clark

I'll send another comment to the top for this: It is a "reverse" image search engine anyone can use:  http://ideeinc.com/products/tineye/ Want to know how powerful this stuff is, try their "cool searches" link:  http://www.tineye.com/cool_searches Got an image of a product, want to know what is and where to get it for less, try Tin Eye... 1,001 uses, some of them make photographers LOTS of $$$....

Mari Kurisato
Mari Kurisato

great giggling gods in a gimpsuit, preach on! 

The Redhead
The Redhead

It's no effort at all to link. Just something people don't feel a need to do, unfortunately. (sigh)

The Redhead
The Redhead

I fully credit Marian Schembari with "douche canoe." @MarianLibrarian:twitter 

The Redhead
The Redhead

To my knowledge, you are not liable. But you have prompted me to look for some photo protection!

Nancy
Nancy

And another thing! If you are going to make your own video and post it to YouTube or your website and share it across social media... and if you used a piece of music for the soundtrack of that video, you know, to give it more emotional pull and viewer interest, and you didn't write that piece of music yourself... you are stealing. Uh, that is, unless you paid for the rights to use that music. Did you? No. You got it from your iTunes library, didn't you? Here's the thing. If you are going to steal music by not paying for the right to use it, please, at least, have the decency to give credit to the musician who wrote that music, who devoted months and months and lots of bucks to make and record and distribute that music. There. Your bitch slap helped me create my own. Thank you. I feel better.

Carole
Carole

Hey, thanks for the info on services that do takedown, watermarks, etc. Good to know and much appreciated. And thanks for the post too. Well said! Carole Raschella www.artbyraschella.com

Ben Anderson
Ben Anderson

Ouch! That one hurt. I fear that I've used images without asking on occasion. I rarely quote someone in full when it's easier to link to what they have to say so I feel like I'm ok there. But I find myself justifying my "theivery" of images by the fact that I don't save them and present them as my own I use the hosted link to the image to insert it in my posts...I feel like this is giving attribution to the image because it links back to the original (or at least the site I stole it from). After being slapped I have learned my lesson. I will either use paid for licensed material or ask for permissions to use an image in the future. 

SL Clark
SL Clark

Great Post!! criminal = five years in prison and up to a $250,000 monetary fine, per infraction! Photographers have tools to locate their *altered* images on the Net. "Borrow" one at your own peril. Text is coming around to having similar tools. Bottom line, catching infringers pays well.

Kel Hinkle
Kel Hinkle

I've had photos stolen and used and man, it pisses me off.  I am more than willing to share; and yes, it is flattering that you find my work beautiful or useful.  But give me the respect I deserve as an artist and ASK me first.  'Cause ya know what?  Chances are, I'll hand over permission with pleasure.  But if you steal from me, I become a bitchtastic individual.

TravelnLass
TravelnLass

And furthermore (i.e. the oft/usual feigned innocence response to such): "So when unsavory sites around the web seek to gain financially from content that’s scraped and otherwise stolen from other sites, they are, indeed, practicing copyright infringement." The law is clear that the infringement NEED NOT BE "for financial gain".  In short, reposting ANYTHING regardless if it's on a ruble-making site or a mom/pop personal site with nary a prayer of financial gain is THEFT.  Pure and simple. In short, if it's nifty enough to repost, then it's jolly well worth asking permission from the nifty creator, or at least troubling yourself to peck a linked attribute to same. There.  That felt better! ;)

D.T. Pennington
D.T. Pennington

FURTHERMORE! If they "kill the oatmeal" then they would just have one less person to steal content from. 

D.T. Pennington
D.T. Pennington

Maybe if The Oatmeal didn't charge so much or have such an annoying paywall then I wouldn't have to go to Funny Junk! Oh, wait. . .  Also, for the record, I am fucking Matt Inman. 

Ed Mahoney
Ed Mahoney

What happens if people download your iStockPhoto pics and repost them?  Are you responsible - even though you licensed it - because you posted it without protection?  I buy dozens of pics a year for my blog.  My blog stats show clicks on the pic, but that doesn't tell me if they viewed it or downloaded it.  And I can't find a protection feature on WordPress.

PJ Mullen
PJ Mullen

Whenever I use "fucktardery" on my blog I will be sure to link back to this post with full credit and attribution. Seriously, though, I have a client who likes to forward me articles she reads and asks me to repost them to her site. Every time I email her back explaining that the best I can do is lift the pertinent quote from the article, wrap some commentary around it to provide value, mention the source of the quote in the post and link back to the original work. She does this EVERY. DAMN. TIME. The last one she sent? From the NEW YORK FUCKING TIMES. I'm sure they'd love it if I just reposted their work. Ugh.

Brankica | How to blog
Brankica | How to blog

I could not agree more of course. I had a post stolen recently and the funny thing is that it was stolen from a really big blog and it was a winner in a contest that many bloggers were following. So it was easy for some of them to recognize the post and tell me about it. The thing that pissed me off the most is that they literally copied the page source, hot linking to images and everything. They copied all BUT my author bio.  I contacted them through the blog and Twitter, and finally got the reply like "I bough the blog, sorry, didn't know it was copied, but I hope its OK now". Seriously??? I told him it isn't OK and that I want it down. He said he will take it down "when he figures out how"!!! I reported it to Google and done all I could in a day. I was a bit annoyed that I had to send the main to the host cause they don't accept reports online, so before I got into that, I contacted the guy again and told him what I am about to do. Finally he took it off. It is annoying and the only thing he was supposed to do is name me as an author and I would be OK with that. Well, I know we can't protect everything so I guess I just hope I don't see that someone stole my stuff. 

Phoenix Group
Phoenix Group

Fucktardery - I need it! I'll use it. I'll give you credit every time I use it

Jeff Harbert
Jeff Harbert

Thank you. The long tail of copyright infringement disproportionately impacts the reputation and revenue of smaller content producers, yet all you ever hear about in the mainstream media is how the big music and movie studios are affected. This ticks me off to no end. As with so many other things, much, much more attention needs to be paid to the little guy when it comes to this problem.

Jeff Mouttet
Jeff Mouttet

Fucktardery?  Can I steal that shit?  Hilarious.  

Bryce Alan Katz
Bryce Alan Katz

Is it bad that "meet over a burlesque show and a burger" is the part of this I'll be taking with me? :-D Seriously, though, good points. I go about 3 rounds a month with various clients over the concept of copyright. I'll be bookmarking this one for future reference.

Trackbacks

  1. […] knowledge or consent,  I consider this a major problem.   Erika has written a great post about this very problem.  She’s right,  people need to stop trying to profit from work that isn’t theirs,  […]

  2. […] Share links to others’ content. This demonstrates you truly want to contribute/add to others’ knowledge, and that you’re willing to be a team player to do it. Making it look like you think your own content is the only place for good advice is never a good idea. […]

  3. […] of ‘Bitch Slap’ posts, Napoletano calls out her audience for everything from accepting plagiarism to capitulating to their fears. She’s terse, blunt and prone to swearing, and you can’t […]