The internet Darwin awards

Friday, April 6, 2007

The Darwin awards pay tribute to people who manage to find themselves dead through their own stupidity: a voluntary, yet accidental, culling of the herd. I think that it’s time for the internet Darwin awards, for people who behave so stupidly online that they eventually go up in (virtual) flames.

A recent case of this that I experienced first-hand was a VP of sales of an ECM/BPM vendor who thought that it was a good idea to republish my blog posts (from my BPM blog), in their entirety, on his site. I can understand why someone might want to steal my stellar prose 🙂 but you have to admit that it’s pretty stupid to plagiarize from a blogger who focusses on your own industry — how stupid do you have to be to convince yourself that that’s not going to come back and bite you in the butt? According to an apologetic CEO, that person is no longer with the company. I checked his site, and it looks like he’s busy stealing his next idea from the Web 2.0 space.

In this week’s situation, I have another copyright violator who is reprinting my posts on their site. Now, he’s not really in my industry — he appears to be some sort of direct marketing consultant — but his site, blog and LinkedIn profile are covered with nice phrases like “top quality sales and marketing requires attention to your customer’s needs and to the law”, “global expert in EEC Data Privacy legislation and compliance, driving global compliance with national legislation”, and “passionate about Data Protection and compliance with the law ensuring positive marketing from ethical corporations” all of which seem like odd sentiments for someone who is stealing my intellectual property. He even claims to have been Chief Privacy Officer for Europe, Africa and the Middle East during his tenure at a major analyst firm a few years back. And on the site where he’s stealing my blog posts and those of many other bloggers, buried in the meta data of the page but not visible on the page itself, is the disclaimer “Content of all feeds copyrights are with respective copyright owners. Feeds are republished as a service and all copyrights are acknowledged.” So now it’s a service to violate copyright — who knew? I’m fine with fair use: publish an excerpt of any of my posts, provide a clear link in the text of your post (not buried in a footer) back to my original post, and ping a trackback so that I know that you’re doing me the favour of sending people my way. I’ll probably come over, look at your site, and even link to it on my site if I think that it has any value.

The latest copyright violation

Now, this is the interesting part: eventually, I likely would have discovered his site on my own, but someone put a comment on one of my posts yesterday, saying “I found your blog through [link]“. When I went to the link, I discovered the above-mentioned site that’s violating my copyright, and I couldn’t even find a link to my own post, which made me a bit suspicious. I checked the records for who owns the domain, and sure enough, it’s the same person that left the comment. (On later investigation, I did find a link back to my post from his, in tiny print at the bottom of the post, mixed in with the del.icio.us, Digg and other standard links that no one ever reads.)

So the question of the day is: how stupid do you have to be to violate copyright against someone’s blog by reprinting their posts on your website, then add a comment to one of their blog posts telling them that you found their post through your site, all the while pretending to have nothing to do with the site even though your name is on the domain’s whois record? And how long before your site — registered on April Fools’ Day — self-immolates?

Speaking of providing a service, I took it upon myself to track down a few of the other bloggers who are being ripped off by this guy’s site — some of whom I know personally — and let them know what’s going on. You might think that it’s pointless to do things like this, but the only way to fight against people who rip you off on the internet is to expose them for what they are.

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