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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

oh, and stealing’s uncool, okay?

Something else that’s really gotten me pissed lately: the off-topic commenter in this thread who’s all like, “Hey, your stuff is awesome, so I stole it, thanks!”

Just in case it’s not perfectly clear, it is not okay for anyone to repost any material from this Web site anywhere. (That’s in the copyright info down in the righthand column of every page, though I would hope that it would be obvious to anyone with half a brain.) Now, I’m not saying it’s not cool to post a brief quote from one of my reviews with a link back to the full review here — that’s more than okay: that’s great. Please, do that if you like my stuff. That’s the right way to share. Not the way this numbskull did it. Not that this numbskull was the first.

I got into a long email “argument” with this person, “Stef,” about why it’s uncool to repost someone’s work in its entirety without attribution or even a link back to the original posting. (Not that attribution or a link would have excused this, but the lack of these just makes it all the worse.) Stef’s “explanation”? “[Y]our LOTR Drinking Game has been floating around the fandom for ages now and nowhere that I had seen it was there any mention of who wrote it.” Now, if you Google “lotr drinking game,” my site is the very first result, so clearly, Stef didn’t do the first damn thing to attempt to determine who might have written this material that s/he loves so much. But that’s besides the point.

I’ve had to explain this to clueless nincompoops too many times, but here it is again. When someone reposts my writing in its entirety, it’s kinda like stealing from me. A quote and link sends readers to my site, makes me a coupla pennies in ad revenue, and might just garner me a new reader who will return again and again and earn me a few more pennies on a regular basis. It might not sound like much, but it adds up eventually. But reposting a review or other material in its entirety — especially without that all-important attribution or link — means readers never make their way here. And it means that you’re building your content on my hardworking back, and if you’re cool with that, then you’re an even bigger jerk than I thought you were.

(Oh, and contrary to what Stef tried to insist, criticism and commentary do not infringe copyright. So it’s legally okay for me to make a few pennies with this site.)

And I’ve had to explain this to too many people, too many times, so here it is again, too: Nobody pays me a salary for the work I do at FlickFilosopher.com. There is no corporate sponsorship. I don’t have a boss, I don’t have a staff. I do this all on my own. I refuse to run pop-up ads, because I think they’re completely obnoxious, but I don’t apologize for running in-line ads — I can’t get by without the couple hundred bucks the site makes every month. (Hell, a lot of that goes right back out to pay the postage on all the cool stuff I give away. I guess I could give up on the giveaways, but the hundreds and hundreds of people who enter those seem to like them.) Unless you want me to have to spend more time working for paying, non-movie-related clients, and less time posting stuff here. And I already feel like I don’t do enough here — I’d hate to do less.

I’m not trying to be a bitch about this. But the fact is that if you want the Web to be the domain of nobody but fanboys who can’t spell and cubicle drones on a corporate teat, the best way to do that is to drive our the small, independent operators like myself whose work you “love” so much. Until we find ourselves living in a paradisical Whuffie-based economy, this is the reality. Deal with it, and stop being such a dork: Quote and link, don’t repost.

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maryann buzz
  • Keith Z-G

    I hate to say it, but your points here are mostly far too obvious and commonsensical; the people who don’t get it will likely remain in that state of blissful ignorance.

    I would say, however, that there’s merit in reposting entirely (with attributing and linking, of course) since, well . . . in case you do get driven out. I know many of the more brilliant websites I found “back in the day” are now only recoverable with some serious archive.org excavation, and even then much of the content I wish I had saved when I had the chance is unrecoverable. Plus there’s the more mundane possibility of re-indexing or switching over to a different archiving method, by which I mean that the article linked to might either move or disappear, in which case it would be nice for whomever is reading to be able to just read the article instead of trying hopelessly to dig the rest out.

    Obviously the problem with this is the potential loss of advertising revenue . . . but on that note, to be perfectly honest I don’t think you get any ad revenue from myself. Nothing personal. Not even a choice on my own part, in fact! The ads just happen not to display with my browser (Konqueror, 64-bit) and that’s that.

    (Oh, and also, maybe it’s just kids these days, but from what little attention I’ve bothered to pay to fan circles it seems to be the fangirls that spell the worst.)

  • bats

    Keith raises the only concern I have, that this site suddenly vaporizes and I lose the article. Then again, my memory being what it is, I will on occasion clean up my bookmarks, note a dead one here or there, and have no idea what was on it originally, only that at some had to preserve it forever.

    I do my best to give every site I might find something of interest in a link. Given my html skills, what usually happens is a simple, stupid cut-and-paste, but to steal intellectual property is bad juju. (And why doesn’t it surprise me at all that Stef got so righteously indignant (or more likely, just got her panties in a twist)at your calling her on the theft?)

  • MaryAnn

    I’ve moved pages around more than once here, and I’ve always put redirects at the old URLs. I promise you that I hate the idea of losing traffic more than you hate the idea that you won’t be able to find something here.

    If I did someday decide I could no longer keep up the work on the site, I wouldn’t take it down — I just wouldn’t update it anymore. And also, I have told my closest friends that in the event I should be hit by a bus or abducted by aliens or something, I would like for them to maintain the site for as long as possible, keep it up and running.

    So there’s no excuse not to just quote and link. :->

  • I completely understand where you’re coming from. It’s not cool when someone plagiarizes or essentially steals an entire post. However, this issue raises a host of related issues. For example, bloggers rarely mention the problem of misuse/misrepresentation of information. Or, misinterpretation of information, which can be just as bad. This isn’t a major issue for scientific/academic writers; they have to give credit where credit is due—it’s part of the peer review process. Some journals will not publish a writer’s manuscript if he or she fails to acknowledge even a simple idea that was proposed by someone else. Bloggers have almost complete freedom, which is good and bad. I’ve read a lot of posts that fail to mention the source of an original idea. Even worse, some people state things as fact, without any proof or mention of the source of the information. This applies to other internet sites, not just bloggers.

    So, I understand your concern. But, I have question for you; should readers be equally concerned that bloggers aren’t held to the same insanely restrictive standards as other writers? Honestly, we have no way of knowing if the material being published on a blog actually belongs to the person who maintains it. We assume that’s the case. For all we know, that blogger is stealing phrases and ideas from some book, magazine, or journal. The type of freedom you enjoy as a blogger (writer) comes at a price. Is it worth it?

  • MaryAnn

    I don’t know how to answer that except to say that I hold myself to a high standard. And so-called mainstream journalists are very frequently guilty of not maintaining a high standard (hello, Jason Blair and Judith Miller). I don’t think those high standards are “insanely restrictive” at all: they’re basic common sense and golden-rule stuff: Don’t steal from people, don’t get used as a pawn in someone else’s power play. It’s really not that difficult. And I think, in the long run, reputation becomes its own reward: either you’re recognized as a reliable source of opinion/news/whatever, or you’re not.

    It’s the bare beginnings of the Whuffie economy. We’ll get there someday, I hope.

  • As ever, you are totally on-point and completely articulate on this point. Thanks for saying all of this, and for sticking up for own site and for everybody else who publishes original work on the Web.

  • littlem

    I tried to say something about this when all the erudite bloggers I know pointed, laughed and ridiculed us composers who were distraught about people downloading our songs for nothing.

    It’s the same **** copyright law protecting us, people, so let’s see if we can work together on this one, OK?

  • MaryAnn

    You’re exactly right, LittleM. And it’s the same issue with people downloading movies.

    And yet it’s not exactly the same problem. Some intellectual property needs to be distributed, like movies and music — lots of smart musicians are now bypassing the whole record-label paradigm and selling their stuff directly to fans. (The labels were the ones losing money from downloading, not musicians, for the most part, because the labels have been so unfair to musicians for so long.) And Hollywood needs to get smart and realize that they’re never going to stop movie pirates — Hollywood needs to take over their business and offer movies in more formats (like cheap DVDs that come out on the same day as a film is realeased in theaters).

    So while it’s wrong and illegal and uncool for people to steal music and movies, it’s more understandable why it’s being done. But it’s not like people are downloading my reviews so they can read them in their iPods. This issue that I’m talking about it more like it someone ripped or downloaded a song that isn’t their own work and then offered it for free on their own Web site.

  • Ryan

    [quote]cheap DVDs that come out on the same day as a film is realeased in theaters[/quote]

    Unfortunately that will never happen because AMC and Loews, and whatever major theater chain is in your area would go absolutely nuts. Theaters are already losing revenue to DVD sales as it is.

    As to your original post, very well said. As an author who often publishes text online, it’s a very serious concern to make sure copyrights are respected, especially since the internet is international, and it’s hard to sue the person in Sweden or Spain or Ireland who just ripped off a chapter or a review wholesale.

    Also, somebody mentioned that blogs are not held to rigorous standards, but let’s be honest, blogs are not rigorous pieces of journalism, you may read them to be entertained, or to hear a point of view…but if you read a blog and think you are supplementing a legitimate news or academic source, then you are mistaken.

  • MaryAnn

    Blogs are not meant to be rigorous pieces of journalism (though a few are) — they’re opinion, for the most part.

    That said, I’m so tired of hearing this bullshit about the “rigorous standards” of “real” journalism. Mainsteam journalism in America has not held itself to any standard other than the jingle of filthy lucre for years, if not decades.

    Theaters are already losing revenue to DVD sales as it is.

    Then they need to compete with DVDs to draw people back to theaters. Banning infants and getting rid of all the damn advertisements would be a good start.

  • I love DVDs, but some movies are still best viewed on the big screen. I go to the theatre for the social aspect and the spectacle, so any enhancement to that, as you said, would improve their competition vs. DVDs. People buy CDs, but still go to concerts. To me, it’s the same concept.

    As for your work — you definitely deserve the tiny bit of revenue you get for your very-appreciated hard work. I doubt most re-posters realize they’re doing you a disservice, but I’ll try to balance them out by posting more excerpts and links — I was one of the original people who asked for a link-mailing service on each page. =^)

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