(Note: If you’re a new reader, you may want to read this post first, for some context…)
Just last week, I was sitting at my computer, quietly working away, when I thought to myself, “You know, it’s been a long time since someone tried to rip me off on the Internet: maybe the copycats have finally found someone else to bother?”
Famous last words. Within twenty four hours of me publishing “Teddies on the Freeway” – I got a trackback from this site:
At first glance, I wasn’t too perturbed. It looked like one of the many, many content-scraping sites which use your RSS feed to republish the first few lines of your post, normally with a “read more” link that links back to the original site. There are hundreds of those sites out there, and they’re not TOO much of an issue for us (Although, thanks to Google’s recent Panda update, some of them are becoming more of a problem), so I was prepared to let it go.
Then I scrolled down the page:
Ah. That would be my photo. And more of my text. And, in fact, the entire post: all 1,500 words of it.
It’s also my bear, of course, which means that not only do these people steal photos of ME, now they’re stealing photos of TED, too! And let me tell you, Ted is NOT a bear who takes that kind of thing lightly. And nor am I, for that matter. In fact, I was pretty damn furious, to be honest, because not only had this site blatantly ripped off my content and photos, they were also using it commercially: the entire post was surrounded by Google Adsense adverts, allowing the copycats to profit from a post I’M not even making money from myself. So, basically, I’d spent part of my Saturday morning working for someone else, without even knowing I was doing it, and without earning a single penny for it. And you know, I’m not for a second suggesting that it was the greatest post ever written, but if it’s going to be making money for someone, I think that someone should be ME, the actual author, as opposed to the owner of some random website, who thinks he/she has the right to use other people’s work for free.
What amazes me most about all of this isn’t the fact that this site stole my post: sadly, that’s become all too common these days. No, what amazes me most is how BLATANT they were about it. I discovered the theft because I got a trackback from the copycat’s site, and the reason I got that trackback was because they’d actually linked back to me. Twice.
I’m assuming that by linking back in this way, the content thief assumed it was OK to reproduce a 1,500 word post in its entirety. I’m assuming this because I’ve seen it happen so many times now: I’ve even had people who’ve stolen content from me react with total astonishment when I’ve asked them to remove it, and say, “But I linked back to you!” Yes, you did. Thank you. But that doesn’t change the fact that you took something that belongs to me and used it without my permission. And that’s wrong. I don’t spend hours writing posts and taking photos just so YOU can get a bit of extra traffic to your site. I do not pay an image agency for photographs so that YOU can use them for free. I am not working for you. And of course, we’d ALL like to be able to have content for our sites every day that we didn’t have to create ourselves, or pay someone else for. The fact is, though, that SOMEONE is paying for that content. SOMEONE is having to go to the time and effort of creating it. And that person should be the one who gets to decide how and where it gets used.
But back to the teddy bears.
Unusually for a content scraping site, comments were open on the post, so, as there was no other way to contact the site owner, I left a comment pointing out that I was the author of the post and that it was being used without permission. My comment never did make it out of moderation, but it must have gotten through to someone, because by the time we came home on Saturday night, the whole site was down: it came back up on Sunday, but minus my post. I didn’t get any kind of explanation or apology from the site owner, but then again, I didn’t expect to.
Having successfully rid the internet of one more copycat, however, my work was not done, because when we got home from our day out on Sunday, I found an email from someone drawing my attention to this eBay auction:
Regular readers may recognise the photo of yours truly from this post. Even if you didn’t recognise it, you’d have known it was me, on account of the “ForeverAmber.co.uk” watermark which the seller hadn’t bothered to remove from the photo. In the gallery underneath it, there were two more photos of me, both also watermarked. Of course, I’m pretty used to finding photos of my feet, lips and eyes being used to sell things on eBay, but this was the the first time someone had used a photo of my ENTIRE BODY, so it was a landmark moment. (The person who found it was a photographer, who’d noticed the watermarks on the images, realised the images were stolen, and very kindly let me know about it, commenting that he hates it when people use his photos without permission, and he figured I might feel the same. How right he was!)
I emailed the seller through the “Ask Seller a Question” link, and, once again pointed out that hey, those are my images, and I didn’t take them in order to help you sell boots on eBay! (Also: it’s misleading to use a photo like this, because it means that the item pictured isn’t the item being sold. I know when I buy things on eBay, I like to see a photo of the thing I’m actually bidding on, not a photo of some random blogger prancing around a beach.) She said she “didn’t realise” the photos belonged to someone (Was the fact that they’re photos OF SOMEONE not enough of a clue, then? Did the watermarks not give her even a tiny bit of a hint?) and that she would remove them because “they were never going to affect wether [sic] I sell the goods or not.”
Just another weekend in the life of the most copied woman on the Internet…