Some brief thoughts on borrowing content

Posted on October 26, 2010


One of the great things about WordPress as a publishing platform is the way it deals with incoming links, comments and trackbacks. Linking is the currency of the web, and WordPress gives you the maximum possible intelligence on who is linking to you, where traffic is coming from and who might be citing your posts.

I noticed a new trackback this morning citing the Street Museum interview I did a while ago, and as normal followed it to source to see what the person had to say. It turned out that what they had to say was rather familiar: a complete copy and paste of the original post, word for word and image for image.

My first response was one of irritation, and I posted asking the Twitterverse what they thought. Their answers ranged from “hunt them down…” to “don’t worry about it” but I think some of more subtle responses are worth reflecting on:

1) This blog is CC licensed. I also bang on about free content being better content. Thus, from a purely legal perspective, I’m absolutely allowing people to distribute, copy, display, so my irritation is unfounded;

2) The devil is in the detail. This isn’t a spam blog but a hand-curated one. I’ve had entire blocks of content “borrowed” before, and yes, this irritates the **** out of me. This is different.

3) As James Clay pointed out, “he is using the blog as an online store of stuff he finds”, and that’s absolutely right – it is a different mode of use, albeit one quite hard to quantify.

4) In a perfect world, the person copying the post would have got in contact via email, just out of courtesy. But they didn’t, and ultimately, I’m not going to lose any sleep over that.

5) The notion of “attribution” is important and subtle here. I use a LOT of CC images when I do presentations, and have worried about *how* to attribute effectively – a link on the image? a table of links at the end of the presentation (my preferred method to date)? an email? In this particular case, it is pretty clear that the article was written by me, borrowed from this blog – the signposting is pretty clear.

The long and short: have it, it’s only fair 🙂

Posted in: museum