Monday, August 27, 2012

Blog theft

Well, here's a new low in plagiarism. Someone lifted three years of posts from "Mermaid's Tale," through half of March, 2012, and put them all up on their own site.  Not only do we get no credit there but the name of the blog has been changed and any instance of our names "updated" to Cathy Smith.

It turns out there's a lot of money to be made by lifting other people's blog content, "updating" it, adding ads, the kind that when you click on them you get a share of the profits, and then clicking on them, ad infinitum.  It's a little odd to call this plagiarism because content is completely irrelevant.  It's the bloggy shell that counts.  The blogginess, to coin a phrase.

We won't grace the thief by giving you his name, but since we outed him on Friday he's taken the site down.  But then put it back up again.  So, in addition to clicking on ad links, he clearly spends a lot of time taking down blogs -- there were a ton of them on his "My Blogs" list.  And then putting them up again.  This guy made the sloppy mistake of using what's apparently his own name on his copy of MT, which is how we found him.  We've contacted Blogger about this, hoping the site will be taken down, but who knows how this will play out.  It's not costing us anything, but it is theft of intellectual property, so unacceptable.

Yes, it's risky putting your stuff online, and requires trust that this kind of thing won't happen. There are legal protections, such as the Creative Commons License, which won't prevent theft but does give bloggers recourse when it happens.

But there are also great benefits to blogging.  It is an intellectual treat to have the freedom to say whatever we want to say about whatever topic we choose, outside of the usual confines of academic publishing, and to refine a point of view over time.  It's especially nice to have regular readers who weigh in with comments or emails and let us know they appreciate what we're doing here.  And of course to Ken and me, it is a great pleasure to work with Holly and to have her fine contributions.

So this certainly isn't enough to convince us to stop blogging.  But it's pretty creepy.

16 comments:

Amit said...

Oh wow! That's terrible! I hope Google/Blogger takes action. I'm glad you won't stop blogging though!

Holly Dunsworth said...

Blogger/Google has not taken action. The fake Mermaid's Tale is still there in all it's glory. Claiming to have written the majority of what you see on this REAL blog. Hilarious how the culprit was caught because he had the hubris to name this particular blog after himself (or his on-line self, whatever...). Just like the cereal killers on CSI.

Holly Dunsworth said...

I'd like to add, in case there's any doubt, that we do this for FREE. Some bloggers get paid to write but we do not. I don't know how Anne and Ken keep up the daily, high quality posting. They clearly have a lot buzzing around between their ears and enough energy to put it to the keyboard for the rest of us to get buzzed too.

Of course, despite the lack of cash money, we get a lot of perks from writing here. The top perk, for me, being the relationship I've developed with Anne and Ken.

Another perk: writing here helps me think more clearly about what I'm trying to understand, which helps me better teach it or research it. This is crucial for a lone biological anthropologist in her university.

Another: I may (may is a strong word) get some credit in my promotion and tenure portfolio for what I do here. But since I have hardly any way of knowing what kind of impact my posts make on colleagues or society at large (aside from "likes" and other comments from friends on Facebook and the occasional comments here), since I have little way of knowing, let alone documenting, the impact of my work here, it's close to impossible to claim my work here as anything substantial in my career portfolio DESPITE how valuable it is to my doing and teaching biological anthropology.

More subtle perks: Winning a writing contest (200 bucks!), gaining some friends on-line and at conferences who have read something they liked or vice versa with their blog, relating bioanth to my non-bioanth friends, having a place to say what I think needs to be said and having the opportunity to share that with the world (even if it never goes past the cyber equivalent of my neighborhood coffee shop).

A potential future perk: Writing here might have made me skilled enough to convince a publisher to buy my pop sci (science faction) book. Cross fingers on that.

To the blog thieves out there I point both my middle fingers at the sky and say to you what rhymes with Chekhov.

And to the folks who reads our stuff, thank you.

Holly Dunsworth said...

Ah, you know, the "folks who reads"... that's a saying right?

JKW said...

I will just remind MT followers that you should avoid actually going to that website or attempting to go to that website. Doing so only increases that site's traffic and encourages the pathetic behavior.

Anne Buchanan said...

Thanks, Amit!

Anne Buchanan said...

I just got word from Blogger that they've taken the fake MT now down, and the address is no longer available for blogs. Which of course is only a minor inconvenience for the guy who's doing this, and there are about 199 more fake blogs on his site that need to be taken down. But nice that Blogger responded quickly, if really not nice that people are doing this.

Anne Buchanan said...

Hear, hear! xoxo, Holls!

Jason Antrosio said...

This was really terrible to hear, and a warning for anthropology bloggers everywhere. However, that person should not be able to make money by clicking on his own ads. That usually gets you ejected from the program. So probably what this person was doing was trying to usurp all the *great* content and get traffic, like JKW says above.

It's great you noticed and began to take action. But I would suggest you take a more drastic approach which is to monetize your own blog first. Seriously, you have such wonderful content here, and a book to sell, it's like a blogging dream. I've posted some ideas about monetization at Amazon Anthropology but that's just a start. Between having three great writers here--and a book--it's good stuff, and you should get the credit and $, even if the $ is a small amount.

Anne Buchanan said...

Thanks, Jason. It's true, I don't really know that he was clicking on his own links. Just assuming the worst of the guy. His list of stolen blogs was all over the map, though -- Italian cooking, how to teach, etc., so I didn't take it personally. Random theft, I guess.

As for monetizing this blog, that really never occurred to me. Which I guess means the reasons we do it, as I said in the post, and Holly said much more eloquently in her comment, are enough for me. But if others want to do it, as you suggest, why not!

Holly Dunsworth said...

I don't want to monetize the MT.

Anne Buchanan said...

Sorry Holly. I should have said: "If other bloggers want to monetize their blogs, why not."

Holly Dunsworth said...

I read it both ways and was offended by neither :)

city said...

thanks for sharing.

Joachim D. said...

Hmm - Potemkin villages on the intertubes? Potemkin did not even need living villagers, so why does the guy not put up blogs with empty posts but great headings and other stuff for search engines that will lure surfers into his trap?

Anne Buchanan said...

Ah, excellent point and excellent question. I'm thinking he was rather unimaginative and just followed published recommendations.