January 17, 2012
Intellectual Property and SOPA/PIPA
So, in a very timely surprise, I discovered a blog I write at work has been plagiarized. The blog is about garage doors and has several categories of posts, including cool and interesting garage doors, garage door repairs, garage door accidents and new products highlights. However, another garage door blog (seemingly unaffiliated with a garage door company or service, unlike mine), copied and pasted my words into their own WordPress blog. Word for word, except for a slight change to the first sentence and the omission of a phrase in parenthesis in one or two places.
I noticed last week while researching a new blog to write about and started reading this other garage door blog. The words seemed very familiar, and a few sentences in I realized I was reading what I'd already written. My writing style is very personal- it's so easy for me to recognize my work, and when I had my other blog opened in another tab and could compare the words, it was obvious I had been plagiarized. This other blog stole two of my posts, that I knew about (searching through the entire website to find more of my work is on my to-do list this week), and made no attempts to change the wording or the meaning.
So I wrote them a comment on each of the blogs. It's not necessarily bad that they're ripping me off - in part, it's a little flattering that they're reusing my words - but it is stealing when they aren't giving me credit. In the comment, I said I didn't mind them using my work as long as they included my bio and a link to my website and gave the website my contact information. That was, what, Thursday? I checked the website again on Friday and my comment hadn't been approved yet, and there was no action on their part. Monday I went in and checked the website again and still nothing had changed. Before leaving work today I checked once more: still no credit, but now there was a new blog post. And it was stolen from me.
And now it's time to fight. That website is a blatant rip off of my work and who knows how many other legitimate blogs and websites. After politely and generously permitting them to use my words, words I researched, crafted and spent my time putting together along with SEO techniques to help them show up in Google searches and appropriate and cited images where applicable, with a small and legal acknowledgement that I was in fact the person doing the writing, they completely ignored me and went on to steal again.
Fuck. You. Goddamn garage door blog. Fuck you for being so cocky that you're not approving my request for credit and still ripping me off when you know I'm watching. Fuck you for changing the first sentence in an attempt to mask what you're doing. And fuck you for not being cool about it and throwing my website a link. The whole point of my garage door blog is to bring in website views for the services we offer, the services that support our company, the services that contribute to my paycheck. And this other website is out there stealing my words and pretending I don't exist.
So I got Google involved. And WordPress. And the big dogs will, hopefully, rain swift justice on them and force them to take my stolen posts down. Maybe the website will get investigated and shut down for stealing intellectual and copyrighted data.
The fact that all of this is going on immediately before SOPA and PIPA are being voted on is just timely. As of writing, Wikipedia is blacked out in opposition to SOPA (which is currently "shelved indefinitely") and PIPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Act, respectively, and Reddit will follow in a couple of hours (as well as a number of other much smaller or personal websites). The supposed intent behind SOPA and PIPA is to protect artists and intellectual property holders from having their content stolen, either through illegal downloading or blatant plagiarism. Copyright protection sounds like a noble cause but the reality is it would allow big corporations to go after individuals and who's to say the profits would go to the artists in the end?
Further, now that SOPA is shelved I'm convinced SOPA was just a front for PIPA to pass quietly. Here's why: SOPA was a big deal when it was announced. Once the public (slash the internet) discovered exactly what it was and what it could mean (because it was vague in all the wrong places) it became the devil. Groups became very vocal against it, calling senators for days and requesting meetings and seemed to eventually do enough to get it shelved for the foreseeable future. But PIPA isn't much better than SOPA and that's still on the table. In fact, it's getting voted on in a few days. And because it's been much quieter it has a good chance of passing. Which leads me to believe SOPA was just bad enough to get people riled up enough to make a fuss, on purpose, so they could cancel SOPA and slip PIPA through.
Normally I'd be linking a few different things in this post to outside sources for reference and citing, but SOPA and PIPA would probably go to Wikipedia pages, and the English versions are blacked out for the next 23 hours (as of writing), so I'm just not going to link anything.