Anyone who’s talked to me about content thievery (aka plagiarism, stealing, cut and pasting, etc.) long enough knows I have pretty strong feelings about the subject. I’ve written posts about how bloggers can protect their work, and how to confront these thieves when they get caught with their hands in the cookie jar. Words like ‘scum’ and ‘slime’ usually come up, paired with various animals, amoebia, and orifices.
Having established my strong feelings and past coverage of this topic there’s an interesting trend that has gained popularity recently. The Curation Movement. Curation is where a website will gather awesome content from brilliant publishers and share it with their audience. Usually a curated site is focused on a specific topic or certain style of content. The content being shared is not original, it’s shared in part and linked back to the original source, providing a service to both site/reader/and writer. (Yes, I know that’s three things and both = two. I’m a word nerd not a math geek. Work with me here, people. FOCUS!)
Here’s where potentially-well-meaning people turn into flea-butt-scum.
If you cut and paste the entire post without express written consent you are a thief. Period.
Even if you link back?
If you take content without permission that is called, wait for it, stealing. Stealing is WRONG. It’s also, watch this, ILLEGAL. It’s like taking an apple from a grocery store and not paying for it. S-T-E-A-L-I-N-G. Now you might say, “But I tell everywhere, ‘Oh my gosh I got this delicious apple from Sonny’s grocery store – you have to go check it out!‘ so that’s OK right?”
Aside from the fact that bragging about stealing makes you both a thief and stupid, the analogy above is better served like this. You go to the grocery store and steal a bag of apples. Then you meet people on the street in front of Sonny’s and say, “Here are the delicious apples that Sonny’s sells. Have one!” Now none of those customers need to go to Sonny’s. Capisce?
Examples of Awesome Content Sharers
Here are some examples of awesome content sharers. People doing it the RIGHT way. One site that comes immediately to mind is my own, Homestead Bloggers Network, of which I am the co-founder. Notice that in this example all of the posts are submitted by the users/members themselves, include a photo THEY upload (thus permission is granted to share the photo) and they write their own blurb/teaser of the post. The posts link back to the original publisher and everything is a win/win/win for HBN/Reader/Blogger.
Another site, Blissfully Domestic, includes a nice mix of original and round-up/curated content. Notice on this recently published post about Spring Porch Decor that the post features several top bloggers and home decor writers from around the web. Notice how care was taken to gather the best inspirations that would speak to the aesthetic of the Blissfully Domestic audience, only one summary photo was shared from each blog, with a link directly to the post where readers could get more information. Again it’s a win/win/win.
Examples of Not-Awesome (or Legal) Curation Websites
Well then – that brings me to the dark side of what I’ve seen happening on the internet lately. This continued myth that “if it’s on the internet it’s free to use“. Or the idea that “fair use” means “steal it but tell where you took it from.” Yeah see – if you read that sentence you realize it doesn’t make sense. One does not shop-lift a shirt and then leave the tags on to brag about where you stole it from. See earlier statement about being a dumb thief.
Unfortunately it happens far, far too often.
So here are some actual examples of websites doing it wrong. And by wrong I mean – not ethically. These websites were all found within fifteen minutes of chatting with fellow bloggers in the Homesteading topic area. These sites all have a history of repeated abuse, and none of them responded to my politely worded comments and emails asking for clarification and offering to educate them on the legal and ethical ways of sharing content from within the blogging community.
(Note – I will immediately update if any of these websites DO respond to my queries and concerns. Ideally I would love to see them all change their formatting – it is not that hard to share content without acting like a thief. Only respect, knowledge, and care is required. I’m available to help them form content strategies if they need the help.)
Prepperology – This website requests donations prominantly on the front page. My comments on known-stolen posts were not published but held in moderation…the same thing that happened to members of Homestead Bloggers Network who also had multiple posts lifted. While some posts do appear to be original according to my Google searches, the fact that this has happened multiple times is concerning. It suggests that this isn’t a case of ignorance of the laws. Again – my comment went unpublished and unanswered. I offered to share tips for curating ethically and politely, which I will share below. (Keep reading)
Before it’s News – While some content seems to be user-submitted I know for a fact that several posts have been lifted from multiple websites without permission or consent. The fact that they have a copyright complaint form available right on their website in their footer suggests that my group of bloggers certainly wasn’t the first to find their content stolen. (Let’s just call it what it is right? Taking something without consent = stealing. Quit being afraid to call a duck a duck people.) Please note that stealing something and saying to the original owner, “If you can find me and if you ask for it back, I’ll give it to you.” That’s just admitting that you know you are in the wrong but hoping most people won’t notice so you can continue to profit from being in the wrong. Dude…not cool. (Again – no response to my email or comment.)
The Garden Prepper – This is another website that may have some original content in addition to their cut-and-paste blogs. It’s so sad to see websites that could be building up the community, preying on hot topics and brilliant original work instead. This isn’t the case of websites saying “Look at this cool thing my friend wrote.” but rather “I’ll share this popular topic to boost my own rankings and profit from the hard work of others.” Tragic. Shameful. Again – my comment query went unpublished and unanswered.
Tips for Curating Ethically
1. Ask Permission – Novel concept right? I’m getting ready to launch a new curated website Homemade101 and have sent out dozens of simple emails saying to bloggers, “I want to feature your post <link> – May I use one photo from your post with a link back to your blog?” Want to know how many have told me No, please don’t feature me? Zero.
2. Look For Websites With Blanket Permissions – Many DIY, Foodie, and other bloggers are adding statements to their sidebar and footers similar to what I have on Untrained Housewife. These statements give blanket permission for their content to be linked to and curated and even allow the use of one photo. This permission makes it EASY for websites to share (not steal) without having to email for permission first.
3. Never Use the Whole Post – Never use the whole post. Not on Facebook, not on Pinterest, not on another website. When you highlight a full post and right click over to the menu and select COPY and paste that is COPYING someone’s original content. Know what that’s called? Yeah exactly. In fact, when I curate a post I actually don’t even copy one or two sentences in my post. It is better for your SEO if you write an original blurb. And I mean really, how hard is it to type, “Hey this post from So and So is awesome because…… and you might like it because….“?
4. Build Community and Good Will – You know what you could accomplish with this community-building/fellow-blogger-supporting style of curating? Feelings of good will from other bloggers. Instead of them posting in a group, “Oh my gosh he stole ANOTHER post of mine – you guys go check and see if he stole yours too.” sending everyone scrutinizing your website with feelings of intense-dislike and paranoia you could have them saying, “Oh wow! He shared ANOTHER post of mine! I love that guy!”
When someone steals my content from Untrained Housewife I send them an invoice or get their website shut down. When they SHARE I stumble them, pin them, and share them. Big difference.
So bottom line here. Be ethical. Be nice. Play fair. Or you could just go write your own stuff. Either way works for me. Just don’t steal my apples and then expect me to be grateful.
PS Think that this isn’t really a thing? It’s in every niche. I literally JUST saw a fellow blogger sharing how this website had lifted several posts from her blog without consent. I have not emailed or contacted this site yet but if they want help creating an ethical and exciting content strategy I am happy to help them as well as the other sites listed above. 🙂 There’s a need for help for a lot of websites.
Next time you see a website cutting and pasting posts as a content strategy feel free to send them this link.