I don’t like content thieves. I don’t like sites that scrape other sites for content. I don’t like when spammers just re-purpose one site’s content to fit their own site. And I really don’t like bloggers who hotlink images willy nilly. I can pretty much guarantee that anyone who spends time and effort into creating their site and their content feels the same as I do.
Today I read a post on Daily Kos1 about the differences in pay between public and private sector employees in Wisconsin and Ohio. The post talks about a study done by the Economic Policy Institute and links to the page on their site with this information. It also contains graphs that the EPI has put up showing these differences (the validity of the study and/or the graphs isn’t the subject of this post, by the way). I thought it was really interesting and so I tweeted it. A little while later I saw a link retweeted to another blog that contained the same information. Because I’ve seen this blog repost information without giving credit to outside sources previously2, I wondered if they perhaps have mended their ways. So, I followed the link.
Nope. The post mentions the study and links to tweets that have accused the blogger of lying and misrepresenting certain facts. So, the blogger was linking to opposition tweets. This particular blogger is one of those that will take the credit to get the traffic. That’s why I stopped following and reading during the primary. I’m old school. I think that when someone sees a story and decides to blog it that there should be a link crediting the original story. Most people that have blogged for any considerable amount of time do that. We’re not of the SEO school that says linking out is wrong. We don’t believe that it’s bad to send traffic to other sites that we’ve found so interesting we use their ideas. They’re ideas are good for us, for our voice and for our traffic, right? There’s no reason not to give credit.
I left a comment asking the blogger to please credit the original story (not me because it’s not my story), because I just couldn’t ignore it anymore. For some reason, yesterday and today really chapped my ass. Maybe because I saw the stories before they were published on that blog. Maybe because it’s time for Blogroll Amnesty and I really want to see bloggers linking out to each other3. I don’t know why I decided to leave that comment4. But then the post was amended to include a link to the original work.
I don’t like to see bloggers building their own audience by watching for links to other stories and not giving credit. That just seems dishonest to me. Is it? Probably not. We all tell stories that have probably been told elsewhere, we discuss the news we saw somewhere else, we do what bloggers do. But it used to be that when we gave our opinion on a subject, joined in the “conversation” we let others know where the fire for that conversation was lit.
However, that doesn’t solve the hotlinking. All down the front page of that blog are images that are hotlinked from other sites. This tells me that the blogger is helping herself to even more work belonging to someone else. It doesn’t really matter where she’s getting it, because it’s someone else’s intellectual property unless they’ve specifically offered it up as Creative Commons– and then it should be uploaded to the blogger’s own server or image hosting account. Some of those images are specifically copyrighted. At the bottom of the EPI page is:
All material within this site Copyright © 2010 Economic Policy Institute. All rights reserved.
There’s that violation. Then there’s the matter of driving traffic to a post that is stealing bandwidth from another site via that hotlinked image. I thought about looking at all of the Copyright information for every stolen image on the front page, but I didn’t. I looked at the source to see where it was hosted and that was enough to fire me up. This person is not ignorant. She’s not an internet novice. That’s just sheer laziness, pure and simple. It’s a lot easier to add the <img> tag to her posts than it is to download a copy of the images and add them to her own folder.
Honestly, half the reason I don’t put many images on my site is because it’s such a pain in the ass for me. I’ve got to check the licensing (I prefer to use my own images or something with a CC type license), left click to “save image as”, rename it and then upload the damned thing to my site. I’d really rather not have an image in my post than to steal the image and/or someone’s bandwidth.
The thing about this kind of theft, is that she’s probably just googling for an image or using a plugin to scrape images from Google. So, she doesn’t know who holds the copyright to some of them. Maybe some poor photographer, from fotolio.com for instance, has work for sale and has sold a one time license to a site. Here she comes, hotlinking, and cutting into that photographer’s profits, while the site she’s hotlinking from actually paid money to be able to use that image. She’s hurting the photographer and the site where it’s hosted. As for vectors, well, those take some work too. Did she get a license for them? Considering one of them (on the front page as I write this) is hotlinked, I’m going to say no. So she hurt that artist by stealing the work, perhaps from someone else who stole the work, and totally bypassing the person who did all the work to put it online.
Shit, she can’t even say she got them from a “free graphics” search on Google. She’s linking to them directly. And to make this even more rich: she appends each post with a Creative Common License that prevents use without attribution and on commercial websites. Hmm.
This isn’t bad enough, in my opinion. This is a respected Liberal blogger. Would it be better if she weren’t? Not really, but I wouldn’t feel so angry. I feel like she’s pimping her blog for traffic on the backs of other people who are doing the work and that goes against my principles as a Liberal. I find it hypocritical that a blog that is calling out the Right for their every wrong doing is also guilty– if only because of laziness5. We cried foul when N.O.M was caught hotlinking an image by Zach Weiner for their own nefarious purposes, but I’m the only one to point it out when one of our own is caught helping herself to all kinds of images? By the way, his solution was gold.
Most of my favorite political blogs have very strict guidelines against hotlinking and copyright infringement. If you get caught at the Daily Kos, for instance, you’ll get banned. As a matter of fact, all of the blogs that I visit regularly host their images on their own sites or on an image hosting service (Photobucket or Flickr, for instance). They are usually good about only using portions of another story in a quote and then linking to the original (even though the bigger blogs will only really link to each other). It goes back to high school, really. If you write a paper for school cite your sources and don’t help yourself to too much of someone else’s work. The real world analogy for the bandwidth theft is best explained by Webweaver:
Bandwidth is a bit like gas for a car. Every time you drive (or a file is loaded), a bit of fuel (or bandwidth) is used up. Now imagine if each night one of your neighbors siphoned out a tiny bit for their own car… then other neighbors thought “I’ll just take a couple drops as well”… by morning your fuel tank is empty. Your neighbors each thought taking just a tiny bit would be unnoticeable.. but added all up it left nothing for you.
I told her that she was hotlinking and gave her a link to a site explaining what that is.
As of right now, she hasn’t changed those images out. She’s changed the images on the front page out and the graphic images which caught my attention. However, on page 2 of her site there are still other images hotlinked, including this one– which is for sale as a postcard. So, we’ll see if she changes those out at some point. Considering she changed one image on the second page but none of them around it…*fingers crossed* I’m on the fence as to whether to link to her or not. I want you to see what I’m talking about, but even a single hit from a link from me (and the PR juice that link would pass) is too much right now. I’ve got a couple of screen grabs that I’ve taken with my element inspector showing the coded link to images, but I’ll probably wait to post those6. It doesn’t really matter if I’m frustrated by this or not, though. I’m not that important. What’s bothersome is that people that are important to our side– such as Keith Olbermann and David Schuster– are sending traffic to that site (which is hosting BlogAds, by the way). That’s bothersome to me because we call out these things if we find them happening on the other side and we should do the same for ourselves.
By the way, the images on my sidebar are either hosted by me or are linked with permission. Just so ya know.
- Wisconsin, Ohio public employees are not overpaid by Meteor Blades [↩]
- I used to follow the blog host on Twitter, but stopped when I saw that this blog preferred to get the traffic associated with various stories. This is also the reason why I mentioned the retweet instead of the original tweet. [↩]
- Once again, this isn’t about me per se. I could easily play blogwhore, but I don’t. If someone follows my link on Twitter, so be it. Otherwise I do pretty much no self-promotion. [↩]
- It didn’t make it past moderation and that’s perfectly fine. [↩]
- And not because of ignorance. Not now. [↩]
- Mostly to see if anyone else wants to see them. [↩]