Some brief thoughts on borrowing content

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 🙂

Lights, bushels.

Brian has written a short post about universities actively trying to stop promotional material (yes – promotional material) finding freedom on the web. How funny is that?

On a related note, Sarah Perez from ReadWriteWeb did a post a couple of days ago about hidden image resources in the so called “deep web”. The list of links is great – I particularly like Calisphere and this collection of the 1906 SF earthquake. Lovely.

A couple of things though – first, surely Perez is wrong to suggest that these images are “the deep web”? I did a couple of tests looking for images via Google and it all seemed to be spidered ok. This one for instance was found via a Google search for the image title. It also appears on Google Image Search. Granted, you’d likely not find it given the quantity of other stuff, but it is definitely being spidered, so to me that means it’s not Deep Web. I may have missed something..

The finer point is more interesting, which is about what these institutions have done (or not) to promote these exceptionally fine collections. I haven’t looked into it any further in these cases but it’s familiar territory (you know, the whole open content, CC licensing, Flickr-usage, watermarking, marketing gubbins).

That’s where it comes back to Brian’s post – the content is great, the hard work has been done: the digitisation, the cataloguing, the site design. Then at the last hurdle, fear seems to strike. Better hide the content, you know, in case someone – like – uses it.

Go figure.