Urban Vancouver Stole My Blog


[twitter]I got into a very heated discussion today with some editors and manager types over at Urban Vancouver.

The site is an aggregator of blogs from across Vancouver and the web. They access the RSS feeds distributed by the blog and repost the entire blog entry on their site. I call it scraping, they call it aggregating.

Some tried to defend what they do by likening it to a mashup. However, mashups, as they are commonly found on the web and in music today, take an original work, combine it with another and make an entirely new product.

Taking my copy, republishing it on your website, with a unique url to your website, and linking back to the images from my server is not an entirely new product. It’s theft. It’s plagiarism. It’s wrong.

It’s not just my content that they’re stealing with urls unique to Urban Vancouver, they’ve aggregated dozens of blogs accross the city. Taking the content verbatim, plagiarizing it at an Urban Vancouver url.

Some are fine with it, I am not. Mostly because I wasn’t asked. I don’t need to be asked if you want to quote and link back to my blog. I don’t need to be asked if you want to blockquote and link back to my blog. Those sorts of tactics help evolve discussion on the web and flow traffic through varying thoughts and points of view.

Taking my entire blog entry, however, and reposting it on your site with an url unique to your domain, along with a second link that goes to my archive – on your site – is wrong.

I use FeedEntryHeader plugin for WordPress to try and prevent this sort of thing, or at least make it glaringly obvious when it happens. My header had read:

Copyright © 2008. Visit the original article at cyberbuzz.com.

It now reads:

Copyright © 2008. All rights reserved. Visit the original article at cyberbuzz.com.

I’m wondering if I need to make it even stronger or more blatant.

Credit to the people at Bryght / Raincity, they did remove the stolen blog content the minute I called and asked for it to be done, but Roland‘s smug chuckle on the other end of the phone just told me these people know they’re getting one over on the bloggers of the city and frankly don’t give a damn.

Actually, it might not be the bloggers they’re getting over on, it’s more likely the rest of the PR sphere that is getting gamed. Boris Mann defends his site’s approach by saying: “Many people benefit from the ability of UV to help generate “press” credentials, for everything from music awards to the Olympics.” [source]

In other words, a few bloggers, without much clout, readership, or influence, are trying to artificially increase their standings on the internet so they can catch some creds and go to a free concert.

It’s cool to quote me (and link back to the source). It’s cool to blockquote me (and link back to the source). It’s not cool to repost all of my content with a unique URL that out Googles me when people are searching for keywords relating to my own content.

You can track through the comments on Twitter to try and rebuild the conversation. But here’s how most of it went down:

sillygwailo: @buzzbishop I’m a managing editor of Urban Vancouver, mostly adding feeds to the aggregator (and fighting spam comments/posts) these days.
about 7 hours ago · Reply · View Tweet

sillygwailo: @buzzbishop Got an example of the wrong URL? Every post links back to the original.
less than a minute later · Reply · View Tweet

buzzbishop: @sillygwailo every post also contains EACH and EVERY word and EACH and EVERY image in the original. so what’s the point of clicking back?
1 minute later · Reply · View Tweet

sillygwailo: @buzzbishop true enough. I’m asking about “does not drive to the original url”. It does indeed drive traffic to the original URL.
3 minutes later · Reply · View Tweet

buzzbishop: @sillygwailo cant demonstrate anymore as i’ve been removed from the site. here’s my issue: http://tinyurl.com/6k9trr (expand)
1 minute later · Reply · View Tweet

sillygwailo: @buzzbishop That UV reposts full content is undeniable. We wish the technology was a little more flexible in doing just excerpts or links.
less than 10 seconds later · Reply · View Tweet

buzzbishop: @sillygwailo how about you just leave peoples stuff alone til you figure out?
less than a minute later · Reply · View Tweet

sillygwailo: @buzzbishop (Not sure I understand the importance of the link you dropped. Wrong link?)
2 minutes later · Reply · View Tweet

sillygwailo: @buzzbishop We’ve been trying to find the balance of increasing the exposure of the Vancouver blogosphere and respecting rights.
1 minute later · Reply · View Tweet

buzzbishop: @sillygwailo no, it showed that your page out googled mine, taking traffic. and since my posts were FULLY republished without permission
less than 20 seconds later · Reply · View Tweet

buzzbishop: @sillygwailo there was no need for people to come to my page, cause you had (stolen) reposted my entire site’s content.
half a minute later · Reply · View Tweet

sillygwailo: @buzzbishop I’m open to the idea that the site swung the balance too far. Some people like it….
less than 5 seconds later · Reply · View Tweet

sillygwailo: @buzzbishop …the aggregator is used as source material for a certain daily Vancouver news wrap-up (or if it’s not now, was for some time).
1 minute later · Reply · View Tweet

buzzbishop: @sillygwailo here’s the thing.. you should ASK before you steal. then its not stealing. if people like it they will participate.
less than a minute later · Reply · View Tweet

sillygwailo: @buzzbishop The @bryght account doesn’t accept DMs because that account doesn’t follow anybody (I’m its most frequent updater, obviously).
2 minutes later · Reply · View Tweet

sillygwailo: @buzzbishop I’ve agonized over that. We’re different from scrapers because there’s no ‘nofollow’ and respond to removal requests.
2 minutes later · Reply · View Tweet

buzzbishop: @sillygwailo you act first. wait for people to notice later. you’re being sneaky. if it’s so great, so wonderful, then ASK. why be sneaky?
2 minutes later · Reply · View Tweet

sillygwailo: @buzzbishop Since January of this year, I’ve announced every addition at http://jaiku.com/channel/urbanvancouver
4 minutes later · Reply · View Tweet

buzzbishop: @sillygwailo its not the same. fck me you are just not getting it. ASK! 3 little letters A! S! K!.. not to be confused with A! S! S! (holes)
3 minutes later · Reply · View Tweet

buzzbishop: @sillygwailo negative option billing didnt work for rogers. stealing content that way wont work for you http://www.ellenroseman.com/?p=22
3 minutes later · Reply · View Tweet

buzzbishop: @sillygwailo i dont care if youre blogging for mother theresa. ASK before you repost my ENTIRE BLOG ARCHIVE.
1 minute later · Reply · View Tweet

sillygwailo: @buzzbishop Fair enough. I quibble that it’s not your entire blog archive: it expires posts. (I really don’t want the quibble to detract.)
6 minutes later · Reply · View Tweet

sillygwailo: @buzzbishop I agree with you.
20 minutes later · Reply · View Tweet

buzzbishop: @sillygwailo guilt would be a big red flag you are acting without ethics.
1 minute later · Reply · View Tweet

sillygwailo: @buzzbishop I don’t dispute that either. Surely you’ve agonized over stuff you’ve done?
7 minutes later · Reply · View Tweet [source]

I am not happy with the emotional tone of my tweets. I would have liked to have remained calm, but faced with stonewalled responses and a lack of addressing my original issue of their refusal to ask permission before wholesalely reposting/scraping/plagiarizing/stealing my content, I got a little emotional – it’s what I do.

I would love to have posted screen shots and direct links to the violations, but I didnt take them and the content has been removed. You can go to the site on your own to see how they’re scraping the content from the dozens of other bloggers around the city, I’d just rather not give them any direct links to validate their business practices.

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