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Content Stealing Jerks (kevinwilliampang.com)
76 points by kpanghmc 2737 days ago | hide | past | web | 43 comments | favorite

I look at this as a reality that has to be adapted to rather than fought. It would be terribly inconsistent to preach that the MPAA and RIAA have it wrong, and then get in a rut over someone copying your article.

Now, to be fair, these guys are trying to make a profit off your articles (unlike the average joe downloading a movie on BT), but I doubt that many are succeeding too well. I have yet to see one of my own successful articles be supplanted by a clone in the Google search results, and sites like Reddit or HN are usually pretty good at rooting out blogspam. These guys are more like poor sods trying to sell a photocopy of your book for $0.10 on the street corner, than like organised pirates making tens of thousands off illegally copied DVDs. Even if one of them occasionally manages to get some real traffic, considering how hard it is to monetise even when it's on your own site, how hard do you think it is for them?

Getting angry about this seems, to me, on about the same level as getting angry at someone for paying attention during your speech and then going around giving that speech to others without crediting you. Yeah, so they're copying you. So what? The minute the content leaves your computer and enters the internet, it is publicly available and copiable, in the same way as the moment your speech leaves your lips, anyone with a good memory and delivery can copy it.

I'm not one for fighting fundamental reality with papier maché laws. I've summarised my feelings on the topic in my blog's repository, at:


All code is open to use for whatever purpose you have in mind (though I’d prefer if you used it for a good purpose!). You can copy the content and images too (though I’d really rather you didn’t copy the content, or if you do copy some of it, please include a link to my blog). If you want to use the danieltenner.com look/CSS/etc as a basis for your look, that’s fine too (though I’d appreciate it if you evolved it over time rather than keeping it looking exactly the same).

To me its quite different to the RIAA's copyright dilemnas. I find the misappropriation of authorship to be much more offensive than acquisition without license.

Plagiarism is so completely different (morally at least) from social copyright infringement.

What's the fundamental difference?

Bloggers don't want to be plagiarised because the plagiarism destroys the remuneration that they get from their work: reputation, feedback, etc. Pay for media doesn't want to have work copied because it deprives them of their form of remuneration: money.

They're both exercising control over an intellectual property so that they get something back from it. I see that there might be mild differences (for example, copying still provides some possibility of the owner getting something back, since the authorship link is retained), but fundamentally, it's the same right that is getting exercised.

Based on what? I see no difference whatsoever.

The key difference here is that one group is going after those they consider guilty of unauthorized copying of media, while the other is simply trying to have their claim of authorship respected.

Torrent files of MP3s and TV shows don't, as a general rule, mis-represent the original creators of a work. Because of that, they can still drive real revenue for those artists -- people may initially acquire an album or episodes of a TV show illegally, then go on in the future to pay for new content from the same people.

Doing a copy-and-paste job on someone else's blog content, however, breaks the link (however tenuous) between author and reader, which means that the author is unlikely to ever see anything of value back from the interaction. Not only are they deprived of direct financial (AdSense) and social (search rankings, public visibility) benefits, they are robbed of one of the most valuable commodities available to a blogger: direct feedback from interested readers.

"It's not like Jeff has a copyright on his CSS, javascript, or design"

Well, actually he does (and so do you). Most of the world (all the signatories of the Berne Convention, in blue at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Berne_Convention.png) grant you automatic copyright on anything you create. You don't need to file any paperwork, you don't need to have a little disclaimer, it just happens.

Now, usually it isn't worth the trouble of pursuing legal action, but you can.

It's worth adding that Stack Overflow has licensed their content under CC-by-SA, and so has cnprog.com, which suggests to me that they may be operating under that license and may not have even broken copyright law.

Moral of the story: if you don't want people to use and build on your work, don't license it permissively.

yep, there is no case to cry foul here. StackOverflow clearly provided license to copy. Maybe they did no expect something like this China copy to happen. But that's the beauty of a permissive license. I think its great that StackOverflow chose to use Creative Commons.

Crying foul here would be no different than Debian being offended by Ubuntu.

It's not always that clear cut.

Is "look and feel" copyrightable? - http://blog.pastie.org/2008/05/copyright---des.html

I think CNProg just copied the design. Chinese companies copying American design is not exactly anything new.

TaoTao (twitter), youku (youtube), digg.cn, faceren, and now cnprog.

I heard that there are teams in China that take orders as simple as "copy site X," and get it done within a month or so.

Google the name of any tech startup and you'll come across oDesk projects titled "[startup] clone", with tons of bids. There are teams actively cloning Twiddla right now (as evidenced by accepted bids to projects like the above). It's just the way it goes.

Granted. I was just responding to the claim that Jeff doesn't have copyright on his work - I'm not claiming that CNProg violated that copyright (I don't have any idea, one way or the other).

I always find it interesting when articles like this take the stance that piracy is bad, but articles about copying movies/music/game piracy take the opposite stance (piracy is good).

Perhaps I am missing something? Content is content, if someone copies you and shares it without you getting the payola, how is this any different from what happens in the movies/music/game industries?

People who download movies/music/games do not edit the content to make themselves appear as the creators and artists. Quite the opposite, warez releases usually come with a synopsis and background info on the distributed work.

That's not true at all.. transcoding a video and uploading it to a video sharing site is editing the content and misrepresenting it and something it's not. If the quality of the transcode is poor, if the audio quality has been trashed or segments have been pan and scanned, cut-out or otherwise modified, then it's being represented in a manner that the author may not have intended or desired.

Warez releases are often ripped, modified and repackaged in a way that may or may not look or act anything like the original.

Copyright holders have the right to decide when, where and how their work is displayed, consumed and presented, but the public at large don't seem to give a damn anymore.

To add to that, the offenders here are not only lifting content but presumably profiting from it (with AdSense) as well.

Mininova make 1million pounds per year, probably more. What's the difference?

Mininova doesn't host or distribute the content.

Right, so actually storing the illegally-obtained copyrighted content is what you consider wrong.

In other words, you oppose the RIAA going after The Pirate Bay. But by your own argumentation going after, say, a college kid with a terrabyte of fileshared music on his computer is ok, because the material is hosted on his computer.

Could you please confirm that this is what you are saying, or admit that you're in fact engaging in sophistry to justify you stealing content (music), but at the same time defend yourself from others stealing your content (blog entries, technical articles).

The net result is the same though - revenue is taken from the content creator.

The net result is not the same. Revenue may be taken from the creator, but credit is not.

So you are saying that it's ok to pirate as long as you say "this was made by x, get the original here"? How about considering what the creator of said content wants?

By which ethical/moral reason why content authors should have the right to control all the copies of his work?

I can see misapproriation as an ethical issue, but copying, not at all.

Personally I don't think they can. I agree with misappropriation vs copying, but I still feel sad for the content creators. It must suck to put in thousands of hours into something that people love but you can't make money off it.

I'm not saying piracy is ok, I'm just saying that piracy is not the same as robbery and that taking credit for something that you didn't create is separate from piracy. The creators should have some control over their creations, but they don't have absolute control over it once they share it with other people. How much control they should have is still an open issue for me.

Correction: Revenues could goes either way.

Who argues that piracy is good? Perhaps inevitable and uncontrollable, not worth it for big industries to peruse. For music it's convenient, in this instance it is not.

What do you do? You exercise the rights that deep-pocketed copyright holders have acquired through lobbying Congress.

Send a DMCA complaint to the CSJ's ISP or hosting provider. The ISP or hosting provider gets safe harbor from the DMCA, but only if they promptly remove access to the infringing content.

The hacker news community discovers that stealing ain't so cool when it happens to you.

Various posters then tie themselves into knots trying explain this double-standard. Proferred reasons why it's ok to steal from musicians, but not from technical authors:

- it's not that stealing is per-se wrong, it's the plagiarism that some posters find distasteful. That musicians' primary source of income is removed when piracy is widespread doesn't seem to concern these posters. Their currency is the kudos obtained from producing engaging and informative technical articles. E.g. (greendestiny): "I find the misappropriation of authorship to be much more offensive than acquisition without license." rcoder has this to say: "Because of that, they can still drive real revenue for those artists -- people may initially acquire an album or episodes of a TV show illegally, then go on in the future to pay for new content from the same people." That rcoder finds this theory compelling in the face of the direct and incontrovertible evidence of a 50% decline in record company revenues in 10 years is somewhat surprising.

- the RIAA engages in lobbying, and that's evil. Since two wrongs makes a right, it's ok to steal from them and those they represent.

I note also that one of the typical arguments given for why recorded music should be free is that "it costs nothing to reproduce". Which is true, although one wonders why this argument doesn't equally apply to any other creative content reproduced on the web. Books, articles, movies, computer code, anything, essentially!

I'm a musician/hacker and the "fuck you" attitude so prevalent here towards musicians and artists is really saddening. It's almost that people here expect us to live like paupers because that somehow fits some romantic expectation of how an artist is supposed to live, complete with alcohol problems and living in the gutter. That, or we're expected to make barbie dolls of ourselves or find new, cleverer ways to whore ourselves to ad companies (those that support this method as the only method of sustaining the industry will never be able to explain which ad company would have supported Lou Reed's "Heroin") There is no sympathy or empathy or any trace of human compassion towards this constituency.

And this is supposed to be the enlightened, rational hacker community?

Frankly watching some of the self-serving argumentation here is sickening. It's watching intelligent people who really should know better engaging in sophistry in order to justify their blatant pilfering of music.

Out of curiosity a question to the HN community at large: how would you defend yourself against a particularly cheeky content stealing jerk who claims that you stole her content? I have been wondering about this in the context of non-watermarked photos/images. How do you prove you were the actual original creator?

"how would you defend yourself against a particularly cheeky content stealing jerk who claims that you stole her content?"

I defend myself by embedded comments, and sometimes by fictitious entries


that mark my work as plainly my own. I learned a story about this when I was in school. In World War I, the Heast newspaper chain appeared to be copying Associated Press stories from the eastern front, and the AP started running stories about a Russian general Nelotsky who was enjoying great success against the Germans. Pretty soon the Hearst newspapers picked up the story too, and then AP revealed that "Nelotksy" was a completely fictitious name of a nonexistent person, based on a reversal of the spelling of the word "stolen." I was able to catch a plagiarist red-handed with a similar technique.

I will say that I like the post-Google era better than I liked the era of the hand-edited Yahoo directory, as Yahoo's original directory pointed to my site in one category, but also pointed to a very blatant plagiarist of some of my best content from another category. Since Google page rank has ordered search results, generally people who search for content on the issues I write about best are able to find my site first, not the plagiarists.

It's funny that you bring this up, because that's exactly what Delimitdesign is trying to do now that they have caught wind of my post (I'm the author).

They modified the post slightly to make it look less like a copy/paste job and modified the posting date back about 10 months so that it would appear to have been put up before mine. Too bad I was able to get screenshots of Google cache showing the post before it was altered. :-) If not for that, I'm not entirely sure how I would fight it. Maybe base it off of timestamps on sites like hacker news? Even then it's not a perfect solution since they could argue they simply didn't post a link to their article on the site until later.

Couldn't you use archiving websites like the Internet Archive, or RSS readers that save content (like Google Reader or Bloglines)?

One distinction for me between copying an online article and copying music or a game, is that with the latter, people are pirating it because they'd can't otherwise access it. They'd have to pay or inconvenience themselves somehow, so they go for the free version.

A piece of online content, assuming it's free, is something anyone can effortlessly access from anywhere.

So they may as well go to the original source, reward the author for his work, and not support someone else who's being more parasitic.

One could argue that propagating(copying) the content across disparate site removes the inconvenience of finding the original content while still not rewarding the creator of the work.

and to think all this is supported by Adsense. Surely to hit them where it hurts is to get G to pull their ads from the site.

Delimitdesign.com are using wordpress with WooThemes' "The Gazette Edition" premium theme: http://www.woothemes.com/category/themes/page/2

They removed the credits from the footer and the css file, so I bet they stole this too (Torrents for this theme are available).

I think the idea you propose is a good one, but there is no need for a firefox plug-in.

It can just be a site where content providers post side by side articles detailing their content was ripped off. Just as you did. Also the community of said site can thumb up or down the poster's argument; labeling who the real jerk is!

There are sites like this that already exist in the web design field.

http://www.pirated-sites.com is one that I remember.


(More for art, but same idea.)

Where are you? The site you referenced in the post is registered in the UK, which may or may not make pursuing copyright infringement feasible.

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