Respect for the Content Creators.

I’ve been at this whole blog thing for a while now. Not as long as many of the big names mind you but long enough to get into the culture and social conventions that fellow bloggers adhere to. As with anything on the Internet the rules are fast and loose and the worst thing that will happen to you for breaking them will usually be an angry email from someone you didn’t even know you could offend. For the most part though I’ve avoided incurring the wrath of any of my fellow netizens, apart from the good old fashioned trolls who make an appearance anywhere on the web.

One of these unspoken rules is that if you’re going to use someones content, maybe a quote from an article or picture off their website, you provide a link back to their site. The reasoning behind this is that the biggest gateway to the Internet, Google, uses the number of sites linking in as a sort of popularity count to judge how relevant a site is to a particular search. The more links you have coming in the more popular you are and the higher up in the search results your sites will appear. There is of course many other factors taken into consideration but nothing beats a good old fashioned link from someone else’s site to yours, especially if it comes from what Google considers to be a highly ranked page in itself.

Personally I have no problem with giving out links to those who’ve created content that I have purloined for my site. Usually I’m taking a quote from an article that’s inspired me to write a post on something and they deserve to have their work recognised. More often than not though I’m not even using the content directly and giving them a link as to support my own view which I’m putting forth. This healthy little eco-system of tit-for-tat means that the original content creators get the credit they deserve and the information gets freely distributed across the web.

More recently however it’s become apparent that some people are more interested in just taking the content and not giving credit where its due. I’ve come across a couple sites that have blatantly copied my articles verbatim and posted them to their sites as their own. You’d think I wouldn’t be able to find most of them but since quite a few of my articles contain links to my other writings on the site these content thieves unwittingly send links my way. When their site is eventually crawled by Google they show up on my report that shows all the links coming back into my site. For the most part though they’re a minority, and I’ve happily ignored the majority of them (in fact most of them seem to disappear rather quickly, leading me to believe they’re probably scam/malware sites).

What does get going though is webmasters who don’t trust people to do the right thing on the Internet. If you were one of the lucky few yesterday who read my charming piece on China vs Google you may have noticed an intrusive ad right in the middle of a quoted article. Now I make no secret that the original article there came from The Register and did my civic duty in providing a link back to their site. Unbeknownst to me however was that the quote I took from that article, by way of copy and paste from the site, had been injected with a tangled mass of HTML and JavaScript that wasn’t visible in the WordPress editor. Additionally the code has been designed to only trigger when copied into an editor capable of HTML rendering, as the code is nowhere to be seen when its copied into notepad.

This isn’t the first time I’ve come across this kind of chicanery either. Many sites have been using a small bit of JavaScript to inject additional lines into content when it has been copied from their site, usually containing a link or two back to their site. I didn’t have a problem with most of these as they showed up in the editor and I never forget to give a link where its due. This new trick from The Register however was something far more sinister as it not only hid itself from my view it also put a rather obnoxious ad for videos right in the middle of my post. Heaven forbid if their ad server ever got compromised and started serving malware which would in turn make me look like the perpetrator of such nefarious deeds.

I’ve got no issue giving credit where credit is due for those people who work hard to get stories out and give us lowly bloggers a bit of fodder to toy with. However I take offense when the trust between the creator and their wider audience is broken and they resort to such spineless tactics as to mangle the clipboard data with code that attempts to hide itself from plain view. If you have a problem with people copying your content don’t inject obnoxious advertisments, instead handle the situation properly. If you have a terms of use for quoted content then copy that in instead. Sure people will still get around it but mangling the copied content with crappy HTML and JavaScript will only help to offend those who are more than likely trying their best to promote your content. The content pirates won’t care either way.

Sure it was a small thing and it took me all of 10 seconds to go into the HTML editor and remove it but I can’t help but feel like that implicit trust that had been there for so long has been cast by the wayside by those who think we’re all out to profit off their hard work. Nothing could be further from the truth, I want people to read the original articles that’s why I link to them, but there are few organisations out there who just have to be unnecessarily rude by doing these things and they’re not going to win any friends by doing so.

Don’t make me write a plugin to scrub your cruft from WordPress blogs automatically. Hell hath no fury like a blogger/programmer scorned.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.