eLAB’s blog? Hardly, that’s mine!


So this story will be familiar to most bloggers who have been around for awhille; like a good narcissist, you check out your referrer logs and notice a new site bring people to your blog, but when you click on it you discover someone basically syndicating your feed, holus bolus, with no attribution (and no display of the original license), to all extents, as their own.

That was the case when I checked out the above site. What was worse, on the company’s home page (no google juice for you!) they link to this page as “The Official Blog.” Well, that’s, ummm, nice I guess, good to be know as ‘official’ in someone’s books.

So I wrote them this letter:

Hi, I am the owner and author of EdTechPost (http://www.edtechpost.ca/wordpress/).

I noticed that you are syndicating my feed at http://www.elearningapplicationbuilder.com/blog/. While I do publish under a Creative Commons license (specifically http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.5/legalcode) I feel that your republishing of my feed is infringing on both the spirit and the letter of this license. Specifically, in terms of the letter of the CC license, your use of my feed honours neither the attribution clause (4c) nor the need to re-display the original license under which it was created (clause 4a). In addition, linking to your syndication page of my content under the text “The Official Blog” off of your company’s home page (http://www.elearningapplicationbuilder.com) may violate the non-commercial aspect of the license, and is also misleading in terms of the attribution of the content.

I would appreciate your prompt attention in rectifying these misuses of my content. Please address these concerns by either displaying the proper attribution and license or else not syndicating my blog feed in this manner anymore. I would appreciate a reply to this email indicating what course of action you choose.

I am glad that you find EdTechPost of interest and worthy of syndication on your site for your readers, and by making these changes you may continue to do so.

Sincerely, Scott Leslie”

Part of me really hates doing this, and truly, it’s not about any great loss of commercial potential on my part. This is at least the 20th or so time I have come across someone syndicating my feed on their pages. I have only sent off one other letter before, again in a case where it felt like the person was badly mis-interpreting the freedoms provided for in the CC license I use.

But what about you? Have you had your blog feed re-syndicated in ways you weren’t happy with? Is this an appropriate reaction or just me over-reacting? Is this just par for the course when you publish an RSS feed? Strange words indeed coming from a pirate like me, I know. – SWL

17 thoughts on “eLAB’s blog? Hardly, that’s mine!”

  1. Well it seems that these guys are doing a similar thing, with your blog, mine and many others:

    They show a snippet of your post and if you click on it you get a “Become a Free Member” screen. However, there is also paid membership; so is this a commercial site? From my name or my blog post title, no one can get to my post without first becoming a member. Are they using our work in a commercial way?

    BTW, I use the same CC license that you have, and I guess it’s pretty standard in our community. I’m not sure what’s the most appropriate reaction, but it doesn’t feel that same as another blogger making a comment on something I’ve written. So far, no one from “humancapitalinstitute.org” has ever commented on my blog and added to the conversation.

  2. The site maintainer replied very quickly, always a good sign. He claimed that I had not specified how to be attributed on my site. To be fair, this is one of the things that have always bugged me about CC – the attribution clause does seem kind of non-specific; is “linktribution” enough?

    Anyways, I replied back that my main thing was for them to acknowledge to users that they were simply reaggregating other people’s posts (there looks to be at least one other source, elearning reviews). In response, this was added to their page

    “eLab’s blog is an amalgam of news agregated from other education related websites over the internet. We are not responsible for their content but highly encourage you to visit their sites as they are of high interest for everyone involved in education. Please visit http://www.edtechpost.ca for other great post and news! ;-)”

    Should I be assuaged by this? Please, someone, tell me I’m over reacting. This feels almost like a taunt.

  3. Lucky for me I don’t actually seem to be on that list, Harold, but that seems like a non-brainer violation of the license if indeed they are placing the content behind a password that has anything to do with them generating business. ugghhh. This actually happens so frequently I normally just roll my eyes and shrug, but I guess this just got my irish up today.

  4. This certainly an abuse of the spirit of CC. The size of that “attribution” font is pathetic. I was going to leave some obscene comments, just for fun, but they don’t accept the OpenID login (big shock) and there’s no way I’m going to register to their crap site.

    Then again, in the grand scheme of things I don’t think it’s worth getting too worked up about. Not just the “cosmic grand scheme” but basic business reality. Someone who is this sleazy in terms of branding their web presence is obviously a fly-by-nighter, and will probably vanish soon enough. Hopefully they won’t separate too many suckers from their money in the process.

  5. We’ve had a few articles used in a similar manner. So far we’ve let it go as we always show up far ahead them in Google. In fact, I’m surprised we even see referrals from those sites (they appear like domain squatters).

    Besides, I don’t expect that the content would be removed or edited on our request.

  6. Harold, no worries, that’s what I guessed had been happening. Still, points well taken.

    Brian and others, you’re likely right, both not much to get worked up about and not a lot to be done in any case, should likely just go back to worrying about the Vancouver Island marmot (damn marmots, always stealing my web feeds!)

  7. Hi Scott,
    I found this blog through Harold, and I just thought I’d offer my two cents.

    While I haven’t experienced this yet (that I know of anyway) I have had people take some of my photography which is CC licensed. One person took my old blog banner and put it as their own! The only way I found out was because they linked to my blog as a reference for an unrelated blog. I was stunned, expecially since the photo is partially of me!

    I also had a local publication rewrite a story submission that I had posted on my blog… that’s my stupidity I know… but still.

    I think that any of us who are willing to put our own intellectual property out there have to accept the risk of getting ripped off. The spirit of the CC license will thrive in communities that respect it, and will be useless in communities that don’t.

    Now I have a question, because I’m a bit confused… On my blog, I link to a number of different blogs in my blogroll, I don’t feed any of them into my site, but place the links. I wonder if this is a blogger fopa… (I’m new to this broader blogging).

    Where is the line drawn between link abd RSS sharing, and “stealing”?

  8. Hi Charlene, linking to blogs in your blogroll is not only NOT an infringement of any copyright or license, it’s actually a long-standing blogging convention that helped spur on the social aspect of the medium. It’s a great way to share the blog love!

    Cheers, Scott

  9. I didn’t even see the updated blurb on their “official blog”. How is their official blog a republisher for other people’s rss feeds? do they do any original work in that company/group?

    I don’t think I’ve had my content hijacked like this. I’ve seen it aggregated without attribution, but I think those sites were actually meaning to do the right thing, just didn’t know how to configure the aggregator to display attribution.

    I have had my blog banners used on someone else’s blog – which technically was kosher under the license, but come ON, people, how hard is it to grab a camera and shoot some photos for your own blog?

    But this is pretty blatant.

  10. I think the clincher is that they offer their “own” rss feeds of the content from their site. It’s pretty obvious they’re rebranding your content as their own. the 4-point disclaimer doesn’t count (I did find it after looking really hard – I’d dismissed it before as advertising or debug output…)

  11. So the end of the short saga – I wrote the site administrator that the effort at appeasement seemed, well, half-assed but ‘whatever’. Honestly, I don’t have the time or energy to argue more. Shortly thereafter they took down my feed. Which is probably for the best. Anyways, thanks for everyone’s input! I appreciate the thoughtful comments.

  12. Hi Scott,
    this seems to be taking openness a bit far, but I suspect it will happen a lot more, firstly because it can, and secondly because people setting up feeds can do so without much knowledge of the conventions or how it appears. So, you add in a list of feeds, go for coffee, job done. That doesn’t excuse it, but rather like in the early days of the web when everyone found out how to copy and upload images people just grabbed anything.
    I’ve thought about creating ‘self-updating courses’, where you have a generic activity (e.g. analyze three of the stories below according to X’s theory…) and then the stories would be from trusted RSS feeds. As the course designer I wouldn’t know what these were at any time, but they would be current, varied and reliable. Now although we’d obviously try and make the attribution clear, to a naive user it still might look like our content.
    In this case though I think it’s more likely that they’ve thought ‘sod creating our own content for a game of soldiers, this looks good, stick it in here.’ This is off, since as I blogged recently, people are willing to pay you money to blog for them, so nicking someone’s feed and passing it off as your own is not on.
    Still, it’s a form of flattery isn’t it? No-one’s pinched my feed…

  13. HCI was quick to remove my feed when I asked them to. I offered the use of my feed if they put the URL beside the public listing of it, but they weren’t interested. I’d like to know who has actually given them permission.

  14. While I understand your frustration, it is hard to take you seriously when we see other posts on your blog suggesting to scrape other people’s content:

    “Aye, you say, but it was probably the easiest tool at hand for what was a selfless act of giving back to the community. Right you are; but howseabout I shows ya how to take this page, database-enable it and allow others to add to new events to it in about 5 minutes with free, easy-to-use web-based tools. Come aboard all ye who’s coming aboard…”

    I guess that is what we call Karma… Scrape other people content and then get yours scraped!


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