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Creek Running North

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February 07, 2006

Tell me why I'm doing this again

So I find a blog on which the blogger is not only taking the full version of Creek Running North's RSS feed and publishing it in full, but it's got a little boilerplate copyright notice at the bottom of each page that says

"Site copyrighted © 2004-2006 by [said blogger] except where otherwise marked, and may be used under the Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 license.

I provide a feed of the full articles for the convenience of those of you who read CRN in an RSS aggregator. A savvy webmaster can, if she wishes, incorporate the feed into her blog within the guidelines of fair use by using one of the many RSS-to-HTML scripts out there, and setting it to display an excerpt of each post. Twenty-five or forty words is a usual amount. Still, I'm not particularly surprised to see the occasional repost in full. I usually ask the person to adjust the settings to display only an excerpt. I have, on occasion, done the work for them.

But this use pisses me off. Unless I were to insert a copyright notice in each post, my stuff would not be "otherwise marked." Which means that this [said blogger] guy is, in effect, giving carte blanche to the world to republish my work as often as they like as long as no one makes any money from it. Including me. [Got that much wrong. Sorry. - C.] Now, obviously I don't mind writing for free, or you wouldn't be reading this. But I would like for that to be my decision, and now that I'm aware of [said blogger]'s blog, I lose much of my legal ability to retain my copyright if I don't take immediate measures to defend that copyright.

So I send [said blogger] a piece of email this morning. I'm phrasing from memory here, as the email is at home, and I'll append the actual text later should it differ markedly. My emailreads:

You are republishing my work in full, without permission, with misleading and false copyright information. Please either correct the copyright information or remove my feed.

I add the URL of my feed on his site. That's all I say, as I've gotten schooled in such things by attorneys correcting my past mistakes in being too familiar or nice or helpful. I was going for terse and not unduly hostile.

He replies:

I thought it was pretty obvious that the site copyright on my data didn't apply to something clearly labeled as an aggregator source, but if it makes you happier, I've clarified it. It was past time to update it anyway.

Now perhaps I'm in a worse mood than I need to be, but the "I thought it was pretty obvious" and "if it makes you happier" piss me off. Here I was offering him more than he had any legal right to expect, and he acts as if my demands are irrational. So I respond.

I would have been utterly satisfied with the change, were it not for the snarky attitude. You are republishing in full copyrighted material without permission. Remove my feed from your site.

I walk the dog, and then head in to work. I have an excruciating meeting. an hour and a half later, I leave the meeting to find this email from [said blogger]:

Snarky attitude? You brought the hostility, friend, when it was fairly clear that I wasn't trying to claim copyright on your work, and now I think you're reading much more of it back than exists. I think you should check on that chip on your shoulder; if anything, what I wrote was more polite than what you wrote. I find it a little doubtful at this point that you would have been satisfied with anything but groveling, though, since it appears clear to me now that you were looking for a fight.

Congratulations. You managed to dump on a complete stranger. Feeling happier now?

You are republishing in full copyrighted material without permission.

You may want to clarify your feed, then, because it states:

"A message from this feed's publisher: This is an XML content feed. It is intended to be viewed in a newsreader or syndicated to another site."

This seems like pretty blanket permission to me. That said however...

Remove my feed from your site.

If you don't want me to be reading what you write, I'm certainly not going to waste time disagreeing. You've been removed from my aggregator.

I sincerely hope your day goes better.

I'm a little surprised, because I never put that message in my feed. So I do a little investigation and find that Feed Burner appends that message to feeds it distributes, and I have as yet not found a way to remove it.

And so I'm figuring out when I'll have the time to re-structure the feed so that it only includes an excerpt of each post, which will be a significant and I sadly guess unavoidable hassle for some of my friends who read this by way of LiveJournal or other aggregators, and I get an email from Amazon. They're transferring nineteen dollars to me, from purchases of the e-book over the last two weeks. (and thank you! I hope you like the book!) So I decide to distract myself by checking the download stats for the document.

Five hundred separate IP numbers have downloaded the book in the last two weeks.

Now I need to decide whether password-protection of the book is something I ought to consider - along with making a couple sample chapters available for free download - or whether it's all just too much hassle.

I should say two things:

1) I'm sure that most of those 500 downloads were by people who aren't regular fixtures of the CRN community, so alla youse regulars, don't worry about apologizing if you've downloaded it and forgotten to - or decided not to - pay. I know how that kinda thing works. But a .4 percent sell rate is just depressing.

2) If you've read this far into the post on a blog - as opposed to an aggregator like Net News Wire or a Firefox sidebar or somesuch - and the URL in your browser address bar doesn't say either "faultline.org" or "livejournal" somewhere in it, the person who runs the blog is using it without my consent. It's almost certainly an innocent mistake on the blogger's part. Still, you might consider sending them a link to this summary of Fair Use.

I hate having to deal with stuff like this.

Posted by Chris Clarke at February 7, 2006 01:20 PM TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.faultline.org/cgi-bin/mt-tb.cgi/1564

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Comments

I just don't understand what the guy's motivation is. Was he passing of your work as his own for the psychic satisfaction or what?

My posts get aggregated sometimes...but the aggregators always make sure it is clear where the post came from and quote snippets rather than whole posts.

Anyhoo, I think it is a good idea to split your book up and make chapters and excerpts available. I think it will be smart from a marketing point of view regardless of people's honesty or otherwise -- I think people will feel more likely to check it out even if they don't know if they'll like the book or not if they don't have to download the whole thing, and I also think making the entire thing available for download without paying first dampens the sense that consumers are getting something for their money, which of course, they are.

Posted by: battlepanda at February 7, 2006 03:27 PM
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You know, 90% of the downloads of content on my site, pictures, articles, programs, databases, are from web crawlers. It seems like every first year CS student feels the need to write a web crawler that downloads everything, even if it's application/content-stream and can't be indexed.

BTW: About your point 2, I aggregate your blog and lots of other blogs on my personal friends page (http://xcski.com/~ptomblin/friends.html). I do it that way, rather than NetNewsWireLite or something like that, so I can read the same stuff when I'm at work or at home. Is that not acceptable to you?

Posted by: Paul Tomblin at February 7, 2006 03:43 PM
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I agree that the guy's attitude left something to be desired. I _hate_ it when someone adds something like "it's obvious, but" because the implication is clearly that one is a dolt for not grasping whatever little subtle point was going on in the other person's head but didn't make it on the page.

If you want something to be "obvious" you have to actually _make_ it obvious -- and snarking on someone who calls you on your failure to do so is just, well, insulting.

And then to add to it... *eyeroll*

I will add in a plug for your book (which I still need to take to Kinkos to have bound):

People. It's worth FAR more than Chris is charging for it. Pay up, already!

Posted by: Rana at February 7, 2006 03:53 PM
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Oh, and I also agree that it might be useful to include a sample page. I mostly went on faith in your writing when I downloaded it. If you let people see just the first page of, say, 4-5 chapters, I guarantee that they'd pay money to read the rest, if you set it up that way.

Posted by: Rana at February 7, 2006 03:54 PM
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battlepanda, the guy's intent was manifestly not to pass my writing off as his own, which is what he seems to think I was accusing him of. It was credited to me, with a link back to my site.

And Paul, intesting point. It never would have occurred to me to put your online aggregation in the same category as his. (And yours is absolutely just fine with me.) It was the sloppy copyright info that caught my attention. Clearly I'll have to do a bit more thinking about how I feel here.

Posted by: Chris Clarke at February 7, 2006 04:02 PM
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lifting someone else's work in full doesn't sound like anything close to fair use, and mr. lazy-blogger getting ugly with the author of that work is just pathetic.

** news flash: stealing is wrong. stealing someone's intellectual property [writing, music, art] is just as wrong as taking their wallet [or copying homework from the smart kid at the next desk, which most likely encouraged mr. wonder-blogger on his life of crime]. "it was so easy" is not a defense.

chris, i continue to enjoy your book, as do the friends whose copies i purchased. rave reviews all around!

Posted by: kathy a at February 7, 2006 04:10 PM
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ok, i misunderstood the part about credits. but still, it is a lot to lift from someone else...

Posted by: kathy a at February 7, 2006 04:15 PM
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On reflection, I think one of the things that makes me not mind Paul's aggregating is that my stuff is republished among many other bloggers', in chronological order. It's thus obvious that the page is an aggregation of other people's work.

On the blog in question this morning, all my posts were on the same page with a header saying Creek Running North, and the copyright notice below. A clueless reader might well have decided that the copyright notice applied to my work. The blogger was assuming that all readers would come in through his front page: obviously a wrong assumption, as the google link mailed to me sent me directly to the page on which my stuff was aggregated.

Again, I'm sure he had no nefarious intent. But still.

Posted by: Chris Clarke at February 7, 2006 04:30 PM
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(about your book, not the rss feed) You could do an Amazon and clip the first chapter out and make that available separately as a "leaf through the first chapter" download. If the only way to look at the content of the book is to download it, well, people will download it to leaf through it.

I leaf through all of the books I buy in a bookstore, and from watching other people I suspect I'm not the only one. Snipping out the first chapter might be enough for the browsers.

Posted by: David Parsons at February 7, 2006 04:42 PM
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Chris, i recommend that you begin researching Lawrence Lessig's brilliant and more than fair solution to copyrights. You will find most of what you need at:

http://creativecommons.org/

if you have more questions call him over at Stanford Law School. Using Creative Commons allows those that are really interested in engaging your work, honoring your copyrighted material, and offering their own in the most positive of ways.

Posted by: spyder at February 7, 2006 05:18 PM
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*bing* you should have mail...
Glad I stumbled onto your site.

Posted by: abd_chick at February 7, 2006 06:09 PM
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spyder, thanks for the tip. I do know about Creative Commons, and standard copyright is what I want.

abd_chick, thank you.

Posted by: Chris Clarke at February 7, 2006 06:47 PM
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*Gulp". I was one of those people who forgot about the download and never got around to paying. Have only had a chance to read the first few pages, but what I read I liked a lot. And Rana's recommendation works for me! So though it's only a tiny amount of money, you've got my payment now.

I agree with others... don't be so nice about the book. Give potential buyers a glimpse into the first few pages and then if they want more, ask them to pay for it. While it would be nice if everyone shared with complete altruism, you know there are a lot of whining women/men in the line, especially online where there are no binocular eyes to temper certain people's scramble for taking advantage of a situation.

Anyway, hope you've had a chance to get your heart rate back to normal. What a way to start the day...

Posted by: butuki at February 7, 2006 06:59 PM
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By the way, I just got Dan Price's "Radical Simplicity: Creating an Authentic Life". What an amazing little book! I've been wanting to live like that since I was a boy reading "My Side of the Mountain", by Jean Craighead George... now I am thinking of trying to make it really happen, if only part of the year. The countryside in Japan certainly is becoming more and more vacant as Japan's population goes down the drain...

Posted by: butuki at February 7, 2006 07:20 PM
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Consider it payment for 2 1/2 borrowers. I haven't downloaded the book...just thought your tip jar was looking a little low. (I'm not allowing myself to read for fun until the dissertation is done. Unless it's online. Yeah. Blogs don't count.)
Good luck to you on the copyright fight.

Posted by: abd_chick at February 7, 2006 07:22 PM
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This kind of re-publication isn't always so innocent. Here's an example from a hockey blog I follow: The Acid Queen. The comments are, er, educational. Yeah, that's it, educational.

Posted by: alice at February 7, 2006 08:21 PM
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wow. bad attitude compounded. i wonder if he came over here and read this post. probably hasn't a clue how stupid he looks in print.

the piece on pruning in the book was of inestimable help to me in dealing with our grapevines. not so much technically, but as encouragement that i could see the logic of the plant's growth if i looked patiently. the errors of last year's pruning became starkly evident.

and alice---thanks for that link. very educational.

Posted by: dread pirate roberts at February 8, 2006 07:49 AM
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Yuck!

I was at a wedding once when a former boss came bounding up to me, just thrilled that an article I had written while interning for him had been republished as the opening chapter of a new book his company put out. He thought I'd be thrilled--but he re-printed my article without my last name on it. I can't decide what pissed me off more: that or his complete inability to undestand why what he had done made me so angry. (I'm not even going into the "you get paid if you get re-printed" part of the contract that was conveniently forgotten about.)

I hope you day gets better. I recommed chocolate.

Posted by: Rain at February 8, 2006 08:09 AM
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For the record, the link that Amazon gave me after I paid didn't work, so I went back and downloaded it off of here - I dunno how many people have paid or if that happened to anybody else, but there might be some overlap in the stats.

Beautiful book, by the way. Best $10 I've spent all year (including a month in Bolivia (where $10 gets you quite a lot)).

Posted by: Kat at February 8, 2006 09:07 AM
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Kat, thank you so much.

Incidentally, if the link from Amazon didn't work then it wouldn't show up as a download in my stats. I assume that some people's downloads will fail due to a housemate picing up the phone or the power going out or whatever, and I also know that people like me will download a file, misplace it, and then go download it again. Those show up as multiple downloads, and I'm not worried about them. Many of them will show up as repeat downloads to the same IP number, which is why I look at IP numbers rather than the total number of downloads.

I'm gonna put up a couple sample chapters this weekend. Anyone have any suggestions for chapters to pick?

Posted by: Chris Clarke at February 8, 2006 09:16 AM
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you're *worth* the extra effort, chris. and it sure was nice reading you in lj-feed. all good things come to an end. all things, actually.

i encountered a woman once, just thrilled to death to meet me. "oh my god," she said, "you're *that* jean sirius! i adore your work, the '13 Things to Think about in Difficult Times,' and 'Meditations for Women' especially. i xeroxed them and gave them to all my friends."

i said, "i'm pleased to meet you. i've always wanted to get a look at the person who put me out of business. i used to sell those postcards, a quarter apiece. but somehow, i never made any money. thanks for clearing that up for me."

in short: i feel your pain. thanks for letting me share. i'll come by and visit whenever you post.

Posted by: Jean at February 8, 2006 01:44 PM
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Which chapters? Hard to say. I think if you just picked a few of them, and didn't post them in full but instead just posted the first few pages (with a "Like what you're reading? Go here for the rest..." note) it would work just as well. I say this because I downloaded it and paid for it without reading it, then, when I was printing it out I kept being sucked into chapter after chapter by the first page -- but was unable to keep reading because the next batch of printouts was piling up. It was maddening, and really made me want to sit down and read the whole thing without interruption -- which is just what you want, right?

I particularly like the poison oak chapter, but it's probably too long to be a good sample.

Posted by: Rana at February 8, 2006 02:23 PM
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If people have $4.50 for a large soy latte, they have $10 for your excellent book. I say you should password protect AND raise the price.

Posted by: Roxanne at February 8, 2006 08:16 PM
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