The ethics of cut and paste blogging


Blogging is good fun. After all, if it wasn’t, we wouldn’t do it – right? But there are some blogging habits that are unacceptable. Abusing someone for instance would seem to be in pretty poor taste. So, at least in my mind, is the way that some populate their blog with content that is cut and pasted verbatim from other sites.

I guess copying happens in every walk of life. And in some circumstances to be copied is intended to be a compliment to the originator, which is fine as long as the person who copies material does not claim credit for the work or otherwise removes any potential gain that the originator might receive for their efforts. Last October, I wrote about the parasites who steal material from books and sell copies on the Internet or use the material from books such as Exchange 2010 Inside Out to populate their web sites in the hope that the information convinces potential customers that the parasites are really good people who know their stuff. When I delved into what happens to pirate book content, I learned from the lawyers who support Microsoft Press that this happens all the time and that any book worth its salt is available free of charge from multiple sources on the Internet. Such is life, I guess.

Lately it seems like there’s been a rash of people who have created their blogs based on material that they’ve extracted from other sites. Paul Cunningham runs ExchangeServerPro.com from Australia and puts in enormous effort to write about different aspects of Exchange. Paul takes the time to understand the technology, figure out its strengths and weaknesses, and then communicate the information to people who read his site. He doesn’t ask for anything from his readership as the site is financed through his hard word and (I imagine) some contributions from advertisers.

I follow Paul on Twitter and noticed some pain in his comments about people (“content scrapers”) who use his material. Three new sites popped up this week featuring content taken from ExchangeServerPro.com – the average is one new site weekly, so this is an ongoing problem.

Now, I have no issue whatsoever with someone who wants to create an interesting blog that features Exchange, another technology, or any other topic on which they care to focus. But it seems that it’s pretty slimy behaviour to simply take content from another person’s site and paste it into your own, complete with all of the accompanying screen shots. There’s no effort made to disguise the content – nothing new of value or additional insight is added. The only effort expended is cut and paste and the blogger then sits back to wait for plaudits to arrive for the amazingly interesting and useful content that they’ve made available to the technical community. I guess they feel good when they see how many page views “their” content generates. After all, search engines don’t distinguish between original and copied content when they deliver results to users.

Good examples of what I mean can be found on this blog (seems like a German blogger) and this one (Portuguese – at least it has “FONTE: exchangeserverpro.com” at the bottom of the post). Some non-English language blogs who “reuse” content protest that they do so in an attempt to make their local technical community aware of the material. It’s a reasonable thing to try and do, but it would be better accomplished by providing some overall editorial commentary about the article in the local language together with a hyperlink to the original article. Or, with the original author’s agreement, to translate the content into the local language. Neither of the examples that I cite attempted to take these approaches, possibly because it’s too much effort when a simple cut and paste gets faster results.

Protesting to bloggers that copy is usually unproductive as they hide behind the anonymity of the network and don’t care that they are behaving unethically. In fact, most don’t see the problem. If you care to track the reuse of your blog, you can create Google Alerts based on some unique phrase that appears in your articles so that Google will email you with details if the phrase pops up on another site.

Creating a Google Alert

Of course, receiving an alert won’t help if you get stressed about these things, but at least you’ll know when it’s happening. And once you know, you can take whatever action seems appropriate to you… Like posting suitably strongly worded comments on the blog or sending the blog’s owner a thoughtfully worded email that doesn’t begin with “Listen you dirtbag slime-sucking fraud…”

– Tony

Follow Tony @12Knocksinna

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About Tony Redmond ("Thoughts of an Idle Mind")

Exchange MVP, author, and rugby referee
This entry was posted in Technology, Writing and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The ethics of cut and paste blogging

  1. Jeff Wouters says:

    Good post! Exprienced it a few times now, never much fun… but learned to live with it 😦

  2. Not only are my articles getting copied at an increasing rate, but every time one of these sites pops up in my trackbacks I see other prominent Exchange bloggers also being copied by the same people.

    The last couple of weeks certainly highlight how it has turned into a game of whack-a-mole that I just can’t win. But as a published author Tony you’re already well familiar with that feeling 🙂

  3. Hi Tony,

    Sometimes I do and if you see my latest blog it has relates to a topic building a DAG from your book Exchange 2010 Inside Out.

    Some paras you would also find on my wall post of my facebook profile.

    Not for my credits but just for sharing knowledge and hope you didn’t mind, let me know further if any, Thanks!

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