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Using Other People’s Content

Posted By Darren Rowse 14th of September 2005 Writing Content 0 Comments

Here is a free tip.

If you’re going to IM me and ask me to look at your blog – don’t fill it with stolen content.

I’m going to make this as clear as possible.

If you are going to use other people’s content to your site:

– ALWAYS reveal your sources. Give a link to your source if it is an online source. If its not attribute it by giving the author and where it was published.

– NEVER quote full articles from others unless you have obtained their permission.

If you don’t do this you run the risk of being sued, having people report you to the search engines for de-listing, having people report you to your advertisers to be banned from their programs and you’ll end up being a very unpopular blogger and will be exposed and shamed publicly.

If you have grand visions of making masses of money through using other people’s content then you’re delusional. Check out all the top lists of blogs that are doing big traffic and you’ll find that almost all of them are completely original content.

Stealing others content is plain stupid. Doing it and letting me know about it is even stupider. Doing it, letting me know about it and then not changing your ways is completely idiotic.

End of Rant.

further reading – A quick guide to referencing

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. ouch

    i hope that guy/girl got the message! ;-)

  2. Darren, Hehe … how dumb was this person asking YOU. You being a massive sneezer (Seth Godin’s term for one of mighty influence).

    To me it’s a simple matter, the blogging world is (and should be) no different to any other publishing medium: 99.99% of the times it’s okay to take out a piece here and there from an article/post and place it into yours as an addition to your post (to support your argument etc.,)… and fully attributing it IS a must.

    Taking a whole article, as is, and making it yor own without acknowledgement of authorship is plan stealing!

    It’s been a hot topic these last few days both here and at the Blog Herald – often heated and personal – so maybe the blogging community (I hate the word blogsphere ;-) has finally matured to the point that we all have to write our own “Terms of Use” policies, specifically what can and cannot be done with our posts, and place a copyright symbol and statement after each post (pretty sad, but then eveything’s in the open).

    Blogging isn’t a niche thing anymore, it’s become mainstream and with that brings different issues/problems.

    And Darren .. at this stage the best way is to shame them … if you believe if this is happening then go the rant ….

  3. Darren,

    I asked you to review my site. I hope this is not aimed at me? All my content is original, and I also quote the person or article that I use with a direct link to their site, if I utilise any sources they are always quoted. Could you please confirm it was not my site? I’m getting a little worried now?

  4. Hey John, while I certainly can’t speak for Darren, if you asked him to review your KeeperSkool blog I can almost guarantee you he wasn’t referencing you in this post. Did you ask him to review a different blog? If not, I’m pretty sure you have nothing to worry about. Your site actually contains more full-on original content then most blogs I read :D

    Keep up the good work!

  5. Also, if I have refferred others work, I have done so to refer my readers to other pertinent information that they may want to read. Never to steal someone’s content. Just like at Uni, if you quote someone, you reference who has written it (as I do in posts)? You don’t call the person to ask their permission, you just quote it and move on? Have I done something wrong?

  6. John – its not you or 99% of the other 50 or so people who ask me to review their blogs every week.

    In fact its not anyone who doesn’t already know that I’m concerned about it. I’ve told the person who stimulated this post what my concerns are – I’ve given them a warning to change their ways of face consequences.

  7. John, I’m with Cary here … there’s nothing wrong with your site from what I can see.

    I like the design too, nice and clean … and the topic, now that’s drilling down to a niche ;-) well done

    Now tell me, how do we get Australia into the next World Cup? ;-)

  8. You guys are AWESOME!!!!!! That is really encouraging! Thanks gang. And Darren, sorry mate…I will just crawl back into my little insecure hole….doh! And Darren…thank you for pro blogger, it’s the best!

  9. another happy customer!

    i enjoyed your first post – ‘the Best’ – John :-)

  10. That is the sad thing about blogs. Anybody can have one but not everybody should have one.

    If you’re not capable to an original thought then stealing other people’s content is really not a good idea if you want to live long and prosper in Blogland (is that any better than blogosphere Martin? :) )

  11. These days blogs are springing up everywhere, with people more interested in making money, than helping others or providing interesting content.

    If these people find content that they think will help make them money, then they will use it, regardless of any ‘Terms of Use’ on your site.

    Also, with the use of RSS becoming more widespread, it is getting harder to keep track of who is using your content and where.

    Of course all this isn’t helped by the sudden influx of ‘Automation’ products.

    They just make it easier for people to steal content and actually encourage them to do it!

    It seems that most ‘scrapers’ (stupid buzzword) don’t actually realise that they are doing anything wrong, because they think copyright law is different when applied to the Internet.

    Probably, because the content that they steal is freely available and isn’t tangible.

    However, there are plenty of others that are fully aware of what they are doing and they don’t give a damn about the legal implications, because it makes them cash.

    Unfortunately, money rules the world and it is a sad reflection upon our society that this is so.

    Either Internet law is going to have to change drastically (which I am personally against and I am probably opening a can of worms here), or somebody is going to have to create an online service or software product to help prevent content theft.

    What we need is something that will notify us when our content appears elsewhere without a link back to our sites, or without our signatures or a unique code.

    It could notify the person that ‘referenced’ the content by emailing them and asking them to correct their ‘oversight’.

    An idea for a WordPress Plugin perhaps?

    I am aware of the ‘Copyscape’ and ‘Copysentry’ services, but from my quick test of the free service, they don’t seem good enough (I may be wrong about this).

    Of course, the people best placed to combat this sort of thing are the Search Engines.

    A new Google or Yahoo! service perhaps.

    I apologise for any spelling mistakes, or nonsensical sentences in this post, because it is 04:00 here in the UK and way past my bed time.

  12. I am very sad to see ProBlogger go the way it has this week. Is blogging ‘all’ about the Money? Is ProBlogger wanting academic referencing? I’m a little concerned that this topic only seems to really concern people with a vested interest in the dollar revenue of their blogs – is that the only reason you bother? Maybe I’m wrong.

    And please don’t read this comment as ‘Norty Pig is pro content theft’ as its never actually been what I’ve said regardless of the BlogHerald guy.

    I think I’ll stick to my own turf where the air is less elitist. Most of us bloggers are doing it for fun and not business. Its not so much what you’re saying in these threads as the angry pedestal you are all standing on. Enjoy yourselves immensely. (unsubscribed)

  13. Joseph – You’ve hit it right on the head with “..It seems that most don’t actually realise that they are doing anything wrong, because they think copyright law is different when applied to the Internet.”

    I guess with Duncan (The Blog Herald) and Darren raising and keeping the issue alive every blogger reading about it will learn a little more … of course, I’m talking about the actual decent bloggers – the real thiefs (who know what they’re doing) well that’s another matter.

    Stuart – ‘Blogland’ not bad, but nah. I don’t know, but I think the term “blogosphere” will go the way of the “information super highway” did.

    Also, never heard of Copyscape and Copysentry so I’m off to do some research on them.

  14. Norty – I don’t know why you have a problem with what Darren is talking about. The very name of the blog should tell you that the theme of the blog is about making money. You can’t be a professional and not make money – unless you’re a professional bludger.

    So why do you have a problem with a blog, that’s called Problogger, talking about how to make money from blogging?

  15. nortypig – that’s actually pretty pathetic. … Elitist, Enjoy yourself (unsubscribe) crap thought of thing.

    If you’re not happy here then why post at all – just leave??? Why make a parting shot – it makes you look like someone desperate for attention.

    Have you taken a look at the title of this blog????: ProBlogger …

    If you’re doing this for fun and not for profit then why are you here at all – have you seen ProBlogger’s tagline: “helping bloggers earn money”

    Geez, but sorry you’re making yourself look stupid !!!

  16. Martin – I sometimes feel like I’m stuck head first in the ditch that runs along beside the information super highway :)

  17. […] I’m referring to the articles I wrote the other day Introducing A Shoddy Blogger and A Pearl Of Wisdom On Content Theft which were written in response to ProBlogger articles that keep hammering on about people stealing their content. The latest is Using Other People’s Content. I sympathise guys but honestly most of us are just blogging altruistically and from the outside of this clique its looking more like a bunch of sad bastards chasing a dime on the footpath. […]

  18. Norty Pig – I’m happy to have your comment – thanks for it. However I’d love it if you’d stick around so we can unpack it. Just because I state an opinion or arguement doesn’t mean I’m not willing to hear others thoughts or arguements.

    Let me respond to what you say – I hope you do come back to chat.

    I am very sad to see ProBlogger go the way it has this week. Is blogging ‘all’ about the Money? Is

    I’m sorry if I’ve been a bit negative this week. I’ve had a lot of pressure on and perhaps I’m not being my normal positive self. I apologise if the tone of ProBlogger has changed this week – it’s partly just a busyness thing where I am perhaps being a little more blunt than normal. It’s also that I’ve seen some pretty amazing abuses of blogging this week and am doing my best to respond to them.

    ‘Is ProBlogger wanting academic referencing? ‘

    No – but I think it is common curtesy – and many would argue the law – to reference anything that you publish – whether you’re doing so commercially, for hobby, for study etc.

    I’m a little concerned that this topic only seems to really concern people with a vested interest in the dollar revenue of their blogs – is that the only reason you bother?

    I think you’ll find this is a wider problem than just in ProBlogging circles. When I used to blog purely as a hobby and hung out in such circles completely I used to see the same practices of some bloggers and the same reactions by other bloggers.

    I guess we talk about it here at Problogger a bit more than on some blogs because its increasingly a practice that people are using to make money from. For example the blog I’m referring to in this blog has ads on it. The blogger is making money in an unethical, unprofessional and illegal manner. In doing so they bring blogging and problogging into disrepute – something I don’t want to see happen.

    ‘And please don’t read this comment as ‘Norty Pig is pro content theft’ as its never actually been what I’ve said

    I’m not accusing you of this – but I’d be interested to hear what your solution to the problem is – or if you think it is a problem? Should we just ignore it and hope it goes away or is there a better way to raise the topic? I’d genuniely like to hear people discuss this and would value your opinion.

    ‘I think I’ll stick to my own turf where the air is less elitist. Most of us bloggers are doing it for fun and not business. Its not so much what you’re saying in these threads as the angry pedestal you are all standing on. Enjoy yourselves immensely. (unsubscribed)’

    You’re welcome to participate or not on this blog. No one is forcing anyone to discuss what I write. This is a blog about making money from blogs though – so if you’re not up for that type of discussion then there are several million that might be more suitable to read. I’m not having a go at you – but this is what this blog is about.

    It’s not my intention to be on a pedestal or to create an elitist thing here – in fact I try to be as down to earth and inclusive as I can. I take on board your opinion though on what you’re sensing here – comment threads over the past weeks have gotten pretty heated at times and my posting is perhaps a little more negative than normal.

    I appreciate your comments – hopefully we can discuss this like adults and all come away from it a little richer for it rather than having our say and then running off.

  19. Great post, Darren.

    I couldn’t agree more. I recommend using Copyscape and using it often to protect your content. While the tempation to steal the intellectual work of others is still great, the ability to keep track of where it’s going is also tremendous with the tools online publishers have available to them.

    At the end of the day, content is king and you’re only as good as your last post.

    You’ve got an excellent blog here, Darren. When your name pops up on my Outlook edition Newsgator RSS Aggregator, I stop what I’m doing and read it immediately and that is the best compliment I can give to a fellow blogger.


  20. Couple of comments, first you should have warned that I’d out them as well Darren, Im getting a reputation for these things you know :-)

    but more seriously on a few of the comments the reason Darren and I, and a whole lot of other people I know feel strongly about this is because we’ve worked our guts off to get to where we are, and others, mostly cretins, sometimes just plain stupid people steal our content and work to try to make a quid. I’m on the record that blogging isn’t my main source of income, so perhaps I’m not as exposed financially, but I resent the comments here suggesting that its all about greed and money for me and Darren: it is all about greed and money but not from us, its from those stealing our content. If I wasn’t making a cent from the Blog Herald I’d still angry about it, its not the money its theft of our hard work. I’ve literally spent 1000’s of hours writing, designing and promoting my blogs, and if we put a dollar figure on it, I’d say the return would be less that a third world sweatshop if apportioned in an hourly rate, if people think we should stand idley by and let some Johnny come lately steal our work you’d be grossly mistaken.

    99% of people would agree with this as well, and I know a lot of the comments here are in favour. Its a shame our Southern friend doesn’t agree. (I cant name where he comes from because according to another person who thinks the same way it’s apparently racism, although I have heard some people suggest that our Southern friends are a different race, although I know Darren’s said a lot worse about us Sandgroppers as well :-) )

  21. Darren, Darren, Darren — there’s nothing wrong with being blunt – that’s what we want: a voice. Duncan has a strong voice (albeit sometimes over the top ;-) – can I add this: your writing style over the months has been quite positive and even-handed, no real rants (almost like you’re trying too hard not to offend anyone). So when you do finanlly do a small rant it shakes it up a little here. We’re too used to you being the all-round nice guy. Stop it, damnit!

    Why are you even bothering with him – he said he’s gone and if you read his just written post he seems to have an issue with you (caught up in the size of Darrens own legend). This smacks of envy – pure and simple.

    Sometimes you just gotta let pople go Darren, don’t try and soothe everybody.

  22. […] You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your ownsite. […]

  23. Duncan – making fun of Tasmanians is apparently racism! – now that’s funny. I’d suggest those that think that way look up what racism really means.

    Geez, if you can’t make fun of a tasmanian then what’s the point ;-) – me thinks major chip on shoulder with this one.

    Sandgropper – haven’t heard that for a long time – better not win the footy this year !!!

    Heck, we better stop talking Aussie or 90% of readers will go … D’ah, what the….

  24. Duncan – I lived down there for 7 years – it is undoubtedly the most depressing place I’ve ever lived but everyone wants to be a legend in their own lunchtime and poor old Norty thought he could have his few minutes of fame at Darren’s expense.

  25. Martin – yeah I know I could be blunt more. To be honest its just not within me 99% of the time. I’ve always been told by family and friends that I’m too much of a diplomat. I guess it’s a personality thing.

    I guess I’m just trying to create a space here where people get to have their say – where people are civil with one another – where we can have some fun but not at the expense of others – and where ultimately we all come away from the place better than when we got here. That’s pretty much my philosophy of life and i like to extend it to my blogging.

    So when someone like norty has a go at me or my blog I first up want to try and see why he’s saying what he says, secondly I try and analyse whether he’s got anything in what he says that I should take on board and then try and open up some dialogue rather than just shut them down. Of course this all depends upon my mood and what kind of day I’m having. :-)

  26. rofl!!!! Best laugh I’ve had in a while!
    Yes Martin, sometimes I go to far, its a flaw I’ll admit to and I’ve really been slaying away lately so maybe its time to slow down, understand though its because I’m passionate about this stuff, and I’m not sorry for being passionate, although over the long term I respect its neither becoming nor good for business either.

    Im not going to link to the twit who’s calling me a racists because he is desperately suffering from relevance deprevation syndrome, but rest assured but I love all of my fellow men, although don’t start me on New Zealanders :-)

  27. lots of typos “racist” without the s, that instead of but. :-)

  28. Seriously says: 09/14/2005 at 2:21 pm

    Darren, don’t you do a very similar thing on your breaking news blogs? Copy half the article and then put a small link to “the rest” at the bottom?

  29. Seriously – yep we use quotes from longer pieces – usually short excerpts with a source link inviting people to read more at the original source. I can’t speak for all of the blogst at BNB (its written and owned by multiple authors) but that’s my approach.

  30. […] That being the case, a link to the author is necessary, obviously. This topic is always popular in the blogosphere, but today’s blogs ‘went-off’ on this topic. See here: Problogger, Blog Herald […]

  31. Seriously,
    this is fair use, i took a quick look at the BNB blogs and Darren is using an extract in a box quote, so he’s identify it as a quote, then his providing the link and name of the site following.

  32. It’s pretty simple really. Quoting is quoting and should be separated, linked as such and attributed. Regardless of the legal aspect it’s just common courtesy and I’d add it’s possibly a hallmark of a reputable blog.

    And, as a Tasmanian (expat Victorian), hands off all you smog-breathing long-distance commuters!!

  33. Darren – “diplomat” – that’s exactly the word I was after. Yeah, you’re right, there’s no point in trying to be something you’re not – you’ll be caught out sooner or later.

    BTW, Darren, have you thought about including a “Notify me of followup comments via e-mail” plugin – something like Duncan has at the Blog Herald? It’ll be a real time-saver for us commenters. (also tks for cleaning up my coding error )

    Duncan – it’s not a flaw (ok, maybe a little) but that’s why we love reading you – you never know what you’re gonna say next ;-)

    And back to being serious – #28 that’s all we’re talking about – no one is saying you can not pull out some content and place it onto your post – it’s making sure that the orginal source gets attributed. That’s it!

    Back to foolish comments before I get back to some serious work: Piggy person said we’re a bunch of elitists – wow, I’ve never been an elitists or called one before ;-) How does one act when one does become an elitist? ;-)

  34. Not sure of what this fuss about elitism and whatnot was. Whether I get paid for writing or not doesn’t make it less *my* writing, and if some bozo comes and presents it as his own, it’s theft. Whether money is involved or not, I don’t care, it’s mine, plain and simple, and I expect that my name at least is given. One doesn’t need to “blog for money” to feel this way.

    It’s all about the people who work their butts off, and those who come after the battle is won and claim all the glory as if it was they who earned it. What are we supposed to do, just keep our mouthes shut in fear of being labelled elitists? Then we’ll be labelled doormats instead, and it’s not exactly better.

    Maybe your posts as of late come a little on the negative side, I don’t know… I haven’t felt especially struck by that. Regarding this post in particular, it’s not like you went on a witch hunt or something, the stolen content was thrown into your lap directly. Who wouldn’t react to that?

  35. Yzabel – the elitist thing goes to what nortypig has posted just recently at his blog – http://pigwork.info/index.php?p=350

  36. […] Wow…I guess I’ve hit the big time. Right smack dab in the middle of all this talk about content theft I find myself staring at the web site of a spammer/content-thief who has stolen my entire site […]

  37. m not going to link to the twit who’s calling me a racists because he is desperately suffering from relevance deprevation syndrome

    OK Duncan if you say so.

    You still haven’t answered the charge made against you, or your guest blogger John.

    I have no problem with articles recommending best practice for writing, and exposing content misuse; Darren’s post is fine. I do take issue with people who angrily oppose such practices yet do the same things themselves.

    I won’t split hairs here over ‘racism’ etc. as it’s not relevant (funnily enough) to the actual issue. I’d be happy to debate at length in a more appropriate forum such issues.

    And I don’t expect links Duncan. I didn’t ask for them in the first place, and as you’ve culled my comments, it shouldn’t be an issue for you.

  38. What charge has been made against me dude?

  39. I don’t think you’re the same John, John :)

    I’m talking about taking complete Associated Press stories from other sites (who have the right to reprint).

  40. come on fellas – take it outside.

  41. Cary .. that is unbelievable – How is he doing that? He’s not copying it – it’s actually your site being pulled into the bottom frame. He disabled his code, but if you go back to the root directory – it appears that his google adsense account is pub-8062494168945854 .. if that helps to get this guy! While your site is in the bottom frame under his url – it is using your google adsense account ending in ..7723 .. I wonder if that puts you more at risk?

    PS: while I’m here looking at Post #36 .. was that manually posted in here? Or, is there some wordpress script that retrieves posts that links this permanent link? It’s been driving me nuts for a few days :-

  42. Andy Merrett says: 09/14/2005 at 6:22 pm

    Hmm I think I’m in danger of being censored here, too…

    All I’m saying is that there were AP stories printed in full. Though some would say otherwise, I see this as a valid point of discussion oon a topic about referencing / use of other’s content.

    I really didn’t start this out as a personal vendetta against anyone in particular. All I did was highlight an area where I believe someone did a very similar thing to that which they were complaining about.

    I don’t use public forums to pick personal fights for their own sake. It’s not me that has brought irrelevant issues into this important argument. I asked a simple question (deleted from source) which got someone’s back up. All it needed was a simple answer.

    Certain sections talking about ‘relevance deprivation syndrome’ is just a joke.

  43. Duncan has replied to me personally resolving several issues that I raised here, on BlogHerald, and on my blog.

    Whilst I don’t think everything has been resolved (see my final, final post on this matter at my blog!) I thank you, Duncan, for doing this.

    That’s all I wanted!

  44. Well, I’m a little late to the party, but wanted to start off by saying, there is a reason why it’s called PROblogger.

    Last time I checked, for a pro blogger, there blog IS a BUSINESS. And Darren is giving out tips how to make money from your blog. So of course, the majority of posts here will be concerned with that.

    Like Darren says, stay on topic, that’s what he’s doing.

    Personally, I don’t mind blunt and I think it’s important to hear how things really are because the real world is not pretty or kind to fools or thieves.

    Darren calls it like it is, simple as that. Can’t ask for much more.

    P.S. And before someone tells me I’m being an apologist for Darren, I’m working from what I’ve learned from my own blogging and how people react. I can tell you that very few people are as generous with their time and advice as Darren is.

  45. Hello all! I would love some advice. Check out this blog taking my post. What should/n’t I do? He linked, but yet he took the whole article.

    Another question: Is it relevant that I have my blog licensed under Creative Commons?

  46. btw, Darren, I love your blog and read every post as soon as I see it in my Thunderbird RSS feed reader. Great job!

    Back to this Creative Commons thing: I noticed Darren also licenses ProBlogger under CC. I like the “Share Alike” clause and will be changing my license to include that.

    However, I’m wondering if the blog that took my post, referenced in my previous comment, may be all right in doing so. CC says:

    You are free:

    * to copy, distribute, display, and perform the work
    * to make derivative works

    as long as you attribute and it’s non-commercial. This blog that took my post has no ads on it.

  47. One final question before I quit blabbing (at least until someone responds.. *grin*)… How do aggregators such as this one figure into this discussion? How should they be treated? I am great with this aggregator… it has no ads and is run by a (new) aquaintance of mine. It has also driven some traffic to my blog (not much, but it’s very targeted (fellow Mennonites/Anabaptists) traffic that is more likely to generate a regular reader). I noticed that this guy that runs the aggregator, Graham, has asked other blogs before adding them to the aggregator. I was one of the first blogs on the aggregator and thus he didn’t ask me (he probably started doing that at some point after asking me).

    Sorry for the disorgranized info… some thoughts on the subject would be appreciated.

  48. technically if you say people can use your posts in a creative commons like that for non commercial purposes – they can use your content for non commercial purposes. I still think it’s a bit cheeky though. Perhaps email him and ask him to make it just an excerpt post if you’re worried.

  49. Please do review my site.



  50. Darren, ProBlogger is hosted under a similiar CC license that allows the same thing. Did you realize that? I sure didn’t think about it when I licensed my content as CC.

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