Press Plagiarism of Blogs

Over at Guido Fawkes Blog they’ve announced the winners of their Press Plagiarist of the Year Awards which points out print journalists who have “borrowed” ideas from blogs without crediting their source.

The winner was Mail on Sunday editor Peter Wright who turned postings from The Policemans’ Blog into a two page article and somehow forgot to mention the source.

But I was most disappointed to see that the second place went to the Guardian‘s Marina Hyde who has apparently been doing “research” on a number of blogs.

Blogs are, of course, a great source of journalism material. And I’m sure that most bloggers wouldn’t mind their work being used in newspapers. But a credit would be nice.

I wonder if it would help if more people applied a Creative Commons licence to their work. All the work on this blog is licensed under the Attribute ShareAlike Licence which means that you’re free to do what you like with it as long as you a) credit me and b) apply the same licence to your work.


  1. “you’re free to do what you like with it as long as you a) credit me and b) apply the same licence to your work.”I think (a) is fair enough, crediting people, and indeed has to be the case in academic work. But why should (b) apply? Just because I use an idea from somewhere why should I be restricted in how I can then use my follow-on work? This might be theoretically nice, but from a practical point of view a great deal of work is either commercially confidential, or classified on the grounds of security, etc.For example, if I’m a management consultant writing a strategy document for a large company I might well refer to blog posts to show which way a market is likely to move and to recommend actions based upon these observations. However, since this document is confidential and commercially sensitive I cannot publish it, make it freely available or allow others to manipulate it. So if your suggestion (b) holds, namely that I must licence my work for anyone to do with as they wish, this means that practically I cannot use a potentially very useful source of information.So to sum up, if you’re writing in a public forum then I don’t think you should ever require people to use your work in a certain way, simply because their legitimate purpose might be different from yours.

  2. Ian,Three points.

    • The work is mine and I’m therefore free to make it available under any terms I choose
    • The “share-alike” part of the licence closely mirrors terms of Open Source software licences like the GPL. So to people in the Open Software movement, it seems the obvious way to license work
    • I’m not a lawyer, but I don’t believe that any of this can remove the rights that anyone has to quote from my work as “fair use”
  3. It’s your second point about “share-alike” that seems a bit odd to me. I’ve never been sure if I particularly like it or not. If people want to effectively give their stuff away for free then that’s fine, of course. But if someone else then takes that free stuff and builds upon it, perhaps substantially, why should they then be forced to give their efforts away for free too? It just seems overly restrictive and perhaps doesn’t even promote code reuse (or reuse of whatever is in question): some people might not bother to build on something good if they have to then give it away for free, instead they might just re-write the code to achieve a commercial product, which seems like a waste of time that’s holding back progress. (There may well be licences that get around this, I know.)There is of course the argument that software can be given away for free and then the company makes its money from support. But how mnay companies actually operate this business model successfully? Perhaps there are studies on this (if there aren’t then there should be), but my gut feel is that it’s probably a tiny percentage of companies.Out of interest, Dave, what is your opinion of the free-software-and-charge-for-support model? Where do you think it works well? I’ve got a few software products in the pipeline with various colleagues and I’m now starting to develop the detailed business plan to go with them, so I’d appreciate thoughts on this.

  4. Ian,As I understand it, the Creative Commons licenses and GPL only apply to distribution of derived works. If you’re creating a document which is a derived work of a CC-licensed document which is confidential and doesn’t leave your company, then the license does not apply to you.It’s also arguable whether including quotes from sharealike-licensed works as part of a larger work necessarily requires the larger work to inheret the license. As davorg has mentioned, there’s a right to free use in copyright law which trumps it.

  5. On the “tiny percentage” point…First, in a changing world, why should the *current* percentage be of any particular interest?Second, I’m not sure what constitutes a tiny percentage – but to name a very few companies: IBM, Novell, Redhat. Not to mention my own business, Puddletown Tech. But you’ve likely never heard of that one, it’s a sole proprietorship :)_I’m not taking sides on whether people “should” attach that second condition…but it certainly their *right* to do so.-Pete

  6. Sorry for the late post, but I think it’s important to point this out too:Ian, in your scenario, Dave rightly points out that “fair use” gives you some leeway.In addition though, most bloggers post some way to get in touch with them. It’s common practice to get in touch with somebody to get special permission. I think that’s a good option; it shouldn’t be required of the blogger to establish a blanket permissive policy.

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