PUT THE KETTLE ON... (you have my permission to print this off if you prefer to read it on paper!)
Many of you will know that our Mayor-doods have had their blog posts "scraped" by an unscrupulous unknown-body. There has been perfectly understandable outrage and horror within our community at this occurrence. The doods have done quite a lot their end to try and remedy the matter and I know that a few others have added their two-bits-worth via the comments or (like me) by email.
There are lots of considerations for all of us who operate on-line and, in the capacity of OoWaC, I would like to address a few things.
The first and key thing, perhaps, would be DON'T PANIC. Keep a cool head. Majority 'scrapers' are just lazy bloggers. Bad enough but in no way threatening to your computer (or you). A very few (VERY) are using the blagged blog-post as a cover for under-cover activities which shall not be discussed here. These are mainly (but by no means exclusively) based out of Eastern Bloc and Oriental countries. They still are no threat to any of our blogs as such, but of course if the content they have scraped becomes recognised when someone happens upon the genuine article, then they may have formed a prejudice which is wholly unjustified.
(In case you are concerned from the perspective of security, by all means change all your passwords, do all the 'antiviral and purgey' activities you like and whilst you're at it, a disk cleanup and defrag might as well get done....and when last did you do a backup BTW??? Computers have needs too!)
Generally speaking, this activity is not about 'spamming' or malicious activity. Actually, for the most part, this automated phishing-style practice which appears to be taking place in the current situation is (as far as can be determined) normally carried out on commercial sites. If your content has held anything which can be construed as commercial about it, this may point to why it has been scraped for an otherwise faceless blogpage. At some point there may be activity seeking to gain financial advantage as a result of others' hard work in content preparation. A kind of industrial espionage if you like!
Each geographical area has copyright laws and to some extent these may vary. Overall though, things are pretty similar wherever you are. On-line, it is possible to put up "CC" signage (like mine on the right bar) or other similar things; but just as there are villains on the street who WILL have your wallet regardless of how hidden it is, so there are word-thieves online. Image thieves also.
KNOW THIS; everything you produce and publish on line is covered by copyright - whether or not you apply the universal circle 'c' mark. There is a fair use clause so that lots of decent folks like ourselves may utilise interesting content, however there are lots of variations and interpretations of fair use and this falls into legal territory - where I cannot and will not enter! It is worth looking up your local legislation, but I paste in here from the UK Copyright Service as an example and starter for your thinking...
Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988
...now did you see what I did there? The link-back to the source is very important for this sort of copying and it also falls under 'fair use' as it is a 'snippet' for purpose of providing ancillary service.
It is important to take legal advice if one is going to follow up on a matter in which it is felt there has been a violation of one's copyright. It's a minefield and not for the faint of heart. As far as our general posts go, for most of us, there would be little that could be of any benefit commercially to anybody, so perhaps we cannot be too 'precious' about it. Where we have made actual literary efforts though, (FFHT for example!) or, as in my case, poetic efforts, then of course there is clear-cut copyright to be upheld.
This is also true in regards to images which we have taken ourselves and these are perhaps the most abused items in respect of copyright. 'Watermarking' is an absolute must do folks! Absolutely everything you put on-line stays on-line. Mostly we tend to use the corners of our images for this purpose (I know I do), but of course serious thieves will just crop these off. I am beginning now to put the moniker in parts of the photo where cropping would not be easily done.
When 'borrowing' images as I have done here, if they do not have obvious ownership written all over them like this, then all that is required is a simple 'Google Images' caption from you - regulars among you will know that I utilise that wonderful place for my Menofilcher pages; if you have accessed the Menoctionary, you will have seen that my title is the acknowledgement. It is absolutely imperative that we take care not to fall into the very act which we feel may have been perpetrated against us! The key is not to make things appear is if the work is your own when it is not - as these nasties have done with the dog blogs. One of the things that you can do is include strong links which would cause readers of the bogus blog to click through and bring them back to your original page - such as the link I have just put in above which brings folk to the page where definitions of my admittedly inscrutable titles are given. Thus you are levering off the blagger and getting traffic back via them! An important thing to note when making hyperlinks - always include the 'rel="nofollow"' HTML phrase (or tick the box in blogger link wizard) as this minimises phishing and spamming.
For those of you who have found that you have posts turning up on another's page, take a screenshot of that page (hit the PRT SC key top right of keyboard) as your proof. Then make contact as the doods have done - if in doubt ASK GOOGLE - they can be very helpful you know and they don't like gremlins any more than their users do. I did provide two useful info sites to M&S, plus put them in the comments box at their alert page, but now include them here;
This techy one and
this slightly more user friendly one.
They have similar info, presented differently. This points to another factor to consider. There are many subjects in the world upon which folk seek to expound their points of view and advices and it is inevitable that similarities will appear. In some cases this is actually desirable and in no way indicates lots of content filching!
Take Aatmaavrajanam as an example here. The subject matter is very specific. It is a requirement, in fact, that the content reflect exactly what was taught to me by my teachers and theirs before them and so on. The same applies in technical things such as how to deal with copyright infringements. If, in fact, one was to do a search and found that each site had entirely different views, then something would be very wrong indeed! There are rules. How those rules are conveyed is what can vary, but not the essential information.
Here's the bottom line folks (yes nearly done!!!), with all the check and cross-check we can do, nothing can entirely prevent such things happening. The key points to ask if you feel 'put upon' are these;
- are the thieves gaining financially from my/our work?
- are there indications that such activity is causing damage to my systems through malicious software or spam piggybacking via their 'phish'?
- are they interfering with the flow of traffic to my/our site?
I hope that this article helps to calm some of the stress and increase some understanding of what has taken place in "the Blogville attack". YAM xx