The purpose of our blog is simple: provide useful information and content that would help our subscribers on certain subject matters. We spend days searching for the best posts to place on our blog. Some we write on our own, while others we redistribute from what we consider as professional and reliable sources.
Sharing others’ work (and giving credit) helps authors reach a wider audience. Social media is about gathering and sharing information with others. When you visit a blog, you usually see Tweet, Digg, Facebook and other social media buttons in order to make sharing with a wider audience possible.
Redistribution of your work is not a bad thing. There are many advantages to getting your work redistributed. Redistributing blog articles gives the author more credibility because another company is impressed and wants to share it with their subscribers. The other advantage is the author gets their content in front of a much larger audience. At Situated Research, we know of six other blogs that have redistributed our content without permission, but have given us credit and have linked back to our blog. They never asked for our permission; however, they gave us credit for what we wrote. Authors should be thrilled to have their work redistributed, since it gives them credibility for the material authored.
When we received an email threatening legal action from UX Magazine, demanding that we remove posts from our blog, we were baffled. The words used within the first correspondence, such as “theft” and “unethical practices” were among a few that were flying our way. We explained to the editor that we read their policy statement, which clearly states that redistribution of content from UX Magazine is possible as long as credit is given to its author, it is linked back to their website, and is not posted to a commercial blog.
After reviewing our blog we found that we had given the author credit, we posted it on a blog that provides information to subscribers, however we did not put UX Magazineâ€™s name after the author’s name. Once we found this mistake, we apologized and made the correction immediately. That was not enough for UX Magazine: what happened next will surprise you. We thought that after the correction was made and verified by the editor that all correspondence would end, but that was not the case.
The editor thought that threatening our company would be the next smart move to take. The editor was getting nowhere with us because we knew we were within our legal rights. We are also refusing to delete the articles from our blog. If someone were to write to us and say, “I am flattered that you redistributed my article and gave me credit; however, I would like my article removed from your blog”, we would have complied immediately with the request. However, when you receive a series of threatening emails, and you are within your legal rights, a change of heart is to be expected.
As this conversation lingered on for two weeks, we decided to stop all correspondence, as we were getting nowhere. When we informed the editor that correspondence would be ending, he threatened to contact all authors on our blog, and inform them about their articles being redistributed on our blog. At that point, we decided to delete the two articles that we had redistributed from UX Magazine because we did not want our authors bothered by this situation. The correspondence ended and we thought that we were in good shape, but we were wrong.
We emailed the president back and informed him about this. Twenty minutes later, we received an email back giving us a link to the About Us page on Social Media Examiner’s website. Then we were asked to remove the article or they would “take it to the next level”. Again, threatening tactics from what is supposedly a company that specializes in networking and social media. We clearly had to remove the article after the copyright notice was added.
Check out the bottom of the page: http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/about/
We thought that our adventure would end, but later the same day we received an email from Information Architects’ International Editor. Information Architects is a blog about Information Architecture, and we thought that one of their articles was worthy of being posted for our blog subscribers. We were wrong.
The email that we received was written in such a way that we could not understand what the editor was saying until we read the sentence, “This is not even a discussion you will do this or else.” Or else what? What was this person threatening to do by making this statement? As we were unsure, we decided to look at the Information Architects website to find a policy statement or the “All Rights Reserved” statement, and found neither one.
One correspondence stated that they were tweeting about us on Twitter. They even provided the link to their Twitter page so we could see. They had the audacity to ask their followers, “Should I make them famous?” In the email, the editor boasted that we did not know what we were getting ourselves into because apparently they have over 20,000 followers on their Twitter account. This was supposed to scare us, we think.
After seeing the tweet, we decided that correspondence had gone on long enough. We told the editor that we would kindly remove their article immediately, which we did. In the meantime, the editor had gone through our blog and decided to pick out the most popular post, from the well-known social media website Mashable. The editor of Information Architects emailed us right away, after we complied with his request, and stated that he was going to contact Mashable to let them know what we had done, as if we had done something wrong by redistributing content on our blog according to law.
To make a long story even longer, Mashable contacted us within ten minutes of our last correspondence with the editor of Information Architects. It was well after midnight (Chicago time) and we were impressed to get a response at that hour, but we were not impressed for long.
The first email that we received from Mashable was along the same lines as all of the others. Apparently, we had posted one story from their website. The only issue was that we had written consent from the author of the article, but not from the company where the article was posted. The Community Support and Advertising Manager stated that it was not relevant if the author gave us consent because the website has the statement “All Rights Reserved” on every page. The conversation ended with the person telling us that they had over five years of experience handling legal court cases on the matter. The theme of threatening a small business showed up again, resulting in the deletion of the article and notification of the author.
The focus of this post is to bring everyone back to reality. We have all lost sight of the purpose of blogging. Blogs can be used for personal, informational, and commercial use. Items posted to blogs can be redistributed material from other sources or new content written by the owner.
When redistributing content from other sources, make sure that you are not infringing on privacy policies, copyright laws, or other rules set forth by the original source. Make sure that you give credit to the author who wrote the original content and link back to the website. Remember, a blog is a place for gathering information and for subscribers to converse on topics they deem relevant.
After reflecting on the events, we decided that is was not acceptable to slander our company name to 20,000 Twitter followers or our blogs contributing authors. We want everyone within the blogosphere to understand what is happening behind the scenes of blogging by reading our story.
We are not claiming to be innocent, there were mistakes made on our end. However, once we learned of these mistakes, we rectified the problem immediately without hesitation.
We want to know:
- Why did these businesses resort to threatening tactics in their first correspondence on the subject?
- Did they feel they held power over us since we are a smaller company?
- Did their egos get in the way because they have a large number of followers on Twitter and their Facebook fan page?
Emailing contributing authors on a website in attempt to tarnish a company’s reputation is not acceptable. Situated Research will not tolerate this type of behavior. We stand by our commitment to gather and deliver the best information to our subscribers. We will continue to follow the blogging laws on redistribution of content when we find articles that are relevant to our subscribers.
We know that these companies are probably monitoring our blog, and we will stand up to their unprofessional behavior.