Copyright theft – it’s a topic I’ve written about plenty of times in the past but this week I’ve experienced it first hand as well.
Right on my doorstep, a local website decided to take a large chunk of my published article and photographs and pass them off as their own content.
It was a wholesale attempt to populate a site which seeks advertising with content which I’d published for community benefit at the hyperlocal website I set up a few years ago (RichmondNoticeboard.com).
Once the initial shock had worn off I set about getting my ten articles and two photographs removed from www.catterick.org. And here’s where the first of the problems arose – zero contact details.
Despite the fact the site purports to sell advertising, there’s no hint about who runs the site or any contact details.
As they also publish on Facebook, that seemed to offer the best route to redress. I posted on their page, pointing out the content had not been authorised for use on the site. Then started the Facebook process to report copyright abuse.
At this point someone responded – maybe the possibility of a Facebook takedown is threat enough to get a response, these days.
Whoever it was gave this cryptic explanation: “Hi very sorry about that, Sever has been moved, auto poster was gathering richmond data and posting it via rss, Having few technical issues after migration won’t happen again, all post have been deleted off the site.”
So, an apology when caught red-handed. But as far as I’m aware, an apology doesn’t count for much when a burglar makes off with some jewellery or a shoplifter legs it out of the store.
An apology, doesn’t make it any less of a theft and blaming it on technology is not only lame, but also still doesn’t make it any less of a theft. And while my content has now been removed, I see the site is still populated with plenty of content from national newspapers and others with no attribution, links or explanation.
This cavalier attitude towards copyright ownership is annoyingly common it would seem. North News picture agency boss Ted Ditchburn put his finger on it when I wrote about his problems with photo thieves for Prolific North.
“My own view is that this is a problem that arises in part because people seem to feel copyright theft doesn’t count as serious theft for some reason.”
On sharing my woes on Facebook, I also encountered a sort of resigned acceptance that this is simply the way of the world – that publishing a picture online will very likely lead to it being stolen. Shrug.
But in what other area of life would we find that acceptable? “Well I bought an expensive TV so it was bound to get stolen” or “I made a beautiful piece of furniture – thieves. Never mind.”
I don’t think we should just accept that’s the way things are, it doesn’t have to be like this.
But in order to take any action, the first step is to find an actual person to deal with. In this case the anonymous Facebook responder refused to give me the site’s business address – claiming it was personal! Update: We have since been in contact and I now have assurances this won’t happen again.
As ‘Buster’ pointed out on my previous story:
“There is a Copyright small claims court (IPEC small claims track) that will deal with cases up to a value £10000 without the need for a solicitor as it, like other small claims courts, is designed to allow the parties to represent themselves. If the photographer is an NUJ member they can get help and advise from their union. There is no “good faith” or “I did not know” defence for copyright infringement as in general, ignorance of the law is not a defence.
He also recommended this article on the subject which I’m sharing here in case any of you are unfortunate enough to find yourselves in a similar position.
I’ve put this blog post together with Contributoria writers in mind, but the points made here would be valid for any of those occasions when you need to put a ‘bio’ together for your online activity. As someone who inwardly groans at every request for profile details, I hope this approaches the task in a straightforward way.
The writer profiles on Contributoria are particularly important as they are the number one way that members of the community and publishing partners can sum up a writer’s abilities when deciding whether or not to back their story proposals and, as that leads to commissioning and ultimately cash, it’s worth making some effort.
Ten essential points when creating a writer profile
- A sensible name
Your own name is always best as it helps people check you out in other areas of the online world. Failing that a nickname is OK but avoid user names that are unmemorable number sequences or similar. Don’t forget that Contributoria is a community and so is made up of humans supporting other humans – we tend to respond coldly to number droids. Your name should appear in the first sentence of your profile so the reader understands what they are looking at – just like being introduced to somebody, you will often start with your name and then move onto the matter in hand. I have been asked in the past about using a pseudonym – for all the reasons above, using a pen name makes you something of an enigma. It’s a bit like sitting down the pub in a balaclava. But of course there can be valid reasons around personal security for using one and in those instances I’d ask that you get in touch directly for further advice (sarahATcontributoria.com).
- Use a picture
Just a straightforward head and shoulders shot will do the job. Just like your name, having a profile picture will help people build up a picture of the person behind the story. Just as with the social networks, people tend to regard the absence of a picture as dubious in some way, it instantly creates a trust barrier that doesn’t need to be there.
Adding your base location, or the locations that you write about, can help make a connection. This is particularly important for those people who are looking to back stories from certain parts of the world for instance. But it could also be beneficial in making connections with other members of the community who perhaps live nearby or have a particular interest in a region of the world and might want to get in touch.
- Third person or I?
It’s always slightly awkward talking about yourself in the third person but doing so makes it easier for the reader to take in the information. There’s no hard and fast rules and in fact there’s currently a mixture of first person and third person on the platform, but it’s worth bearing in mind that the Contributoria writer profiles also automatically appear in the footer of story proposals. Having it in the third person reads a lot better for the casual visitor who may not have looked you up on the writer page.
- What length?
For Contributoria, the ideal length for the profile is up to 200 words. That should allow for all these points to be included while also keeping it reasonable for the footer of proposals. On other platforms it would be worth checking if there is an established style. Some sites ask for a short statement (i.e. one sentence, like Twitter) while others expect a mini CV.
- Include other work
If your work has been published elsewhere, it’s well worth mentioning the different publications where people could look you up – you can also drop URLs into the profile and it will hyperlink . It’s also worth mentioning membership of any professional organisations and groups.
- Other non-work
If you’ve a passion for something – let people know. There’s no telling what serendipitous connections can flow from outlining your hobbies and interests after all, they are part of what makes you, you.
- Contact details
End your bio with your contact details or hyperlink to ways that people can contact you such as Twitter, blog or your LinkedIn profile.
- Read and rewrite
As with everything, there’s always that stray apostrophe or typo which it’s easy to remain blind to so having a friend to proof your bio before you publish it is recommended.
- Keep it up to date
Remember that your bio is a living document and you should review it on a regular basis. As it’s fairly short it won’t take you too long to make changes that can be quite important to the reader and that all important potential backer.