UPDATE 3: Because of our article Motorcyclist Online has further refined their “Buzz” section. Of course they’ve also removed Asphalt & Rubber from their feed. We’re not expecting an apology from them at this point.
UPDATE 2: A small victory, Motorcyclist Online has changed their format to only copy the first 50 words of our text…still no link love though, and still actually copying the wrong text from us.
UPDATE: It looks like Motorcyclist Online is actually copying this story as well. Sweet irony!
I got a strange email today…which isn’t that strange in of itself, because I get strange emails on a regular basis, but the email contained a link to Motorcyclist Online, the internet version of Motorcyclist Magazine, which is owned by Source Interlink Media. Clicking onto the link I see an article that was written this morning, published in its full text. “That’s funny” I think to myself, because we certainly never gave Motorcyclist permission to use our articles…clicking further I see we’re not the only online motorcycle site whose content is being copied onto the online pages of Motorcyclist Online…we’re just the latest addition to this blatant act of plagiarism and IP theft.
If you dive into our twitter account, you’ll see that we’ve been calling people out lately who have been copying our content. It takes maybe an hour to write a post here, but only seconds for someone to copy it. And while we’re working on a solution to stop this, in the meantime social pressure seems to be the best remedy to stop this sort of behavior. Usually the sites that copy us have only a loose understanding of copyright law. Some think that since they cited us as the source, it absolves them from plagiarism and legal liability (it doesn’t…trust me, I’m an IP lawyer). However, in the case of Motorcyclist Online and Motorcyclist Magazine, this is the first time I’ve seen a professional organization openly commit copyright infringement, word theft, and generally be a cancer on the online motorcycle community in such an heinous fashion.
Copyright Infringement and Intellectual Property Theft
This whole issue revolves around Motorcyclist‘s “Buzz” portion of the site, which is setup similar to a news aggregator. Before I go further, it’s worth mentioning that new aggregators themselves operate on the fringes of IP law, taking the copyrighted works of others, and using that work in a derivative manner, i.e. publishing the first 200 characters of the work. This practice goes more or less unpunished however because news aggregators often play an important service to content publishers: they send readers and traffic back to the publishing site. For an added bonus, aggregators also “follow” the links of the publisher, which gives sites like Asphalt & Rubber a boost in search engine standings and pagerank. But in the case of Motorcyclist Online none of these things are occurring, which means everyone they are copying the content of, (sites like Asphalt & Rubber, PlugBike, Crash.net, Ultimate Motorcycling, etc) are getting left out in the dark both when it comes to traffic and pagerank. We lose, they gain, but we did all the work.
Motorcyclist‘s “Buzz” section presents itself like a news aggregator, but clicking on the title of the article doesn’t take you to the publisher’s site. Instead, it takes you to another page on Motorcyclist‘s website where they copy word for word our content, and the online content of other publishers. Sure, we get a “source” link, but that’s still a “nofollow” and like I’ve mentioned before does nothing to mitigate the copyright theft that is occurring. In fairness, it should be mentioned that the “Full Story” links do appear to link back to the source, but after reading every word of our article, why would a viewer click through to see the source? Maybe they think readers want to read the article a second time? Thanks Motorcyclist for that carrot.
Print Doesn’t Understand Web, And It Shows
To an online publisher like us, it’s pretty easy to spot someone that doesn’t know what they’re doing with the “interwebz”. We’re often the ones called “amateurs” but in the case of Motorcyclist‘s “Buzz” the roles have clearly been reversed. Normally, aggregators and other sites copy our content via our RSS feed. This is because RSS technology was designed with syndication in mind (although it often is still abused, and used in illegal manners). With Motorcyclist‘s “Buzz”, at least for out posts, it looks like Motorcyclist Online has gone through the trouble of actually spidering our site to copy the content, as our content from the red sliding “popular” bar is showing up before the actual text of the article. Devoid of any page breaks whatsoever, the result is a mess of words without order, which only furthers to tarnish the Asphalt & Rubber brand image. Thanks again Motorcyclist Online.
It’s scary to think what the conversations at Source Interlink Media must have sounded like to allow this sub-section of their site to come into creation. Dwindling circulation numbers and decreasing ad rates certainly don’t help things, but the larger hurdle is for a print organization to shift how it operates and to think digitally. As we’ve seen of the years, this isn’t a transition that is occurring smoothly, and today is another example of that.
We’re surprised none of their legal staff chimed in during the pitch for this feature (or maybe they did, but were overruled?). Print magazines are ten times more zealous about their IP protection than any other industry, their words after all are what they are selling. Journalists not only take pride in the smithing of their syllables, but even get territorial about the stories they cover, thinking that “this story was mine, how dare you cover it as well!”.
This would be considered heresey if it was a print-on-print crime (imagine opening Motorcyclist and seeing the words “From Ultimate Motorcycling” printed before a copy of that work), but apparently when its online-on-online IP theft its an acceptable act according to Motorcyclist Online and the folks at Source Interlink Media.
Help Us Out!
We’re the David to their Goliath, and need your help to stop the theft of our content, and the content of others. We will of course look into our legal remedies, but the better resource we have is you the reader. Digg this, retweet this, put it on facebook, and email it your friends. Let Motorcylist know that everyone is watching them steal from other news outlets.