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Content being stolen from CH and Blogs

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Just had a quick question for the masses. For the past few years, i've felt like some of the content being written on our local CH board was being utilized and repurposed by a local reviewer. Lots of facts and information that were all naggingly familiar. I recently started blogging. And have just come across a blatant rip off - where my photo was stolen and cropped, and my entire entry was paraphrased, typos included (and factual misinformation has been added as well).

Now, this site is much larger than mine. And in one way, im happy if they can generate extra traffic for the business i reviewed, as they do a wonderful job of service, but on the other hand i'm kind of choked that my content is being stolen, and represented as someone elses. That was a lot of work that went into that.

What, if anything, can be done about content taken from CH and Blogs? Is it justifiable to be upset that a for profit site has taken my content and represented it as their own? Does this type of thing happen often?

Forget the fact that they've stolen my photos, read the comparisons of the entry at

http://foodosophy.wordpress.com/2008/... - i've linked to both posts there.

Your thoughts are appreciated.

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  1. Take a look at this thread:

    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/509942

    1 Reply
    1. re: hannaone

      Thank you. I did check General, and Food News and Media, as well as this board, and didnt find anything on theft. Appreciate the link.

    2. I'm no expert...but I took a good look at both and it appears they *ahem* borrowed rather heavily from your review. I also took a look at each photo and except for cropping they appear identical. What are the odds that grains of salt will fall in exactly the SAME place on two different sandwiches?

      1. I am not a lawyer. But to the extent that they are making money off your intellectual property, it's actionable. I would be contacting a lawyer. At least send them a legal letter telling them to stop.

        1. Have you thought about contacting their ISP and demanding that they remove that content? It's what the big boys do with violations of their copy write on Face Book, et al.

          1. I would definitely contact martiniboys about this issue. I check out their site from time to time but have always viewed them with some skepticism (they seem to be more interested in the 'scene' than good food). This certainly does nothing to help their credibility.

            On the subject of blogs/websites stealing others' ideas and photos, in the vast world of the internet it's incredibly hard to know who's doing it but if you do find someone, they should be taken to task for it. I stumbled upon someone who had copied a few sentences from my blog verbatim but they provided a link to my site so I let it go.

            1. Excellent points everyone. I guess i'll start with asking them to remove it. Then proceed to the ISP and legal action if nothing happens. And yes MS, they do appear to be identical.

              I guess my issue is there really doesnt seem to be any penalty, and thus, any deterrent to stop them from doing it again. If this stopped them from stealing other people's property, i'd be fine with that. What i see happening though is they apologize, take it down, and then steal someone else's post. Im not cool with that.

              1. It's a copyright violation. Send them a cease and desist letter (you can probably find an example on the internet) and cc: the ISP.

                18 Replies
                1. re: sidwich

                  Letter is sent. Interesting that when you're looking for certain information, how some websites fail to list it (an actual physical address for example, or who their isp is, etc...).

                  Thanks everyone for your assistance. I'll let you know how it goes.

                  1. re: foodosopher

                    please do update us: this is a relevant subject for many of us here. tia.

                    1. re: soupkitten

                      Ok, so here's an update, and a request for help.

                      I sent the cease and desist letter this morning. Roughly one hour later, the post was taken down. They sent me a letter,

                      "Hi [name], i'm the editor of martiniboys.com, and am sorry to hear about all of this. I clicked through to all of these links you've included, and I don't see your original piece (just your comment on the blog). Nonetheless, I shall certainly take the L'epicerie piece down.

                      When you can, send me the link to your original piece. It's all so strange, as that piece has been up for quite a while (I don't even have that writer any more).

                      But, I shall certainly take it down in the meantime."

                      Gmail had messed up my links to the original post, so i resent the message with a new link, pointed out that it was quite clearly a infringement, thanking him for taking it down, and suggesting if he wished to use my IP in the future, it would be fine as long as there was proper attribution, credit, and links back to the original content.

                      His response was:

                      "Hi [Name] Thanks for the note. I really do see what you mean (I read both). Like I mentioned in the previous email, I don't even have that writer anymore, but I do apologize for the troubles. As we have been in similar situations, I can certainly understand how you feel. I myself am in Toronto, so when we take in stories from writers, it never occurred that there was any wrongdoing.

                      I like your site by the way. Let me know if I can make this up to you in the way of advertising or promotion. It would be a pleasure to such a foodie-driven site. Best regards,"

                      Ok, so they stopped. And have been very amicable in the process. Here's the issues:

                      1. I've been at an organization before that paid for articles - and I know that when you deal with contract writers, there is some risk. If they use contract writers, i can understand why a plagiarized article could go up.

                      2. In all reasonableness, they've done what they could. They've apologized. They've removed the offending post.

                      3. My partner, playing devil's advocate, is suspicious of the fact that all their articles are attributed to a writer, and this one wasnt. Implying that they knew it was questionable. He thinks it is convenient that they havent had the writer for a while, but our article only went up on August 12, making it at most 15 days. More likely 10-12 days.

                      4. There is no way we can prove otherwise.

                      So we debated what our next course of action should be. I, being on the sunnier side of life, prefer to think that this was a mistake, and it won't happen again. My partner, more on the shadier side, believes that it is a bit too convenient, and that they probably knew about the plagiarism.

                      He wants a written apology. Something that holds them accountable.

                      Im more inclined to forgive and forget. I understand the idea of saving face, and trying to force a public apology (which i don't believe i have grounds for), seems futile for me.

                      Any thoughts??

                      Lastly, the biggest conflict for me. Their offer to advertise and promote our site. I won't say im not tempted - their site generates 900,000 unique page views a month. That type of publicity is invaluable.

                      However, it feels a bit like selling out - like hush money. Are we compromising ourselves, and our principles, if we accept their offer? I think it's quite possible.

                      If it helps you understand our situation, our motivation for writing the site is really twofold. Primarily, it's to have fun. Secondly, is to share knowledge, and hopefully one day stimulate some conversation. Not about specific restaurants like Chowhound does, but more around the philosophy of food, and it's impact on our lives. The more people who read, the more likely we are to hit our goals.

                      We arent really focused on ad revenue at the moment. We've talked about it, and may one day implement it to get ourselves off of wordpress onto our own host, and maybe pay a bit for graphic design so the site looks nice. But the goal isnt to make money. It'd be a break even venture. We're happy contributing our time, but we don't have a lot of money to chip in.

                      In that regard, accepting their offer to promote would definitely help in both areas. But the question is, have we done ourselves, and the community, a disservice, if we do accept??

                      Your feedback is appreciated!

                      1. re: foodosopher

                        Unfortunately I think the communication you've received from martiniboys is all the apology they're going to offer. Good points about the contract writers, the fact the article didn't have a byline raises suspicion.

                        My thought on the publicity: I'd rather see ads for your blog on a site with a better reputation.

                        That's my (rather tired) 2 cents. Good night and good luck :)

                        1. re: maplesugar

                          Thanks for your feedback MS. Based on the size and content of our blog, no sites are going to be promoting us - that's for sure :)

                          As for reputation - that is definitely a concern. I havent seen any other instances where they've been accused of plagiarizing, but their restaurant reviews are a bit....benign.

                          Anyway, have a good night!

                        2. re: foodosopher

                          You aren't compromising yourself or your principles if you accept their offer. It's a settlement, albeit an informal one that doesn't involve the courts. People settle their disputes all the time.

                          1. re: foodosopher

                            Do you accept the apology in the context of being heard and having the post removed or do you accept the apology expecting "something" for your trouble?

                            Imho, I would keep an eye on the site, decide with a clean slate if you want to take them up on their ad offer at a later date or wind up deciding that you really don't want to be associated with the site afterall. Give it at least a week to clear your head of the misdeed.

                            If their offer was sincere, it won't have a time limit.

                            This experience is also an excellent opportunity for you and your partner to learn more about how to protect your words, your work and blogging. Good luck!

                            1. re: HillJ

                              Great advice HillJ. From my perspective, an apology is enough - I don't really want or expect anything for my trouble.

                              The reason I would consider taking them up on their offer is because it would help us reach a wider, more diverse audience. You're right though...I should give it a bit of time, and their likely isnt a time limit if they are sincere.

                              I'll be honest though, im not 100% sure how we learned more on how to protect our words and pics. Because we don't wish to destroy the artistic integrity of our photos, we won't use a watermark or tag line across the central part of the photo. So that means people could still steal our photos and crop them. As for our words, there isnt really anything people can do other than be vigilant is there? Can you clarify on this one a bit further please?

                              1. re: foodosopher

                                Gladly. You have copyright protection, intellectual property, photo lock and legal disclaimer on your side (just to name a few).

                                For further explanation & resource, hit the library you will be delighted to learn many bloggers/writers/artists are in your same shoes when expanding their readership/audience virally. But, don't hesitate to ask a legal expert for advice.

                                At my library SCORE.org representatives meet with clients by appt. in need of valulable biz advice. Independent contractors, like myself, rely on SCORE for answers to many professional & business related questions w/much success. See if SCORE has a chapter near you. Much luck to you in your solutions!

                                1. re: HillJ

                                  Thanks for your elaboration. It is much appreciated by me, and im sure the community at large as well.

                                2. re: foodosopher

                                  "Because we don't wish to destroy the artistic integrity of our photos, we won't use a watermark or tag line across the central part of the photo."

                                  Here is a short article about protecting online photos...

                                  http://cameras.about.com/cs/printing/...

                                  You also might want to look in to digitally watermarking your photos. That would allow you to encode copyright information in the picture data itself in a way that would not be noticable to the viewer and should remain when the photo is cropped and saved in a different format as your was. I believe that the newer versions of Photoshop have a service called Digimarc built in, but I'm not sure if that's free or if you have to pay a seperate fee for using it. It does look like there are some freeware programs available that will allow you to protect your images in this way, but I have not had time to take a close look at them so I can't make any reccomendations.

                                  1. re: LabRat

                                    Thank you LabRat for an excellent article. It is much appreciated.

                          2. re: foodosopher

                            Any search through a domain registry tool will pull up this physical address and other info quite quickly. I did it myself and the information is there for them.

                            1. re: Pincus

                              Great suggestion! Thank you. I never thought to do a whois from a domain registry site to get their physical address.

                              For everyone else: how i got the relevant info i needed

                              I did an nslookup on them to get their IP. Just click Start > Run and type in cmd. This will bring up a dos prompt. Then type nslookup [website name]. This will get you the ip.

                              2. Then did a ip2location search to get the name of their hosting provider. Go to ip2location(dot)com/free.asp and put the ip into the box. It will tell you who the hosting provider is.

                              3. Follow Pincus' suggestion and use a domain registry tool (i use internic.ca) and do a whois lookup of a domain name. It will get you the address and contact info.

                              Hope that helps.

                              1. re: foodosopher

                                What is this "dos" you speak of? ;-) (I'm on a Mac).

                                Anyway, I agree that a domain lookup is a good way to find info, although more and more sites use private registration to hide that info. They don't, though.

                                http://whois.domaintools.com/martinib...

                                1. re: Chris VR

                                  What is this Mac you speak of? :) I tried to use an Apple once, couldn't figure out how to right click on anything, and decided to eat it instead. Delicious!

                                  In all seriousness though, excellent point. I've been ingrained in the PC world for so long, i forgot this would clearly not work with a Mac. I don't suppose there is some way of resolving a domain name into an IP by way of the Mac? Especially since many sites use private registration, a whois is not a reliable way of getting an IP that way..

                                  1. re: foodosopher

                                    I'm fairly sure that Mac users who are more savvy than I would use Terminal or something like that - it's basically a Unix window. But my Unix skills are sadly lacking, so I'd ask my tech support hubby if I REALLY wanted to know.

                                    1. re: Chris VR

                                      Just FYI, you can do this by launching Network Utility.app (in the Utilities folder), then clicking on the Lookup tab.

                        3. There was an interesting article on this the other day on Slate. It's titled Dude, You Stole My Article.
                          Here's the link:
                          http://www.slate.com/id/2196810/pagen...

                          1. Stealing content is common, but still disgusting. Do you copy CDs from friends??? Shame on you. You may copy a CD that you own for your own personal use, but not to give away or sell. You're stealing from the artist, or content creator. Stealing content from the web is the same. If you want to copy content, contact the author and get permission, and abide by any agreed upon terms. It's very important to stand up for your rights and do your best to hold offending parties accountable, by any means necessary.

                            1. I agree with posts that say that the email is probably the closest thing to a written apology that you're going to get. All things considered it's not too bad and definitely useful if the site were to do it again.

                              I wouldn't take them up on their offer unless you trust them. Life - and business - is too short to get involved with people you'll later regret getting involved with. If it's really an attractive offer, spend the time and money doing more due diligence on them, including a face to face meeting. Get some advice on how to do all this while protecting yourself.

                              1. That is rotten! My suggestion is that you put a "©" on your posting. If you can't type it directly, open a word document and go to type control alt c. Then, cut and paste onto the posting. Take a look at the Intellectual Property edition of the Idiot's Guide series. It has a good, easy to understand section on Copyright protection. Keep us posted.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Kate is always hungry

                                  I'm no lawyer but I have heard the copyright symbol doesn't protect you as much as having originals (files, printouts). Anything you create and post is yours, unless you have ceded control of the images/words to whomever is hosting the server (which is why you should keep read the "terms of service" when you open a new photobucket account, for example).

                                  Incidentally, one thing I just heard in an NPR story about "living in the cloud," the new term for having your email, blogs, calendars, pictures, etc., reside on web-based entities like Yahoo and flickr, was that in the instance of any conflicts, sometimes the parent company will shut everything down. If you complain that someone has stolen your identity, your account is as likely as anyone else's to be cancelled and your access to your "own" stuff may disappear. My point is, keep originals of your work on your home computer, not on a web-based server, and make backup copies from time to time. This will protect you better than anything.

                                  1. re: vanillagrrl

                                    For those blogging in the US, the US Copyright Office is a valuable resource with loads of free guidelines to clearly address copyright protection and the procedures to follow both informally *owned but unpublished work* and formally *published* work. Good luck!