Clark Quinn's Learnings about Learning
(The Official Quinnovation blog)

5 September 2012

Inappropriate usage?

Clark @ 12:23 PM

A few days ago, my colleague Jay Cross wrote a post on plagiarism, dealing with the fact that some of his work (even an example of some of our collaborative work) was being used without attribution. He preceded me in the use of Creative Commons licensing, but from his example (and Harold Jarche), I placed a BY – NC – SA license in the side bar.  Fast forward to today, and I get alerted by a colleague (thanks, Martin!) that my stuff is appearing without attribution.

Site of my scraped contentAt their site (see screenshot), 4 of the first 6 posts listed are mine. Full grab of the text, graphics, and all.  Not all of mine are there, but many.   The posts may no longer be there by the time you read this, but they were when I was notified, as the screenshot shows.  And, apparently, for a while in the past.  Look at my list of blog posts, and you’ll see that these were my four most recent posts.

Now, the license I mentioned means three things I ask for.  First, you say who it’s BY (i.e. attribution). That it’s NC No Charge, i.e. you’re not making money off of it (if you are, let’s work out a deal). And that it’s SA Share Alike. Others can take your content too. So, you’re welcome to use any or all of a post if you a) attribute it to me, b) don’t charge, and c) you are willing for any work created from mine to similarly be shared.  I see that this group has only violated one, but I’m inclined to think it’s an important one. It’s my thinking, after all.

As you might imagine, this upsets me.  I work hard to put worthwhile information out.  I expect to at least get credit for it, given that it provides no direct revenue (yep, still ad-free).  To have someone take my intellectual property and redistribute under their banner, without at least providing a pointer back strikes me as less than appropriate.  I note Jeff Cobb is getting credit.  Why not me?

Sure I’m grateful that they find it worth quoting, but not if they’re implying it’s theirs.  They’re getting value from my thinking, and I’m not getting anything in return.  Other have redistributed my posts, and they can, as long as they credit me (and aren’t charging for it).  That’s of value to me.  Unattributed, not so much.

By the way, when I pointed this out, several others indicated that this site has or has had unattributed content from themselves or others in the past.  You have to wonder…

Am I too touchy about this?




  1. And, for the record, I did try to contact them first. There’s no email, only a contact page. I tried to use it, but it has Captcha, which has been pretty broken of late. So I called to get an email address, indicating that the contact page wasn’t working. The message came back that the CEO said that the contact page was the only mechanism. Seriously? When I indicated why I was calling, I was told the CEO would get back to me after a meeting. Didn’t happen.

    Comment by Clark — 5 September 2012 @ 12:38 PM

  2. Of course you’re not being too touchy. This is ridiculous (oh, and illegal). Several of my colleagues have been in this situation lately and though it’s a small gesture, I’ve decided the least that I can do is never link to sites that practice this kind of behavior.

    And by the way, if they get touchy about you calling them out, here’s some inspiration from The Oatmeal: http://theoatmeal.com/blog/funnyjunk_letter. Consider it a special kind of performance support.

    Comment by Judy Unrein — 5 September 2012 @ 12:53 PM

  3. Not too touchy at all, in my opinion. Very disturbing actually.

    Comment by Marianna Noll — 5 September 2012 @ 1:10 PM

  4. You’re not overreacting at all, Clark. This is ridiculous. I’ve seen website scraping and other forms of plagiarism and it’s all wrong. And unless someone stands up to it and calls the thieves out, it’ll only get worse.

    Keep us posted on how this is handled.

    Comment by Brian Dusablon — 5 September 2012 @ 1:14 PM

  5. It will be funny if Gilfus steals this post.

    This is sleazy behavior, no matter how you slice it.

    Comment by Jay Cross — 5 September 2012 @ 1:24 PM

  6. An update, already they’re now linking the titles of the posts to my blog. That was quick, and appropriate. An apology would be welcome, but not really expected. Sometimes I guess it pays off to be a squeaky wheel. For the right cause, as you all point out.

    Comment by Clark — 5 September 2012 @ 1:28 PM

  7. Agree, Jay. We’re all watching now. In my opinion as an author of occasionally original thoughts, attribution should be a given even if not demanded by a license because that’s the spirit of online social media.

    Comment by Tom Spiglanin — 5 September 2012 @ 1:32 PM

  8. Jay’s comment made me laugh. :)

    That’s actually a good solution in many ways, since you tweeted a link to their site, and some of us retweeted it, and mine (and probably others) got picked up in a paper.li (which was just the link to their site, with no context). All links to their site that now point back to yours.

    I’m sure they didn’t ask if this was an acceptable solution for you, and it doesn’t excuse the impropriety (and then some) of it happening in the first place.

    Comment by Judy Unrein — 5 September 2012 @ 1:37 PM

  9. I see that Gilfus is now making some changes to its blogs. Still no link back to the original source, which while it doesn’t violate the CC licensing certainly violates the spirit of linking on the Web.

    Also, I screen-grabbed this before they deleted it: https://www.evernote.com/shard/s11/sh/455282b3-c234-4858-9698-7830d1ad3783/54240e5bef64ec5faf1e178f64326625

    Comment by Audrey Watters — 5 September 2012 @ 2:20 PM

  10. You should be upset. You provide original and relevant content for all of us. I’m disappointed in Steve, I expect more from him, especially after you pointed it out. A call with apology is the right thing to do.

    Comment by Jim Schultz — 5 September 2012 @ 2:45 PM

  11. I’m late to the party, in part because I was wandering around on the Gilfus site, which among other things reinforces my personal prejudice that it’s not good to name your whole business after yourself.

    Their “terms of use” language comes to nearly 3,000 words, including this passage that appears under “Copyright” :

    Except as expressly authorized by Gilfus Education Group or such third parties in this TOU or as may be posted on the Services, you may not copy, reproduce, publish, distribute, modify, create derivative works of, rent, lease, sell, transfer, display, transmit, compile or collect in a database, or in any manner commercially exploit any part of the Content or the Services, in whole or in part. You may not store any significant portion of any Content or the Services owned by, or licensed to Gilfus Education Group in any form, whether archival files, computer-readable files, or any other medium. You also may not “mirror” any Content or the Services on any other server.

    So do as we say, not as we do.

    Comment by Dave Ferguson — 5 September 2012 @ 5:21 PM

  12. They actually did have this very post up for a short time. I saw it in the initial tweets that were posted. For the record you are not overreacting Clark.

    Comment by Sean Putman — 5 September 2012 @ 6:15 PM

  13. Similar thing happened to me earlier in the year. One of my posts was 100% embedded into another blog and there was a conversation going on about my blogpost in their comments section. The only difference was it did at least link to my site. I only found out because it showed up in my feedjit feed as a from link. It must be said that when I fired a please explain at the offender, they were very apologetic, removed the embed and replaced it with a summary and link to my post and it did direct about 200 visitors to my blog so nice save in the end. Sometimes it’s done without thinking but in your case four unattributed versus two that were is a clear case on not good enough.

    Comment by Mark — 5 September 2012 @ 11:58 PM

  14. The image of their website doesn’t show up on your blog and the link to it gives a “page not found” error. Just being curious to see the scene of the crime! (And avoid them in future.)

    Comment by Marilyn — 6 September 2012 @ 3:13 AM

  15. Thanks for all your support. Audrey, that’s just too rich (and ironic). A keeper for sure!

    Comment by Clark — 6 September 2012 @ 8:54 AM

  16. Clark, I do not think you are being too touchy or anywhere in the vicinity. I’ve found similar instances where content I’ve authored has been lifted without permission and with no attribution. I’ve been successful quoting the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 – http://www.copyright.gov/legislation/dmca.pdf – that covers on-line content publication. In short, if the website owner refuses to remove the content, you can go to their ISP with proof of original posting and the remedy is for the ISP to shut them down in total. I see this as a last resort, but I have had to go there twice in a previous life to put an anonymous site owner down. They were not so much interested in the content beyond what it might bring to a site full of advertisements.

    I write a blog with the intent of sharing knowledge. I feel honored when somebody uses a graphic, or quotes something, or re-posts an entire blog. I most cases, permission was requested, or at a minimum attribution provided. I’m okay with that. Just taking something under the pretenses of calling “yours” crosses a line.

    So the long and short of it…no…you are not being touchy at all. Thanks for posting!


    Comment by Gary Wise — 6 September 2012 @ 9:05 AM

  17. Clarke et al.,

    I think you are all acting like dinosaurs. We live in the Idea Economy. I’ve had ideas I’ve written used, borrowed, taken, reposted all over the world in more languages than I can count. My name was not mentioned once. What was more important to me? Getting my name mentioned or getting the idea out there into the meme-o-sphere? Copyright is an analog printing press notion. Get over it. Unless you get paid for your work and want to ‘own’ the words, then fine. Earning a living as a thinker/writer is a job. When you put it out there for free, let it go. Further, wider, higher, faster. Great ideas need to fly, not have their wings clipped by antiquated notions of ownership and private property. And you can quote me on this with any attribution.

    Comment by David Grebow — 10 September 2012 @ 2:30 PM

  18. You’re just showing off. I’m getting more and more annoyed that this guy doesn’t seem to think that MY stuff is worth stealing. But here you are, going on and on about “am I too sensitive that my stuff is so wonderful that people take it to get their web pages right to the top of the search rankings?” “I guess my writing is so amazing that people just HAVE to HAVE it on their web site, and none of DICK’S writing is even worth hitting cut-and-paste.”

    Well, let me tell you, Mr. In over 300 posts, I’m SURE there’s one or two paragraphs that are worth stealing. And if you just wait a couple of years, SOMEBODY is gonna take something of mine and post it. Somewhere. In Pakistan, or Czechoslovakia, or on that damn Mars Rover.

    I KNOW they will.

    Comment by Dick Carlson — 10 September 2012 @ 2:32 PM

  19. David, I guess we’ll just have to disagree. My thoughts are freely out there, all I want is attribution. I don’t think that’s too much to ask, even in this day and age. Maybe it’s my academic background, but I believe in giving credit where credit is due. I don’t think that’s counter to the ClueTrain, instead I think it’s part of the principle of transparency.

    Dick, I think it’s just that you’re so gentle and nice. If your writing had more of an edge, perhaps. If you were a little more sarcastic. A little more opinionated. But then, it wouldn’t be you, then, would it. Be true to yourself.

    Comment by Clark — 10 September 2012 @ 8:13 PM

  20. So the argument in favor of what most of us have called boorish behavior is that it’s okay to completely ignore the Creative Commons license that generoulsy ALLOWS people to freely use what you share. I’m sorry, I can’t agree. If you don’t like the license, don’t reuse the content.

    Comment by Tom Spiglanin — 10 September 2012 @ 8:44 PM

  21. […] people who had their work aggregated responded with shock and vitriol, among them Alan Levine and Clark Quinn. Personally, I was nowhere near as upset, though I do not diminish how others felt… and the […]

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  22. […] “genial malcontent”, Clark Quinn) are writing for Gilfus. **  (UPDATE: Here is Clark’s take on the issue and he notes that the eminent Jay Cross has also been victimized by this […]

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