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Don’t Steal from Keepa

By: Ardis E. Parshall - April 19, 2012

Back at the end of 2008, I wrote about The Loveliest Missionary Tract Ever Published, consisting of explanatory text and the images of a 1909 color brochure. If you don’t remember that, take a look – it’s worth it. We’ll wait.

Earlier this week I was notified by a one-time client that that post had been plagiarized at [a given URL]. Note the significance that it was a client who discovered it: He was Googling terms of interest to him, relating to the very topic he had paid me to research. Had he not already been familiar with my work, enough to realize this material had been stolen from Keepa, he might have used this source rather than me for his work, and I would have lost a paying customer. Plagiarism is theft, people, not only of intellectual property, but of dollars and cents.

It didn’t take me long to realize that the plagiarist had not copied my images to his own server, but had merely linked to my Photobucket.com account, where I store the images that appear on Keepa. As one Keepa’ninny who follows Keepa on Facebook noted, this meant the plagiarist was also stealing from me by using my bandwidth: if I were not already paying for a professional, unlimited-bandwidth Photobucket account – if my bandwidth usage were being monitored as is the case with some accounts – he could conceivably have bumped my bandwidth usage up a notch where I would have been paying for his use.

I wrote to the site owner demanding he remove the stolen material, and received a very unsatisfactory reply: He blamed me for his theft, saying I had not included a copyright notice on my original post (FYI, current copyright law is that copyright exists from the instant a work is created, regardless of publication or formal copyright notice); he said he had never heard of Keepa before so he couldn’t have plagiarized my material there; he probably got it from some unnamed university site, so he wasn’t stealing from me, he was stealing from them; and I ought to investigate this here Photobucket site, since they appeared to have stolen my material. (!) He did say he would try to get around to doing something about it, but he wasn’t sure when that would happen, and he didn’t know how to delete it anyway, and … and … and … pretty much he said everything except “I’m sorry.”

So I decided to give him some incentive to remove his material. He now calls it a “hack” and says his hosting company is investigating me. I laugh at his technological incompetence.

Since he was linking directly to *my* images in *my* Photobucket account, I edited those images (after first reloading them to new URLs so that the old Keepa post would remain unchanged). I deleted half the images in an artistic pattern, and over the remaining images I added some text. Screen shots:

.

(showing the image sources: links to my personal Photobucket account)

.

.

.

.

.

.

… and so on.

Please don’t steal from Keepa. Link to anything you want. Ask me any questions you want – although I don’t cite my sources in most cases, to prevent my work from melting invisibly into other people’s publications, I’m perfectly willing – eager – to negotiate an inexpensive sale of most sources; it’s what I do for a living. And as Keepa’ninnies know, I freely send copies of pictures in my Latter-day Saints Images posts when readers have a family or other personal connection to the picture. I’m reasonable, if you just ask rather than taking.

Thank you for your honesty.



29 Comments »

  1. Methinks someone is confused about how the “internet” works… Yikes!

    Comment by E. Wallace — April 19, 2012 @ 8:39 am

  2. Sorry to be mostly off topic, but the image you sent me quite a while back of a branch in Alabama DID have some of my MIL’s family in it-grandma, aunt, uncle, and possibly older sister-but not the immediate family I assumed would be in it. Just wanted to let you know and say thanks again!

    Comment by Tiffany — April 19, 2012 @ 8:56 am

  3. Yeah, E.

    Not off-topic at all, Tiffany — it’s a testimonial to the fact that I *am* willing to send those images! glad you found some family and I hope it was a pleasure to your mother-in-law.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 19, 2012 @ 9:04 am

  4. Send the Danites to his place of business.

    Comment by David R — April 19, 2012 @ 9:06 am

  5. What? No link to the “what I look like under my clothes” picture?

    Comment by The Other Clark — April 19, 2012 @ 9:10 am

  6. David: :)

    TOClark, Heavens, let’s make it clear that you’re referring to another page on that guy’s website, and not to anything *I* ever said anywhere!!!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 19, 2012 @ 9:12 am

  7. In my expereince, a letter to the ISP with identification of specific links and materials plagiarized is a very effective way to get them removed. Keep the virtual world fair and, um, honest.

    Comment by @UtMormonDemoGuy — April 19, 2012 @ 10:04 am

  8. Ardis, this just shows the true power you possess. Such mere mortals thinking they can withstand the mighty swing of Mjolnir clearly shows that they have no idea who they are dealing with. I just wonder what that guy will answer when his bishop asks him if he’s dealt honestly with others.

    Comment by Rameumptom — April 19, 2012 @ 10:15 am

  9. He doesn’t think he’s done anything wrong, Rameumptom — one of the benefits of being clueless, apparently, is being guiltless as well. His emails from beginning to end make it clear that HE is the victim in all this, from his frustration at not having adequate skills to edit his website to my practically forcing him to steal my stuff by not marking it with an [again, unnecessary] copyright notice to my unchristianly holding him to account for his plagiarism. He is the victim in all this, I tell you, and he probably wonders what *I* will answer when *my* bishop asks that question.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 19, 2012 @ 10:24 am

  10. But we already KNOW what you will tell your bishop, Ardis. Either, “yes, I’m honest in my dealings” or “mind your own darn business!”

    I work in a prison. One of my main responsibilities is as hearing officer (like an internal judge). I come across such idiots all the time here. I scratch my head wondering how they can have so much illogic. Then I decide it must be the drugs….and that I probably need more.

    Comment by Rameumptom — April 19, 2012 @ 10:32 am

  11. I guess I’m unclear on copyright law. Is it really possible to assert copyright on a digital scan of original artwork whose copyright has long expired?

    I agree that he was stealing your bandwidth and, if he included any of your text in his article, he was violating copyright on your text.

    Comment by Vader — April 19, 2012 @ 10:56 am

  12. In recent comic book news, the writer Alan Moore is irritated that DC Comics hired another writer to continue a story he wrote a couple decades back. This is somewhat amusing since Moore’s career mostly consists of taking fiction that’s past copyright and putting his spin on it.

    Historical research and database compilation have a bit of this flavor. The work consists of drawing together the previous work of others and adding value that warrants respect and protection as a new work. Flat-out copying pages from Keepa’ seems a plain enough wrong thing to do, but consider a case of mine: “Parley P. Pratt Jumps in Where John C. Fremont Didn’t Stop to Bob,” which drew the comment from Ardis, “How absolutely cool.” I found mention of a 1854 swim party in Las Vegas while reading Fred E. Woods’ A Gamble in the Desert: the Mormon Mission in Las Vegas (1855-1857). Internet searching for more detail lead me to a Jewish history web site, and I copied what I found there, which in turn had been copied from a 19th Century book and a Library of Congress photo collection.

    Comment by John Mansfield — April 19, 2012 @ 10:56 am

  13. You misunderstand what I claim as my copyright, Vader.

    No, I don’t assert copyright on any individual image that is now in the public domain. But that isn’t what this guy did.

    I assert copyright on my text — the text on his site, if you compare the two posts, is mine. He copied only about a third of my text, but what he copied was word for word. That is blatant plagiarism, a violation of copyright, without question.

    I also assert a copyright on the overall compilation of a post, the text and images and the overall message — the creative element of having done the research and put the thing together. This guy’s post attempted to do exactly what I had done, with the exception of eliminating some of the factual elements of the text. He added nothing; he simply copied. I don’t see how any reasonable person could consider that he had done anything other than steal my post. However the copyright law might be worded, any moral or ethical evaluation would be that he transferred my work, my creativity, my research, my labor to his site, without attribution.

    That’s partly why I worded my edited images the way I did: The post was plagiarized, and the images (considering how he bled them from my photobucket account) were stolen. Two different bad acts, two different condemnations.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 19, 2012 @ 11:06 am

  14. I should add that my day job is editorial director/co-owner of a construciton magazine publishing firm. It’s a constant battle to strike the right balance between getting enough content online to drive traffic and be useful, while dealing with the inevitable and never-ending practice of subscribers copying content from my site(s) and pasting it on their own company sites.

    Incidents like this, unfortunately, just come with the territory of relatively popular websites.

    Comment by The Other Clark — April 19, 2012 @ 11:07 am

  15. John Mansfield, a common quip among scholars is that when you steal from one source it’s plagiarism; when you steal from many sources it’s research.

    A key difference, of course, that puts the lie to that quip, is that scholarship demands giving credit, through citation and attribution, to the sources you use. Scholarship also goes beyond mere copying: it involves doing your own analysis, adding value through your own creative effort, uncovering material that has never before been brought into the conversation — and using your own words to make your argument.

    I know you know that; I don’t mean to be lecturing you here, but only playing off your comment.

    TOClark, yeah, it never ends. This is hardly the first, and certainly won’t be the last. Sometimes I’m able to get plagiarists to take down their posts through a simple letter. I always encourage linking, while protesting copying. And lots of my images (“mine” in the sense that I found them in out-of-print print sources, and scanned them, and added them to the Internet pot) have been reused by other bloggers, without my objecting at all. I draw on others’ work and expect others to draw on mine. But I don’t expect an entire post to be aped, and I don’t expect my words to appear under someone else’s name. There’s a line there.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 19, 2012 @ 11:21 am

  16. I assert copyright on my text — the text on his site, if you compare the two posts, is mine. He copied only about a third of my text, but what he copied was word for word. That is blatant plagiarism, a violation of copyright, without question.

    Ahh, I understand now. Yes, that’s blatant plagiarism and clear violation of copyright.

    And, yes, he’s stealing your bandwidth with the images.

    If it was me, I’d be furious over the plagiarism of the text, but I’d give the bandwidth theft a big “Meh.” But that reflects my own costs of bandwidth (negligible). You are certainly within your rights to be upset with that as well.

    Comment by Vader — April 19, 2012 @ 11:24 am

  17. A couple of weeks ago on one of my periodic Googlethons looking for material that might have been recently posted on topics of interests, including ancestors, I discovered that one of my Latter-day Saint Images posts had been copied lock, stock and barrel onto someone’s personal blog. No link, no attribution, one of the photo captions even identified a missionary as “my grandfather, Homer Taylor” — the taker hadn’t even depersonalized that caption.

    This was the blog of a mother of a newly called missionary, and the picture post was entirely pictures of missionaries, reposted in the thrill of celebrating missionaries. A simple, polite note to her pointing out the problem and requesting that she replace the post with a link back to the original post drew an instant apology (and it was a real apology, not one of those fake “I’m sorry if you misunderstood my intentions” ones) and an instant removal of the post.

    I appreciated that. There are no hard feelings, I hope, on either side. I hope if anyone ever contacts me with the warning that I have used something unfairly that I will respond in the same way. Only, given this post, in my case that would mean I should probably also post a public acknowledgement of what I had done wrong and what I had done to make it right, with a public apology to the aggrieved person. I hope that never happens, but if it does, I hope that is my response.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 19, 2012 @ 11:51 am

  18. This poor dweeb has obviously never experienced a real “hack.” Good for you to call him on it, even if he is clueless about what he is doing. What kind of a site was it? A personal blog? If he is a rival researcher, he should also know better. ***Gratuitous immature snarklike comment alert*** Maybe you should point him to Jon McNaughton’s web site. No chance of “intellectual property” theft there.

    Comment by kevinf — April 19, 2012 @ 12:23 pm

  19. “Ignorantia legis neminem excusat” (Ignorantia juris non excusat, Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ignorantia_juris_non_excusat, viewed 19 April 2012)

    Comment by Alison Spring — April 19, 2012 @ 12:42 pm

  20. *snort*

    It was meant to be a professional site. One of his defenses against being in the wrong was that he had abandoned this website in favor of another, and hadn’t recopied my post to his new site (obviously, it still remained visible at the old one):

    “Once I realized how much my site was being used by serious hymnists and historians, I gave it a complete makeover to make it much more professional appearing. I eliminated ‘O My Father’ completey as the purpose of my website is to present hymn texts that have had text changes or are no longer used by our church, and it did not fall into either category.”

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 19, 2012 @ 12:48 pm

  21. Ardis,
    You rock.
    That is all.

    Comment by CS Eric — April 19, 2012 @ 12:58 pm

  22. Maybe you should point him to Jon McNaughton’s web site. No chance of “intellectual property” theft there.

    Humor … it is a difficult concept.

    I haven’t bothered much with McNaughton’s website, so perhaps there is some serious intellectual property theft there that I’m not aware of, but I point out that “kitschy, highly derivative art whose political overtones we dislike” is not quite the same thing as “plagiarized art.” Examples of the latter could be found in the opus of Ward Churchill, however.

    A Google search suggests that McNaughton’s work is plagiarized all over the Internet. Perhaps that’s what you meant and I’m just being thick.

    Comment by Vader — April 19, 2012 @ 1:25 pm

  23. I suspect he means that there is very little intellect behind McNaughton’s product, therefore no such intellectual property to steal. (I’m certain he isn’t accusing McNaughton himself of such theft, as none of the brain cells lost by a viewer while contemplating McNaughton’s art accrue to the benefit of McNaughton …)

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 19, 2012 @ 1:58 pm

  24. The correct way for me to have phrased it would have been:

    No chance of “intellectual” property theft there.

    All the irony goes out of the humor when you have to explain it. FAIL. I should have left the poor guy alone. After all, he has to look at those paintings right up front and in person every day. No need to add to his suffering.

    Comment by kevinf — April 19, 2012 @ 2:38 pm

  25. I am so glad you provided screen shots: I always run into these fascinating imbroglios way after the link is dead.

    I did find his site of course, and he talks a great deal about magazine articles, his site, every single solitary thing he has ever done or created. The man is a late middle-age “writer:” How has he managed to exist and not have a clue about copyright law, current copyright law?

    I am a brain damaged, drugged up chronic pain sufferer, whose current occupation is patient/client; but I know you don’t have to put a copyright mark on anything you write, put a new slant to, research/compile, find, whatever. It is automatically protected by copyright the instant you create it.

    I’ve known this for 30 years; when all I had written was a suggestion “Women’s Day” paid me $75 for. I’ve listened to others being told a copyright mark would not afford their cookbook, novel, photos, anymore protection than they already automatically had.

    I heard this discussed and I don’t think my experience any more specialized than your plagerist, probably mine is a great deal more shallow. So how did he miss out? Put his fingers in his ears and hum any time this was discussed?

    Comment by Diane Peel — April 19, 2012 @ 10:46 pm

  26. I got a good chuckle out of your commentary, Diane Peel!

    As a college professor, the issue of plagiarism is sadly something I know all too much about. And for the most part, like Ardis’s story, my anecdotes have a humorous component as well: I sometimes think I could even launch a career in stand up based solely on re-telling some of the choicer examples: like the student who handed in a paper that was supposed to comment on an essay by Simon Frith (a well-known academic and popular writer on music and media) but was instead a word-for-word copy of another essay written BY Simon Frith. Or the student who turned in a four page essay, each page of which was copied from a different website none of which had anything to do with the assigned topic. Or the research paper on the plight of dolphins which contained the phrase, “As president of Her Majesty’s Save The Dolphins foundation…”

    Anyway, am I to take it then that the ‘old website’ in question is now down and what I see when I go to look at this guy’s work is the “new” “professional” one? Because the animated cursor trail and meandering green hymnbook chased me off the site.

    Comment by Mina — April 20, 2012 @ 2:09 pm

  27. Yup, Mina, that is the new, professional site.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 20, 2012 @ 3:35 pm

  28. Go, Ardis.

    Comment by Michelle Glauser — April 20, 2012 @ 7:58 pm

  29. So I wasn’t the only one affected by the wandering cursor & hymnbook. I thought it was just me – the prisms in my glasses lens don’t QUITE tame my double vision.

    Glad I entertained you Mina, I found I repeated myself – sang the same song – on both face book and here. I do this often – Ardis has saved me from myself on at least one occasion. I’ll just blame my faux pas on the brain damage – it’s got to be good for something.

    I didn’t mean to suggest copyright law is easy or clear; just that it exists whether or not you use the copyright symbol. I, for one, am done writing about it. I’m not just saying the same thing over and over and over; signs that I’ve spent too much time reading behind the dancing hymn book are beginning to emerge…

    Comment by Diane Peel — April 20, 2012 @ 9:35 pm

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