August 18, 2013

how to (and how not to) reference a blog post or article that you like

There’s a good way and a bad way to share an article or blog post you find interesting.

The good way:

The good way is by linking to the article in your own blog post, or on Facebook (or elsewhere). After all, people who write for an audience love that something gets attention and is found useful or entertaining, or is of some value. I can’t immediately think of a scenario where an author of an article on a website would not like others to read it. So please feel free to share to a wider audience.

A really good way to further a discussion, is to perhaps quote a line or two from the article; add a link to the original article with a credit … and then add your own spin on things with your own images. Your own words, and your own images.

The bad way:

The bad way of referencing the work of others would be wholesale copy-and-paste efforts. It is plagiarism. Blatant theft. Nothing less than that. You’re presenting yourself as a better photographer (and writer) than you really are. You’re lying to your clients and you are lying to your audience.

Even with a link and credit, this is bad, because:
- Google can penalize websites for duplicate content.
- You’re getting traffic and attention for someone else’s work.

So even if you copy the entire article and images, and link to the original article and reference the author, it’s still not a good thing. It might not quite be plagiarism because you feel you did credit the author, but it’s still not the proper way to do it.

If you like something you see on a website, do reference it and link to it – but when you quote the article, only quote a fraction of it. After all, as photographers we pride ourselves on being creative – so create your own!


plagiarism and image theft – you will get caught!

With the pervasiveness of Google, there really is no way for anyone to steal text and images without being found out. Even when you think you’re being clever in swapping words and phrases around, sites like CopyScape will reveal what percentage of the plagiarized text corresponds with the original. If you need to find copies of an image, TinEye will show duplicates of images on other sites.

A ping-back from a WordPress blog will make it known that you used linked text and images. And then even a basic Google search will reveal your theft. This is how I discovered a while back that one of my websites had been ripped off in its entirety!

And how embarrassing would it be to be outed on a site like Photo Stealers in front of thousands of your peers? Nevermind the embarrassment – getting busted for stealing images and text could very well mean the end of your career as a photographer. Just don’t do it!


USA photographers – register your work with the Copyright Office

Even if you can prove your images are your own, without the images being registered at the Copyright Office, you have to prove damages. And this is highly unlikely to be worth your effort when you compare the legal costs this would entail.

To claim statutory damages, you have to have your work registered with the Copyright Office. I would say this is essential, especially in this time where there appears to be a free-for-all appropriation of others’ work. You have a three month window in which to register your work, and within which you can retro-actively do so, and still claim statutory damages.


the latest incident in a never-ending saga

At least once a week I discover someone who uses one of my images, or text lifted wholesale from my site.

The screen-capture at the top is the latest - my article how to use flash at sunset was lifted off my website in its entirety, including hot-linking to my watermarked images. But what makes this perhaps even more egregious than usual, is that the culprit, according to his bio and his Linked-in profile, is a “Fine Arts Professor”, and “taught Photography and Fine Arts” at a University in China, and is “currently undertaking a Master’s in Fine Art in Photography at San Jose State University”.

Very accomplished for someone who has to whole-sale steal material from my site, and from other photographers.

  • his website with plagiarized work  (I’ve since changed the URL for my images so that they don’t appear on his site.)
  • his Facebook page where he blatantly promotes the articles with plagiarized material that appears on his website
  • his Linked-In profile boasting of his accomplishments, incl teaching photography.
  • his bio with more puffery.

Why someone would do this, I have no idea. But I have screen-captures at every step. So we’ll have to see how this one plays out.


{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Trev August 19, 2013 at 3:00 am

Sure is a cheeky bugger hey!


2 Ian August 19, 2013 at 6:42 am

Words fail me (and that doesn’t happen often!) …….


3 Mark August 19, 2013 at 7:24 am

Generally speaking, you can stop hot-linking to images through an appropriate entry to your .htaccess files. You can either just create a failed request or, if you’re feeling particularly evil, you can even redirect hot-linking attempts to an image of your choice (image of a confused-looking smurf, woolly mammoth, or whatever tickles your fancy at the time).

And at least, as Neil has apparently had to do here, you shouldn’t have to change your URLs around to confuse the guilty parties, which I suspect is a lot of work with no guarantee it won’t happen again.

As for the text, well, perennial problem. If anyone knows how to deal with this, I’d love to hear from them.

Some may disagree, but for me it’s the theft of both your image *and* bandwidth that bothers me more than having my text lifted.


4 Trev August 19, 2013 at 10:18 am

Some may disagree, but for me it’s the theft of both your image *and* bandwidth that bothers me more than having my text lifted.

Not only that, but with Google’s new algorhythms now, when anyone copies and pastes large chunks of data from another website, that original website suffers greatly in penalties as Google will rank them lower, so it’s a real bummer having to suffer that side of it as well.


5 Steve August 19, 2013 at 10:46 am

Sadly most have no real concept of what stealing means anymore. They think that everything on the internet is free to use however they wish.

The photographer saying: Another day, another DMCA filing.


6 Matt August 19, 2013 at 10:55 am

OK, there’s lazy (I have nothing original to write, so I’ll just plagiarize someone else’s work) and then there’s L_A_Z_Y (Let me just wholesale copy and paste the HTML code onto my blog, including all the embedded links back to the source website!)

The former is obviously theft and wrong on several levels. The latter is theft and pure stupidity. The virtual equivalent of the bank robber who writes a stick-up note on the back of his business card.

Looking for the silver lining, at first I thought perhaps Neil might get some tiny benefit from the B&H affiliate links which were included on the “re-purposed” blog, but then I realized nobody would make any purchases directly from this guy’s blog. Unless Dan Fenstermacher has followers even dumber than he is…


7 Lou August 19, 2013 at 4:16 pm

He also has a twitter account, @dfenstermacher His fifth tweet posts a link to his site hosting the plagiarized work. Time to let his 118 followers know that he is a thief.


8 Neil vN August 19, 2013 at 4:54 pm

Oh, we have word from the plagiarist:


9 Trev August 19, 2013 at 7:34 pm

I have no idea on what I am doing in Facebook, but I now cannot see that entire thread/post/whatever it is, has it been deleted?

Unfortunately, all the people visiting that site, including me :( , helps his popularity.


10 Richard Sandor August 19, 2013 at 7:55 pm

As a real internet novice, what do you do to see if your work has been improperly copied? Richard


11 Neil vN August 20, 2013 at 12:32 pm

It’s a never-ending battle. Here’s an interesting tale – how a stolen photo became a contest winner.


12 MikMik September 3, 2013 at 3:30 am

Another interesting tale: the self portrait of a 14 year old girl, that was stolen and ended up as an adult movie DVD cover:


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