I was recently reminded of how other sites copying and pasting content (probably not knowing it’s my original wording) is a real thing for this site. This is relatively easy to prove, however, I’m kind of at a loss of what to do about it, or if I should care at all. Let me tell you why.
Yesterday I published a generic chart of airline stopover rules. I did this more than a year ago and noticed that this is what seems to me as my most stolen post. So for other bloggers who need stopover references, please use my content! I love it. But a friendly reminder, here’s the back link: http://travelisfree.com/2014/12/04/list-of-airline-stopover-routing-rules/
While this word for word copying has happened a few times, there is only one occasion where I brought it to the blogger’s attention. I think I was annoyed because there were multiple examples throughout the post that were a similar concept to my post. So I brought a singular example to the blogger, and this is why I never did it again:
First, I chose an example of word for word copying that I know was original to me because the wording I used was very different than wording buried in the terms and conditions of the german airline.
This isn’t the exact example I gave, but it was the same none the less. I summarized some of Air Berlin’s rules by saying, “one stopover within the origin zone”.
The key here is that this phase is not on Air Berlin’s website, and it’s not on flyertalk. YET, our blogs had word for word exact phrasing. Me saying it in 2013 and the other blogger in 2014. So I confronted the situation. Guess what I was told?
I received outright denial and was told, “But, you and I both know that most of the information to start with was derived from Flyertalk, as this is where I found the bulk of my information as I did the research.”
What the heck? That is such BS on so many levels.
First, what an insult to the work I do. Speak for your own quality, but copying and pasting from anonymous commenters on a forum comes nowhere near my standard for accuracy, quality, or originality. It’s insulting and completely untrue. I do not use flyertalk as a source, and haven’t gone to flyertalk when “researching” in years.
But the denial is absurd. We both used the exact same wording. WORD FOR WORD. And the crazy thing is that the rules were not only not on FlyerTalk (at the time of these articles at least), but they wouldn’t have had these phrasings anyway.
I’m not claiming to coin “origin zone” or “region of origin”, but that it’s unlikely to be only coincidence that they were used to describe a program that doesn’t use the terminology itself and that the phrasing choice was identical to mine. How can this possibly be denied? If it were a couple words, even then I would have been suspicious. Like, “okay, I guesss it’s possible that another person would have found the same information and picked the exact same term as I did to describe it.” I find that far-fetched especially since the author relies on FlyerTalk which I’m sure didn’t have the information.
Actually, that’s a good point. So now I’ve looked on flyertalk, and this information could not have been “researched” from flyertalk, because the information does not exist on flyertalk. (Even if it did, that wouldn’t make it reliable).
But what’s more odd, is that the author himself changed the wording in the post after our conversation. I put the post into Archive.org which shows how pages on the internet used to look. It appears that when he published the article he used the phrase I used, “within the origin zone” then changed it to the more common “within the region of origin” later. Why he felt the need to change it to a phrase not identical to mine well after originally posting it? Guess that’s a mystery.
I could go on and on with examples of how the JAL information was incomplete in the same ways that my post at the time was incomplete and didn’t bother to mention the very big difference between OneWorld flights and JAL flights. Or how I actually got some specific details wrong, and those details were identically wrong. But I was more concerned with exact phrasing copied.
But all that to say, when I called this person out on clearly stealing the exact same phrasing that I used, instead of saying, “good point, I’ll add a backlink”, he exclaimed how ludicrous my charges were. He went on to give examples of how “region of origin” was used elsewhere on the internet (although that’s the phrase he changed it to, but he doesn’t know that I know that). So he knows he’s guilty, but instead of getting a little bit of credit like I’d wish, it just became a combat zone, so I wasn’t going to push it further.
(Although funny story, in trying to prove that I didn’t coin the phrase of contention (which I didn’t claim, only that it’s not coincidence that we used it identically for Air Berlin), he ended up showing screenshots of multiple articles that were written by me!)
What The Point IS
This is typical, people compile information and maybe sometimes they don’t credit the source. Whatever. But when the content (and concept) is word for word jacked, I’m not flattered.
But what’s the big deal? Well, that’s my question to the reader as well. But first I should explain that besides ego (which I know I shouldn’t care about), the blogosphere depends upon “backlinks”. These not only drive traffic but reflect to google that it’s a trustworthy site that deserves more traffic. It’s how I make my living.
Don’t get me wrong, the incentive to do good work is first and foremost to create great content for the reader. I hope my hard work is not only evident but enjoyed and useful. But also the incentive is to be known as a knowledgable resource.
What The Point Is NOT
I don’t want to be so egotistical to think any site that talks about stopovers is stealing my content. I don’t want to go around accusing people of it either.
I also WANT other bloggers to use my content. Don’t get me wrong. I want people to write good blog posts that expand the hobby and use my information if it’s helpful. I encourage it. However, the selfish reason I want people to use my content is so I can get a backlink. Can’t lie.
And the point is not that most bloggers do this. Most bloggers (that I’ve met) do not have this attitude. And to go around claiming they do is misguided.
To me Gary Leff represents a type of blogger that does not see other bloggers as enemies. He backlinks very generously to other blogs with good content on a very regular basis and is known for that! I see this as a wise mature thing of him not [just] because it is probably best to build relationships with bloggers, but because he’s treating his audience with respect and giving them good content. You know that when you go to VFTW that you’ll get all the information you need. He doesn’t tell you about a sale and not at least link to a source that tells you how to buy it… or whatever the example is.
I want to be like this. Not anti-backlink, but generous to my audience.
The other type of blogger that I think is rare is someone who thinks he can keep his audience to himself. When I first started I was probably immature enough to think that I could keep all the audience on travelisfree.com. This is disrespectful to my readers. They deserve to know everything, and they aren’t too dumb to google something when they need more info. Trying to keep everyone in your own bubble or sphere isn’t actually going to help, but quite the opposite.
And again, I think this mentality is very rare. Most bloggers are like Gary. Gary even tells you if he heard of it from another blog, not just if he got the information from there. Don’t get the wrong idea, don’t think I’m proposing we find all the copy cat bloggers and what not… because when you want to find something, you’ll find it even if it doesn’t exist.
I should reemphasize that I want bloggers to steal my content. I mean, obviously I don’t want entire posts taken, or original concepts that I’m providing copied, but I certainly want to be referenced.
I also don’t want to be competitive. I want to link out to another blog if they’ve been helpful or have good content or concepts.
I would like credit for work I’ve done. Is this for ego reasons, or to simply grow the blog?
I definitely have liberal standards for what I’d call “stealing”. Especially when you’re a smaller blogger… you can wonder “why aren’t people backlinking to me?”, but I’ve now realized that there are hundreds of blogs. How can anyone know of all your content to back link to? I’d only complain if the it’s word for word the same.
Even then, if someone just said, “sorry dude”, and added a link, I’d be giddy. That’s all I’d really be asking for.
Now the big question is this: should I bother saying anything if a blogger does steal content? I’ve explained why I want to, but here’s why I shouldn’t. 1) The one time I did, it was denied and I was insulted by being told we both copy from flyertalk. It did no good. No positive outcome was brought, and so it’s a negative interaction for nothing. And 2) Why deal with it when there are 100 others who do backlink for every 1 who copies and pastes?
What’s your opinion? How would you have handled it? Would you bring it up? Would you let it be? Is it worth caring or even an email?
Based on my one experience, my feeling is that I’ll end up making more enemies than friends and therefore it’s not worth it. If I maybe had addressed it better, or their response wasn’t complete crap, then likely the end result could have been positive. But I don’t think most people want to take allegations of plagiarism positively, or rather they would take it personally.