Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Disclaimer: December 2009

I've been following a recent issue as of late, which involves the acquisition of content from a local author and blogger. Roch Chua runs Hearty's Haven as a personal site, and she has been very active regarding events and developments in the technology and social sectors within the last year.

Last week, she reported an upcoming revamp of the Friendster web site, which was promptly picked up and posted in its entirety by a moderator on Sulit.com.ph.

Once the news was broken, this resulted in some mild outrage on Facebook. Roch had been following the Friendster change for a while, to the point of being in contact with them and signing a nondisclosure agreement until the news could be broken. When the Sulit.com.ph article emerged, however, two things were certain: First, the entire text had been copied word-for-word from her blog (including the images and their placement); and second, it was this Sulit.com.ph article that was getting all of the hits from the international search engines. The article was cited and attributed to her, but the lost site visits were another matter altogether.

Roch's attempts at communication with Sulit.com.ph resulted in a negative response (if not outrightly insulting) from the moderators and the forum-goers, which filtered into other channels as well. Fortunately, the moderator who originally posted the article elected to remove it; As of this writing, however, said article has already been copied and has appeared in other venues.

On my discussion with Roch, she advised me that the matter is closed. The offending post is gone, the work is lost, and the fallout has already been scattered across local connections. If anything, the experience inspired her to put up better security practices and measures for her posts; Time will tell if they're effective.

I've advocated an anti-plagiaristic stance from the first post of this blog, so saying that this case piques my interest is little more than an understatement.

In the first place, despite the persistence of Roch's proponents, I must point out that this is not a case of plagiarism. Plagiarism is, in informal terms, the act of taking the work of another creator and passing it off as your own original output. It is the scourge of authors, artists, teachers and governing bodies alike, because it implies that anybody can put his name on somebody else's creation and gain the benefits from doing so. The fact that the moderator at fault here distinctly placed the author's name on the copied article notes that there was no motivation for him/her to acquire the work for him/herself.

This is, however, a case of copyright infringement — the act of subverting the right of the author to determine how his work should be reproduced (among others). While the original article was produced with the intent that it be published on the complainant's blog, the same permission did not apply to its appearance on the Sulit forums. I assume that the same situation applies to the question of site visits and search hits.

Sulit.com.ph disavows any legal action to be taken against posts on its site, but I must point out that this has not prevented similar lawsuits from taking place (and succeeding in compulsory action). There's a clear party at fault here, mind you — the moderator — but the company can be called to task for the actions of one of their representatives. With that said, the moderator has complied with the required action ("Please remove the post"), and the complainant has already closed the issue.

What I find regrettable about the issue is that there was little netiquette involved, and that both parties seemed to want to force a resolution rather than ask for one. I believe that there's a way to resolve such issues in a decent manner, and it goes both ways.


So what does this mean for this monthly disclaimer of mine? Not much, really — but it's another real-world incident in a long list of items that have to be constantly monitored. Stuff like this needs to have its lessons realized and applied. While I'd like to say that this is the last time it will happen... it won't.

This disclaimer, like all disclaimers, focuses on the plagiaristic aspect. For starters, I am obligated to mention that everything written on this blog is an original work of this site's creator and administrator. Yes, that's right — I performed research, discussion, and hours of keyboard-tapping to write each and every one of these posts. There are exceptions in that I will occasionally quote or reference other sources in these articles; these articles are never quoted in full, mostly because I try to provide links and/or attributions for every one of these.

If you feel that I have used something that was created by a different person, and that I have not provided the correct acknowledgments to that source, please inform me. I like to think that I'm a reasonable person, which means that I'm willing to negotiate over the use of the material.

Similarly, if you would like to use the material on this blog, my base requirement is that you ask me first. That's it, really — you can contact me via email, or simply leave a comment here. I usually don't set forth a lot of conditions other than a link and an attribution of some sort.

Do not take my stuff with the intention of claiming that you wrote it. This includes any situations where you post it without any acknowledgments, and most certainly in areas where it gets used in a harmful, offensive, or out-of-context manner.

In the event that any of these tenets are broken, I will be hospitable in my attempts to contact the parties at fault. I feel that these situations can be resolved in a decent manner in accordance with everyone's wishes, and I will assume that any such parties feel the same way. I will assume legal action as a last recourse (because that should really be the case). That said, in cases of extreme offense, I also reserve any and all rights to beat the aforementioned parties to death and feed their remains to the orangutans at the zoo.

I am registered via a Creative Commons License, and you can view its terms and conditions via the the link on the bottom right sidebar at my main blog site.

Be careful about what you do, everyone, and be careful about what you say. I'll also recommend my footnotes below; they make for good reading after the issue at hand.

Essential material for the post was taken from the following sources:
— Chua, Rochelle S.; The New Friendster is Finally Coming!; http://www.rochellesychua.com/2009/12/new-friendster-is-finally-coming.html
— Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia; Plagiarism; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plagiarism

— Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia; Copyright Infringement; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright_infringement
Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines; Chan Robles Virtual Law Library

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