by Lorraine B. Elder
I just had my first encounter with reblogging and am trying to sort out what I think about it. I discovered that someone had pulled most of a post from this blog into his own blog, displaying the post as if it were part of his site. Here’s my thought process so far.
However, the reblogger did properly attribute the work to me and included links to my university department’s web site and to this blog, where the article was first published. The reblogger included my department’s logo on his site, although the logo has been enlarged inappropriately to the point of being unattractively pixelated. The reblogger’s very slight alterations to the original article don’t sit entirely well with me, but they aren’t offensive or disrespectful.
The ego kicked in and I felt flattered that the reblogger thought enough of my post to make it more widely available. But I wondered why he didn’t take the time to add value in the form of commentary or insight of his own. Given the type of work the reblogger does, he certainly should be aware of netiquette and should know better than to just post the work of others on his own site. Worse, on a second page on his site, he has posted a well-known list of good practices for teaching, but he doesn’t attribute them to their source. Do I detect a trend?
Okay, it’s not likely that a pornographer would reblog anything of mine (whew!). But the thought made me aware of my differing standards depending on who is pilfering my work. I suspect this reblogger is just getting started in the blogging game. His site is pretty sparse (which is no excuse for swiping other people’s stuff, mind you). Because he appears to be in education and not multilevel marketing or Viagra sales, and because he did provide proper attribution, I’m trying to cut him a little slack, and I’m mindful of the concept of fair use. If his site had been sleazy or salesy, I’d probably have sent him a take-down notice, perhaps beginning with the salutation “Dear Thief” or “Yo, Scumbag.” Instead, I’m blogging about him, more or less politely.
It would have been more efficient from a web resources standpoint for him to simply link to the original post rather than redisplaying a significant portion of it on his site, and that would have been more polite, too, in my opinion. By posting my stuff on his site, he makes it harder for me to get a good picture of this blog’s readership.
On Twitter it’s common practice for people to repost information originally posted by others. In fact, redistributing others’ tweets is expected and rewarded. Does reblogging extend that practice to forms of writing longer than 140 characters? If so, I can see why the news wire services are miffed about the practice. But is this where some portions of the web are headed? Really, how different is reblogging from embedding a YouTube or Vimeo video? Those sites even provide the handy code for the embeds.
Honestly, how hard would it have been for him to ask if he could republish the material? Or was his pingback in fact his way of asking? I’m fairly new to WordPress myself, so I haven’t yet entirely figured out common practices surrounding pingbacks and trackbacks.
Plenty has been written about differences between how Boomers and Gen Xers view ownership and attribution (respectively, “It’s mine and you must pay for it” and “It’s mine but I’ll share it with you”) as compared to the view of Gen Yers (“Everything belongs to everyone for free”). That translates, roughly, to copyright vs. Creative Commons vs. public domain. Does my initial reaction to his reblogging mean I am just an old-timer who hasn’t caught up with the current thinking?
Although no copyright notice nor Creative Commons license was displayed on the original blog post (now rectified), ultimately I decided to act as if I had posted the article under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license. This version of the CC license allows for derivative works, and I decided to treat his reblogging of my article as a derivative work.
I’m not sure this is the best reaction, but I’m trying it on for size. I’m pretty sure my decision would be different if the original article were longer, say the length of a scholarly paper, or if my income depended entirely on my blog posts. And my decision might change if the same person makes a habit of grabbing content from this blog rather than posting comments here or writing his own thoughts at his blog and linking to content here. Still, I’m almost grateful to the reblogger because he has forced me to reconsider my positions on the topic of reuse.
I’d like to hear about what you think of reblogging. Is it common? Do you like it? How do you handle it? Are rebloggers lazy sponges, or are they discerning connoisseurs of information? What is proper reblogging etiquette? Does it vary depending on the source of the original material (say, a commercial site) and the use of the material on the reblogger’s site (say, an education-oriented site)? Are rebloggers the new spammers, or is reblogging a good way to redistribute information to a wider audience? Will it soon be common for each piece of original online content to be reblogged multiple times, and will this be viewed as a public service rather than infringement?
This blog post is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.