We were taking with some other fansite operators, and there seems to be a large increase of different sites lifting content from our sites and other sites. Some of it may be intentional, other times (in all likelihood) it’s just that people don’t know any better or that they don’t realize the consequences of what they are doing. So we thought we’d do a little informational piece.
Much of our blogging style comes from years of being in the Harry Potter fandom and watching how sites like Mugglenet and The Leaky Cauldron did it. We also watched rewards that came their way (like set visits and exclusive interviews) because of the style they used. So much of what we did was adopted from their style. We also learned how to avoid some mistakes by seeing how they dealt with things. That’s not to say we’ve avoided all pitfalls(far from it), but we are grateful to those guys for frankly being the guinea pigs, and learning from them. One of the reasons we’ve never taken any stance on casting is we saw first-hand how contentious that could be (those of you who know the significance of the backlash at Remus Lupin and Sirius Black casting back in the day know what we mean).
So here’s some advice to other bloggers (and those who have currently been lifting content are getting an email). Feel free to send it to those who might need the advice.
1. Quoting people is cool, but lifting their entire story isn’t. If you quote something state where you got it and link to that primary source.
2. Limit your quotes to no more than 250-300 words or so, maybe a little more if it’s a very long interview or article. Taking the entire article from another site and then putting “source” with a link to the originating site isn’t fair. Think of it like high school English class when you learned to cite references. Your teacher would have seriously marked your paper down if you had an entire page of someone else’s content, and at the end of that page said where it came from.
3. Using photos to illustrate your article is great, but don’t take all of them especially if the article you are citing is a photo spread. Take one photo and link back to the main source so that people can see more. If the primary site gives credit to a photographer for the photo be sure and mention that person. If a site has an exclusive on a photo, than it’s off limits, don’t take it. Talk about it, and link to it, but they have the right to their scoop if they want it.
4. The exception to all of this is press releases. They can be quoted in full. In fact they’d love it if you didn’t edit them because it’s free PR for them. Press releases usually come directly to you from actors agents, movie studios, companies running events, charities, etc. They are easy to spot because they are actually labeled “Press Release” or “For Immediate Release” and they have full contact info of the team issuing it at the bottom and they are usually accompanied by high resolution graphics. They also tend to be very long and wordy and have tons of background information.
5. Don’t tag photos unless you took them. You may have put them in a gallery, but they aren’t yours unless you paid for them or took them yourself.
6. Don’t reload videos on to your YouTube channel.Take for example a site we frequently link to, Collider. Steve from Collider does not region block his videos. He has his own player that loads an ad first and then you can see his interview, feature, or whatever. Steve needs that ad rev to off-set his business expenses. Trust us, air, hotel, meals, etc at a press junket for a film are not cheap! even more baffling is a case when Glamour magazine had footage on their YouTube channel. Why in the world would someone then reload that footage in full. Makes NO sense!
We know, we know… some places you can’t see videos because they are regionally blocked (yes we are eyeballing you MTV) and yes in the age of the Internet and online viral marketing we think region blocking is stupid and short-sighted, ( don’t even get Laura started on that because she can never see Dr. Who features on the BBC UK site) but it is what it is
7. Bloggers depend on readership and ad revenue. It’s expensive to run a blog particularly one with lots of traffic. Your standard $100 a year GoDaddy site isn’t what we use or entertainment industry bloggers use. We survive off of ad revenue to meet expenses that are upwards of $500 a month just for running the site alone. This doesn’t count software, training, travel expenses to cover events to bring back content, etc. So if people don’t do a reasonable quote and link back, we lose money, and that loss of money prevents us from doing stories.
We’ll give an example. One entertainment blog that we like is Screen Rant. Now we may not agree with every article that Screen Rant puts out there, but we do respect the professionalism behind his site. Vic, the owner of screen rant, just addressed this lifting of material problem on his twitter:
“calm down. it’s just a post. everyone seemed to have agreed with it. talk to the hand, I’ll delete it, bitch.”
“@Trillian_01 No, it’s in response to my complaint about them stealing an article from my site.”
“@NomentionofKev Daily, from many sites.”
“@genjadeshade Yes, yes, I’ve heard that excuse before. But SOMEONE runs the site and it plagiarizes content EVERY day.”
Vic isn’t the only entertainment reporter having to deal with this. Eric Dietzen, who like Vic we don’t always agree with but we respect as an entertainment journalist, over at MTV also Tweeted about this situation:
“What’s worse: a site takes HALF ur reporting/quotes w/o linking to your story or a site takes ALL ur quotes & has tiny LINK at the very end?”
8. What do you do if you get ripped off. Personally we opt for the contact the offending site at their publicly stated email address. Most sites that are reputable have a relatively easy to find “contact us” link on their site. Be polite but firm. The person who owns the blog may not realize what one of their employees or volunteer staffers did. If then they don’t fix it, don’t return your emails, or get snotty about it, then we’d go for the calling them out in public and embarrassing them routine. Generally speaking though, it shouldn’t get that far.
We recently had an entertainment site rip off our coverage of the Eclipse Black Carpet. We contacted them and the owner apologized and agreed to talk to the person responsible. He was grateful that we brought it to his attention because the same employee might make the same mistake again.
9. If you find something other than direct contact from the source, stumbling on it via visiting the main source or via their Twitter, or via a Google Alert that leads directly to that site, give a shout out to the person or site who tipped you off. So if a fan saw it and tipped you off, give them a “Thanks” at the end of your post. If you saw it on another site, either say “Thanks to name of site” or “Via name of site” at the end of your article. It’s not technically mandatory, but it’s a good way of being nice to the neighbors and you never know when you might need them for something! It takes and extra 30 seconds and it’s well worth the effort.
10. Grayish areas: some live awards shows don’t mind if you put their footage up on YouTube. Some mind some years, and not other years. Some TV talk shows have great interview footage to embed right after their show airs on live TV (shout out to Jimmy Kimmel and the Lopez Show for always getting content up by the next morning) others don’t (If someone could drag the Regis and Kelly kicking and screaming show into the 21st century we’d appreciate it. THE Worst video coverage of any live talk show!) Some studios don’t mind their Comic Con footage getting online, others do. For these types of things, they frequently see it as viral PR for their show next year or the show being covered. Best advice we have is use common sense. If they seem to be allowing video, go for it. If they seem to be issuing takedowns, don’t.
The thing that is always off limits is full episodes, full movies, or unreleased items. They might turn a blind eye to one time awards shows or interviews being uploaded to YouTube, but they won’t turn a blind eye to full versions of their material slated for theaters or TV stations. If it’s slated someday for a DVD don’t take it! Whatever you do, DONT upload full movies or TV episodes or you will get sued, it’s copyright violation and a federal offense! Summit Entertainment currently has legal action pending against people who hacked into a server, took and uploaded their material without permission, don’t do it! jail is not worth it.
11. If someone hits you with a C&D, a takedown request, or similar comply with the request. Videos and photos are frequently exclusive copyrite and they don’t want it shared electronically. As for written content, it doesn’t usually come up (assuming you have only taken 250-300 words) unless its magazine scans while the issue is still live on newstands. In that case comply, they have a right to make money off their issue while it is available for purchase. Usually once the issue goes dead ( in other words no longer in newstands) they are ok with a scan, but if they aren’t take it down. If you feel you are not in violation, ask them to explain how specifically you are and what law you are breaking. If they can’t articulate the problem, it may be just a bullying tactic.
12. In the end, realize that there are consequences to what you run on your blog good and bad. Be able to deal with what your personal choice is. If a news site won’t give you a press release, or they don’t invite you to contribute fan opinion, maybe it’s because they don’t like your style of coverage. Even if they disagree with you on some things, they’ll tend to respect you if you are fair with how you credit things as stated above.
For example, take Summit Entertainment. Some people accuse us of being a Summit approved site. The only sites Summit has any approval on are their Facebook page, their Twilight Saga page, their other movie pages, and their corporate page. Summit doesn’t tell us what to blog, if they tried that, we’d tell them to stick it you know where. We disagree with them on a regular basis on all sorts of things, but it’s handled privately and professionally in emails. Sometimes they win the discussion point, and sometimes we do. Summit Entertainment probably isn’t really happy when we cover stories on Rachelle LeFevre, they probably didn’t like us giving a less than glowing revue to Step-Up 3D, and they probably would have preferred that we ignored all together anything negative like contract talks or unfortunate comments of directors in the press. However, because of the overall style of our coverage and how we handle issues that are problematic, we enjoy a good relationship.
Websites are like children, unless you are breaking the law, no one should tell you how to handle yours, but realize like the family with the rowdy kids no one can stand, people make judgments about you (fair or not) based on your website and how it appears on a regular basis.