Bad news for content thieves (updated) | iLounge Backstage

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Bad news for content thieves (updated)

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By Jeremy Horwitz

Editor-in-Chief, iLounge
Published: Wednesday, January 3, 2007
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Unless you saw/heard part of this story on Your Mac Life earlier tonight, if you’re seeing this on Backstage - the part of iLounge reserved for “behind the scenes” commentary from our editors - you probably already know who we are, and what we stand for. We’ve been covering the iPod out of passion since way back in 2001, way before all the media attention, the existence of the iTunes Store, and the growth of the iPod accessory economy. Every day, we create and publish new articles, photographs, and other types of content designed to help new and current iPod users get accurate, objective, and honest information about Apple’s products, and we maintain strong editorial standards designed to guarantee that the quality of the content on iLounge remains high. For these reasons, our response from the iPod community - and the mainstream press - has been outstanding, and we’ve very much appreciated all of your support over the years.

I’m writing today because some bad things have been taking place behind the scenes recently, and since we’ve been forced to take some actions to deal with them, I wanted to put them into perspective to avoid any possible misconceptions. Some time ago, we discovered that a handful of people have been stealing our content, ranging from pieces of news stories to photographs, and sometimes entire feature articles. A bunch of the thefts have been blatant, the equivalent of a guy walking into your house, stealing your favorite digital photos, and then selling them as his own. Some have been less blatant, like the kid who wouldn’t stop looking over your shoulder during a test at school, doing his best to copy whatever you were writing, ultimately turning in something that the teacher instantly knew was a knock-off.

To be clear, we’re not talking about bloggers or other publications that link to our articles and provide attribution; we have always welcomed links to our content and are glad to cooperate with those who respect our intellectual property. The problem we’re having is with companies that have taken our content, removed our names and copyright notices, sometimes made little tweaks, and then reposted the content on their sites, selling advertising alongside it. These are people who have every ability to be original - which they should be - but instead are trying to make money off of cloning us and reselling our creative work as their own.

Even though this has happened in the past, we have not wanted to take the most obvious route - rapid, bank-crushing lawsuits - because we understand that sometimes we’re dealing with younger people who mightn’t know better. For that reason, in most cases (except those where people are especially obnoxious, like these guys), we try to be measured in our initial response. Generally, our first step will be a warning and request to stop, the second a cease and desist letter or forced DMCA takedown of the content, and the third, a lawsuit. Most people stop after step one. You’d have to be an idiot not to stop after step two. If things have to get to step three, the statement is very clear: there is going to be a massive financial penalty, and if someone has pushed us to this level, he’d best believe that we are going to see it through until he learns his lesson or runs out of money - possibly both.

Unlike a physical theft, an online publication has different sets of laws to protect it under these circumstances. You probably know about copyright laws, which provide damages of up to $150,000 per item stolen when someone takes copyrighted materials for financial gain, as well as thousands of dollars in additional damages for doing things like removing our copyright notices from our pages. Someone who steals just 15 photographs, for example, could be held accountable for over $2 million in damages under these laws, and believe it or not, jail time is also an option under such circumstances. Apart from copyright laws, there are also some serious business tort laws that content thieves can be sued under. Even though I’m a lawyer by training, I hate that we have to go down the lawsuit path, but that’s the sort of action we’re being forced to take.

Though I’m not going to mention their names right now, two sites - not owned by kids, but rather by adults who most certainly know better - have in the past few weeks been so brazen about theft of our content that we’re currently planning to file suits against them early next week. They’re not named here for only one reason: thieves like these don’t deserve the linkage or attention even posting this story will get them, and when you hear the full stories of the way they operate, you’ll probably be pretty disgusted by what people think constitutes “journalism” these days. Regardless of any ridiculous blustering you may hear from them, there are no excuses for theft of this type or scale, and they know better.

Because of how obnoxious some of these thieves are, the cases are pretty open and shut: aside from the obvious photograph and text thefts, the sites’ operators have done things like making references to us on one page while knocking us off on another, the exact sorts of evidence needed to prove willful and potentially criminal infringement. Of course, we’ve been compiling detailed comparison pages showing each of the thefts - sometimes even showing the post-publication changes they made to pages with stolen material - and created full archives of their site contents for our attorneys.

There’s a lot here to digest, and I’m sure there will be questions in the days ahead. We’ll answer the ones we can; others may have to wait a while, and just maybe, the thieves will knock it off rather than continuing to steal from us - that’d be great. Until then, thanks again for your support of iLounge; it is truly appreciated.

Update January 6, 2007: As an update for interested readers, electronic notices have been sent out; physical follow-ups will be delivered to the recipients personally during this week. At least one of them has already begun the (lengthy) process of removing infringing content. In order to avoid any guessing games as to who’s involved, we’ve had to close comments to this article, but thank all of you for the kind words and support you offered - they mean a lot to us.

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Comments

1

More power to you! Just a brief show of support to your solid work all these years.

Posted by Scope G on January 3, 2007 at 9:48 PM (PDT)

2

definitely the thing to do. if you jump right to a lawsuit, its unfair. If you don’t prosecute, you lose money, so this is the perfect balance. My family is full of lawyers, and we think that stealing internet content is amoral. I would also compare it to someone taking articles you have written for a newspaper, traveling to the competing paper, and selling it. Please keep us posted on the progress and sucess of your lawsuit.

Posted by anti-luddite on January 3, 2007 at 9:48 PM (PDT)

3

This is bad,
I’m for instance use a lot of your metirial in my Hebrew blog - but always link back to the original post.

I think that this is an issue you need to get in to hard - so it will stop.

Anyway, I think that for any English reader you’re the number one iPod resource on the net.

Posted by linktree on January 3, 2007 at 10:16 PM (PDT)

4

This has always been a great site for years due to the level of professionalism you guys maintain. However, if your name isn’t “The New York Times” some people think they can take your content and get away with it. Perhaps this is a good opportunity to prove that simply isn’t the case.

Posted by gt on January 4, 2007 at 2:28 AM (PDT)

5

bah… how do i send you an email?

Posted by yuri on January 4, 2007 at 5:07 AM (PDT)

6

Go get ‘em!

Posted by cxc273 on January 4, 2007 at 6:46 AM (PDT)

7

iLounge rocks, and I hope you can resolve this to your satisfaction.

It would be amusing if they had the gall to steal this article smile

Posted by paul on January 4, 2007 at 7:28 AM (PDT)

8

And yet on this very page, at the header advertisement is the following “movies to ipod software” which is another form of thievery, at least the Hollywood executives would say is no different. Taking copyrighted material and illegally transferring to another format, hmmm guess that’s okay?

Posted by Jamie F on January 4, 2007 at 1:13 PM (PDT)

9

Bummer.

Content is King at any price, including stealing it.

Posted by Bill Gram-Reefer on January 4, 2007 at 2:36 PM (PDT)

10

Jamie,

What the movie and record execs don’t tell you is that as a private consumer it is perfectly legal under copyright law and ethical to make an archival copy of anything you buy.  The tricky part is the technology that allows you to do this also allows you to pirate.  I could argue that it is at least unfair, if not unethical and unamerican for a studio to copy-protect my DVD’s requiring me to buy a more expensive player and 3rd party software to defeat the copy protection.
In the early days of VHS movies the popular, albeit crude, Copy Guard system weakened the vertical sync so that the picture would roll due to the losses in dubbing to a second VCR.  The problem was that a lot of TVs couldn’t play the tape either so perfectly legal little black boxes could be had for $30 to fix the vert sync.  Ultimately the honest consumer pays the price for copy protection.  Too bad there’s not a better way.  For instance the HD DVD format includes the ability to knock the resolution back down to standard for any output other than HDMI.  No studios have done it yet, but they can.  All in the name of protecting their interest from pirates.  Ultimately the pirates will come up with a work around but in the meantime I’ll have to spend thousands on a new AV receiver with HDMI switching, an HD DVD player and $200 on a 6 meter HDMI cable.  What really sucks is that after spending the coin the 300 plus DVDs I’ve legally acquired and all non-HD broadcasts won’t look as good on my plasma as they do now using component video.  Then again, BlueRay way win out.  Seesh it’s the whole 4 track vs 8 track, Quad vs. Discrete, Dolby B vs Dolby C, VHS vs Beta, DAT vs MD thing all over again!

FWIW I think iTunes 5 copy allowance in the AAC format is a very reasonable compromise, but not being able to restore my collection from my iPod if my harddisk crashes is total BS.

Posted by Elcoholic in So Cal on January 4, 2007 at 2:44 PM (PDT)

11

My estimation is that this is Bill Palmer Inc ???

I think of any one ... they regularly lift content and ideas from this site.

It will be interesting to see who this is.

Posted by Rus on January 4, 2007 at 7:05 PM (PDT)

12

Go, iLounge! You are an amazing site. I recommend it to people constantly, and you are my home page! I’m totally behind you!!

Posted by bluazul on January 4, 2007 at 7:14 PM (PDT)

13

One thing I’d like to note is that Dennis Lloyd once contacted me about my site using an iPod /hPod pic ... I got the pic through a Google search with no tag of belonging to iLounge. After the contact I gave the credit and I try to do a better job of giving credit within my blog for any pictures ... it isn’t always easy though.

Posted by Rus on January 5, 2007 at 8:06 AM (PDT)

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