Liza, who no longer blogs actively, but whose blog is still up for all to see, has recently found herself the victim of some sort of a “scraping” effort, a web site that seems to use her RSS feed to harvest her content, and then republishes it, uncredited, on their own web site, where (I suppose) it is intended to lure readers via search engines, and in some obscure way monetize those readers’ visits.
I have no idea about either the technological or the commercial aspects of this. I don’t know how it’s done, or how it makes money. I know that it’s wrong. Publishing more than an incidental bit of anyone’s work without their permission is theft. Some kinds of theft of intellectual property bother me (plagiarism, this); others, not so much (ripping CDs, viewing pirated movies). I’m happy to engage in a longer, more detailed discussion about how and why I draw what lines where I do. (Hint: the basic answer is, “Do content providers try to provide me with content in the ways that I want it, or do they spend considerable time and effort trying to railroad me into some other ways of consuming it, trying to control my access to it?” If the answer is the latter, then I tend not to worry about “stealing”; if the former, I tend not to feel ok about it.)
But my point here is a different one: it concerns Liza’s reaction to her discovery that she’s being scraped, and the reaction I (imagine I) would have were I to discover that I, too, am the victim of such a theft.
First off, I should say, I presume that I am the victim of such a theft. The way that all this stuff works suggests to me that it’s likely that, somewhere, someone, has figured out a way to use my words to lure someone to their web site.
Second, I want to repeat what I said up above: any such use is theft, and it’s wrong. I don’t have any truck with it, and I think such thieves should be prosecuted.
I think that, for me, the truth is, I don’t care. Or maybe I am/would be even flattered. (Not that I don’t care about the theft of Liza’s words – I do. They’re hers, and she gets to decide where/how they’re used. No, I don’t care about the theft of mine.)
What I do here is not a commercial endeavor. I’m not trying to sell books, erotica, porn. I’m not selling ads or, in any way, generating a penny of revenue from the words I write, from the images that I post on my Tumblr (which I don’t own, and am “stealing,” in any case – cue the IP discussion about images on Tumblr). I’m not trying to build a name for myself, or in any way hype anything or anyone. No, all this is is an intellectual, sexual exploration, a place where I pursue my own exhibitionism, a sort of a sandbox in which I play with information, thoughts about myself. At times I’ve been totally fixated on my statistics, and I guess there’s a world in which a scraper might in some way detract from my viewers. But really, the truth is, there just aren’t enough of you for even a meaningful dent in my readership to amount to a meaningful number. (One day, by the way, I expect I will write a book or three. But I doubt I’ll do it as N. Likes, and I suspect that you won’t even know that I’ve done it. Or if you do, I suspect it would take a feat of great sleuthery to figure out that I had.)
If someone somewhere uses my words for their own gain, I guess I think it’s slightly creepy, but I truly don’t care. (I’m not speaking in a legal sense: in a legal sense, I no unauthorized reproduction of my words is permitted, and I am asserting here my legal ownership of them.) I’m just saying, I don’t see how someone’s scraping my site really has any bearing on me.
Again – not in any way taking away from the feelings that Liza has, that Fern (one of her commenters) has expressed. They’re totally entitled to them. I’m really speaking more psychologically, about myself. I don’t think I care at all.