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"Conversation. What is it? A Mystery! It's the art of never seeming bored, of touching everything with interest, of pleasing with trifles, of being fascinating with nothing at all. How do we define this lively darting about with words, of hitting them back and forth, this sort of brief smile of ideas which should be conversation?" Guy de Maupassant

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Indian bloggers pass sentence in mob justice

Following on from my earlier post on DRM, there's a storm brewing in the Indian Blogosphere about someone 'stealing' blog content from other blogs and posting it as their own - this guy does so without any attribution whatsoever. That is bad.  Unacceptable really.  Must be stopped.

A certain set of Indian Bloggers (many of them belong to a certain Libertarian Cartel :)) have taken him to task for this. Others I read are quiet.

Madman says :

"But after Amit Varma brought it to the attention of some of us, we decided to send an email asking him to remove the posts and give him 24 hours to comply. Well, we didn't get a response from Pinto so he's about to feel some blogger wrath from us. Next time somebody does a Google search for his name, he may get a little bit about Pinto's blatant plagiarism."

The guy has been branded as: "the weirdo"; "the jerk";  "what a freak"; "creepy blot on the blogosphere"; "nasty piece of shit" across several blog posts.

And more :

"it's clobbering time!" ; "think he is going to find out first-hand what it means to piss-off bloggers"; "he deserves the ill attention we are giving him"

Dilip calls him pathologically stupid.  Maybe he thought he was being very very smart. Maybe he is stupid.  Maybe he is naive.  Maybe he didn't know (don't laugh at this - it is possible).  

I don't really know the story from the inside - about attempts to talk with him in private (there have been some as mentioned in a few posts). Here's Amit's piece on his responses.  An excerpt :

"About the plagiarism charges, he said that he was utterly unaware that copyright exists on the internet. In his mail, he said, "I was under the impression that blogs were non-copyrighted material !!! [sic]" (All blogs, regardless of whether or not they post a copyright notice, are copyrighted intellectual property; click here for more - link courtesy MadMan.) Ignorance of the law does not hold up in any court, and if he really was ignorant, would he go to the extent of carefully modifying his copied posts to avoid detection, as a fellow blogger pointed out?"

Then. Complaint sent to Google Adsense. To Blogger. As more dust about sites allegedly owned by him is kicked up by investigative bloggers, more complaints sent :

"We have complained to Icann and Internic about the domain-name registry fraud; we have complained to his hosting company (probably these guys), as well, about the credit-card fraud; Blogger has been informed about the plagiarism." [Amit Varma (sorry for the wrong spell earlier Amit)]

What next ? The FBI ? Interpol ?

I am disturbed by one thing in all this. A set of bloggers can make or break a man's reputation.  Imagine if Rohan Pinto wishes to apply for a job, and his potential employees google him - what chance does he have?  He's in the slammer. His crime - he was stupid or naive enough to copy posts without attributions.  Malicious for this act of his I don't think, then thats a matter of opinion. 

But being branded as a cheat and fraud based on some naive investigations by a bunch of self-proclaimed jury? Mob justice.  Thats life imprisonment without a fair trial.  He may or may not be guilty of all these charges - but thats not the point. 

We know blogging is a very powerful tool, and I have lived with this realization since the Tsunamis struck.  But power without restraint, responsibility and maturity can be really really dangerous.  Dilip has some good food for thought around this.  

First all the venom directed at Arundhati Roy.  Now this.  I feel we are doing more damage than good in the long run for blogging.  Am just thinking of a scenario where the guy you are going after actually thinks of sueing you for libel. Or Arundhati Roy for that matter.  

Blogging will lose all credibility and bloggers will be damned.      

Update :

Amit posts an apology from the guy involved :

"I apologize for taking content without attribution or linkage to the original posts. I did it unintentionally with no malice. I have pulled my site offline. I truly regret my actions. I think it would be in my and everybody else's best interests that I offer no explanations or justifications to the actions, as it may cause more havoc since interpretations vary from person to person"

That's graceful Rohan and thanks for sharing this Amit !




9:11:02 PM    comment []  trackback []

Don't let them kill RSS with DRM

There's been a lot of noise around RSS and DRM in the blogosphere - when I read this post by Robert Scoble, i felt, like he did :

"Yesterday was a sad day for me. It was the day that DRM in RSS was born." 

For me its really simple, tell me if I am naive.  I strongly feel, as the author of a piece or a blog, the choice is mine.  If I offer RSS feeds off my site or blog, I do it because I want people to subscribe to it.  If they aggregate content (with attribution of course) onto their sites or blogs I am happy.  Why do I offer the feeds - because I want people to read what I am saying, I want them to link to it, I want to encourage conversations around it, I want them to add to and take thoughts forward.  If they aggregate my thoughts, I don't have a problem with it either.  If someone makes money from aggregations of posts, let them, so long as they attribute the thought/post to me.  It always comes around.

If I am working on stuff I don't want people to talk about or use, I simply donot provide an RSS feed for it, or have it up on a public site.  I'm not naive to believe that every reader of mine will take the effort of visiting my blog everytime there is an update.    

RSS daddies, please don't let them kill it for us with DRM.  Let the author of the blog who is the real content provider decide on his or her rules of engagement.

When we were working with WikiNews for the Tsunamihelp wiki, we ran into some issues over what we were 'allowed' to put up on the wiki pages.  One of the things we were cautioned that we were infringing upon their policies on copyright, as we were pasting content from newspaper and magazine articles (with appropriate attribution of course). This was important to us as they were an important source of information around aid and relief, and we were building a clearinghouse for any information around this area. 

Fair enough if that is their policy, I respect it.  But I don't need to live with it, do I ?  Although there were some nice folk there who really listened and were willing to bend over to help, we had very little time to debate this with them. Still we had options. So we simply opted out of using that space and transferred the wiki on our own servers so we could control content ourselves.  And I must acknowledge here that many of the folk at WikiMedia were just gems and helped ease the transfer.  

On a related note, I attended a short bit of the second of  Jerry's series of Yi-Tan calls on A World Without DRM and despite a not-so-hot connection and the late hour for me, thought it was really interesting.  The discussion is broader than RSS and DRM, still i hope we can touch upon it too, and I look forward to participating more soon.

7:21:48 PM    comment []  trackback []