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Shanghaied Syndication

May 15th, 2007

Living in the Age of the Internet can be strange sometimes. Today, I found out that I’ve been syndicated, after a fashion. Came as somewhat of a surprise to me.

Usually, I get an average of just one or two comments per post. If I get more, then most tend to come from a group of long-time readers. Less than 24 hours ago, I wrote a blog post on the RIAA and their tactics in dealing with downloaders. Nothing new, I’ve posted much like it in the past.

But then, I started getting comments. Lots of comments. Not major-site-level comments, but more than a dozen in a single day is unusual (even for my infamous eyelid-twitching post), and all from people I never heard from before. Then a little flag went up, and I recalled when this had happened before. So I check my stats, and indeed, there are several hundred hits from The Raw Story web site. It’s a fairly well-known site, having broken several big political stories. I surf to their site, and sure enough, there’s a link to my blog from the morning on their front page.

0507-Rawstorylink

What’s more, it’s not just a plain link to my page–it’s a link that maintains the site’s banner with my own blog post in a frame below it.

Now, there’s nothing really wrong with that, and I do appreciate the nod and the traffic. But it’s kinda weird; I feel like my blog article has been syndicated to their site, and I’m kinda the last one to know about it.

That’s just an illusion, from one perspective. The story never left my web site. But the inclusion of the Raw Story’s banner–with advertising which may have earned money for them–above the blog post creates the impression, especially to the novice reader, that the writing was done under the publication’s wing, so to speak; it gives the impression that it’s all part of their site, a site which generates income from advertising. (To be fair, the banner ad, at least at present, is for a Muscular Dystrophy organization; it’s probably a PSA. But the banner does include links that ask people to advertise, which allow people to sign up to pay by subscriptions, or which ask people to donate money to the site.)

It strikes me as somewhat of a grey area. On the one hand, they are using another person’s published work, without asking, to add content to a site which perhaps makes money from advertising on the same screen on which the borrowed work appears (or at least makes money from ads to the main site, which benefits from added content).

On the other hand, it is a media in which people regularly link to the works of others, and others are glad for the attention; furthermore, the publication did not actually transfer my work to their site, they simply split the screen.

Like I said, I’m not complaining. It just strikes me that the proper procedure would be to at the very least notify someone before going that far, or better, to ask permission. A plain link is not improper at all. But to display a banner and advertisements above the work, on a site that gets paid by advertisers for providing content? I doubt anyone would ever sue or even complain too much–on the contrary. It just seems a little… off.

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  1. May 15th, 2007 at 06:37 | #1

    Just out of curiosity, Luis, have you ever considered making your work available under a Creative Commons license?

  2. Tim Kane
    May 15th, 2007 at 09:23 | #2

    I am one of the one or two that leave comments on your blog consistently. I do like coming to your site, you are a prolific and insightful writer, plus you share my politics to a great extent and your much more dialed in on both information, politics and all that’s out there and available on the web and finally now that I am living in Korea I find your posts about Japan more relevant and interesting (though I always thought it was interesting, and hope to get to Japan some day. Finally you have that nice little panel on the side where I can just click these icons and go to all these other webs sites that I like to hit at least once a day.

    The thing is I come to your site for more then just the content of your postings. My guess is the same is true for Raw Story – people go there, maybe, because there time is limited and Raw Story connects them with stories they are interested in reading. Raw Story does there information shopping, syphening a reader’s information down to one page for them to parce through.

    If what I just said is true, Raw Story gets paid advertising, but not for their product, stories, but for their service, coaliation of stories. In which case, you still might have a legitimate claim for some kind of consideration for your content, but it’s on the basis that they are acting more as a distributor or perhaps a publisher of your information.

    Just some thought, not worth much as its four years since I took a law of the internet class and just barely passed, but there it is.

  3. Luis
    May 15th, 2007 at 12:01 | #3

    Sako: I’ve got to look into that–I’ve seen that and known about it for a long time, but never looked into what it entailed.

    Tim: Thanks, as always. And, as I’ve mentioned before, you are an even more prolific writer than I am! Your comments are often longer than my posts! I love that you comment here, but seriously, you could make a blog out of the comments alone. I know I’d read it.

  4. Paul
    May 15th, 2007 at 12:30 | #4

    This is a common problem- there’s more than one site that does the “frame across the top” bit, which effectively passes off other people’s content while garnering views of the ads that the frame-creator gets paid for.

    Given the technology, I don’t know how exactly you get around it; I suppose the most reasonable thing would be to require people doing this to post something in their frame making it clear that the content they’re viewing below the frame is created by someone else.

    At least one site that does this (ask.com) give you the option of turning off the frame and viewing whatever site “raw”. Perhaps there ought to be something that lets content creators embed a tag that doesn’t allow that kind of frame view?

    I think there are some sites that will break into that by forcing a reload of ONLY that one page, but I’d guess that any that do this are then skipped by the site that’s building the frames to begin with.

  5. Tim Kane
    May 15th, 2007 at 12:32 | #5

    Luis:

    Thanks.

    To much work to run your own blog and I don’t know how to do it. Plus its not needed, as long as you are doing the heavy lifting.

    I started setting up something on myspace for my korean experience, but don’t even get around to updating that.

    Anyway, some day I might ask you to forward me all my post because I realized that in a number of emails I sent and posts here, I have pretty much written my account in Korea and might simply sort through the odd emails and posts here to back fill my story on Korean experience at my myspace site.

    And maybe I might, in the next couple of years or so, write an Almanac along the lines of Poor Richards. Mostly about civics – but I like the idea of using it as a sort of literary condominium for informative but easy to read essays on topics related to science, energy and technology and computers and finance, to which I would solicit articles from friends and aquaintences as all of these topics are necessary for people to exercise good civics.

  6. Luis
    May 15th, 2007 at 12:42 | #6

    See, this is what I mean–Sako, Tim, Paul, you guys are among the small group that keeps this blog alive. Maybe Roy, Shari, Justin, and Cc will post a comment here too, heh. Don’t see YKW around too much anymore though.

    Tim: setting up a blog can be real easy, if you use a service like Blogspot. That’s what I get my Computer Science students to do, and they’re just beginners. All the formatting and other stuff is taken care of for you, and its free. Not that I’m complaining or anything!

    About the past comments, just let me know and we’ll find the best way to get an archive to you. You know my email address, right?

  7. Luis
    May 15th, 2007 at 12:57 | #7

    Interesting. By looking at my stats, I found a comment page within Raw Story’s site which quotes and then links to my blog, but allows comments outside of my blog. Interesting.

    As an aside, the Raw Story link brought a total of about 1400 links as of last night. It’d be interesting to see if any of those people return in the future–I’ll have to see if Google Analytics can squeeze out that particular datum.

    Edit: hey, here’s an interesting stat: of all the raw story visitors, 73% used Firefox. Only 14% used Explorer. How about that.

  8. May 15th, 2007 at 17:02 | #8

    I still ready every day, but most of my comments amount to “Yeah that!”. Figured you didn’t need a suck up:-p

  9. May 16th, 2007 at 06:42 | #9

    Paul wrote:
    Given the technology, I don’t know how exactly you get around it…

    Actually, I think you can prevent this from happening with a fairly trivial amount of JavaScript. Something along the lines of the following code snippet should do the trick, if I understand the problem correctly:

    <body onLoad=”if (self != top) top.location = self.location”>

    There are probably even better solutions available. Try a Google search for things like “JavaScript prevent site from being framed” or something along those lines. You should find a wealth of information on the subject. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  10. Paul
    May 16th, 2007 at 12:31 | #10

    Thanks for the link and code snippet, Sako. Of course, my blog (which I’m slacking off in writing for- but then I’m also writing more frequently on another site) isn’t in much danger of getting “framed”.

    Luis, on the other hand, is consistenly good enough that it could happen all the time. Well, except maybe for the bird posts. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  11. Luis
    May 16th, 2007 at 13:50 | #11

    Sako:

    I don’t suppose there’s anything in your bag of tricks that would prevent people from hotlinking, is there? I’ve tried the htaccess trick, but I can’t get it to work for more than one banned URL–and it would be nice to not have to ban every single URL, but rather just prevent hotlinking in a general way. There is an anti-hotlinking feature on web sites’ cpanels, but that tends to cause half my visitors to simply not see the images on my own site.

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