By Graham K. Rogers
The Internet has a wide range of content sources and it is easy for users to find new information on an almost-infinite number of subjects. It also makes some people lazy. When I borrow content from other sites, I always acknowledge the source and provide a link. Some people are not so polite.
The eXtensions website covers mainly Apple, Macs and iOS devices. Although I do not have a large following, I check the site statistics regularly to see how things are going. It is useful to see how some articles do much better than others and how some keep appearing in the statistics months after they were originally put online. A case in point is the series of articles I wrote on System Preferences in Mavericks: Apple's latest version of OS X.
I recently found an unusually large number of hits coming from a URL in Singapore (December and January, but not November). From previous experience of sites in Vietnam and Russia, this indicated that a specific page or image (perhaps images - plural) is being accessed directly from the site. This is not too bad in some cases: a direct hit on the page means that there is still the possibility of advertising income. As small as this is in my case, it does help. Linking directly to the images does not give me this.
It can be worse. A couple of years ago, a site in the USA, just copied all of my content, day by day, and posted it with no links. From comments on the internet, I am not alone and many sites have had their content lifted without acknowledgement by some who should know better.
My solution with the Vietnamese and Russian sites was to rename the images and create a second image with the first name. The new image had a sharp message and my site name. From the statistics, these are still being viewed.
I checked the site statistics a couple of times near the end of 2013, but was unable to ascertain exactly where these hits were coming from on the SST Students Blog site. At the beginning of 2014, the monthly stats page was changed and other links appeared. I found (via a search link that appeared in the stats - http://studentsblog.sst.edu.sg/search) a number of images taken directly from my site: specifically an article I wrote on System Preferences - Parental Controls.
Page from SST Students Blog page (left) alongside an eXtensions page
While my copyright notice allows free use for individual or academic purposes, it is normal practice to acknowledge the source of any images or other content used. Here, 6 images (including the Parental Controls icon) are linked directly to my site. Five show my name and account image. Click on this page and the images are downloaded each time from eXtensions.
At the bottom of the item were links to a YouTube tutorial and to the "writer" - Dean Ang Ngee Keng - not me of course. I wrote email to the School of Science and Technology, Singapore as that was the name at the top of the page: ultimately their responsibility.
I was unable easily to find his email address, but left a message on a Facebook page that was linked, with some brief comments on plagiarism.
I had a fairly sarcastic reply from Singapore in the early afternoon, making it seem as if he was the wronged person. There was an objection to the terms I had used and I was told that "my precious images" (the simple screenshots) had been removed. But not the sting from the email, nor the later reply that "reserved the right to take legal action".
Other references may be useful:
As I will teach a class on Ethics and Morals to Computer Engineers this term, this is a perfect example of when it is correct to acknowledge online content use. The use of a few of my screenshots without such acknowledgement (or link) is symptomatic of a problem that has far wider implications for those who create online content.
Those who work to produce the images, ideas and text for online access, deserve full recognition for the content they create.
Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand where he is also Assistant Dean. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs.