Uncategorized

Garden Writers on Blogs: “Say what?” or “Steal from ‘em!”

FREEBIES
But back to the garden writers.  A good portion of
the 700 attendees were garden product company reps courting garden writers and there
were also a good number of spouses dragged along who had that "If I see one
more coleus I’m going to scream" look in their eyes. I suspect as well that more
than a few GWA members and attendees have no writing credits or even ambitions. 
As two ladies told me, "We’re here for the trial plants and free goodies."
Shameful. Not that I went home empty-handed, of course.                                                                                                                  
ON-LINE RESEARCH
During a workshop about Googling
for story ideas and research a speaker opined that NOTHING from the
Internet should be used as a source unless it came from a site that had
".edu" in the web page address. Which I found pretty humorous as I
often use corporate sites and know that many ".orgs" are just as
reputable, if not more well-researched, than many .edus. If I just
stuck to .edus, I’d never find most of the great trial-and-error posts
about actual growing experiences by other bloggers and in forums such
as Dave’s Garden. In any case, one big-city newspaper writer in the
audience spoke up to disagree, saying all they do is make sure to
attribute the source, but that other non-edu sites are seen as fine
sources by their esteemed bosses, so should be good enough for your
local papers and radio shows.   

GARDENBLOGS
During the Q&A of this session, the topic of blogs came up and
what you could take from them to use in your own article and how you
would then attribute this source. The panel’s reply almost made
me apoplectic! They said: "These people put it out there and it is
there for the taking" and to basically not worry about any attribution,
link, sourcing, etc.  Now this is a group that fights tooth and nail
for its members to get paid by newspapers who buy only "first rights"
to articles, then put them on their websites without additional
compensation.  And here they were, my esteemed colleagues, actually
promoting theft and plagiarism!

A few dissenting voices were heard. One audience member said, "I run a blog for our nursery and I don’t give
permission for my articles to be used by anyone else." Another said, "I post my
newspaper column to my blog so that I have a place for people to read it after
the print edition is gone. I most certainly do not give permission for others
to use my writing." The panel seemed fairly unconcerned with these objectors and even
implied that if you don’t have a copyright statement at the top of your blog
that it is fair game for any takers because it is on the web. As if the
medium and ease of theft justifies the crime.

Afterwards, as I discussed the session among others, the attitudes ranged from: "What is a blog?" to "Yes, of
course blogs are free to take from," to "You read those? Who has the
time?" to "They are worthless anyway; why would anyone lift anything from
them?" Even the best garden writers – from your favorite book authors to
magazine essayists to newspaper columnists and TV show hosts – are painfully
ignorant of one of the best tools of communication since the invention of the
printing press. We need to educate these people and to start that campaign, I’m asking the GWA to present a panel discussion on
garden blogging at their next annual meeting.
                                           
Here is my big take-home lesson from the conference. If you blog or
post anything on your web site that you consider YOUR WRITING, attach a strong
copyright statement to it. Your online writing has little worth in the eyes of
the majority of people out there and it is up to you to police its use and
abuse.

Posted by on September 5, 2006 at 3:42 am, in the category Uncategorized.
Comments are off for this post

23 Responses to “Garden Writers on Blogs: “Say what?” or “Steal from ‘em!””

  1. Kathy says:

    As a fellow member of GWA (who very regretfully missed the conference), I can attest to the ignorance of many (but not all) of the GWA membership, especially those who have been “in the business” for a long time. But as I asked in my blog a few days ago, don’t you think most gardeners are in a worse state of technological ignorance? How many gardeners in your home town read garden blogs? (Well, metro DC might be a different story)

  2. Kathy says:

    The best discussion I have ever encountered regarding copyright issues and blogs is here: http://weblog.burningbird.net/2006/01/18/that-old-copyright-song/
    and you must read the comments (yes, all 55 of them!)to get the full benefit of this discussion.

  3. Claire Splan says:

    This seems to reflect the general (mistaken) thinking that what is posted on the Internet is in the public domain. It probably is a good idea to post a copyright statement on your site, although legally what you write is protected by copyright law even without a copyright statement and even without registering a copyright. If I found that another writer had used my blog writing in their own work without attribution or (for longer pieces) permission, I’d definitely go after them and I would make the publication that printed their work aware that they have stolen someone else’s writing.

  4. Trey says:

    Susan say’s “even the best garden writers – from your favorite book authors to magazine essayists to newspaper columnists and TV show hosts – are painfully ignorant of one of the best tools of communication since the invention of the printing press. We need to educate these people and to start that campaign, I’m asking the GWA to present a panel discussion on garden blogging at their next annual meeting.”

    I think they are quite aware of blogs. They are just scared of loosing their monopoly on information. If they cover their eyes and hum loud enough maybe it will go away. If they are actually not aware of blogs then I can’t imagine how they can be educated on the subject.

    Claire is right when she say’s “although legally what you write is protected by copyright law even without a copyright statement and even without registering a copyright.” Us my stuff, just give me credit and a link.

  5. Susan says:

    Trey – Relevant to the subject of giving credit, it was Kathy Jentz who wrote that, not me. Susan :)

  6. Amy Stewart says:

    Wow. You are freaking me out. Thanks for this great post. I have been meaning to attend a GWA conference for years but have never been able to swing it. Perhaps we garden bloggers should stage an invasion! But for anyone to suggest that something I publish electronically is “up for grabs” is just astonishing.

  7. Xris says:

    Reading through the comments and blog entry, I missed what “GWA” stood for. Of course, it’s in the first six words!

    I followed the link. The lead-in on their Web site just stirs all my cynical juices:

    “The Garden Writers Association (GWA) is an organization of over 1800 professional communicators in the lawn and garden industry. No other organization in the industry has as much direct contact with the buying public as GWA.”

    [RANT ON]

    So there you have it. It reads as well as a mission statement as anything else a committee of “professional communicators” could plagiarize from someone else’s unattributed work. I’m sorry, I should say, “author” …

    “Professional”?! When did plagiarism become “professional”?! If this is what the new media have wrought I guess I’m really old school.

    Where are the amateur garden writers? Oh right, they’re all blogging. Since they’re not selling anything, they’re the more trustworthy “communicators.”

    Could I write better than most of the crap – er, compost – that passes for professional garden writing? Perhaps. Would I enjoy making a living as a writer? I think so. Would I sell my soul to do it? No, thank you.

    [RANT OFF]

    Sincerely,
    Not a Fellow Member of GWA And Not Likely to be Invited

  8. trey says:

    Susan you are right about giving credit where credit is due, I just looked at the “posted by”.

    This gives me an opportunity to say I meant “Use my stuff” not “us my stuff” in my first comment. I can see now that with my writing skills and Xris’s ranting we won’t be receiving an invitation to join the GWA anytime soon.

  9. Well… The writers who think they can just pluck anything off the ‘net may be interested to know that there is actually a law that protects ANYTHING published on the web. It is called the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (http://www.copyright.gov/legislation/dmca.pdf) and was signed into law by President Clinton in 1998. It protects anything published on the web, be it pictures or text.

    Blogs are actually better able to prove copyright under this law because we can prove when a peice of work is published. Most other web publishers must use other means, such as archive.org to do so.

    People who break this law can be subject to hosting accounts being shut down, loss of domain name, removal from search engines, fines and lawsuits. I know quite a few web publishers who delight in sending DMCA notices and watching plagerists scamble as their entire site (and sometimes livlihood) is shut down. I know a few less who have taken companies, even big companies, to court and have won finacial compensation. People do this less simply because it is a hassle to take people to court. Easier to send a notice off to the hosting company and just get the site shut off.

    You may want to pass that along to them. Anyone who is involved in publishing and profiting from works plagerized from the web is subject to lawsuit, that goes from the author, the publisher, the hosting company and so on and so forth.

  10. Kim says:

    Wow… I won’t even get into the plaigarism aspect, as it has been covered well and often above. What really amazes me is these garden writers who dismiss blogs altogether. They are missing out on great story ideas/resources by not checking out garden blogs. I can think of a dozen recent posts, off the top of my head, that I’d love to see explored via a story in the Plain Dealer’s Inside & Out section. (The PD is my local big paper.)

    I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve seen a post on someone else’s blog that will trigger an idea for a post of my own… and I’m NOT talking about stealing content. I’m talking about seeing that “Jane Greenthumb” had a post asking for ideas on how to hide her ugly A/C unit, and realizing that people may be interested in a post chronicling how I successfully hid my compost bins in my own small yard. A garden writer could look at Jane’s post and let it get him/her started on exploring ways to creatively hide eyesores in the suburban yard. (Been done, I know that, just an example here.)

    One of the interesting side notes to this whole story is that for years now newspaper readership has declined while people increasingly get their news from online sources. Why, then, wouldn’t garden writers who have newspaper columns also maintain a blog to cross-promote? I enjoy Susan’s blog posts, for example, so if I knew that I could read her meaty, picture-laden weekly article in every Thursday’s Home & Garden section of Paper X, I would definitely be buying Paper X on that day so I didn’t miss it. Conversely, I would love to see our local garden writers chronicle their gardens via a blog–it would add a little depth and breadth to the “relationship” to know that they actually do have a garden, and find out what it looks like!

  11. Kasmira says:

    I like Kim’s suggestion that garden writers expand their activities into the blogosphere. Perhaps they would then attach some legitmacy to our writing!

    I’ve sought some of these cross-over “blogs” out, but have been disappointed. For instance, Home and Garden magazine has a “blog” written by its garden writer. I was incensed though, by the way the writer never responded to the comments and questions! I drew the conclusion (wrongly?) that the writer was just rude. Perhaps the interactive nature of the blog doesn’t appeal to most established garden writers?

    (I also stopped visiting that “blog” because Home and Garden magazine’s site has the MOST ANNOYING pop-up ads and overblown, ad-filled home page.)

  12. Pam/Digging says:

    Wow, I’m astonished and PO’d that so many “professionals” would be willing to steal my blog content (photos and/or text), publish it under their name, and think nothing of it. I do have a copyright statement on my blog, but I know that the copyright exists whether I state it or not.

    To any would-be plagiarists, keep your thieving mitts off other people’s blogs. We work hard to make them interesting, pretty, controversial, whatever, and they aren’t yours to cherry-pick from.

  13. Carol says:

    I added a feature to my blog a few weeks ago that “right copy protects” it so that if someone tries to right click on a picture or text to copy and paste it elsehwhere, they get a pop up box that stops them. There are ways around it, but it does slow them down and they have to be a little more tech savvy to copy anything from my blog.

    Regarding “garden writers”, I stopped reading the articles in the local paper by our area “garden writers”. Their articles are “formulatic” and “mundane” and not worth the time. I can scan through them in about 5 seconds to know if they have anything relevent to say, and usually they don’t.

    I think whoever said in their comments that the GWA members are afraid of losing their reader base was right on. I would bet next year blogging will be a big topic of conversation at their conference.

  14. Woo Hoo finally a discussion about copyright. I think this statement says it all “And here they were, my esteemed colleagues, actually promoting theft and plagiarism!”

    By looking down on blogs and content submitted in gardening forums it makes it easier to take something “That Does Not Belong to You” if you think it has little value until it comes from your own pen or keyboard or make the content creator think it has no value.

    A lot of this is just simple money driven greed. All is fair in the pursuit of a dollar. If it is good for business, it is good ethically. The New American Morality.

  15. Jane says:

    This is a really interesting thread – it is not something thst I had thought about, partly because in the UK there are not so many blogs – my blog tends to be ramblings which are fired out with no editing so I’m not sure that anyone would want to steal anyway, but other people’s blogs are obviously well crafted and thought about. I do remember being thoroughly miffed when someone stole a review I had put on Amazon and used it on their garden books site without credit or even letting me know.
    Would someone be less likely to steal from Amy’s blog because she is an established writer – and her writing therefore has an established monetary value – than they would be from someone who works in another field and blogs on the side?
    How prevalent is this blog stealing? Presumably it is impossible to police.

  16. “How prevalent is this blog stealing? Presumably it is impossible to police.”

    I don’t know about just blog stealing but article theft on the internet in general is a massive problem.

    A site called http://copyscape.com/ can tell you if your work is being republished by someone else on the web.

    I personally don’t mind people republishing my feed, that’s kind of what it is there for. But I limit my feed so that only portions of what I write are avaliable. And if you just ask, and give credit, I will happily agree to let you use stuff.

    Also, btw, all writing on the web has monetary value. Just because a newspaper or publisher may not buy it doesn’t mean that you can’t make money off it. Plenty of sites that people may think are rinky-dink or hobby sites pull in a few hundred to several ten of thousands of dollars a year in income from advertising.

  17. Colleen says:

    I couldn’t agree more with Pam/Digging, when she said:
    “Regarding “garden writers”, I stopped reading the articles in the local paper by our area “garden writers”. Their articles are “formulatic” and “mundane” and not worth the time. I can scan through them in about 5 seconds to know if they have anything relevent to say, and usually they don’t.”

    I’ve found that since I started reading more blogs, I just don’t care very much about what my local garden columnists are writing about every week. I’ve never read such awesome, detailed reviews of tomatoes as Hanna’s, never seen such a thorough discussion of the start of garden blogging as Kathy’s, and would be hard pressed to find photos anywhere near the caliber of what I see on most of my favorite blogs. The biggest thing for me is that garden blogs are “alive” in a way that print media never can be.

  18. Some technical comments:

    “We can prove when a piece of work is published.” – Hanna

    Not really. One of the things I like about Blogger, which I use for my blog, is that I can change the date, and time, that appears with the blog entry. I can back-date entries to reflect when I actually wrote them, such as poems, garden diary entries, and so on, not just when I posted them.

    “I added a feature to my blog a few weeks ago that “right copy protects” it so that if someone tries to right click on a picture or text to copy and paste it elsewhere, they get a pop up box that stops them. There are ways around it, but it does slow them down and they have to be a little more tech savvy to copy anything from my blog.” – Carol

    All it takes is disabling scripting – JavaScript, ActiveScript, or whatever it’s called for that browser. Firefox even allows me to selectively disallow scripts which disable “context menus”: the “right-click” menu. I don’t have to lose any dynamic content.

    - Your Gardening Geek

  19. Colleen says:

    Whoops. I meant I agreed with Carol in my post, above. I keep thinking that the author’s name is above, rather than below, the comment. Sorry :-)

  20. Kathy Jentz says:

    Great discussion and links everyone! Just so you know – you don’t have to be invited to join GWA or have any particular qualifications, just pay the dues and you are in. Further, as regular garden bloggers many of you are more well-read than many of the veteran GWA members! If you do join, please say “Kathy Jentz of Washington Gardener” referred you!
    Despite the wrongheadedness of some of the GWA members on blogs – there are still plenty of other GWA members who blog and even a few who fully support themselves with them!
    I’m definitely asking for a blog panel discussion be added to next year’s annual meeting agenda and will keep spreading the word on them. Though I have to admit that I kinda like it that other garden writers are not all on the blog bandwagon and working the same beat — gives me a decided edge over some of the stuck-in-the-mud types. ;-)

  21. Off-topic: I’ve always thought the line above the “Posted by” made it difficult to associate the comment with its author. My mind wants to associate everything between the lines together. I see I’m not the only one with this problem. Perhaps less leading above the line and more leading below the “Posted by” line?

    On-topic: I’m shocked that any group of professional writers would have so little regard for copyright and surprised that anyone writing in the last ten years would be so ignorant of the issues of digital copyright.

    I’ve licensed my blog content to our local paper which also encourages reader and staff blogs and has opened the online versions of its staff-written articles to blog-like reader comments on . Our paper seems to be looking for ways to integrate the new medium into its business–to adapt to the times. I remain an unpaid “content provider” but at least I get attribution and a link to my blog.

    In addition to standard copyright protections you can distribute your work through Creative Commons licenses. There are all different kinds. With photos I often use the “You can use this as long as its not for commercial purposes and you attribute the photo to me.”

  22. Its shameful, I guess the blogs that have almost no comments are more exposed to such theft, btw I have heard that one can not take any legal action if it has been used for fair use, if so the publisher should atleast get the permission from the writers to republish it.
    http://www.chillingeffects.org/fairuse/

  23. Wow! It sounds as if the attitudes were a case of old foggy media meets young new media snobbism.

    The reporters of the dead tree media have made similar comments on bloggers over the years. That’s beginning to change now. I expect it will for garden writers and bloggers as well.

  • Follow Garden Rant

    Follow Me on Pinterest RSS