I thought I'd share what's been happening with my own content... it's gonna be a long post... it's taken me a while to put it together coherently...
About two weeks ago I found an ancestry member tree that had copied quite a few of my blog posts and added them as stories to her tree. Without attribution. No indication in the story that the owner of the tree had not written the story.
In the past I've found blog posts in online trees, also used without attribution, and have contacted the owners of the trees. Usually they comply with my wishes to either remove the content or add a proper citation to the story. But this time, the person had taken over 20 of my blog posts, many of them in their entirety and others using large portions, and added them to her tree as her own stories. Without attribution.
Needless to say, I was extremely upset. I waited a few days before contacting the tree owner mulling over what I was going to say and how best to say it.
Some of the posts here at kinexxions have taken me days to put together. To say nothing of the research time and resources that got me to the point of being able to finally write those posts.
I'm not talking about a list of names and dates, I'm talking about lengthy articles (blog posts) that take hours or even days to write. The other issue I have, especially with the ancestry.com stories, is that the posts are used out of context, particularly if they were part of a series of articles. In addition, if there are links to other posts within a specific blog post those links are lost when they are copied into an ancestry story (at least that is the case with these particular stories).
My reasons for writing about my family history and posting about it on the blog are many. Among them are the desire to share information that I have found, especially on family lines where not much previous research has been done. To show my research process in finding that information and the thought process involved. And, by putting the information "out there" to make contact with relatives or others who have an interest in the same families I am researching.
With those reasons in mind, several years ago I chose to use a Creative Commons License. That does not mean I have given up my rights to the material I have written and posted here at kinexxions. I specifically chose the Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0) license. The guidelines for that license state that if you desire to use content protected under that license:
- You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work).
- You may not use this work for commercial purposes.
- If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under the same or similar license to this one.
Under those guidelines, I added the Creative Commons logo to the sidebar and added text to the effect that if my work here was used that I should be given credit for that work by having my name included as well as a link back to the specific blog post being used. In other words, simple common courtesy and use of a standard source citation for blog posts.
Two days after finding 20 some blog posts added to an ancestry tree, and after calming down, writing out what I was going to say and re-writing it several times, I finally used the ancestry member connect feature to send the user in question the following message (name of ancestor and link to the ancestor profile have been removed):
"I noticed that you have a lot of nice "stories" on [name of ancestor] and his children, starting at [link to the ancestor]. It appears that you have written them, but I know otherwise... those "stories" were written by me and posted on my blog at http://kinexxions.blogspot.com/
"They required a considerable amount of time and research. These "stories" are licensed through a Creative Commons License which requires that attribution (credit to the author, with name and a link back to the article) be made when used elsewhere.
"It is simply common courtesy to acknowledge the work of others - particularly when you use the story in its entirety, along with photos. It is also called plagiarism (content theft) when an entire article is used without attribution and without permission.
"It would also be nice to know HOW YOU ARE CONNECTED TO THE FAMILY! Perhaps we could collaborate and solve some of the questions associated with this family.
"I look forward to hearing from you and I hope you will add attribution to the stories of mine that you have used. It's like a never-ending cycle - "your" stories, which are actually mine, have now been attached to other trees. That will continue to happen, I'm sure, but it would certainly be nice if they were identified as to who they were actually written by (including a link back to the original blog post)."Later that same day, I had a response from the owner of the tree. She said she would add a link to the blog in each of the stories, which isn't really what I wanted. I went ahead and gathered the URL for each post that was used and crafted a citation to be included with each story and sent those to her. By the next day, she had updated the stories with the desired citation.
Even though the person that created the stories added the citations, those changes don't get filtered down to the same stories that were attached to other trees. I have contacted the other tree-owners and explained what was going on and even included the desired citation to be added to the stories they had attached.
I gave them the option of adding the citation or deleting the stories and then, if desired, re-attaching the stories to their trees. As of today, I have had a response from only 2 of the other 9 tree owners. One of those two has made the changes, the other one hasn't. No word at all from the other seven.
So, do I send another message as a follow-up? The other option I have, I think, is to go to each of the stories in the trees and add a comment to them that includes the citation to the blog post.
Several days after finding the blog posts used in the ancestry trees, I checked Find A Grave to see if a Memorial had been created for another ancestor. There was a rather recent memorial for him as well as one for his wife. Included in the memorials were portions of one of my blog posts as the "biography" of the ancestors. This time, I didn't wait a few days since I had already crafted a message for the ancestry trees. I never heard back from the creator of those memorials but I checked a few days later and the biographies had been removed.
I have a feeling that more blog posts have likely been used by others, whether in ancestry trees or elsewhere. I don't have the time or the energy to go looking for them. However, if I happen to come across my content being used without attribution, I will not hesitate to contact the person who has used (stolen/plagiarized) it!
In addition to having the Creative Commons License on the sidebar of the blog, I have also created a "Use of Content" page that displays as one of the tabs along the top of the blog, beneath the header. This allows me to send a specific link describing the terms for the use of the content to people who use my content without attribution.
I have also started including the text at the bottom of this post in each new blog post (modified accordingly, of course). Hopefully, that will make it easier for people to use proper attribution and encourage them to do so. These actions won't stop people who believe that all content on the internet is theirs for the taking but at least I've covered the bases and if content is used without proper attribution, actions can be taken.
Should I go back and add a citation to previous posts? Probably, but realistically, there just aren't enough hours in the day to do that for nearly 1500 blog posts!
Published under a Creative Commons License.
Becky Wiseman, "So, Now what do I do?," Kinexxions, posted November 15, 2012 (http://kinexxions.blogspot.com/2012/11/so-now-what-do-i-do.html : accessed [access date])