Stupid Content Grab:

The guiding rule I recommend for anyone who ever posts any content online – from a discussion forum message to an article or even an entire book – is this: Assume that the worst person who might find that content will find it. Can you handle the consequences for that? Are you getting enough value from posting that content to make it worth your while to do it anyway?

This applies doubly to misappropriating content – that is, republishing it without permission. Posting copyrighted content online without permission is doubly stupid: It’s not merely illegal, it is also incredibly easy to get caught. Moreover, you’ll probably get caught quickly. Even worse, it’s likely that the person whose content you grabbed will be so annoyed that he or she may expose your misdeed in a very public and embarrassing way. That’s a sure way to sink your reputation.

Jill Porter, owner of Aquaduckie apparently thought it was a good idea to post my article, Page Titles that Attract Readers, on her business blog without asking my permission or offering compensation – despite my clear and unambiguous copyright notice which appears on every page of this blog.

Well, Porter thought wrong. Very wrong. Or maybe she wasn’t even thinking at all – but then that’s her problem, not mine.

Here’s a classic example of how NOT to grab other people’s content…

Last night, I learned through my usual ways of following the web that my “page title” article had appeared on the blog intended to promote Aquaduckie’s commercial business. Aquaduckie, by the way, bills itself as “a website design, hosting and domain registration firm.” (Ummmm, yeah, right – one that uses a free Blogger blog, and a suspiciously bare-bones site.)

I checked it out and saw that Aquaduckie had not only published the full text of my article without asking permission and without offering compensation. They’d also broken it up into four sections – a common technique to game search engines by making it appear that you’re publishing more content than is actually the case.

Immediately I saved copies of all those pages in my Furl archive – which is a good thing, as you’ll see soon.

I explored Aquaduckie’s blog more thoroughly and found that indeed it included lengthy, thoughtful, and similarly segmented articles by many well-known experts in online media: BL Ochman, Stephan Spencer, and even CNET reporter Alorie Gilbert.

Intriguingly, several of the articles on Aquaduckie were, as far as I could tell, only available otherwise as premium (paid) content from

Not wanting to leap to conclusions, I searched my e-mail to see whether anyone from Aquaduckie had requested permission. Maybe I’d forgotten – I receive so many permission requests. Nope, nothing there.

My next step was to call Jill Porter, owner of JPorter Industries Inc., whose phone number I found on this press release. I left her a phone message explaining that I’d discovered my content misappropriated on her site, and I was willing to give her a chance to handle this as a business matter and provide appropriate compensation to me for this transgression.

She called me back a few minutes later. She pleaded total ignorance of copyright law.

For the record, here are ten things you should NEVER say when you get caught misappropriating a professional writer’s content:

  1. I didn’t know that I needed to know anything about copyright law.
  2. My web designer gave me these articles and said it was OK to post them.
  3. I didn’t see your copyright notice.
  4. I’m just a one-person operation.
  5. I’m not even making any money off of this business.
  6. I’m really a very nice person.
  7. I didn’t really mean to take your article.
  8. I’m a person of faith.
  9. Why are you picking on me?
  10. How about $10? Would you take $10?

To make a long story short, Porter declined to handle this as a business transaction and offer reasonable compensation. I informed her that I would be posting this article today, if she did not change her mind by 4pm MDT. I haven’t heard from her.

Porter has now deleted all postings to her blog – but the evidence of her misappropriation of my article exists in my Furl archive.

Also, you can see through this Google cache that she did indeed publish others’ articles as well. (I’ve Furled many of those, too.) The other affected writers, as well as the owners of, may wish to contact Jill Porter separately.

Let this be an example. If anyone reading this article has ever republished another person’s work without permission, and if such republication is not specifically sanctioned by a creative commons license which allows it, you’d better stop. You’re violating copyright law and doing very bad business. And you will probably get caught.

Furthermore, if you choose to plead ignorance or decline to negotiate fair compensation for this act, don’t be surprised if you get some very negative publicity for that.

I honestly don’t like publicizing someone else’s misdeeds. However, this kind of thing happens to me often. Lots of people wish to republish my work, and some of them think it’s free for the taking. Think again. If you must grab someone’s content, at least have the good sense not to grab mine.

6 thoughts on Stupid Content Grab:

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  1. Cathy wrote, “Love your top ten list of excuses. I think I’ve heard them all too.”

    Yeah… but have you ever heard all of them in a single phone call? I did, this time!

    – Amy Gahran

  2. Hi Amy,
    gret post! Awhile back I had a phrase stolen from a post I made on a group blog, and I’ve never really got over it. I recently coined a term that might get some popular usage, but I made a post on one of my blogs claiming it aand I’m also considering putting it on wikipedia and on psedodictionary. Even if I don’t get paid for it, I don’t like anyone stealing my intellectual property. Further, the more I explore the blogosphere, the more I see that there is alot of new thought in areas of study such as personal identity and the ‘net, and I’m now becoming hesitant to post out any original thought in this field. I don’t have the protection of an educational institution or research group behind me, so my work could be easily appropriated. Very frustrating and I’m not sure what to do about it. Funny, though, how I do not fear ideas being appropriated outside of blogging or the ‘net. It seems that the ethics in msm that so many complain about might compromise some of our blog-posted unique intellectual thought.

  3. How can a small blog react to this type of situation? Publicly dressing down a thief may not do much good if the source blog is low traffic or doesn’t have any kind of reputation. Legal options are pretty much pointless since “legal” equates to dropping down cash. A large blog can certainly shame someone into taking down content or even consider legal options, but the little blog seems stuck.

  4. This is a great article, Amy! I unfortunately had the pleasure of hearing all these excuses from an international circulation magazine, and I would add to your list “I thought I was doing you a favor and that you would be grateful for the exposure for your work.” It’s hard to believe that people who work in media can be so ignorant. Good work!

  5. Sedgemonkey, if you Google Aquaduckie, you’ll see that Amy’s article is just under the official web site.

    I’d imagine they aren’t happy about that — that’s punishment!

    Good on you, Amy!