30 September, 2006

When Blogging Is Stealing

I read a lot of web logs. My favourites are the ones where people take the time to write out their thoughts or tell a short story. Sometimes I enjoy videos. I also enjoy well-researched and informative pieces written by someone who knows their material.


I'm a writer. I have good days and I have bad days. There are posts on here that flowed out of my brain via my fingertips as fast as I could type. There are posts on here that reek to high heaven. But I wrote every blessed one of them myself. Where I did not write something I credit the author with the web-accepted practice of hotlinking. That, after all, is the whole point of a web log.

Here's the problem. I'm also the daughter of an English teacher. My dad built bookshelves in our basement, and my mom kept her teacher's editions of all her middle school and high school literature texts on those shelves--within easy reach of her avid reader daughter.

This poem is called Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening. I first read it in a unit on Robert Frost in one of my mom's literature textbooks when I was seven. Back then I didn't get the death symbolism at all. But I loved the poem and had parts of it memorised off and on. Robert Frost is one of my favourite poets. As lame as that may sound. As unhip as that may sound. So to see his work copied on another blog without attribute and under a different title burns me up.

It's stealing. It is, in effect, telling everyone that the web log author themselves composed the poem.

I know Frost doesn't need me coming to his rescue. But I'm protective of the idea of intellectual property, maybe irrationally so. And in all the definitions I've seen of Fair Use, copying an author's entire work without attribution falls clearly outside the doctrine of Fair Use and well into the realm of sneakthievery.

Update: I realise it doesn't matter to some of the commenters on this thread. But I did check and the poem itself is most definitely still under copyright protection.

Robert Frost, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” from The Poetry of Robert Frost, edited by Edward Connery Lathem. Copyright 1923, © 1969 by Henry Holt and Company, Inc., renewed 1951, by Robert Frost. Reprinted with the permission of Henry Holt and Company, LLC.

"Everyone" may know that Frost wrote the poem. The law still says that you have to label it, as in the above example.

30 Comments:

At 11:56 AM, September 30, 2006, Blogger John H said...

geeze, picking on the homeless once again. Actually, I'm in 100% agreement with you.

I do wonder how many people who read that post would not know that the author is less Barbieux-ian and a little more Frost-y.

I really don't get the point of his post. Doesn't seem quite seasonal, nor, does the post-er appear to be foretelling or commenting on anyone's death, unless of course, this is a very subtle mea culpa for his callousness re Irwin's death..somehow, I doubt it.

Somehow, stopping by the swamp on a really humid day, doesn't have the same ring...

 
At 11:59 AM, September 30, 2006, Blogger Kat Coble said...

I thought he posted it as an attempt to address the waywardness of a homeless lifestyle. What with the whole "longing to sleep in someone's field but having more wandering to do."

 
At 12:02 PM, September 30, 2006, Anonymous Chris Wage said...

I think you're letting your personal distaste for Kevin get in the way of thinking rationally about it -- not your love for the poem.

That Frost poem is maybe not as obscure as you think. It's one of his most recognizeable, I think. It'd be like if he posted the lyrics to "Born in the USA". Attribution is redundant. It's canonical -- everyone knows that's Frost, or at least knows it's a Famous Poem (tm).

 
At 12:10 PM, September 30, 2006, Blogger Kat Coble said...

The fact that Kevin has been driving me up all four walls lately is far from a secret. I've been very plain-spoken about my grievances with him and the things he's written.

But somehow I really doubt that is my sole reason for being upset. You know I'm all about the Rule of Law. We've been down this road many times vis-a-vis the immigration debates. I would be just as upset if John H. posted the lyrics to Sympathy For The Devil without attribution.

The fact that many (?most?) people may or may not recognise the work as not belonging to the author is no excuse for not attributing the work properly. The facts that I happen to both love this poem and be fed up with the person taking credit for it do not negate the illegality of his action.

 
At 12:13 PM, September 30, 2006, Blogger Kat Coble said...

Wow. I'm sorry. My head is still spinning over the whole "attribution is redundant" canard.

Really? You REALLY think that?

Wow.

 
At 12:16 PM, September 30, 2006, Blogger John H said...

Please allow me to introduce myself, I'm a man of wealth (HA!) and taste (ok, I'm tasteful enough to read Kat's blog)..I've been around for 54 years....(oh yeah, mostly by the Glimmer Twins)...

Chris - probably most people know that the poem is by Frost, or by a 'famous poet', as you say.

I still don't understand why giving attribution is unnecessary. What does it hurt to give the guy who wrote it the props he deserves for having written it, despite the fact that most educated peeps know who wrote it. I don't think it's redundant. I just think it is common courtesy and gracefulness to attribute to others what they have been generous enough to give to us.

 
At 12:26 PM, September 30, 2006, Anonymous Chris Wage said...


The facts that I happen to both love this poem and be fed up with the person taking credit for it do not negate the illegality of his action.


Even the illegality itself is admittedly muddled. A lot of Frost's earlier work is now in the public domain. I myself didn't know that the frost estate had extended the copyright on this and other stuff.


Wow. I'm sorry. My head is still spinning over the whole "attribution is redundant" canard.


That's not a legal defense of the copyright issues. That's a defense of your assertion that he was misrepresenting the work as his own (which you seem to be shifting away from). I really have no interest in debating the subtleties of how he violated copyright law, because a) i don't really find that interesting, and b) it wasn't the main thrust of your original post.

My beef is with your assertion that he was attempting to pass off the poem as his own, which is a little silly. As I said: everyone knows that's Frost. Come on.


I still don't understand why giving attribution is unnecessary.


I didn't say it was unnecessary. I just think it's a forgiveable oversight. The poem is part of our cultural lexicon.

 
At 12:35 PM, September 30, 2006, Blogger Kat Coble said...

First off, I'm not backing off my original point. I just made it once and assumed that I didn't have to keep making it over and over and over again. I've already repeated myself in the comments at Sharon's. So I still stand firmly on the fact that Kevin is taking credit for something he did not do. The only reason this isn't taking place in the comments at Kevin's blog is because Kevin has turned his comments off.

Kevin makes a big deal about how young school children come to his blog to learn. He portrays himself as a teacher.

In your world where everyone has been to college and has done their time in the Liberal Arts trenches, I'm sure "everyone" does have the cocktail party knowledge of Robert Frost.

In precisely the world Kevin is appealling to--trying to look big and knowledgable to a bunch of students who may not have even gotten to the Robert Frost Unit in their textbooks--I highly doubt that "Everyone" knows this poem is not by Kevin.

That's why I think he posted it without attribution. I really and truly think he's trying to grift these schoolkids into some mythos where he (Kevin) is tragic and poetical soul trapped in the tragedy of homelessness. Not just some random dude who chooses to be homeless to perpetuate his brand and will post another's work as his own to get a whiff of reflected glory.

 
At 12:50 PM, September 30, 2006, Anonymous Chris Wage said...


In your world where everyone has been to college and has done their time in the Liberal Arts trenches, I'm sure "everyone" does have the cocktail party knowledge of Robert Frost.


Alas, I thought we might last a bit before we detoured into adhominem territory. But yes, you're right -- I fondly remember my semester at UT-Knoxville, liberal arts bastion of the world. Sipping lattes and burning American flags to obscure German techno, we'd read aloud passages from the most obscure and elite poet we could find: Robert Frost. How could I be so naive as to think all of you regular joes had ever heard of someone so inaccessible?


That's why I think he posted it without attribution. I really and truly think he's trying to grift these schoolkids into some mythos where he (Kevin) is tragic and poetical soul trapped in the tragedy of homelessness.


Right, well, like I said: I think you're letting you distaste for Kevin get in the way of a rational explanation -- which is that Frost is a part of our cultural lexicon. You can deny this (leading to absurd adhominem deflections as above), but personally, if I have to choose between "Kevin posted a Frost poem without attribution because everyone knows that's a Frost poem" and "Kevin posted a Frost poem because Frost is an obscure poem that only cultural liberals know and he was trying to seem like a tortured soul to kids that read his blog", I think I'm ..uh.. gonna have to go with the former.

 
At 12:59 PM, September 30, 2006, Blogger Kevin Barbieux said...

Talk about your basic strawman arguement.

Anything to discredit the person, instead of dealing with the content of their message - weird.

I didn't put Frost's name on the post because it isn't necessary.

end of story.

Ever seen Dead Poet's Society?

 
At 1:35 PM, September 30, 2006, Blogger Sarcastro said...

Did you write that too, Kevin?

 
At 1:59 PM, September 30, 2006, Blogger Kevin Barbieux said...

How very 8th grade of you Sarcastro.

I didn't write that - duh!

But I did write this:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.

It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us--that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion--that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.

 
At 3:09 PM, September 30, 2006, Blogger Kat Coble said...

ever seen Dead Poet's Society?

No. I have no patience for Robin Williams' pretensions.

Chris,

You know I'm a liberal arts major. Way to infer a bunch of stuff I didn't intend. But whatever.

The fact is that both of you are attempting to defend what is essentially an indefensible position. It IS necessary to attribute the author on any work that is not your own, especially when your work as a blogger is covered by a Creative Commons copyright.

 
At 4:14 PM, September 30, 2006, Blogger Kevin Barbieux said...

hmmm... Dead Poet's Society won an Oscar for Best Writing - Screen Play written specifically for the screen.

And Robin Williams was nominated for both and Oscar and a Golden Globe award for Best Actor.

http://imdb.com/title/tt0097165/awards

But of course Kat is a liberal arts major - she knows better.

 
At 4:15 PM, September 30, 2006, Blogger Sarcastro said...

How very 8th grade of you Sarcastro.

Sorry Kev, but whenever someone quotes a middle-brow poet at length in an attempt to appear profound, it totally takes me back to middle school.

You should totally hang out with the girl with all that mascara who writes Stevie Nicks lyrics in her Mead spiral during homeroom.

You two will really hit it off.

 
At 4:26 PM, September 30, 2006, Blogger Sarcastro said...

Robin joins the pantheon of Golden Globe winners like Sandahl Bergman, Pia Zadora and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Oh, wait. They won.

 
At 4:56 PM, September 30, 2006, Blogger Kevin Barbieux said...

And somehow you know what my intentions were in posting that classic poem? Sarcastro, when did you aquire the ability to read minds? Tell us of your mighty powers!

 
At 4:56 PM, September 30, 2006, Blogger Sharon Cobb said...

If you all check the comments over at my place, you will see why Kat is so upset. Aside from what she is stating here about the poem, Kevin is simply taking cheap shots at me--acutally, making anti semitic remarks and acknowledging it to Lee. I defend his right to say almost anything, (but not to violate copyright laws) but what does that tell you about a person who goes to a person'a blog to put down their religion? It's not exactly like I have ever tried to convert one person or tell someone else they are wrong for not believing like I do. It's so unclassy. Then when he failed to get a rise out of me on that, he attacked my integrity.
When he was guest blogging and had computer problems and couldn't post, I emailed him and told him he could come post from my house.
I've never met him. But hey, he's a poor helpless person (by choice--I know people who have offered him work) so he should get away with lying about people and passing off Frost as his writing.
No. Enough is enough. How long does he get a pass because of his situation, which he revels in?
I once posted "If" by Kipling, probably one of the most famous poems in poetry, but I still wrote by Rudyard Kipling. Because there was the chance one person might have thought I wrote it, and that would have been one person too many.

 
At 5:01 PM, September 30, 2006, Blogger Kevin Barbieux said...

oh and mr Sarcastro, or should that be mr strawman. Funny how in trying to dis robin williams you had to ignore more of my comment, including the Oscar nomination, and the Oscar win.

We might have to set you back a grade.

 
At 5:02 PM, September 30, 2006, Blogger Kevin Barbieux said...

Oh, and now comes Sharon. You are right, it's really all about you, you poor poor victim.

 
At 5:06 PM, September 30, 2006, Blogger Kevin Barbieux said...

Whoops, I missed that part the first pass through. About you knowing someone who offered me a job. Please, I won't be offended, tell us all who it was, and what the job was.

 
At 5:49 PM, September 30, 2006, Blogger Kat Coble said...

Anyway, Siskel, what part of Dead Poets Society am I supposed to relate back to your violation of copyright law?

 
At 5:55 PM, September 30, 2006, Anonymous bekah said...

I don't know who Kevin is, or what's going on with between him and Sharon, but I do know that I agree that even if you think "everyone knows" the poem you still need to provide an author name at the least. Just because you think everyone else will recognize it (or even "most people") you still need to provide some sort of credit to the person who actually wrote it.

 
At 8:22 PM, September 30, 2006, Blogger Sarcastro said...

K-Bar,
Attacking the absurdity of your defense isn't a strawman argument.

Anything to discredit the person, instead of dealing with the content of their message

That's the point, you don't have a message--Robert Frost did. As you offered nothing from your own pen, it is left to the reader to speculate on your motives.

As you heretofore haven't offered one other than:

*I have watched the movie Dead Poets Society.
*Robin Williams has won some award for a different movie.
*Therefore, copying and pasting poetry without attribution is ok, if the poem is famous enough.

As far as mind reading powers,
"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." Arthur C. Clarke.

See how easy that was?

 
At 8:22 PM, September 30, 2006, Blogger Aunt B said...

Not to mention that posting a whole poem that is still under copyright violates that copyright. End of story. Whether or not you have an attribution, it doesn't matter.

You post a poem someone else wrote that is still under copyright, you are stealing from them.

You do not have the right to make a copy of that poem and distribute it for your own benefit. Period.

We all enjoy copyright protection on our writing. I mean, if Kat took Kevin's stuff and started republishing it over here without attribution and without a link to where it was found, you can bet the stink he'd raise would be so high as to fill the blogosphere.

If we want our copyrights to be protected, we need to be respectful of others. If we show that we don't care about copyright, we weaken the protections for all of us.

 
At 8:24 PM, September 30, 2006, Blogger Aunt B said...

Also, to add that when they used that poem in Dead Poets Society, they received permission from the copyright owner, which anyone who watched the credits at the end of the movie would see.

 
At 9:51 PM, September 30, 2006, Blogger Sharon Cobb said...

Kevin--
You're the professional victim. I mentioned that on my blog, and now you tried to turn it around over here where many readers don't have the context of your insults. Sorry. I went on to be successful in my career and take responsibility for myself. Unlike you, when I am made aware that I've made a mistake, I correct it. Why can't you just say you made a mistake by not putting the c. by the poem? With you, it's always someone else's fault, and somehow before it's all over, it will be some Jew's fault. Poor you.
To everyone else, Kevin hates me because I am a Jew and because I was a homeless, abused kid who put herself through college and made something of herself and had a successful career instead of being a professional victim and expecting other people to support me because I had a shitty childhood. Boo hoo.

 
At 7:07 AM, October 01, 2006, Blogger Kevin Barbieux said...

There's really nothing that iritates me more than rewarding ignorance. And so I debate within myself whether or not to go through all of the twisting and distorting of my words in an attempt to discredit my work on my blog, and straighten it all out. It's beyond my comprehension why people would go to such lengths, especially over something so insignificant. It makes them appear extremely petty.

And it's topped off with Sharon's obsurd claim that "Kevin hate's me..." No Sharon, I don't hate you, but I do hate your ignorance, and your utter selfishness, which prevents you from seeing things clearly.

 
At 7:34 AM, October 01, 2006, Blogger Sarcastro said...

...in an attempt to discredit my work on my blog

Hasn't this been made clear, yet? It ISN'T your work.

 
At 7:56 AM, October 01, 2006, Blogger Will said...

I would like to hear what the copyright owner has to say: Anyone up for dropping them an email? Rights@henryholt.com

 

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