"This must be a first. Mass plagiarism from E2." - mirv

In late May of 2003, the Everything2 community was rocked by what appeared to be a brazenly scripted database lift of material written by hundreds of E2 noders. The spoof website http://music.homepages.org had systematically searched E2 for any and all write-ups which appeared under the name of a band. Entire nodes, even factual write-ups which had nothing to do with an identically named band, such as "Kansas" or "Texas," turned up on the website, poorly formatted and completely uncut of details which unmistakably identified their origin (GTKY writeups, in-jokes). The softlinks were maliciously converted into links to Amazon.com, affiliate-style, in which the linker recieves money for each sale resulting from the Amazon link.

These write-ups could be found (no longer) at http://www.bandname.com-music.homepages.org, where "bandname" is the node of your choice.

To add insult to injury, all the stolen write-ups were followed by the notice "(c) 2003 1001 Media Group."

A WHOIS of the 1001 Media website turned up the Administrative Contact, Marty McKolskey. McKolskey was contacted by several noders who threatened to sic the dogs on them, however, the site did not budge.

However, on June 10, 2003, when the story broke out to the unwashed masses via the E2 catbox and this node, the homepages.org servers were brought to their knees within several hours. Infuriated noders swarmed Mr. McKolskey's personal websites, demanding removal of the material. Within less than 12 hours of phone calls, e-mail, and message board pressure, Mr. McKolskey agreed to remove the matierial. His message was as follows:

"Wow, it kinda sucks to wake up and find you're the world's latest villain.
"Anyway, I'm horribly sorry about the whole thing, as you may have imagined. My usage of e2 content was based on the (now clearly mistaken) assumption that it was indeed open content, as advertised in the open directory, and a few other places. Typically open content is really do-with-as-you-please kind of stuff, so I didn't see any problem in using it. Of course, finding several dozen angry messages on my messageboard is enough to dissuade me of that notion.
"If you'd still like to yell at me, complain, ask questions or just generally make any kind of comment, I've created a category on my messageboard for you to do so: >http://www.marty.net/cgi/marty/board/messageboard?board=everything2
Or of course you can just email me again (though emails to me have a tendency to get eaten alive by my somewhat overzealous spam filter).
"Oh -- and I'm removing the code entirely from my site, but if you should find any other content that shouldn't be there, e2 or otherwise, then let me know, preferably on my messageboard, since I check it every day.
Once again, I'm sorry, I apologize, mea maxima culpa, and it won't happen again.
-- "Regards, Marty.·´¯`·.¸¸.->http://www.marty.net"

According to posts on his message board, he made a total of $34.23 off the Amazon affiliate links, all of which has since been donated to E2 via the donation box.

Two interesting things about this whole fiasco. According to dem bones, unlike most other sites, where submitting content includes yielding copyright to the website, everything on E2 is owned by its creator. See the node Who owns our writeups? for more details on this. What that means is that, when something like this happens, it's up to us, the copyright holders, to take action.

Also, this incident could have been avoided completely had McKolskey not changed the content vis-a-vis those little (c) symbols at the bottom of each page and the Amazon links. If he had seen fit to just put up a mirror of E2, since this is, for all intents and purposes, an online, open-source encyclopedia, that would have been very much in the spirit of free exchange of ideas that E2 was founded on. But the fact that he claimed copyright, and tried to make money off of our work, put myself and many others over the edge.

However, I personally would like to discourage noders from further harassment of Mr. McKolskey. I have removed his contact info from this page because I was disappointed in the juvenile antics of some of our more, shall we say, hotheaded members. Marty has removed the offending material, refunded the money he made from Amazon, and issued an apology. As far as I'm concerned, this issue is closed for now.

Congratulations to everyone at E2 for their quick action in this matter, and for keeping things (relatively) civil. Once again, Evil is no match for The Horde. Power to the people!

This w/u will be updated as this story develops. /msg me if you have more info.

So how does it feel,
baby, how does it feel?
To be on your own,
with no direction home?

Your writeups belong to you, dear noders. Nobody else is going to protect you from copyright infringement: you have to do it yourself (or hire someone). For infringement on the Internet you start by complaining to the ISP.


NB: The following portion of my writeup was shamelessly copied from ChillingEffects.org (http://www.chillingeffects.org/dmca512/).

Section 512 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) protects online service providers (OSPs) from liability for information posted or transmitted by subscribers if they quickly remove or disable access to material identified in a copyright holder's complaint.

In order to qualify for safe harbor protection, an OSP must:

  • have no knowledge of, or financial benefit from, the infringing activity
  • provide proper notification of its policies to its subscribers
  • set up an agent to deal with copyright complaints

While the safe harbor provisions provide a way for individuals to object to the removal of their materials once taken down, they do not require service providers to notify those individuals before their allegedly infringing materials are removed. If the material on your site does not infringe the intellectual property rights of a copyright owner and it has been improperly removed from the Web, you can file a counter-notice with the service provider, who must transmit it to the person who made the complaint. If the copyright owner does not notify the service provider within 14 business days that it has filed a claim against you in court, your materials can be restored to the Internet.


Other good stuff from Chilling Effects:

Some good advice on how NOT to write a cease-and-desist letter:

  • http://www.webtechniques.com/archives/2001/05/legal/

Groucho Marx's reply to a rather stupid cease-and-desist:

  • http://www.chillingeffects.org/resource.cgi?ResourceID=31

Some Real Letters from Real Noders, with Analysis by Yours Truly


Don't-Bee: Rancid_Pickle

You have stolen work that I had posted on Everything2.com. For you information:

(quoted from http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/504.html)

Statutory Damages. -

(1)

Except as provided by clause (2) of this subsection, the copyright owner may elect, at any time before final judgment is rendered, to recover, instead of actual damages and profits, an award of statutory damages for all infringements involved in the action, with respect to any one work, for which any one infringer is liable individually, or for which any two or more infringers are liable jointly and severally, in a sum of not less than $750 or more than $30,000 as the court considers just. For the purposes of this subsection, all the parts of a compilation or derivative work constitute one work.

(2)

In a case where the copyright owner sustains the burden of proving, and the court finds, that infringement was committed willfully, the court in its discretion may increase the award of statutory damages to a sum of not more than $150,000. In a case where the infringer sustains the burden of proving, and the court finds, that such infringer was not aware and had no reason to believe that his or her acts constituted an infringement of copyright, the court in its discretion may reduce the award of statutory damages to a sum of not less than $200.

=============

Minimum: $750 * 2 = $1500 so far

=============

This:

A copyright owner or a person authorized to act on the owner's behalf may request the clerk of any United States district court to issue a subpoena to a service provider for identification of an alleged infringer in accordance with this subsection.

...allows me to get your information from XO Communications, whom I have already notified concerning your illegal activities.

=============

Additionally, these are criminal offenses:

Any person who, with fraudulent intent, places on any article a notice of copyright or words of the same purport that such person knows to be false, or who, with fraudulent intent, publicly distributes or imports for public distribution any article bearing such notice or words that such person knows to be false, shall be fined not more than $2,500.

(d) Fraudulent Removal of Copyright Notice. -

Any person who, with fraudulent intent, removes or alters any notice of copyright appearing on a copy of a copyrighted work shall be fined not more than $2,500.

================

Well, now, that's a minimum of $7500 plus all court fees, plus lawyer fees. It is now worth my while to file in District 10 Federal Court out of Denver. You broke the law, Marty, and you will be receiving registered mail with my complaint. Additionally, since some of your actions were criminal, I will also be filing a complaint with the California District Attorney for your locale.

Analysis: Rancid_Pickle questions my use of him as a *bad* example, pointing out that his letter achieved the desired result of scaring the shit out of Marty and making him reform his evil ways. Well, maybe so. But (1) You can't mix criminal fines and civil damages in the same case, so RP's damages calculation is totally bogus, and (2) the 10th Circuit Court in Denver is an appeals court, he can't file any lawsuits there (those would go to the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado).

Minor points, maybe, but enough to let a pro know that RP is an amateur. A really, really angry... amateur. So maybe this time the miscreant didn't realize that the assault rifle you were pointing at them was a museum piece with the firing mechanism removed and welded shut. Next time someone might call your bluff. Stick to point: the writeup is yours, and you want it taken down. Leave the threats to the professionals.

R_P sez: Tee hee, he's right, so next time I'll have to do more E2 research. Read and learn, fellow kiddies.

Do-Bee: Team Jet-Poop

As you've no doubt noticed, many of our E2 compatriots are quite upset about this topic. We on the Team weren't quite as up-in-arms, though perhaps we should've been.

We do appreciate your prompt action on removing the plagiarized writeups, and we hope you understand why everyone was upset. It wasn't just the bot-assisted cut-and-paste aspect, but the re-attribution of credit, and the use of the content for profit. As you've no doubt been told multiple times in the past few hours, writers take this sort of thing very, very seriously.

At any rate, thank you for removing the writeups, and we apologize for swamping your servers while venting some of our anger. We can assure you that, any other time, Everythingians would be perfect guests (or hosts, if you ever visited E2).

Now go and sin no more.

Sincerely,
Jack, Edward, Todd, Phillip, Oscar, Olivia, and Patrick

Analysis: see how many damning accusations you can slip into a nice letter? And the ex cathedra tone is priceless: "Oh, sorry about the damage, but any time you're in Rome, do come visit us in the Vatican, won't you? That's a good villain. Toodles!"

Don't-Bee Squared: RalphyK

Hey! Get my copyrighted writeups ("Robbie Williams", and "Five")off your cheesy, ripoff website, you degenerate swine! It's people like you that cause unrest. While we're here, it's a bit rich your forum rules stating that "You also agree not to post any copyrighted material unless the copyright is owned by you or you have consent from the owner of the copyrighted material" - when your very existence is to profit from other people's work.

I mean, you didn't even copy them properly, you just raided everything2, and stuck up everything you found, like a monkey with its hand up another monkey's ass, you neither knew what the squishy substance was, nor cared. So a writeup about Kansas the band is, confusingly, followed by Kansas the state, Kansas the graphic novel, Kansas the Webster definition - you can't even plagiarise properly, you plagiarising dog molester! I hate you! I hate you! You idiot! You IDIOT! I hope you catch monkeypox and DIE! And if you do, I will LAUGH! LAUGH! AAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAA!

Now get my writeups off your "website", you toilet.

Lots of love,
RalphyK

Analysis: Pro: RalphyK has at least grasped the point of a cease-and-desist letter: he identifies his writeups and asks that they be removed. Con: Courtesy will not kill you. RalphyK forgot to say the magic words: "Please" and "Thank You."


Legal Disclaimer: IANYL (I am not your lawyer). Definitely not RalphyK's or Rancid_Pickle's lawyer. And I'm probably not enough lawyers for Team Jet-Poop.

There are a few simple rules I've tried to follow during my time on E2. Writeup Doesn't Mean Reply. Opinions often make poor writeups. Be objective, not subjective. Don't be preachy (a personal failing at times). Some of these generally accepted E2 conventions, some my own personal guidelines.

I may end up breaking a few of my own rules here. Hopefully I can do so in a somewhat reasoned manner - I guess at the end of the day, the masses will speak.

I've just gotten back from reading through much of Marty McKolskey's message board, particularly the section he has opened specifically for content regarding Everything2 (http://www.marty.net/cgi/marty/board/messageboard?board=everything2). There's quite a bit of content there - it's hardly surprising that his server suffered near cardiac arrest.

Unfortunately, not all that much I've read is positive.

To be perfectly honest, much of the material I read there, apart from a few reasoned posts (unfortunately in the minority), was nothing more than hastily penned bile. Many contributions had nothing to do with having material removed - rather the opportunity was taken to launch an unrelenting personal attack on a perceived villain - Marty McKolskey, apparently the greatest fiend E2 has ever encountered, the one who should be sued, die a slow death, be violently decapitated, etc...


So here's the part where I draw away from my self imposed 'Don't Preach' rule, hoping that I make some sense, and don't come off sounding like an idiot...


Marty McKolskey is a person. Sure, he's a person who took a whole heap of material from here, the copyright of this material owned by a whole heap of different people who have taken time and effort to place it here (including myself). Still, he's a person who walks, who talks, breathes, eats sleeps and shits the same as any of us. Not some different breed, who doesn't deserve to be treated like a human being.

I wonder...if you completely screwed up, whether through stupidity, ignorance or deliberate intent, would you like to be treated like Marty has been?

We are all writers. I came to this site almost two years ago, with a simple desire. I wanted to write. I wanted to get better at writing. I wanted to learn. I wanted to be surrounded by other writers, most of whom I knew were better than me. I wanted to read their words, and be inspired. I wanted to create something that they could read, and have them experience something of the same feeling that I had reading their words. I wanted to learn to turn words into something that surpassed mere characters on a page - I wanted to give them life, and emotion, colour and texture.

I didn't want this learning to extend merely to what I wrote here, but to every time I put words on a page, or screen. I don't believe that the lessons learnt from here need be only remembered when my words end with a mouse click on sumbit, I want everything I write to be more than ordinary. Whether a work memo, a job application, an email to friends and family...a strongly worded letter of protest... I find it sad, that a site promoting excellence in the written word, can ultimately be the catalyst for so many words designed simply to wound.

We were all writing about music. Music has the power to move. How many times have you been completely overwhelmed by a song, left quivering by a perfectly delivered and composed phrase? Do you recognise the shivers that can assault your spine, when a song seems to have been written just for you, and it resonates so strongly in your body? How many other art forms can inspire you to dance, to move your entire body as though it has been taken over - you're no longer in control?

So we write about it. We carefully compose a tribute to our favourite band. We write phrases about just what a certain song means to us. We put our heart and soul into these words - and properly done they can be writeups of such incredible power.

I wonder, if the band, the artist, you took so much care immortalising in word were to read your reply, would they be proud to have you as a dedicated fan?

When is 'I'm Sorry' enough? Several times, I read apologies by Marty on his message board. Several times, I read replies that were along the lines of 'I don't believe you, you've not suffered enough yet, fuck you'  K N I F E. Frankly, these were the posts that upset me the most. There's a simple word that I want to mention, that some people may have forgotten.

Forgiveness

Yep, no doubt, Marty made a monumental mistake. Yep, he should have known better. Yep, if he'd looked hard enough, he would have found something that let him know that what he intended to do was wrong. Perhaps he should already have known this. Maybe he did know this, and chose to ignore the fact. The question is - can you know for sure? What amount of proof do you need, before you give someone the benefit of the doubt?


I'll give it a break now, I've probably said more than enough... I know that the rage has died down - a quick look at the catbox is enough to confirm this. I also know that most of the people here didn't react with rage, and anger (even though many may have felt angry at this incident). I just hope that something good can come out of this. I hope that the next time something like this occurs - and I'm sure it will, at some stage in the future - that the reaction is that of a mature community of writers. I hope that the suddenly increased focus on plagiarism will cause the writers contributing here to take a longer, harder look at their own work, and work towards making their contributions truly original - whether that contribution is musical, factual, creative, whatever.

I hope that through the actions of Marty McKolskey, Everything2 can become a better place.

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