Clickable Culture   Official Research Blog of Phantom Compass
  Blog Etiquette 101  
Posted 2005-11-07 by Tony Walsh
I think I have a pretty good track record in properly-attributing sources for my posts and articles. I expect others to do the same. I know this isn't a realistic expectation, but when it comes to educational institutions pillaging my work, I take exception. Academics are supposed to be concerned with proper citations. Purdue University's Advanced Composition class is running a publicly-viewable, but members-only blog, wherein an article from Clickable Culture is used in its entirety, verbatim, and without proper attribution. The article reprinted is styled as an excerpt, but it is not introduced as such, and lacks actual quotation marks--this is a problem when the Purdue blog is read via a service such as Bloglines, which ignores paragraph styling (leading readers to become confused over the authorship of the material). The attribution, found at the bottom of the Purdue blog entry, reads "Link via Clickable Culture." More properly, that attribution should read "Article via Clickable Culture" or should begin "Clickable Culture reports..." The Purdue author also links the words "Clickable Culture" incorrectly, making it impossible for readers to view the original source. Furthermore, I do not often merely pass on links here at this weblog (ergo, "Link via Clickable Culture" is an understatement), rather I write short-form articles based on a variety of material--in the article in question, I cited several sources, or "links."

The Purdue class blog's governing legalese states that "All text Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike Licensed to individual authors unless otherwise stated." Clickable Culture is written by an author, as you can plainly see in the byline. I, obviously, am that author, and my name is Tony Walsh. Yet I have not been attributed as the author of the reprinted article. Because the Purdue blogger has neglected to cite me by name, and has neglected to obey copyright protocols, readers of that blog may reasonably assume that my reprinted work falls under a Creative Commons license that would allow them to reprint it or change it with attribution (the wrong attribution).

Here's how to cite online work properly:
  • Identify your source by publication, or by author name where reasonably appropriate.
  • Quote original work appropriately (quotation marks are preferred over style-sheets).
  • Link back directly to your source where possible. Link back correctly.
  • Provide easy-to-find contact information on your blog so that mistakes can be pointed out directly by the source.
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Comment posted by Jos 'Hyakugei' Yule
November 7, 2005 @ 3:29 pm
Huh. I tried to find a link to the posters (dr. b), but no dice. Interestingly, 'dr. b' seems to be the professor of the course. You'd think a 'dr' would know better.
Comment posted by Tony Walsh
November 7, 2005 @ 6:06 pm
Yeah, my assumption (not stated in the entry) was that dr. B is their prof. Which is why I posted about it-- I can forgive students for being lazy or ignorant, but profs should know better. Best thing for that class blog would be to make it invisible to non-members.
Comment posted by csven
November 7, 2005 @ 7:36 pm
Interesting to read this entry after your previous post about the Pew Report. In it you made the comment: "So much for bombarding kids with anti-downloading propaganda. They're too smart."

How is this situation really any different?
Comment posted by Tony Walsh
November 7, 2005 @ 8:27 pm

Because it's not merely a case of copyright infringement. And I'm not complaining that they used a post of mine entirely, I'm complaining that it wasn't attributed properly. I'm pro fair-use. Anti-downloading propaganda is anti-fair-use, and misleads consumers into believing that all downloads are somehow illegal. Furthermore, the Purdue blog is putting a legal wrapper around my work they are not entitled to. What does that have to do what anti-downloading campaigns?

It seems you've got some ideas as to how this Purdue situation isn't different from what you think I meant in an earlier post. I've explained why the situations aren't comparable, so how about you explain why they *are* comparable?
Comment posted by csven
November 8, 2005 @ 11:11 am
You miss my point. The PEW report line items you posted do not themselves distinguish illegal downloading from Fair Use activity. It was you who implicity assigned a qualifier with your comment at the end of that earlier post. In that comment, you attributed the responses to them being "too smart" to fall for "anti-downloading propaganda". The explanation you provide betrays, in my opinion, a biased view. From the PEW report section associated with the last line item in your post:

"About half of them think free downloading and file-sharing copyrighted content without permission is generally wrong, yet roughly the same number say they do not care about the copyright on the music files that they download."

I take that to mean that roughly half of teens might have some sense of "Fair Use" issues, while fully one half couldn't give a damn. That tells me this isn't about "anti-downloading propaganda" or how well-versed teens are in the complexities of "Fair Use". It's about a general attitude toward content. And that general attitude leads to people simply ripping your posts in their entirety and not giving you the credit you deserve.

When I read this new post which now includes this comment, "I'm complaining that it wasn't attributed properly", I can't help but wonder what it is you expected. The general situation isn't really any different. Perhaps you expected these intelligent, "Fair Use"-minded teens and others to play... fair. That's certainly how it sounds. Yet the PEW report indicates that they're doing exactly what they've said they do: they appropriated your bits, threw away the copyright (which is a mark of "ownership") and "remixed" it as their own (even if only wrapping it inside a new URL).

Personally, I advocate that people fully understand the consequences of their actions and behave appropriately. Unfortunately in that regard, based on what I read in the PEW report and experience day-to-day, I don't believe that as a group either teenagers or adults are smart enough. And comments such as the ones I've pointed out do more in my opinion to exacerbate the situation - including you having your posts ripped - then help resolve it.
Comment posted by Tony Walsh
November 8, 2005 @ 11:44 am
Responding to csven's bolded comments.

The explanation you provide betrays, in my opinion, a biased view.

That's because I have a biased view. Nothing to betray--I don't pretend to be unbiased.

I think you're stretching too much to make your point. The Pew report you're referencing pertains to teens and their parents. It does not state which of those surveyed were university students or professors. The above entry we are commenting on concerns academics in an academic environment, not teens on their personal weblogs. I expect academics to be more concerned about properly citing work than non-academics. I stated this early in the entry at issue.

When I read this new post which now includes this comment, "I'm complaining that it wasn't attributed properly"...

Dude. I complained about the lack of proper attribution in the original post. The complaint is not new. I considered your first comment in this thread to be somewhat trollish, and with this one, it seems you're creeping further under the troll bridge. I don't get it: Is the point here for me to admit I exercise flawed judgement... that I might be inconsistent in my opinions... that my blog entries include off-the-cuff comments... that I'm biased? Guilty on all accounts. Dredge up any of my previous posts and you're sure to find all sorts of unsavoury material. But why bother?

And comments such as the ones I've pointed out do more in my opinion to exacerbate the situation - including you having your posts ripped - then help resolve it.

I'm not sure to which comments you are referring. Mine, or Pew's? If you're trying to tell me that by explaining how to properly attribute online work to a bunch of budding academics and their professor, I have made the problem worse, I'd be interested in further elaboration.
Comment posted by csven
November 8, 2005 @ 3:30 pm
Having just lost a response, this is a test to see if commenting on this post has been turned off.
Comment posted by Tony Walsh
November 9, 2005 @ 9:28 am
csven, comments are open on this entry -- if this site's giving you technical problems, please let me know what the error was/is, thanks.
Comment posted by csven
November 9, 2005 @ 3:51 pm
"I think you're stretching too much to make your point."

"I don't get it: Is the point here..."

How can I be stretching the point if you don't even get the point?

"The Pew report you're referencing pertains to teens and their parents. It does not state which of those surveyed were university students or professors. The above entry we are commenting on concerns academics in an academic environment, not teens on their personal weblogs."

So what you're saying is that the teens - who were in your previous post "too smart" because they obviously knew enough about copyright law to unfailingly determine what was and was not "propaganda" - are now suddenly not smart enough to live up to some higher standard of expectation. That they're suddenly not so smart and are more likely to violate copyright than university students. Based on what you're suggesting it sounds like there's something magical that happens to people when they enter an academic environment. Interesting.

"I expect academics to be more concerned about properly citing work than non-academics. I stated this early in the entry at issue."

Yes you did lay out your expectations. And that's partly why I'm responding to this entry and not the previous entry where you put your Bias on display. If I'd been "trolling" I'd have said something there. Instead I'm commenting about IP in a blog entry alllll about your violated IP.

Anyway, this expectation you have of academia is, I guess, based on some universal truth that university students and professors automatically have what amounts to the moral high ground in society. That they don't - or shouldn't - just ignore giving someone their due credit (whatever that's worth) because it's important (for some reason). They're different. They shouldn't steal Words even though it's apparently okay for others to do so. Interesting.

So tell me, are the behavior modification classes given to incoming teenage freshman (to raise them to this new level of Expectation that you have) taught by the other university students (often busy using high bandwidth connections to download and illegally share media files), the grad students (some of whom earn money writing term papers for hire over the internet), or the professor's (like MIT professor and director Edwin Thomas who improperly used uncredited and uncompensated comic book artwork in a presentation to win $50M in Dept of Defense funding - ref: Wired article )? I ask because during my 9 years as an undergrad I never saw a student raise their "morals" to put them on some Higher Plateau of Expectation; quite the opposite. So I'd like to hear more about this. And failing that, at least go back to the other incongruency: the concept of how teenagers can be "too smart" and then suddenly not "smart" enough. Because there you're effectively assigning different behavioral guidelines to different segments of society. And if that's the case, then unless you for some odd reason have the same lofty expectations of MSM as you do academia (unlikely given all the recent journalistic scandals), I'd venture that had it been... say... the New York Times using your words, you'd have some other Expectation of them and we'd be hearing the reasons why they should obey intellectual property laws and give you the Credit You Deserve (whatever that's worth).

Let's assume for a moment a reporter copied one of your entries and submitted it for publication without giving you any credit. You're not losing anything tangible. And no one really expects MSM to be above reproach. Heck, one could say that you should be overjoyed just to see your thoughts so widely distributed. But if you objected, what would be your reason? That they made money off of your effort? Well, if that were your objection, and it was just about money, aren't we really back to square one and all that "propaganda" stuff? Teens take content from record companies, MSM (and academia) takes it from you... what's the real difference? There isn't any.


The point I'm making can be summed up in one word: hypocrisy. When it affects people personally, they quickly find a reason why the general activity they tacitly support with biased comments is no longer appropriate. The expectations change to suit the condition. The definition of appropriate behavior changes to match the expectation. The intangible suddenly has Worth and can be "stolen" in order to assign a "proper" behavior to lobby against transgression. And the power of flawed logic justifies the conflicting positions. People who create can't have it both ways. That is my point.

The last word is yours.
Comment posted by Tony Walsh
November 10, 2005 @ 10:25 am
Csven, this was an awful of trouble to go through just to call me a hypocrite. You could have done that clearly in your first post and saved us both a lot of time and effort. As it stands, I feel like I've just heard the unfunny punchline of an excessively tedious joke.

You've made hostile, unfortunate, and intricate assumptions about my views, actions, and the depth of my intellectual investment in those views. Your last round of commentary doesn't invite rebuttal so much as indicate the matter is firmly decided as far as you are concerned. Which is a good thing, because this has become one of those arguments that, even if I could win--or at least respond to--the effort wouldn't be worth it. So for all purposes you have won. But what have you gained?
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