Ethics of Blogiarism

There’s been quite a bit of discussion lately across the blogosphere on “blogiarism,” the practice of cutting and pasting content from one blog onto your own without any link, attribution, editing or commentary in order to drive readers to your own advertising revenue.

Clearly, such practice amounts to plagiarism and is unethical. While the blogging medium certainly makes it easy to cut & paste & post to your own site, as if the words were your own, proper attribution is always required. Even for blogs that don’t add any new commentary to the original posts (see, for example, Ed Felton’s Freedom to Tinker DashLog), they provide a service of aggregating relevant posts from across the web, while providing a by-line and link to the original post.

Some are angered further, however, by the fact that blogs who steal content are also stealing their potential advertising revenue. This, too, is a valid claim, but only to a point. Repurposing of content seems to be a standard practice among blogs, and while I might say “this is cool” when pointing and quoting someone else’s text, is it unethical for me to make money if a reader happens to click on an advertisement on my site rather than the originator’s? I’m not so sure.

Jeff Jarvis goes further by arguing that this is tantamount to click fraud and that blog providers, like Google’s Blogger should be held responsible. In the comments of Jeff’s original post, I questioned how this is actually click fraud, wondering if it is any different than iFilm posting the Jon Stewart Crossfire clip on their site (presumably without permission from the copyright holder) and making money off of their own on-site advertising. Jeff’s reply is that the key difference is that blogiarism “takes any content with the sole purpose of defrauding Google Adsense and the people who pay for ads there. It is clickfraud.”

I simply don’t follow this logic. While I find blogiarism highly unethical, I don’t think it inherently “defrauds Adsense and the people who pay for ads.” If blog XYZ steals content from ABC, that is wrong. If a reader sees the content on XYZ and clicks on an ad for company 123, that still is a valid click – no click fraud has occurred. Company 123 paid to have an ad placed alongside certain content, and whether that content was read at XYZ or ABC, company 123 still received a valid click from a reader who is genuinely interested in its products.

Blogiarism is unethical. But I don’t see how it necessarily leads to click fraud.

Author: Michael Zimmer

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5 Comments

  1. You wrote: While the blogging medium certainly makes it easy to cut & paste & post to your own site, as if the words were your own, proper attribution is always required.

    I laughed. That makes you the ultimate hypocrit.

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  2. Randy Charles Morin’s comment refers to my creation of a Wikipedia page on “blogiarism”. When I noticed a page didn’t yet exist, I did a quick search to see if there were any definitions on the web, and found this brief one: “When a blogger posts primarily content cut-and-paste from another source without linking to that source.” I used that as a foundation for a broader definition on Wikipedia: “Blogiarism is the when a blogger posts content cut-and-pasted from another source without linking to that source, providing commentary, or any other editing, often with the intent of earning online advertising revenue by attracting readers to their site rather than the originator’s”

    My mistake was assuming that the definition stub I found online was just from a dictionary, when it seemingly was Mr. Morin’s “intellectual property.” The Wikipedia page now has an attribution to Mr. Morin, and you can read the discussion of it here.

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  3. I guess you are saying that “proper attribution is always required” doesn’t apply to you. Always means 100% of the time. Trying to defend yourself by attacking me, only makes you more the jerk in my view

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  4. Sir, I’m sorry, but I’m not sure where I am “attacking” you.

    I didn’t provide attribution when I created the Wikipedia page because I thought I was building from a dictionary definition within acceptable “fair use” principles. It was my error to not realize that it was your term, and not a definition in the “public domain” (for lack of a better term).

    I wasn’t meaning to take someone else’s work and pass it off as my own. I was building upon an existing definition, and posting it on a wiki-based system for the entire community to be able to modify – as has been done.

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  5. You still don’t get it. The definition is public domain. Always includes when the definition is public domain. Otherwise, you wouldn’t use always, you would use sometime or most of the time. Or do you have a hard time with English? I find your continued lack of understanding, very amusing.

    >>proper attribution is always required

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