Kurt McKee

lessons learned in production


Content attribution

Posted 11 January 2020 in copyright and internet

Note: This post was originally written in 2008 but I never published it. I have updated the links and have resurrected the original photo from archive.org.

There are some things that seem like absolutes in online etiquette. (Note from 2020: even in 2008 I apparently avoided saying "netiquette". I wish everything I said aged so well!) In particular, I hate lack of attribution, and generally dislike content duplication and discussion fragmentation. I have to allow for some content duplication and discussion fragmentation, however. Content duplication, because thumbnails or previews with proper attribution are acceptable to me for bookmarking and sharing purposes (just look at my tumblelog). Discussion fragmentation, because can you imagine having the Digg or YouTube communities showing up at your blog? Hard pass.

Recently, however, there was a group of posts on three sites that really bothered me. Bruce Schneier, Digg (archived Digg page), and Reddit were all linking directly to a Flickr photo with no attribution! The content creator was getting no recognition for his work. I looked up the photo page using Flickr's API, and found the original photo page (archived photo). I then left a comment solely on Bruce Schneier's blog, where I thought it might make a difference -- and Mr. Schneier indeed updated the link on his site. It's been almost four days, and the photo page has gone from 39 views to over 8,000 views! I can't even imagine how many views it could have had from the Digg and Reddit communities, where the unattributed photo currently has over 8,300 diggs and 1,700 up votes, respectively.

The situation bothers me a lot. All it took was one person jacking a direct URL in order for the rest of the internet to pick up the photo with no attribution. I certainly wouldn't want that happening to my content (although I don't pride myself on having content that the rest of the internet would be interested in). The only partial solution I know of is watermarking my content, and it's something I'll have to consider automating on my own site.

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