It turns out that everything I post on both this blog and my music blog gets automatically reposted on a site called The Brummie. Recently, I’ve been a frequent contributor, without even really realising it. I kind of have mixed feelings about that.
First, I think it’s great that there’s a website that brings together news and information from around Birmingham. Really. Potentially, that’s a very useful thing. I also think that having a hub that gives people pointers to a wide range of different bloggers from around the city is a really helpful thing to do and may even contribute to the overall sense of community among local writers and citizen journalists. Cool.
Unfortunately – that’s not actually what’s happening. As far as I can tell, The Brummie is merely scraping people’s web content without permission from their RSS feeds, re-presenting it as if the content was submitted voluntarily to their site.
I have three problems with that:
1) As a site that aggregates content, they have more ‘Google juice’ simply because of the sheer volume of words being published on their site. So if someone goes looking for something and it turns out I’ve written an article that may help, Google is more likely to point them to that article on their site rather than mine. That’s not a major problem, as they’re still going to be getting the same information, and there’s no commercial ramification to that. But it’s not ideal.
2) It looks like I have contributed willingly, which I would only do to a publication that I was very familiar with and felt comfortable submitting to. And that depends on everything else that appears on the site. I’m never going to write for the Daily Mail, and I don’t want to be part of a publication whose other contributors would happily consider it. Context is important to me. And so are things like presentation, layout and design. Simply reposting my words in a different environment imbues them with all sorts of unintended meaning.
3) When people comment on my posts on their site, they erroneously think they’re communicating directly with me. The only reason I know that there had been any discussion at all of a music post (let alone a message from the featured band themselves) was that Mark Blackstock who runs The Brummie was kind enough to let me know in an email.
I’m giving the benefit of the doubt when it comes to intention here. There’s no sense that Mark and his team (if such a team exists) are doing anything designed to be exploitative. And he’s keeping within the rules (strictly speaking) of the Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commercial Licence that applies to everything on my website. He’s not doing anything wrong.
And all the same, I have asked him if I could please opt out for the reasons cited above. Of course, it would have been nice to be asked, but I probably would have expressed a preference not to be included – while fully admitting that there is nothing to prevent him from going ahead anyway.
The moment there’s a revenue stream derived from that site, then it falls foul of the licensing conditions for my work. But even though it plays within the boundaries of what’s permissible with my writing, it does so in a way that detracts without adding anything, which is more a problem in terms of the spirit of the deal.
I don’t know whether my site will be removed from The Brummie. I’m not going to do anything further about it either way. I’ve asked nicely, and I hope that Mark will respect that and let me bow out. I may be taking my ball and going home, but I’m not going to make a fuss.
If not, and you’re reading this on The Brummie, any of its affiliated websites, or some other website that has simply scraped my content off the RSS feed and presented it as if it had my consent, then I encourage you to head to the actual source of this post: http://andrewdubber.com.