Probably a robbery

I’ve become aware in recent weeks – as have many of the local history community – of a series of connected groups appearing on Facebook, which invite users to submit old pictures of their area. This is a fine idea, which in principle, I support.

Sadly, these groups are full of content stripped from local websites, Flickr, blogs and other online sources like YouTube, posted without any accreditation to the original source.

This, to me, is morally wrong.

This particularly saddened me. This was ripped from a post on this blog, linking to one of The Symaster’s. If the person lifting it had stopped to read the post he’d know exactly who was in the picture and why. Click on the image to visit my post and find out.

If a historian or blogger – like myself – takes time to research a subject, we do it out of interest, community spirit and desire to share the truth as we find it. Running this blog for three years has cost me hundreds of pounds in scanning, map purchases and other materials and software. Stripping pictures out of our work and posting them without context actually increases confusion and does nothing to help understanding of our subject. It’s also easy, lazy and morally bankrupt theft.

We may not charge for our work, but that doesn’t mean it’s free to copy, steal or distort.

So far I’ve seen pictures from a days-old Stafforshirebred post ripped out of context, a large amount of Walsall1955’s work posted without credit, the entirety of Walsall Lococal History Centre’s Brownhills content from ‘A click in time’ and other material stolen.

Whenever I feature work by another historian here, I clearly name the source, and where it can be found. When they have books published, I advertise them. This is the decent thing to do – it’s community spirit.

Any attempt to challenge the operator of these pages results in being banned. Last night, I posted links to help users of the Brownhills group and answered questions. Because I challenged the host to name sources politely, all of my content has been removed and I’ve been banned.

This saddens me. I personally have worked hard to bring the unpaid work of local historians to a wider audience, and challenge some of the misconceptions about local history that abound. These groups, as they stand, represent vandalism and are an insult to the people who generate the content they thieve.

Few folk realise that beautiful mapping like this has to be purchased – and if on paper, has to be scanned. I do it because I want to share and light up the past – a link back to the blog isn’t too much to ask. This blog costs money to run, and I don’t even allow advertising here, except that occasionally inserted by my hosts, which is out of my control.

All I’m asking is that the original sites these items come from are linked. I will allow anyone to use anything I post, providing the user is polite and gives me a credit. Such Facebook groups are a fine community spirited idea, but they need to be operated by moderators with the backbone and civility to name and link to those they lean upon.

Hell, I’d happily participate in such a group were it run properly. It’s all about the conversation, after all.

Such robbery is seriously making me wonder why I bother doing this at all.

This entry was posted in Bad Science, Brownhills stuff, Chasewater, Environment, Events, Interesting photos, It makes me mad!, Just plain daft, Local Blogs, Local History, Local media, News, Shared media, Shared memories, Social Media, Spotted whilst browsing the web, Walsall community, Walsall Council, Walsall Wood stuff and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Probably a robbery

  1. warren says:

    Don’t beat yourself up about it Bob, most of the time it is ignorance not malice that causes these problems. The interweb has the ability to make most of its users ignorant to the hard work of individuals who build it. A copy paste is so easy to do without thinking.

    • Hi Warren

      Yes, I know much of it is innocent. But I’ve seen images with watermarks and frames cropped off in a deliberate attempt to hide their origin. I find that infuriating, to be honest.

      Like I say, I wouldn’t stop the group, I’m just after civility and a little good manners.



  2. Peter says:

    I know why you do it Bob, because you give a great deal of pleasure to a great number of people. Most of the groups you mention will be here today and gone tomorrow, the very fact that they cannot be bothered or are not skilled enough to dig around for themselves says everything, personally I suspect that most of the moderators of these groups are simply on an ego trip and the next thing that takes their fancy will leave their blogs motionless.
    The fact that they have banned you says to me that they are rude, ignorant, useless, arrogant tossers. Would you tell us which group banned you?

  3. stymaster says:

    I have to say I’m a little annoyed too. That’s a bit of film from my late father’s collection. Dad’s been gone a long time now, but back in the 70s cine film wsn’t cheap (he was a keen photographer), and it took no small effort to locate that film, and aorund £50 to convert the reel it was on to a digital format. Add my time editing it, and a credit would have been nice. As you point out, it’s not exactly hard to answer the posted question by either visiting the blog or the direct Youtube upload.

    As I’ve been writing this, both the page holder and the original poster have apologised. I just hope it makes people think about crediting the link to original content, as it’s both annoying and it has implications for accuracy and loss of data. Also, I have problems with Facebooks terms of use, which is why I don’t post content there (well, that and the fact i hate it).

    • Hi old chap

      I’ve since had communication with the poster who originally uploaded the screenshot (which was used in my original promo post for yours). I think we understand each other.

      The group is still carrying a lot of content lifted from Walsall Council’s ‘A click in time’, however, and the frankly weasily ‘It’s not theft and I’m only sharing’ whinge is frankly cobblers.

      The fact that I’m denied right to reply speaks volumes, really. I don’t think it’s hard to ask your sources to cite theirs or do your homework – I do, and it’s one of the things that makes this blog hard work.

      All I’m after is good manners.


  4. Andy says:

    I tend to agree with Peter. Thank goodness they rarely venture onto the road less travelled or we would continually be having to step over them.
    In contrast, Bob, the fascinating things you and your followers produce is valuable and enriches readers’ lives. It is saddening that so few build on an education fought for by so many and on the opportunities that creates in this country to engage in discussion about matters of deep concern or passing interest. Perhaps some would benefit from a spell in Syria or Bahrain or as a schoolgirl in northern Pakistan? Who knows, we might end up with a real democracy.
    Plagiarists devalue the things they pilfer, but mostly they degrade themselves. At least a modicum of contrition appears to have broken out in this case, but so much better to be creative.
    As one great statesman said: “KBO!”.

  5. gabriel says:

    I’m not able to see that group, or follow your link to it, on Facebook – have they perhaps decided to close it?

  6. stymaster says:

    They have.

    • Peter says:

      Blimey, When I predicted “here today and gone tomorrow” I wasn’t expecting it to happen within the same week!
      Oh well…………. Mind how you go.

  7. gabriel says:

    Although in this instance I am pleased to see that there has been some sort of positive outcome, with the group closing down their pages which used “filched” and unattributed material, I wonder if Bob or any other of the regulars here have noticed the trend for – I don’t know what term to use – “reverse” copyright abuse? Very often I see images online which have been watermarked with the copyright symbol followed by some photographic agency or company name or whatever – and yet I know that the images in question are copyright expired. there is also a large American company which appears to have collected a vast library of old photographs – many of which are copyright expired by date or by their publication in a second country – which they then claim copyright of.

    I was reminded of this when someone sent me a link to an article about a chap who has reconstructed a WW1 trench network in his garden. Accompanying the article were two photographs taken during the war (almost certainly expired, or at best Crown) which were watermarked as copyrighted by the Corbis Corporation in Seattle, Washington and Alamy stock photography in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, respectively.

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