Astrology, Copyright and Plagiarism

Astroblogging)–By Tony Vowles

Blogging is a personal and very rewarding pursuit. Technically it is easy for someone with basic IT skills to produce a website that appears very slick – beautifully designed templates can be slotted in at the click of a few buttons with no need for design or programming skills. All you need to do is author content. This is where the joy of writing comes in – the imagination, the literary skill and the hours poring over content. Personally, I hardly ever read what other astrology bloggers have written on a topic until I’ve written my own – I don’t want to be sidetracked by something mentioned. I also don’t want to subconsciously take it in and end up repeating it. My work is my life blood – my soul is in there and I know it is the same for many others.

So it should come as no surprise that the idea of your work being plagiarised feels almost the same as someone breaking into your house! The question is, what can/do you do about it? I think it’s important to try and distinguish between what is a simple mistake – a lack of understanding of copyright, wanting to share your material (but doing it badly), and outright copying for personal gain. Both happen, perhaps more frequently than we realise. I’ve worked in IT long enough to know that sometimes people do and think the most ridiculous things – believing that a wireless mouse and flat screen monitor speeds up a PC for instance! It’s easy to see how copyright might be a completely alien concept to someone like that – in these cases a gentle reminder should be enough. You never know, the exchange could turn into a friendship – after all, it is nice to know that someone values what you’ve written and want to share it with their network.

So, what of the other type? You’ve no doubt seen them – an exploitation of the ease of creating websites by producing something that has no heart and soul – no personal investment – that investment is being taken from you! There seems to be a great many of these around and from what I can discern their interest is in receiving revenue from ad clicks and bundled offerings. With such a lack of investment from the owners I suspect many wouldn’t last too long. However, it isn’t difficult to create lots of them, exploit keywords for Google placement, and let the pennies roll in – like a cash cow.

We all have to consider how we’d like our content represented – external links provide clickthroughs to our site (which is good) but does it portray our brand in the way we intention? If it doesn’t, then it’s worth considering that our product could be weakened in some way, despite the extra traffic.

Copyright violation is against the law and we do have the ability to close down sites if push comes to shove. Check out this Wikipedia article on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Google Analytics helps – we can see an amazing amount of detail about traffic to our site – if you’re not using it then you should be! There are also varying levels of copyright services available to aid us. Copyscape offers a free service where you can input the URL of your page and it scours the internet looking for duplicated content. They also provide a paid premium service for more sophisticated protection.

So, there’s much to consider with copyright and plagiarism. It is complicated; the law is tricky and differs across boundaries. It isn’t always black and white but there are free tools at our disposal to help fight it. If you know of other tools and utilities then fill up the comments section here with your ideas!

___________________________________________________________________

Hailing from the UK, Tony calls himself an amateur astrologer and social networker. He has been studying Astrology for about 20 years on and off and also has a background and interest in Martial Arts and Zen Buddhism. His astrology blog is aptly named The Astrology Blog
____________________________________________________________________

This entry was posted in Copyright Law, Editorial, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Astrology, Copyright and Plagiarism

  1. Tony Vowles says:

    A couple of things to add here. The copyright gets complicated when you publish an RSS feed on your blog (which most people do for good reasons). You need to ensure that you explicitly state your usage policy both on your site and in your feed. Creative commons provides a framework to do this easily http://www.creativecommons.org

    Remember to ensure its visible on your website AND in your feed.

  2. Ellen Longo says:

    Hi, Tony.

    Could you say more about, “We all have to consider how we’d like our content represented – external links provide clickthroughs to our site (which is good) but does it portray our brand in the way we intention?” If it’s too much for a comment reply, can you blog about it sometime? I thought external links and more traffic were always good. I’d love to hear more about your thoughts on it.

    Also, I use Google Analytics and am looking for a good article on the 3-5 most important things to track. I can get so lost looking at the data and imagining what it means and what to do about it. Do you have a post on that?

    Thanks. Love your blog.

  3. Tony Vowles says:

    Hi Ellen – well, when we present our work we are in control – we control the images associated with it, the content is ours – we choose ‘the package’ – the look, the feel – everything this is in the words we write (and everything that surrounds it) is effectively our brand. Now, take the case of an RSS feed. There are quite a few sites out there with a subset of my feed in their sidebar – thats brilliant – it’s visible; people can click through to my blog. However, there’s a fine line here. Say, your feed is being used on a site whose views you don’t share or subscribe to? what does that do to your brand? what if your feed gets used along with advertisements that you didn’t want over your original content? and what if those adverts you also don’t subscribe to? Your original intentions therefore – the way you want to put yourself across to your potential customers or readers has been skewed in some way by someone else. If your feed was being used on a sceptics website for example displaying how astrology is rubbish – would you really want those clickthroughs and traffic?

    Maybe Google Analytics would be another post worth considering in the future if someone doesn’t beat me to it! I don’t go into a great deal of detail with it to be honest – mostly, I look at where my links are, hit rates for posts, keywords being clicked on, referring sites, demographics (languages to make available to the translation tool).

  4. Ellen Longo says:

    Thanks Tony for the additional information. I’m so thrilled to get visits to my blog I never even considered the branding issues.

    And thanks for posting the piece on Google Analytics by Beth. I’m going to start concentrating on those three metrics.