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More on Aggregate Content… PR 101?

This isn’t exactly what I had in mind when we started talking about aggregator blogs, but it certainly is happening. And now – to me, too.

Yes, I have admittedly aggregated the content of others and shared it with my students. In my case, there are no ads. I’ve turned all the links back to the originating blogs. I have turned off comments. I have clearly stated why I’m aggregating the content. My intention is to expose students to new ideas and content/writing, thereby sending them off to explore new blogs and sites.

What follows are two separate reactions to this new turn of events in ‘aggregating’ many blogs into one. Part I was written ‘before’ I found out that aggregation of my content was occurring. Part II is after I discovered it.


Part I

Don Crowther of 101publicrelations.com has really taken the idea of publishing to a new – uh, well … it’s not a high.

He’s had a site for some time. Then, he added a blog. Well, now he’s taken it to a new transparency question mark. What are we to make of this?

He launched an aggregator blog “PR Blog Watch“. Crowther claims it is new and beta, but it has been up for awhile.

Now, when someone launches a ‘beta’ project that is ‘for profit’, they sometimes do it on a server behind firewalls. You know – to test it out. Not Don, though. No, he launches the aggregator blog and puts Google Ads on the posts he takes from others. I checked Google’s caches and there are instances of the site from way back – live, online and with ads.

So, Don’s let it go on for about nine months. Now, lo’ and behold, one of the brighter PR people online – found it. Go figure! Then other people started to find that. Well, now – the funniest thing is happening. The people Don is taking his content from are writing about it in their blogs. And those posts are showing up in Crowther’s blog. Some are questioning what he is doing. Really kinda funny.

Neville Hobson isn’t amused. He has a Creative Commons license on his blog which specifically states to ‘not’ use his content for commercial purposes. Crowther’s blog is commercial. Crowther didn’t even read the blogs he decided to aggregate.

Compare 101′s blog to the ‘Writer’s blog‘ that I created for my students. My blog has all the permalinks pointing directly to the originating author. My blog does not have ads. My blog lists all the contributors. My blog has writers I wrote to and asked to include.

Crowther’s blog? Nadda. The emails for permission came to people ‘after’ it was discovered. This takes us back to the reference to ‘beta’ earlier.

Crowther writes to the unknowing contributors, “We have been testing a beta version of this project (called PR Blog Watch) that you can see at http://prcommentary(dot)101publicrelations(dot)com and have included posts from your blog. This project is now coming out of its beta test stage, and ready to receive additional exposure.”

Well, Don, I’m not so sure about that. But, I’ll let my students discuss it and draw some conclusions on their own.

I will say that Google has caches of all your posts. You’ve had Google Ads on them ever since you started. Beta, you say? Hmm?


Part II

Last night, sitting here minding my own business, Jeremy Pepper sent me a link.

It seems that now Crowther is taking my posts, too. I must be second string (third string)? OK, be nice if that’s what you choose to comment on here. ;)

I mean, criminy … did this guy take the Blogdigger ‘Headlines of PR Weblogs‘ and the ‘180 PR Blogs‘ at Bloglines and just paste them all in?

Crowther has taken at least three of my posts and placed them into the BusinessKnowledgeSource.com site.

Here are the posts.

From the Whois for the sites, we find that indeed it is Don Crowther, again. I may write to him. Students and readers – you can decide for me. Post your thoughts here in the comments and we’ll go with the majority view. How’s that?

Currently, my Creative Commons License provides for:

You are free:

* to copy, distribute, display, and perform the work
* to make derivative works
* to make commercial use of the work

Under the following conditions:

Attribution. You must give the original author credit.

* For any reuse or distribution, you must make clear to others the license terms of this work.
* Any of these conditions can be waived if you get permission from the copyright holder.

Your fair use and other rights are in no way affected by the above.

Crowther does give a link to my blog and does write this directly under the link: “All copyrights are property of their original authors.”

I have not received any contact from Crowther asking for my permission to aggregate the blog. Should he have written to me?

I’m thinking of changing my Creative Commons to this:

You are free:

* to copy, distribute, display, and perform the work
* to make commercial use of the work

Under the following conditions:

Attribution. You must give the original author credit.

No Derivative Works. You may not alter, transform, or build upon this work.

* For any reuse or distribution, you must make clear to others the license terms of this work.
* Any of these conditions can be waived if you get permission from the copyright holder.

Your fair use and other rights are in no way affected by the above.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Would he then be within rights to take the posts?

Well, this gives me a great opportunity for a class lesson, doesn’t it. :)

So, I’ll leave this up to my students. Tell me what you think. Should I let the posts be taken and not say anything? Or, should I write to him and say Cease & Desist!

Do you think he has violated the Creative Commons License?

Should he have written to me out of simple courtesy, regardless?

Should I change the license to be ‘non-commercial’ no matter what?

I’ll leave it all up to you. This should be fun!

If I write to Crowther, these are the email addresses I’ll use:

don@101publicrelations.com and don@greatresults.com.



  • Allison_p_c

    Honestly, I am confused. First of all, it does say that “you are free to make commercial use of the blog.” To me that says that he is within his writes to put ads with the blog. That may be just the problem though. What one things means to me, may not mean the same the same to someone else.
    On the other hand, as I looked at the page he made it sound like he was in control of the blogs. I think he should have mentioned you in his little spill about the blogs. I did see the disclaimer, if you will, but in my opinion he should have mentioned your name.
    Any respectable professional would give credit where credit is due. I am unsure of what you should do. Unfortunately, I think he is in his legal rights, but I also think he should have had the decency to contact you first.

  • http://www.auburnmedia.com/ Robert

    Good points, Allison. Now, for the rest of you – do you agree?
    Also, let’s consider how he treated some of the other blogs, too. Neville Hobson’s, for instance, has a criteria to ‘not’ use it for commercial practices. Neville is a contributor at MarcomBlog, too.

    Thank you, Allison. :)

  • http://www.auburn.edu/~meltoea/blog Emily

    Kill.
    OK maybe that’s a little severe, but I think if I was in your situation, I’d write to him.
    Eventhough his work probably is legal, I would want him to know that his doings are not OK with me.
    My vote: Write him.
    Then there is no question on your feelings on the matter, so if it were to come up later, you could document that you contacted him with your disapproval.

  • Ashley_C

    I am not sure if what he is doing is legal, but I think at least out of common courtesy, he should ask or give credit to the original author! I agree with Allison, if he was a respectable professional, he would have given proper credit!

  • Jami

    OK – I just now read this right before class so I didn’t have time to thoroughly look over it. From what I did read, I think you should definitely right to Crowther. You should also change your Creative Commons so that people like him cannot weasle around them. Crowther obviously has not read the Blogging Code of Ethics.

  • Maggie

    Here are my two cents: I think you should definitely write to him. Why one earth should he be profiting off of something you (and others) wrote and not even ask for your permisssion? I would not make an aggregator blog with advertisements on it just knowing that it would tick some people off. If I were in your position, I would change the license to be ‘non-commercial’ and make a place where they can request permission to link your blog to sites that have advertisements on them!

  • Lara

    Honestly, I think that taking someone else’s blogs and placing advertisements on them seems to be crossing some imaginary legal line. I understand that when a person blogs on the internet it is there for anyone in the world to read, but I do not think that anyone in the world should be able to take your blog and post it on their website alongside with advertisements. If your blog contains no ads then obviously that was not the intention of posting it. I think he should have asked permission to post other people’s blogs without providing a link to the original website. It seems a little unethical to me, especially if he is not giving credit to the author’s of the blogs, but that’s just my opinion.

  • http://www.auburn.edu/~johnslk/blog Lindsay_J

    Hi Robert. What a predicament. I say write to him and just explain your point of view. I have learned it is always best to go straight to the horse’s mouth, and while we have been to the horse’s blog :) e-mailing him might allow you to reason him into changing his site or at least taking your stuff down (if that’s what you want). I think each person who is individually bothered by their content being on his site needs to approach him on his/her own and handle it individually.

  • Stephanie

    Well, though what I think he’s doing is kind of sketchy, he probably doesn’t see it that way. And technically, over the Internet, people are free to do what they want. You ask if he SHOULD have written you first. Well, yes, he should have. But, he didn’t, and probably doesn’t see why he should have. I think changing your copyright rules is the most you can do, but other than that, he pretty much is going to do what he wants, regardless of what you want. Then again, this guy might not be the jerk I’m picturing him as, so writing to him might help. Overall, my opinion is: writing him will not change what he is doing.

  • Mallory

    I definitely think you should write to him telling him exactly how it makes you feel. It’s not fair for him to take your posts without permission and put them on his website with ads and not give you credit. I don’t know if it would necessarily help to change your liscense to “non-commercial”. People who finagle their way into your blogs will find a way to do so no matter what…as long as they don’t get caught. I think you should write to him and tell him what he’s doing is wrong.

  • ElizabethWood Rodgers

    I think you definitley need to confront him, write to him, at least say how you feel. It would make me angry and bother me a lot so I would probably say something to him. Just explain your point of view and what you think of the situation. I hope it goes well…Seee you in class!

  • Melanie

    I think it’s funny how we’ve been discussing recently how advertising on blogs reduces their credibility… and then this guy starts taking other peoples’ thoughts, basically plagiarizing their work and THEN advertises within their posts on top of everything else! Isn’t this, like, everything we’ve been talking about NOT to do, all rolled into one neat little blog?
    Are you sure he’s not an example you talked into doing this just to show us what not to do? : )

  • Cheryl

    If he is within his legal rights and he is profiting off of other people’s work with little effort on his own part, I doubt an email will make it stop. Although, a letter to him discussing your objection to his actions would be the proper and necessary first step, it is probably a waste of time and might give him more to post about in his blog. I believe that the original author is definately the owner of the work and anyone who basically steals it should in some way be punished or at least forced to share the profits.

  • Lindsey

    I definitely think that you should write him and just let him know what you are thinking. He may not choose to take what you say in consideration, but at least you will have gotten it off your chest. I think what he is doing is wrong, but it is evidently legal. That doesn’t make what he is doing right or fair though. It is your personal work and you rightfully “own” it. I think he should at least know what you are thinking, whether he cares or not.