Blogger vs. Plagiarist Smackdown Video

Duane Lester confronts newspaper

Via GalleyCat

You know how this story usually goes: 1. Skilled writer spends time and energy creating content. 2. Content is posted on the interwebz. 3. Print publications and/or other online publications swipe content without attribution, permission, or payment. 4. Writer gets all melancholy in that special way that only writers can and complains about how little worth the world places on his skills. (Optional Step 4.5: Writer gets drunk.) 5. Cycle repeats.

Blogger Duane Lester of AllAmericanBlogger was on Step 3 when he decided to change the game up. The Oregon Times Observer—a newspaper from Holt County, Missouri, with a circulation of 1,100—cut and pasted an article from Lester's blog, word-for-word. No byline, no payment, no permission. Not knowing exactly how to handle the situation, he took to Twitter (as you do) and asked for help. A lawyer advised him to "Send a letter with an assertion of copyright, and a bill." Lester did some research and came up with the letter, which you can use as a template in your own writerly showdowns. But instead of mailing a bill, he decided to go to the newspaper's office and talk directly to Managing Editor Bob Ripley—with a video camera. Things get a little tense:

For the record, I asked Lester how much he would have charged the paper if they'd gone about things the right way. He said, "If they had contacted me prior to running the story, they could have had it for a byline." Oops, $500 mistake.

Since posting about the incident, he has been called everything from a folk hero and the "Rosa Parks of bloggers" to a hypocrite and an extortionist who unnecessarily shamed a small-town newspaper. Personally, I think he handled the situation well (though the Rosa Parks comparison is out of hand).

What do you think? Was the video camera and YouTube posting overkill? Does seeing this make you, as a writer, more likely to stand up for your own rights?

Image via All American Blogger

Kimberly Turner

News by Kimberly Turner

Kimberly Turner is an internet entrepreneur, DJ, editor, beekeeper, linguist, traveler, and writer. This either makes her exceptionally well-rounded or slightly crazy; it’s hard to say which. She spent a decade as a journalist and magazine editor in Australia and the U.S. and is now working (very, very slowly) on her first novel. She holds a B.A. in Creative Writing and an M.A. in Applied Linguistics and lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband, two cats, ten fish, and roughly 60,000 bees.

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Mike Goldstein's picture
Mike Goldstein May 25, 2012 - 12:13pm

All I have to say is, "Good on him." This kind of thing happens way too often, because people don't care about freelancers and independent artists and writers. They could have gotten it for a few words, but instead they decided to steal it. To hell with them.

Razvan Teodor Coloja's picture
Razvan Teodor Coloja May 25, 2012 - 12:22pm

That video made my day better.

jyh's picture
jyh from VA is reading whatever he feels like May 25, 2012 - 12:24pm

I think if they had stonewalled him, the shame added by the video might be appropriate, but I would call that pretty heavy-handed for a first attempt.

Renee Miller's picture
Renee Miller from Tweed, Ontario is reading The Wolf Gift May 25, 2012 - 1:07pm

Good for him. Small town paper or not, plagiarism is plagiarism.

Scott J. Wilson's picture
Scott J. Wilson from Regina, Saskatchewan is reading This is How You Lose Her May 26, 2012 - 3:32pm

Well done, sir.

At the beginning of the video, I was feeling a little uneasy about the method; however, the editor's attitude quickly changed my mind.

JamieMarriage's picture
JamieMarriage from Sydney, Australia is reading Spider, Spin Me a Web - Lawrence Block May 27, 2012 - 5:00pm

I think he did exactly the right thing. He made his case clearly and without emotion, got it on tape so any responses would be recorded (which also stopped the manager from turning threatening or violent I wager), and taught an abuser of a writer's rights a lesson.

That's three for three in my book.

This does paint a rather nasty image of small town America though. I'm an Austrlian and the only time we ever hear about the US media industry is when things like this happen.

It didn't help that the woman called the manager "Pa" at one point; I thought someone was about to break out a shotgun.

ReneeAPickup's picture
Class Facilitator
ReneeAPickup from Southern California is reading Wanderers by Chuck Wendig May 27, 2012 - 10:14pm

Looking at the attitude these people gave him, I would have posted the video as well. They were caught, they knew they were caught, and they still treated him as though they were better and wiser than he. If they were so much better, surely they wouldn't need to reprint his work.

I would place a bet that if the man had said "I'm sorry, I saw it all over the web without a source and didn't take the time to source it out. I can print a correction in tomorrow's paper attributing it to you", he wouldn't have had to write a check for "bullshit" and he wouldn't have his smug, holier than thou face all over the web.

J.S. Wright's picture
J.S. Wright from Milwaukee is reading Black Spring May 28, 2012 - 7:24am

I wish I had a good point to make about this, but everyone above already said what I was thinking.  Though I must say, it's very surprising on how many people out there are dumb/smug/etc. enough to think they could get away with plagarism of an entire article... especially with one that was as popular as his, in an age where one can check the originality of a single sentence via Google.

Then again, he did say he was forty years older, and sounded like he was about to make an argument for stealing someone else's work... did anyone else notice that?

Juliana's picture
Juliana February 15, 2013 - 12:07pm

The advancement in software technologies has simplified the ways of taking strict actions against plagiarizers. Personally, I would prefer to use a free plagiarism checker software to make sure that I am not being cheated.

Juliana's picture
Juliana February 15, 2013 - 12:10pm

Use free plagiarism checker to catch content stealth and protect your undisputable image.