The New Reblog, Part 2 – Images Gone Awry

Over the last couple of years WordPress.com has focused on making and promoting its site as a great place for photographers and other visual artists to showcase their work. Multitudes of new themes have been introduced to support these communities in making WordPress.com their home on the web. Sadly, however, it seems that the new Reblog is a far cry from a welcome wagon to those same creative folk if protecting their copyright is any concern.

raincoaster, a long-standing member of the WordPress.com community, posted in the forums about her experience with the new Reblog when she discovered that all the images from the original post she reblogged had been copied to her site’s Media Library. According to a Staff reply in that thread, “This is actually not a bug, but is intended behavior at this time. We do this intentionally to prevent unwanted changes to reblogged posts”.

To understand the full impact of this behavior, here are screenshots of my test Reblog from Leanne Cole (with her permission) to illustrate what currently happens when someone’s post is reblogged. Please scroll through the Gallery below by opening the first image and reading each image description in the Carousel. You may have to scroll a bit to see it.

All in all, a total of 27 images from Leanne’s original post were pulled in to my test site’s Media Library, while only 2 images were actually used in my Reblog of her post; one image for the featured image and the second for the image in the post.

I would like to believe that this is a bug, in spite of what Staff have said. Otherwise how can WordPress.com legally justify copying images, let alone the wholesale transfer of the full visual content of someone’s post, to another WordPress.com site’s Media Library? This behavior does not come under “fair use” and entirely ignores copyright owner’s rights. At the very most, displaying the one or two images used in the Reblog may fall under “fair use,” but not their actual copy and transfer to another user’s website.

Let me explain a little further. Every single WordPress.com site comes with unlimited bandwidth and one can “hotlink” from one WordPress.com site to another WordPress.com site without the onerous tag of stealing another person’s bandwidth, which, indeed, is a legitimate concern when the other person is paying for bandwidth. Looking at the few earlier Reblogs I have done, I do not find a single image from those Reblogs in my own site’s Media Library and, therefore, can only conclude that those images are being hotlinked from the original WordPress.com site.

In that context, let’s revisit that Staff reply (and the added emphasis is mine):

… is intended behavior at this time. We do this intentionally to prevent unwanted changes to reblogged posts.

I read that to mean that WordPress.com’s concern here is not to break a Reblog should the original content be removed or changed by the original post creator, from whose site the images were previously hotlinked.

Under the WordPress.com  Terms of Service :

By submitting Content to Automattic for inclusion on your Website, you grant Automattic a world-wide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, modify, adapt and publish the Content solely for the purpose of displaying, distributing and promoting your blog. If you delete Content, Automattic will use reasonable efforts to remove it from the Website, but you acknowledge that caching or references to the Content may not be made immediately unavailable.

The Staff reply above would appear to contradict the last part of that clause about “caching or references to the Content may not be made immediately unavailable.” If I choose to delete or change or transfer my content elsewhere, I certainly would not want my original content to continue to appear on someone else’s WordPress.com’s website. Furthermore there is nothing in the Terms of Service that I see which condones copying and transferring my images to someone else’s website.

Is WordPress.com now going to be responsible for removing images from each and every website’s Media Library that acquired them through reblogging? Can WordPress.com guarantee that the re-blogger isn’t going to reuse those images in another manner that perhaps the original creator may not find acceptable?

And the only notification that Leanne received was the pingback notification that I had reblogged her original post on my test site. According to Leanne,

I had no idea that [Ed: image transference]  was happening, my posts get reblogged all the time and that means there are so many copies of my images in so many other media libraries.  Of course the worse thing is that you get asked to approve it, but it is too late and you can’t stop it.  You should have that option to stop people from reblogging your posts.

As mentioned in my earlier post on the New Reblog WordPress.com site owners can now disable the Reblog button in their Dashboard’s Sharing Settings. However, this will affect only the Reblog button which appears in your posts, as well as in the WordPress.com Admin bar. It does not affect the Reblog button in the WordPress.com Reader, which will continue to show.

Sadly, however, this does not address the very legitimate additional concern about the wholesale copy and transfer of images from one site to another which is done without the knowledge and consent of the original copyright owner.

If this is not a bug, as Staff have indicated, it is very, very disconcerting.

Again, many thanks to Leanne for agreeing to be the reblog victim to illustrate this post.

The New Reblog

Post updated on 2014/03/10

Reblogging on WordPress.com has a long and contentious history. When it was introduced in June  2010, there was a firestorm of protest by long-standing members of the community against what we felt was an usurpation of our copyrights. At every turn, WordPress.com Staff told us again and again how reblogging was a good thing and that Staff would not take down reblogged material or allow us to disable the Reblog button on our sites.

Fast forward to today, 3 1/2 years later, after the creation of who knows how many WordPress.com splogs whose only purpose was to reblog other people’s content (and maybe include a link to their real site) and we now have the ability to decide whether we wish to allow logged in WordPress.com members to reblog our content or not. Well, almost. 

The ability to reblog directly from the WordPress.com Reader means that if you have disabled the Reblog button from appearing on your site, anyone who finds your posts via the Reader will be able to reblog your content, not just your Followers. Since the Reader is an exclusive to WordPress.com feature, I can only imagine that original content creators who have been the target of drive-by reblogs will be dismayed to know that as a result of this change, their Follower count may also become falsely inflated. And we do not yet have the ability to remove spam Followers.

On the other hand, one aspect of reblogging that has been addressed in the new Reblog is the duplicate content issue. In the comments to the official announcement, Joen A. noted:

A reblog is not a republished post, it’s an excerpt with loads of attribution and links to the original post, including a signal to search engines not to count it as belonging to anyone but the original author.

So that indeed is good news. If someone now reblogs a post from another site, they won’t be getting any search engine juice for it and the original author won’t be penalized.

Currently the Reblog feature appears to take a much larger chunk of text from the original site than it did previously. There was a glitch at the start that took nearly, if not the entire post from the original site, but that was quickly noted by community members and addressed by Staff and  we are waiting to return to the shorter excerpt (the current Reblog is around 300 words).

While the new attribution may address the duplicate content issue, it may or may not address legitimate copyright concerns. To reiterate, the Fair Use provision of US Copyright law also states:

The distinction between fair use and infringement may be unclear and not easily defined. There is no specific number of words, lines, or notes that may safely be taken without permission.

Acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission.

As Joen A. also pointed out in his above comment:

So long as copy/paste exists, it’s impossible to prevent users from copying text.

That is so and I do sadly believe that anyone who has intent on reposting someone else’s content will do so, with or without the creator’s permission.

Changing the way Reblog works is a huge step in the right direction. So, while I applaud the move by WordPress.com to give content creators here some control over this built-in utility, what irks is the half-measure of still allowing reblogs from the Reader. If TPTB have already conceded that content creators have a right to control how their creations are used, then let it be done in full.

Only 38.5% of you reading this are Human

The human race is a minority on the Internet. And no, it\’s not because your pets have all of a sudden gotten computer-savvy.

via Less Than 40 Percent of the Internet Is Human.

What I find interesting is that while Bot activity is now 61.5% of all web traffic (an increase by 21% over 2012), only 31% of that activity is conducted by “good” bots. The remaining 30.5% is malicious activity carried out by scrapers, hacking tools, Impersonators and spammers (that last one surprisingly down 75% from 2012).

The full Incapsula report can be read here: Report: Bot traffic is up to 61.5% of all website traffic

Now I need to find a statistic that shows how much of that 38.5% human traffic is human-assisted comment spam. WordPress.com users are thankfully covered by Akismet spam blocker, which has also seen a large rise in the number of comment spam blocked during 2013. You can check your own spam statistics in your site’s Dashboard>Akismet Stats

What has your experience been this year? Have you seen an increase in the number of human-assisted spam in your site’s Spam folder? (If you need a reminder about the types of spam comments commonly posted, I heartily recommend reading Lorelle’s excellent post on “The Secret Recipe of Comment Spam“.)

If you want to read more, here’s another excellent read on comment spam: The Golden Era of Spam Comments has ended.

Publicize to Your Google+ Pages

JenT:

Great news for those who wanted it, and there were many of you that did! The wait is over. You can now publicize to your Google Plus *Page*, not just your profile. Thank you again, WordPress.com!

Originally posted on WordPress.com News:

Back in September we announced some cool new ways to connect your WordPress.com site to your Google+ account. One major improvement was the ability to bring your WordPress.com and Google+ profiles closer together by sharing your content via Publicize.

Make your content visible on your Google+ Page

Today we’re happy to announce yet another way to integrate the two platforms. You can now use Publicize to share your WordPress.com content on your Google+ Page too!

While Google+ Profiles are used by individuals, Google+ Pages function as a space for organizations, companies, public figures, and other branded entities (for example: your blog!). You’d use your Google+ Profile to interact with friends and personal acquaintances; your Google+ Page would serve your public persona as a professional, business owner, artist, or blogger.

To get started, head over to your dashboard, then go to Settings → Sharing. When you’ve reached the…

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Retired Themes-Round 2 (sorta)

And the theme retirement trend continues on WordPress.com with new additions to the previous list of retirees:

  • Bueno
  • Dark Wood
  • Enterprise
  • Inuit Types
  • Monochrome
  • Motion
  • Neutra
  • Notepad
  • Notes IL
  • Paperpunch
  • Steira
  • Structure
  • Titan
  • Under The Influence
  • Vostok

Again, existing sites can continue to use their theme even though it is retired and sites set up prior to a theme being retired can switch to that retired theme. What you cannot do is create a new site using a retired theme.

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Moar Changes Do Not Necessarily Mean Better

reader-redesign-compact

Reader in a Resized Browser Window

Unless you never use it, or haven’t heard the uproar in the Community Forums, you may have missed that a new version of the WordPress.com Reader was sprung on unsuspecting community members this past week. I only noticed the changes when it seemed that most of the post text was gone, replaced with a featured image and overly large, and in some cases pixellated, post titles. It seems that this change was done to make the Reader even more accessible and friendly to mobile users even without using any WordPress.com app.

As of today, however, I no longer have any issues at all with the Reader redesign. I exported the OPML file of all the sites I follow and am now reading them elsewhere. I apologize in advance for the possible lack of page views on your sites as a result.

Even though I can get along without the Reader, the redesign of the “My Blogs” tab impedes my ability to manage my sites efficiently.

What changed:
From a simple text list with direct links to key dashboard functions (Manage Pending Comments!) to a widely spaced vertical index (MOAR SCROLL!) with site thumbnails (what, I don’t recognize my own children?!) and only partially useful links. I ask you, how many times a day will I need a direct link to my Sharing settings or Customize my site? Obviously someone thinks I will.

And I’ve already posted at length (ha!) about my thoughts on the change to the “Comments I made” New Dash tab.

So, dear WordPress.com, maybe a community-wide survey about how we community members would like to use our WordPress.com New Dash would be in order.

What do you think?