A Blogger’s Revenge

Duane Lester, a blogger at the All American blog, posted a story a couple of weeks back detailing the results of an audit of Holt County, Missouri.  A small local paper in the county seat in Oregon, Missouri ran a story about the audit a few days later.  And not just any story – they ran Lester’s post, word for word and without attribution.

Lester decided to pursue the matter and wrote a letter arguing for his copyright claims, demanding $500 in payment.  Then Lester paid a visit to the newspaper’s editor, and caught it all on film.

Mr. Ripley’s demeanor suddenly changed once he realized that he was being filmed, and perhaps that’s the only reason he decided to eventually make the payment to Lester.  Of course Ripley would have wound up paying a lot more in court costs had he decided to defend his plagiarism, so it was probably the right financial move.

What astounds me are some of the reactions to the video.  There are people more upset that Lester videoed the confrontation than that Ripley blatantly plagiarized Lester.  Yeah Ripley “goofed,” they claim, but that Lester is a meanie by intimidating a small-town newspaper editor.

You see this sort of thing on blog comments all the time, particularly on Catholic blogs where certain commenters spend roughly 20 paragraphs droning on about charity in what is a thinly veiled, passive aggressive attempt to say “I am better than you.”  Justifying horrible behavior by focusing on the medium by which the behavior is exposed is almost as bad as the behavior itself.  As I said, I’m not sure Lester would have received justice had the camera not been rolling, though he perhaps would have received a black eye.  Maybe Ripley will now be more reticent about ripping off young bloggers in the future.

Kudos to Lester for standing up for his rights.

15 Responses to A Blogger’s Revenge

  • What do you think of the amount he asked for and received, $500? Seems like a lot for one article, especially since I had not heard of the blogger before. Was that a fair amount to demand?

  • $500.00 won’t even pay an attorney for clearing his throat these days Spambot. It was a good settlement for both the newspaper and the blogger in order to avoid very expensive, and probably protracted, litigation in the local Federal district court.

  • Okay, thanks.

  • $500 was cheap, indeed. Lester is a charitable fellow, indeed, seeing as he could have become the owner of what was left of the paper.

  • This is hard to watch. It makes me have some questions.

    Am I to understand that the high cost of attorney’s and the potential cost or loss of his paper may have been deciding factors in agreeing to pay the $500? Did the written letter that he showed the man on the counter suggest that there would be legal action?

    Could it be that the editor was intimidated by the sudden appearance of a facile, taller, younger man followed by a camera, thrusting forth some documents and asking for payments?
    Maybe the editor just saw that he shouldn’t have reprinted the blog and that arguing that it was already “all over the internet” (in people’s emails?) would do him any good, Maybe cases like this should have been tried to define issues more clearly for people?

    I wouldn’t say the blogger was charitable. He was making a point and making the editor pay– all justifiable legally I think. (what we just witnessed not ex-tort; only a minor bit of intimidation, a subtle threat that the young man who doesn’t want to say where he is from, knows more and has a camera in tow.)

    But this might not be an example of taking the high road. He could have talked with the editor, asked that attribution be printed, that an apology made, that the paper run free advertisements for his blog– etc– but squeezing the guy in such a confrontational way does not seem the mark of a generous man. He could have been nicer about it. I doubt he would have received a black eye.

  • Guys it is not about whether one of them was intimidating or not it is about whether or not what those guys were wrong or right.

  • I am sorry, I was using bad grammer there was supposed to be a “doing was” in between “were” and “wrong”.

  • The world is so unjust. People take credit for other people’s works and advance from it. Some get caught and have to pay $500 while others become the Vice President or the United States.

  • True RL, but if you were Biden wouldn’t you steal the thoughts of other men due to a paucity of thoughts of Biden’s own? :)

  • Donald LOL.

  • I suppose so Don. Come to think of it, when you put it that way, Biden’s action is probably not even considered stealing as understood by the Catholic Church.

  • It is called intellectual property theft or plagiarism and Lester could have demanded what was left of the newspaper, if he so chose. $500.00 is a small amount.

  • Many years ago I worked for a small weekly paper not unlike this one. It was common practice for us to reprint items written or submitted by others, such as press releases from local schools, hospitals, etc. Occasionally we would also publish verbatim stories written by others. However, it was always done by AGREEMENT, or by first asking permission of the author and including his/her byline if the story was of a length comparable to this one.

    As small as our staff was it would have been impossible to write every story from scratch. But, to simply lift an entire article written by someone else, particularly concerning a controversial issue that was “the talk of the town,” AND not give them any credit would have been unthinkable. Being “a little hometown paper” is no excuse!

    It is possible that Mr. Ripley and his mother (the woman in the video) had seen the blog post at multiple sites or sources and didn’t have time to track down exactly where it came from before their deadline, which probably was about 2 or 3 days prior to the publication date. Or perhaps they mistook it for a press release of some kind. Either way, when Mr. Lester showed up, they knew or should have known immediately that he was right. But, both of them being stubborn old “Missouri mules,” didn’t want to admit it! Perhaps they were having a really bad day or something but if their demeanor in the video is any indication of their general attitude toward the public, I would not want to work for them, ever!

    Also, $500 was more than I would have asked but ultimately not out of line. I currently write theater and concert reviews and short (under 1,000 words) feature stories for a local daily paper on a freelance/stringer basis, and generally receive $50 to $100 per article depending on length and format. And these are for articles that, for me, are very easy to do in my spare time and don’t involve a lot of research. An article comparable to Mr. Lester’s, that involves doing investigative legwork, should be worth more. Granted, a small weekly can’t normally afford to pay those kind of rates, but Mr. Lester was demanding additional compensation for having had his work plagiarized. If Mr. Ripley had called him first and asked permission to reprint the article with his byline, Mr. Lester probably would have asked a far lower price or just let him have it for free.

  • Here is a link to the statutory section governing damages in copyright infringement cases:

    http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/17/504

    The Court in its discretion may order that the Defendant pick up the tab for the Plaintiff’s attorney’s fee if the Plaintiff prevails. Likewise the Court may order in its discretion that the Plaintiff pick up the tab for the Defendant’s attorney’s fee if the Defendant prevails. The $500.00 settlement was a very good deal for the newspaper and I do think the blogger was being generous for accepting it after making his point.

    There is a lesson for all of us in this. Full attribution of all quoted material, and links to whoever is quoted, and keep those quotes relatively short to come under the “fair use” rubric. Additionally, if you are ever requested to take down quoted material from your blog do so immediately.

  • Donald McClarey’s informative piece is very much appreciated, if I might add enjoyed.

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