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Revenge of the Bloggers

What would you do if someone wronged you in a blatant way? You would probably have words and if that didn’t produce an apology would more than likely as a next step blog about it, right? And probably invite your blogger friends to also blog about it? Of course a lot of them will anyway, particularly if what the dude did was dumb, damaging or both. And of course their readers might well pick up the story. Then what if the guy, instead of getting the point threatens you with lawyers and all kinds of legal threats?

While posed as a hypothetical question, this has actually a basis in a real story that is playing out. Kris Krug first blogged about his problem in February. He had been contacted that some of his photographs (quite noticeable because of his style is quite distinctive) turning up on another guys portfolio. Kris blogged about it, the pictures disappeared, everyone wondered at the cheek of the guy (often on their blogs) then got on with their lives.

End of story right?

Turns out the alleged photo thief didn’t like the fact that his name was now turning up for a unsavoury Google result; Kris’ blog. So what did he do? Called his lawyer …

Now, this being the blogosphere what didn’t happen is Kris roll over and take the content down and say “please mr don’t sue me”. Actually, he posted the legal letter up on Flickr. And, this being the blogosphere, lots of people thought “no way!” and posted to their own blogs, of course using the lawyer-using-alleged-photo-thief’s name (as you do).

Rather than a small problem that might have been resolved amicably he now has a much bigger problem that might never be cleared up. If you wanted to get professional photography gigs you probably wouldn’t want potential clients seeing these sorts of search results.

So, interesting story, justice prevails, etc. End of. Right?

Well in this case it seems from where I am sitting things played out much as you would expect and the guy got something amounting to what he deserved. (Perhaps a bit more than really necessary but it does look like he acted like a twit then escalated the whole thing way more than he needed to).

What concerns me is the scale and ease that this man’s professional reputation has been shredded. Even if he deserved it, how much chance has he of ever showing his face as a professional photographer? People forget, Google less so. Take out the scenario and personalities involved in this particular case and just look at the cause and effect, that is a pretty big scary stick bloggers wield isn’t it?

How about next time someone is set up? Or falsely accused. What happens then? Searches for some innocent persons name show all sorts of sensational lies. You could say there are laws to protect the innocent in those cases, but that is assuming you have the time and  money, but also that the sites and authors are in geographies where you can even go after them.

My worry is with bloggers as judge, jury and executioner, rule of the lynch mob will become the norm with very little anyone can do about it.

Author: Chris Garrett

Chris Garrett is a content marketing and blogging coach and co-author of the Problogger Book with Darren Rowse.

14 thoughts on “Revenge of the Bloggers

  1. I hear what you are saying, but lets look at it from the bloggers side, in that not only was his work stolen, he then faced possible legal action as well. Sure, blogger lynch mobs aren’t only possible but exist, but until there is an alternative to solving such disputes without the use of lawyers and courts this is pretty much the way things will continue to be. The little guy (ie the bloggers) really dont have much of an alternative when it comes to threats of legal action etc…as they say it takes two to tango.

  2. But changing the rule to ‘nocache’ should force Google to delete pages from the cache, shouldn’t it?

  3. Google keeps some content cached a long time Gunnar, I have one dead domain with hundreds of pages cached

  4. It’s scary for all of us. Actually it must be even more scary for those of us who blog. Imagine that you somehow fall in “bad standing” with the blogerati!
    You’ll be dead meat before you can say “rss-feed”.
    Bloggers shoot first and research later – if ever. I know – I’ve done it a lot myself.
    Not healthy to truth.

  5. Google does not archive dead content forever.
    If you remove the site/post – it will only be there for some time.
    You will need to go to the internet archive to find it.

  6. That taking what is not yours is stealing. . .

    Mr. Corazza has a hard case proving to me that as a professional photographer he didn’t at the start know what he was doing. With that in mind, he should have apologized profusely and negotiated a settlement that included some amendment to the blog post at the very moment he was caught.

    That being said, to then attempt to use the system that he defied to defend himself is worse than ironic. Again he should have dealt directly with Mr. Krug and give some good faith proof of his rehabilitation. Instead he went from thief to bully.

    I agree, Chris, the blogosphere response is scary. I can’t help but wonder how many people posted without actually researching all of the facts. The answer to a bully is not to put the whole playground on beating up the bully. That just brings everyone to his level.

    This kind of response IS dangerous and it is also one reason that folks who don’t blog distrust bloggers.

    Zero tolerance is excellent, but I’m not sure that anyone should be vulnerable to this sort of unerasable attack.

    I can’t help but think that it could happen to anyone of us by accident and it could never, ever be put right.

  7. I wonder, even if this copyright infringer had responded in a civil way… the blogpost of Mr Krug could never be revoked, could it? So even without posting the lawyer’s letter, the blogpost stating that Corazza stole his pictures would still pop-up in Google search results.
    I mean, even if he had deleted the post upon a very kind request of Mr Corazza, it would be too late?

  8. you know what judge judy says…

    if you are a convicted thief – and someone then claims out loud “you are a thief” you can’t sue them because the truth is a 100% defense!

  9. Kind words. But attack and counter attack is human. If the guy counter attacking is stupid, well, then things will happen this way.

    Write a private email
    No success? Write a bill.
    No success? Go public with full force. And full force forward means writing emails to other blog owners, the union(s) and using your personal publishing power.

    I don’t see the Internet or the blogosphere as a mob.

  10. By all accounts, the blogging world got this one right. Great. It looks like this plagiarist was a true sleazeball and deserved to have his reputation put into the shredder. It’s doubtful he’ll emerge as a professional phtographer ever again under his old name.

    But in dealing with plagiarism matters, I’ve seen more cases where the mob got it wrong than where the mob got it right. I encourage people to deal with things face to face and in private. Mistakes are just too easy to make.

    Of course, this case is somewhat unique. The plagiarist tried to threaten his victim. A dumb move and, as JimK said, a classic case of the Striesand Effect. No one carred about him before the letter now EVERYONE knows who he is.

    Still, I worry though. A) These things often go to far, opening up harassment charges and both potential criminal and civil matters beyond the scope of plagiarism. B) Mistakes happen, a lot.

    For every major plagiarist deservedly shredded by the mob, at least two people are either misidentified as plagiarists or are small fish that made a mistake.

    There are no second chances though. Not once the mob has attacked. Sad, but tue.

  11. What JimK said. And six degrees of separation is a sort of vehicle for this sort of thing. The power of our human-connectedness spreads this sort of story fast.

  12. It’s called “The Streisand Effect.” A few years back, Babs got riotously angry that a coastal California photography project dared to photograph her cliff-side home. Along, of course, with thousand of others. Her home was not unidentified until she raised holy hell about it, at which point every paper, magazine, news entertainment show and blog did a story on it, complete with photo.

    The parent of The Streisand Effect” is “The law of unintended consequences.” People have been ignoring that law and it’s progeny for years.

  13. Without being specific to the current subject, this is the inherent risks in trusting the wisdom of crowds. If something, even if it is false catches on, then that is captured for posterity.

  14. There’s a similar scenario I know of, where a blogger’s reputation and CV of work is destroyed by the owner of the blog he’s working at and he has to go solo and start again from scratch.

    Rather than having his reputation sullied and marked through Google, it’s gone in a flash.

    There’s a message for those who are writing on someone else’s blog, and a nice pointer to the recent posts about backing up your work.

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