Are Yahoo Guilty of Unethical Plagiarism With Syndicated Content?

Bloggers often complain that another blogger has stolen their content (plagiarism) or reworked their ideas without giving credit, and on the internet among bloggers, credit isn’t just mentioning their names but providing a link, preferably to the original article.

Major Websites and Press Agencies Seriously Don’t Give a Damn About Conventions

I am not a lawyer, this post is personal opinion. Please treat any legal information as for entertainment purposes only

Vipul Arora wrote a story today entitled Yahoo plagiarizes content – does not give credit!!

But was it plagiarism?

Lets go into detail and see what happens, and how this all works.

Museum of Hoaxes publish a great piece of linkbait “Top100 April Fool’s Hoaxes of All Time

Museum of Hoaxes

The Missing Pointer

AFP Picks up the story

Now unfortunately AFP doesn’t include a link through to the original source of the material it used. Links provide attribution on the internet and are used by visitors to read the rest of the story (only the top10 was published, not all 100 items), and by search engines in their calculation of the original source.

I am not sure where the law is on this, they only used 10% of the material, and they did provide attribution in textual form. They also didn’t use the content word for word.

Then again in value to readers the Top 10 is probably worth more than positions 20 – 100

Here are 10 of the top April Fool’s Day pranks ever pulled off, as judged by the San Diego-based Museum of Hoaxes for their notoriety, absurdity, and number of people duped.

You might think this is a minor issue, but Google currently shows the title of the story on 10,900 websites.

Yahoo Plagiarism?

Yahoo was the most prominent site that picked up the story – they have permission from AFP to use the content that legally probably isn’t plagiarism, but bloggers if it happened to them would be very upset, unless they gave specific permission.

Yahoo Hoaxes

Yahoo are in many ways the innocent party in this, but ultimately the site that is benefiting from the content the most. It is a very popular story that has already garnered over 900 votes on Yahoo. That is a lot of votes as not every reader would click the vote button.

Just imagine if there was a link through to the original source

Effect on Traffic

The Museum of Hoaxes should have had a tidal wave of eager readers visiting their site. It is possible they gained a small surge from search traffic from people who were interested in finding the rest of the Top100.

The story should have also done insanely well on social bookmarking services.

Museum of Hoaxes on Digg

This is actually an extreme example of what happens when correct attribution (in internet terms) isn’t given by the press to the original author of an article.

Printed Media

Printed media in the UK, if referencing a website, typically use a service such as to provide a link from an article so that they don’t have to print a long URL – that is a very ethical method, though I would question why they don’t spend $20 and buy their own redirect script that can be branded.

A Similar Example

This is actually a similar situation to what happened with Colleen who was recently interviewed by the LA Times regarding PayPerPost.

The followup video interview was a cracker, and you really should read the comments for a discussion on ThisNext vs PayPerPost, and whether you should have to use a disclosure when commenting.

I should also point out that I have seen a number of blogs that have also written about the LA Times story, and linked to their syndication partners ;)

Pot Calling the Kettle Black

The press shouldn’t attack the ethics of bloggers if they don’t provide correct attribution for the medium in which they are working. On TV it is verbal, in print it is written, and the best print even provide short links.

Online correct attribution is links.

Even Wikipedia provide a clickable click, although it does use nofollow

Note: Screenshots were used with permission from Vipul, it saved me 5 minutes preparing this. He has contacted AFP questioning their method of attribution.

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  1. says

    Very disturbing. Especially so if the original story was on the site of a hard working writer who finally wrote something that should garner a lot of traffic that they did not end up receiving!

  2. says

    I have seen these scrapers coming. now, in the real estate industry, you have blatantly stealing listing information. Trulia cloaking…etc…etc.

  3. says

    It happens all the time. Someone comes up with great link bait, the idea is stolen and the person stealing it usually ends up with the traffic/links from it…