IMPORTANT MESSAGE FROM THE RALLY GROUP B SHRINE OWNER & AUTHOR
It has very recently come to my attention (thank you Jim, you are a good friend) that some writers / bloggers on a very popular automotive website have been plagiarising (for months) articles from my Rally Group B Shrine website to help them publish their own articles about Group B & S cars. PLEASE NOTE THAT YOU CANNOT DUPLICATE MY ARTICLES (or parts thereof) WITHOUT MY PERMISSION! That warning was always and is clearly posted.
One such person (blogger) in particular has been plagiarising good chunks (sometimes even in their entirety) of my articles (over a dozen of them) via copy / paste of text and claiming them as his own writing, and as you may have guessed, all without any attribution or citing this website as his source. I am not here to harm the reputation of that person (you clearly know who you are) and as proof of that I shall refer to him as “Mr. X”.
Dear Mister X, you are probably young and headstrong, most likely a bit like I used to be in my youth, and as such you will surely feel reticent to accept what I have to say about your actions. However, if you truly wish to become a journalist as you claim in your profile, you will need to keep your ego in check and accept criticism. I have now seen the horrifying extent of how much material you have stolen from me over the past year and I must admit that it made me literally sick to my stomach. Ethics and proper procedures should be the first concerns of a (future) journalist.
First, surely you must know that taking a book to the copy machine and claiming the copies as your own property is illegal, right? That is called “copyright infringement”. Let me introduce you to the fact that you are NOT freely entitled to everything that is accessible on the internet. Copyright laws exist even here. Little known fact is that you actually do not need a copyright sign or mention for your content to be protected by these laws. However, most websites who feel strongly opposed to their content being copied will display such warnings. Did you notice them plastered all over this website, including in the articles themselves? Sure you did, but you ignored them nonetheless (why?). Furthermore, this website has nice LEGAL NOTICES for you to read, which, as a “wannabe” journalist, should be one of your first steps when stepping into a website. All the information that you needed with potentially using my content was in there.
Secondly, another little known fact is that most informative websites will allow some sort of copying of text as long as proper attribution is made. This means clearly mentioning where you took the material from and giving an hyperlink back to it. Most of the time, this will protect you from copyright infringement (which is basically what you failed to do by stealing my text without attribution or asking permission, by the way). However, the best way to avoid this is to simply use the contact forms and simply ask! You’d be surprised at how friendly people can be when the proper procedure is followed.
A perfect example of this can be found in my MG Metro 6R4 (click) page. I had written a quick excerpt when first launching the Shrine but had trouble finding the time to research the car’s history further (it deserved better), so I turned to 6R4.net and kindly asked them if I could use their history page in exchange for clear attribution and a link back to their website. Guess what? They agreed and I even made a friend in the process! To thank him (thanks again, Nicky!), I have given 6R4.net a free lifetime advertisement spot in my community website links.
As further proof of how things are truly done in the automotive press, early this year I was contacted by an editor at Pacenotes Rally Magazine: they were making a Ford Escort special edition and wanted to use my article about the RS1700T in their magazine (full story HERE). Did they steal it without asking? They certainly could have, and I probably would never have known about it, but they didn’t. As professionals, they knew better. They asked me permission and I actually provided them with the article FREE OF CHARGE, simply in exchange for a free copy of the issue it would be printed in. This led to them advertising on my website to help me a tiny bit towards paying my yearly hosting fees (thank you, Jonathan!).
Requests for material from my website have also given me the great opportunity to get in touch with Bill Munro, author of the upcoming book “Traction for Sale” (about FFD’s history). We started cooperating on a common goal of seeking further knowledge. This has led me to awesome discoveries about little known Group B prototypes which in turn has also helped Bill get extra material for his book.
Another perfect example of proper internet etiquette can be found in my Audi quattro Group S prototype page. Notice how clearly it is shown that I used outside material for that page? I contacted MotorSport Magazine (the publisher of the John McIlroy article) and kindly asked them permission to use it in exchange for the usual source and back-link. Again, guess what? Mr. Cruickshank, their chief editor, kindly agreed to it. Furthermore, it gave me access to a business relationship which has helped my website gain even more content for fans of Group B to enjoy! The back-link gives them more “foot traffic” and potential subscribers. That’s why attribution makes it fair!
Does me asking permission detract from the pertinence of my intentions to provide the best information possible about the car? It doesn’t. Does it make me less of a “good author” because I didn’t write it myself? It doesn’t. People in the press share information all the time! Simple ego check, and it sure complemented my own article very well! Mr. X, by not checking your ego that time, you stole not only my material but that of MotorSport Magazine copyright when you copied their article from my website. Oh and surprise, you edited out the copyright and sources parts that you didn’t want!
If you didn’t know, editing stuff out and adding some personal comments here and there DOES NOT make it your own article nor does it give you the right to forego copyright laws or proper etiquette. Basically, what you are doing is simply a review/critique of car articles you didn’t write. A review/critique is normally allowed under copyright laws but it demands that you clearly identify the original work and where you got it from. To me, it is blatantly evident the difference of what you steal via copy / paste and what you actually write yourself. How can your readers be fooled by this evidence and truly think it is all your own writing, this I am not sure!
For your information, an article MUST be extensively modified from its original form to “make it your own”. This means that you can use the knowledge that you amassed by reading other people’s work but you MUST write it back with YOUR OWN WORDS. That is legal in the eyes of the law. It’s what some of your fellow bloggers did with a few of their Group B / S articles even if they sourced the knowledge mostly on my website. How do I know this? I always use “secret markers” in my articles: a unique turn of phrase or term that only I could come up with in a particular description. These “markers” makes it easy for me to identify who has possibly taken my content, and they are found in multiple other blogger articles. However, upon review, their articles didn’t have any copy / paste of my text but did use my marker in a description of the car. Nonetheless, they had the decency, courage, and professionalism to write their own complete article, all the while re-transmitting the knowledge they had gained by reading my work but in their own unique way. And that is… OK!
After all, how do you think I know so much about Group B? Sure, I had a lot of inherent knowledge through experience, but I’ve read a lot of books about the topic over the past 30 years to help me learn more: it’s a real passion of mine. However, I’ve never straight up copied text from those books into my articles. I know better or otherwise it would be a huge insult to the authors who worked very hard to produce good books. I am simply redistributing the knowledge I have gained from them in my own unique way. And that is how it should be done!
That being said, I am not perfect. I, too, once had a scrape with copyright infringement not that long ago! I was unknowingly hosting copyrighted pictures of McKlein Publishing: the amazing archive of the tireless work of world renowned motorsport photographer, Reinhard Klein. You can fully read about it HERE (click). My strong personal ethics made me take an afternoon off work to “make it right”, and upon intense research of their archive I removed all of their copyrighted pictures from the website. I did that even though the Klein family said they wouldn’t take action against me even if I didn’t! Guess how my good actions rewarded me? Permission to access great HD pictures from the Eifel Rallye Festival, which is run by the Kleins.
That in turn brought even greater things: a friendly relationship with the Kleins, which also brought me into communication with some of Group B’s great names such as John Davenport, John Wheeler, and Ari Vatanen. It is an honour for me to now have my hard work acknowledged by such people. This is what having good ethics and good principles rewards you with. In return for their kindness, I am helping in promoting their Group B related events, books, and all sorts of things. I am doing this free of charge and on my own limb. After all, keeping the history and the spirit of Group B alive is why I started this website. All I can do to help that cause I will do. All of my acknowledgements can be found in my “About Me” page. Doing that is the right thing to do.
Mister X (if you were able to keep your ego in check until now and are still reading), are you beginning to understand why what you did has hurt me so much? How taking my material and claiming it as your own is an affront to the hundreds (yes, multiple HUNDREDS) hours that I have spent in the makings of this website? How could you accept all the praise that your readers gave you while knowing fully well that you had stolen most of your article texts from me, all of it without batting an eye? That last part is what really made me sick. And to think that you probably are doing it to other authors as well in your non Group B related articles, I shudder thinking about it. How do you think they’d react? Life is not just about getting “likes” and praise from names on a screen that you will never meet in real life. It’s the great evil: the ego-feeding trap that plagues modern youths in social networking.
Let me go further with an hypothesis: let’s suppose that you had also stolen my Ford RS1700T article earlier this year? Pacenotes Rally Magazine might have found the article on your blog instead of my website! From what I know of your character so far, I have reasons to believe that you would have sold it in your name without even flinching. Do you realise the problem here? In contrast, if attribution is clearly made, the real author will be getting the credit that he or she fully deserves!
That being said, Mr. X, I could be pursuing legal counsel right now but everyone makes errors in judgement. I once did, so for now I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt. However, I must strongly stress on the fact that what you did is WRONG and as long that you do not realise it and fix it, you will have ZERO respect from me and are not welcomed here.
You had the opportunity to realise your wrongdoings when confronted but responded to Jim’s comment by saying that you praise me for my work (ironically, thank you for trusting my website as a the source of information for Group B) and yet you admitted that you stole from me anyway. Overall, you made your reply sound like you did nothing wrong and won’t correct what you did. In fact, you seemed angry that you got caught by trying to vote down Jim’s comments so that they get buried down the pile.
That’s most likely your ego acting up, and forgive me for being blunt, but you are evidently young and your foolish pride and sense of entitlement is blinding your judgement. If you have any sense of decency, and truly wish to work towards becoming an automotive journalist, you must change your ways and you must do it quick. Admitting wrong, while it can be very difficult for the ego, is ultimately the better choice. In that respect I truly hope that you will do the right thing.
That being said, Mr. X, I would kindly ask of you to come clean to all of your followers on your blog and state in an honest, good-hearted post, what you did (not just to me but to other authors you most likely stole from). I know that sounds really hard to do but you really shouldn’t fear about “losing respect” from your readers. In fact, you will be surprised that the contrary will most likely happen and you will gain an insane amount of support for coming clean. Ultimately, you will indeed learn more from this than if you continue in denial, and it will help you achieve your goals in life.
Furthermore, I would kindly ask of you, if it is at all possible, that you edit all of your articles that include content you illegally copied and please add clear attribution of those parts to the real authors (and give links to websites in question). I have shown you examples on how this is done earlier. Remember, attribution doesn’t make you any less of a “man”, in fact, it quite is the opposite: it shows maturity. Your readers will still love your for bringing interesting content to them on a social media platform that they like.
Remember that the lesson here is not that learning through other people’s work is bad, quite the contrary, it is actually that stealing and taking credit from them is wrong. With time and knowledge you will become a good writer on your own. In fact, you show some promise by the addition of extra info of which you put in. This means that you are willing to research and learn. Start practising writing your own full articles. Critics be damned if at first they don’t like your writing style! Cheating by stealing is not the answer to those critics. You will beat them by learning through your errors and you will be proud of what you have done: of what you have correctly done! When that day comes, you will have my respect. Meanwhile, I guess Jim will be watching, and so will I.
UPDATE: “Mr. X” has been strongly reprimanded by his blog’s host and his most of his stolen articles were deleted. I have nonetheless taken some extra steps at protecting my content, again sadly at my own cost… this has more than doubled my yearly hosting fees. I will however sleep more soundly, and that in itself is worth the investment.
website owner & author