Fitzroyalty

Hyperlocal news about Melbourne's first suburb: Fitzroy 3065

imitation is not the sincerest form of flattery

| 16 Comments

I am curious about the future of media and am exploring this by participating in it, by publishing a hyperlocal news sites and involving myself in online communities. I’ve tried to create something new and unique with Fitzroyalty and the ongoing interest in it suggests that people find it useful and entertaining. I find it rewarding to publish my site, and I appreciate all the feedback I receive and all the friends and contacts I have made in the Melbourne social media / citizen journalism scene.

I’m not trying to build a commercial business that has a brand to market and protect, but I do take my reputation seriously. I monitor the net for discussions about my site and respond to comments and critiques when appropriate. While doing this I recently found a (supposedly satirical) fake or spoof version of Fitzroyalty on WordPress.com.

The bitter tone of the fake site implies that it has been created as an attempt at satire, although its parody is inconsistent and it collapses into mimicry. I have no problem with satire, but malicious mimicry does not equal parody.

The idiom ‘imitation is the sincerest form of flattery’ does not seem correct in this context. I would have thought that anyone who wanted to publish their own site would use their time and effort to create something original, rather than make a mediocre copy of someone else’s site.

Of the thousands of sites in Australia published as a hobby by individuals like me, why has mine received this response? Is Fitzroyalty sufficiently important or influential to warrant such vindictive behaviour? I don’t think so. What motivates someone to do something like this?

The potential for confusion concerns me: the fake site may be mistakenly confused with my work by some readers because it uses the same name. Its poor grammar (including numerous incorrect apostrophes), inconsistent metadata and blatant theft of images from other sites, such as Facehunter and the Age newspaper, are contrary to my efforts to maintain high standards in relation to copyright and other forms of publishing practice. I have written often to complain when my content has been stolen or unlawfully repressed by others.

I read the WordPress.com terms of service and determined that the fake site was in breach for two reasons; first that it deliberately misrepresented itself as my site and second that it featured stolen content. I emailed WordPress.com to explain the situation and to ask for the site to be renamed or removed.

I made a formal DMCA application, as this is the surest way to get the attention of publishers like WordPress or Youtube, where I won my DMCA case again Formula 1 Management earlier this year. WordPress.com responded by informing me that only copyright owners can make a copyright complaint, so I commented on Facehunter and emailed the editor of the Age to inform them that their content appears to have been republished without acknowledgement or approval on the fake site. Neither has replied.

WordPress.com did not seem very interested in upholding their own values in relation to the fake site being misleading, despite their terms of service stating that its contributors must declare that:

your blog is not named in a manner that misleads your readers into thinking that you are another person or company. For example, your blog’s URL or name is not the name of a person other than yourself or company other than your own[.]

WordPress.com indicated that they would not remove the site but would ask its publisher to make it clear that they are not associated with me. However, they have set no deadline for this to occur.

While I love using WordPress.org software, I am extremely disappointed by the indifferent attitude of the WordPress.com staff. Their professionalism and ability to uphold their organisational values are challenged by this situation, and their response has been inadequate, particularly when compared to the prompt response I received from Youtube in dealing with a different copyright and intellectual property matter earlier this year.

I have chosen to speak about this situation to inform my readers that the fake site is not authorised by me and its content is not legitimate or authentic. I am interested in what other people think about this unusual situation, how they feel about the ethics of publishing and the responsibility of WordPress.com to uphold its terms of service.

I don’t want the fake site to be deleted because it attacks me. I want its name changed so there is no potential for misrepresentation or confusion. Call it ‘ihatefitzroyalty’ for all I care. It should be deleted because it violates the WordPress.com terms of service. It’s not about censorship. Its about ethics and transparency.

Update 24 November 2009: when I published this story I also emailed my original complaint to WordPress.com again, hoping it would be seen by a different person who could interpret their terms of service better, and this seems to have worked. The fake site has been suspended. Thank you, whoever you are, for your response.

16 comments

  1. AW gee shucks aren’t you a defender of social media justice across the board.
    Complain to wordpress about “stolen content”, then complaining on your site is just a gigantic bore. Not everyone is concerned about your personal problems and nobody is interested in your little squabbles that happen way, way too often. No wonder someone made a parody. You have such a high opinion of yourself and everything you do that your site suffers for it.

    You should spend all this time you spend huffin’ and puffin’ about injustice in copyright and being at the epicentre of a journalistic revolution on bettering your content that is clearly lacking. Take better photos and post more of them, redesign your ugly site, post more often, and then if you have time leftover, give us the OCCASIONAL “this is what I’ve been doing for the site” post. Jesus.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 22 Thumb down 6

    • I’m always amused by people who say they hate my site but who obviously read it a lot. Your expectations are irrelevant. If you don’t like it, don’t read it.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 20

  2. Like I said, what you do post about Fitzroy is entertaining, if lacking in substance. Your efforts are misguided and your whiney posts are obnoxious. That is a big reason why people hate your site. If other Melbourne bloggers worked on Fitzroy content instead of their own, I would never bother with your site in the first place.

    My expectations are irrelevant? Yeah, I guess your readers giving you feedback is a bane of the new anarchistic and radically individualistic media. Dismissing criticism is the best way to buddy up to your fellow bloggers and blog readers, it’s one step away from deleting comments or banning people from the site. I’ll read and complain as much as I want to, and if you understood how this thing works you might welcome that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 4

    • I appreciate a lot of criticism, but just as you have a low opinion of my content I have a low opinion of your comments. I don’t do this to please people like you. You don’t understand me and I have no interest in explaining myself to you.

      I have a consistent policy about approving or deleting comments based on whether they are topical and coherent, not full of pointless name calling. Complain as much as you want, but I decide what comments to approve. Social media is not a democracy.

      If the kind of media you want to consume does not exist, go out and create it instead of expecting other people to do it for you.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 16

  3. Fine. Don’t explain yourself to me. You are king webmaster and I am but one of your loyal subjects. You’re worse than commercial media because they care about their subscribers. Don’t worry about straining your moderator finger on approving comments because this is my last, I think I’ve succeeded in proving my point and nothing will change.

    Toodles.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 5

    • Your comparison of legacy commercial media and social media like Fitzroyalty is not well informed. The newspapers are desperate to retain you as a paying customer; I don’t accept payment and am not desperate to retain you as a reader. I don’t need you the way commercial media needs its readers. I accept that you will read me or not depending on your free will.

      Your expectation that you can influence my product by threatening to stop being a reader has no power over me, because I lose nothing by losing you as a reader. Far from proving your point, you have helped me support my own argument that non-commercial social media producers are free to create content based on their own interests rather than obeying a fickle audience.

      I’m one person discussing my opinions about my local area. I don’t claim my work to be authoritative, comprehensive, reliable or better than the work of my peers. The whole point of social media is that no one publisher can be everything for everyone. I offer only one voice about Fitzroy; if you want more diversity read the Fitzroy local new site, which syndicates the views of over 150 different people.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 16

  4. See, given your ‘voice of the people’ politics, it should bother you that a huge number of the people who read your site read it because they hate you. And I respect their desire to express this by posting comments here or by lampooning you elsewhere – after all, it’s their suburb you purport to represent, under the name ‘Fitzroyalty’, a backhanded hipster reference you hilariously fail to understand. As you prove daily: blogging is for hating. And your house-of-cards logic trembles every time you insist the hate can only roll one way.

    Anyway, next time you crow about reader stats, maybe don’t assume it reflects your service to the community.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 5

    • Why should what you say bother me? Your opinion means nothing to me. The fact that you’re still reading and contributing, even if I only publish 1 in 10 of your hysterical comments, means my site is succeeding in drawing an audience and you’re helping me to do it.

      People are free to satirise Fitzroyalty; they are not free to abuse the WordPress.com terms of service to misprepresent their publication as mine. It’s a straightforward difference.

      As for the name, what makes you think I don’t understand its contested meanings?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 16

  5. If you want to get into an argument about “whether you are a hipster or not” unfortunately you automatically lose.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 4

  6. It’s amusing me greatly that anonymousse is giving advice on how to run a blog, when s/he appears to have a tenuous – at best – grasp on how media works. And I quote: “commercial media … care about their subscribers”. Ha, ha!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 13

    • It is most amusing! Perhaps it is time to reveal another amusing anecdote related to this and previous stories.

      ‘Nicci’, you’re not quite smart enough to play this game. You’re not anonymous. I’ve known all along you’re another persona from Three Thousand and its parent company Right Angle Studio, because your IP number is 220.253.xxx.xxx, the same as Penny and ‘Nadia‘.

      Are you trolling on behalf of your employer, or are you just wasting time at work trolling for your own amusement?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 10

  7. Maybe ‘Nicci’ should stick to writing about the latest David Guetta release…. Perhaps she ‘went hard’ on the weekend and is having her tuesday blues?

    I appreciate the phenomenal amount hard work you put into this site Brian. As usual, your comments are spot on and ethically sound. Keep it up….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 9

    • Thanks Brad – it’s nice to hear some confirmation of my approach to this. The behaviour of these people is bizarre. They have some poorly articulated and entirely inappropriate sense of entitlement, which they think I have somehow thwarted, and they have responded with an insipid form of alienation, disenchantment and disenfranchisement.

      It’s like people who complain about the political biases of newspapers, but with a significant difference. Newspapers are big businesses that cannot easily be challenged by setting up a competitor or alternative, so until recently people felt trapped into continuing to consume something they disliked because there was nothing else to read.

      This is no longer true. Anyone can set up a site as I have done and share their view of life with the world. I don’t expect the world to care or to listen to me. Readers are free to visit my site or not depending on their own preferences.

      There’s a lot of sites and blogs to read, and I have many in my feed reader. If I get tired of one I simply stop reading it. I don’t waste my time initiating a campaign of malicious mimicry or attempt anonymous trolling to attack someone simply because I dislike or disagree with what they say.

      The maladjusted worldview of these people is fascinating and anachronistic. They act like Fitzroyalty is the Age. It is not. Not only are there lots of other blogs to read if they don’t like mine, they can easily create their own.

      Their failure to do anything more than negative and bitter parody reflects their own lack of initiative, imagination and originality.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 13

  8. It’s because your site has such a cool name, how could they not try copy you. Meh haters, gonna hate, just ignore that shit.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

  9. Well done Brian. I don’t live in Melb but follow your site anyway, as it’s one of the more intelligent sites out there.
    Your investigations into the hyperlocal ideas intrigue me and encourage me to do the same with my site.
    I love the contributions your fellow bloggers make to your site, and think you’re doing a great job.
    Keep it up!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 4

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