“You’re in the Mail on Sunday!” gibbers Big A.

I am taken aback. Fearing some sort of expose regarding the chickens, I hurry over to his place to investigate…

Hm. I drop a note to John Wellington, who is the Mail on Sunday’s Managing Editor. It reads:

‘Dear Mr Wellington,

On page 74 of the March 16th issue of ‘The Mail on Sunday’ you published a 392-word piece headlined ‘Blog of the Week – Adventures of a family man who gave up his high-powered job and moved to rural Norfolk’.

The piece (in its entirety) consisted of copyrighted articles lifted without my knowledge or consent from a website for which I am the registered owner…

[bit more blah, yours sincerely, etc.]’

Not having worked for the Mail on Sunday before, and a stated wordage figure proving elusive, I pluck a conservative amount out of the air and stick it on the bottom of an invoice, and send the lot via the kind auspices of the G.P.O. along with one of my stern-looking address labels. To the Mail on Sunday’s credit, they pay me my two hundred quid quicker than most biggish companies would, and John Wellington sends me his (what I am sure are sincere) apologies.

There’s nothing quite so Rikfromtheyoungonesesque about people with blogs getting on their high horse about print journalists, except perhaps print journalists getting on their high horse about people with blogs. Clearly, however, there’s a little bit of a mutual-understanding issue here. I always go for cock-up over conspiracy, but one paragraph of his reply to me does seem a bit… a bit not quite fitting in with what I thought things were about.

‘We generally take the view that blogs published on the internet have already been placed in the public domain by their authors and, in case of amateur writers, most people are happy to have their work recognised and displayed to a wider audience.’


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98 thoughts on “I receive an alarming telephone call!!!

  1. Cheeky f**ckers! (spoken as an editor myself!)

  2. Emma says:

    I don’t know which is worse: the fact that your copyright got ripped off; or that you were printed in the Mail on Sunday.

  3. Clair says:

    Does that mean that any articles that are printed in a newspaper, are now effectively in the public domain and we are therefore free to rip them off in return?

  4. Phil says:

    500/1000 is a conservative amount? No wonder I used to get so much work.

  5. Pat says:


  6. John Wellington did exactly the same thing, several years ago, to Mil Millington:

  7. Crafty buggers.
    That does apply to MySpace, but not, as far as I am aware, to anywhere else.

  8. johng says:

    You got published in a Red Top? Oh, the shame!

  9. JonnyB says:

    Thanks for that link Jim – interesting. I said my figure was ‘conservative’…

    Not quite the same scenario, as his was a blatant case of both theft and passing off. So I think the figure the MoS settled for was pretty fair. On balance, however, that case does make me look less kindly on the ‘we didn’t think we were doing anything wrong’ defence.

  10. JonnyB says:

    What on EARTH is this ‘possibly related posts’ thing that WordPress is automatically inserting above the comments?!?

  11. JonnyB says:

    Clair – a question indeed. As lots of bloggers do that, which I don’t agree with.

    But of course there is no such thing as ‘bloggers’. Just ‘people who have blogs’.

    I guess my question is – WOULD people be grateful/interested in the extra exposure. I know what I THINK the answer is (in general). A few years back I would have KNOWN the answer (in general). But I don’t know much about blogs these days, so – over to you lot.

  12. JonnyB says:

    Aha!!! I have solved the ‘possibly related posts’ thing. There was a setting, which had been sneakily enabled. I suspect it was this that caused the site to run very slowly yesterday, as reported by some people.

    The setting is now de-set.

  13. Adventures of a family man who gave up his high-powered job

    “high-powered job”?

    “family man”??


    Ha! Who knew the Mail could be so funny…

  14. Sarah P says:

    Cheeky sods.

  15. MB says:

    Actually a “friend” of mine got into a load of trouble at work because of his blog’s “extra exposure” in e-health insider.

  16. Did they say “amateur”?
    It’s a bloody liberty.

  17. Tim Worstall says:

    “500/1000 is a conservative amount? No wonder I used to get so much work.”
    Yes, Mail basic rate is £1 per one word.

    But Jebus, after the number of people they’ve tried this on (Coppersblog et al) you’d think they knew by now.

  18. I make no money from my blog, and if I do post a comment or paragraph from another, it truly is for discussion purposes.

    If the Mail received money for the advertisers on the page in question, you deserve a cut, plain and simple.

    “Smithers, release the hounds!”

  19. Richard says:

    Try using the same “public domain” defence against Getty Images and see where that gets you.

    Personally I would have liked to have decked the bastard for calling me an amateur.

  20. NAGA - The Male On A Funday says:


    I guess they did it just so they might get a mention on your PSD.

    Looks rather like you’ve fallen straight into their cunning trap Jonny.

    I feel sure a Wellington (or Big W) ought to feature in the blog somewhere. ” I push my foot to the bottom of the Wellington…”

  21. lisa says:

    ‘most people are happy to have their work recognised and displayed to a wider audience’ IS NOT the same as ‘most people are happy to have their used for the commercial advantage of a large corporation in return for nothing but recognition and potential display to a wider audience’.

    Cheeky buggers, but at least they paid up when requested.

  22. Katy says:

    “I generally take the view that professional journalists paid to produce original content for highly popular national dailies ought to be capable of reading and understanding a clearly displayed copyright notice when they see one.”


  23. Jonners says:

    I will boycott the Mail on Sunday in support of your cause, Jonny. Actually, I’ve never ever bought the tawdry, hateful, rag, but I’ll not allow any of my chips to be wrapped in it or any animal cage that I’m in charge of to be lined with it.

    Cheeky gits.

  24. Brennig says:

    I’m with Jonners. I too shall boycott the MoS in your name.

    And the next time I buy their organ I shall reprint various articles because a) it’s in the public domain and b) must surely be the product of amateur writers…

  25. For a minute, I thought it was going to be an expose on your chicken-love.

    Amateur? I’d sue ’em for that Jonny.

  26. JonnyB says:

    Amateur indeed. Don’t they KNOW WHO I AM???

    Tim – is that Daily Mail or the On Sunday version? I’m not greatly bothered about the figure (and I deliberately kept it realistic to be pragmatic – the fact that they paid me SOMETHING was the issue, rather than the amount).

    For clarity – this seems to be a regular feature. A number of posts lifted from a blog, with the url at the bottom. No attempt to disguise what it is, but no introduction/critical comment either.

    So again, not quite along the Coppersblog debacle – – but page filler, nonetheless.

  27. REG CROWDER says:

    Ummmmm. So, if I get this correctly, you were NOT (a.) naked, (b.) stoned, (c.) drunk, (d.) a member of the Royal Family partying in a Nazi uniform (e.) caught doing anything at all with Paris Hilton, or (f.) a convicted serial sex offender taking a child care center to court for refusing to give you a job.

    And you still got into The Mail on Sunday.


    I’m going to have to start reading your blog more often.

    Freelance Business Journalist
    London, UK & Brittany, UK

    “We have met the enemy and he is us,” Pogo.


  28. REG CROWDER says:

    Well, of course, at the bottom of my comment I meant to say:

    Freelance Business Journalist
    London, UK & Brittany, France

    even though it IS easier to get to central London from France than it is from most of the UK.

  29. judithgr says:

    In which universe shall I be grateful that someone copied my work instead of hiring me to do their work? That paternalistic nod and a pat on the head, oooh how I want to return with a knee to the groin.

  30. Just sounds like lazy journalism to me… the MoS are buggars.

  31. Richard says:

    They won’t lift from you again now that they’ve made you a professional.

  32. Okay, far be it from me to go against the prevailing spirit, but I’d like for just a moment to put the chicken amongst the foxes. Oh, wait a minute, sorry Jonny – I meant cat among the pigeons.

    Seven and a half months ago, my site was featured as the main ‘internet’ selection in The Guardian’s Saturday ‘Guide’. It’s taken me that long – and this post – to realise that whilst they didn’t use any of my text, they did include a very prominent picture of one of my ‘stationery scribbles’. Yes, I probably should have cared more at the time, but to be honest I was too busy jumping up and down, screaming “THE GUARDIAN LOVES ME! THE GUARDIAN LOVES ME!”

    I did write to The Guardian in response to being featured in their pages – not to ask for credit or payment for them using my material, but to thank the journalist who reviewed my site for his kind words in review.

    So was I some kind of idiot for doing so?

    I hate to say it, but as much as I see your point, Jonny, I have a feeling that many of the previous thirty-odd commenters would have reacted in the same way as me if they had received some national press attention. Yes, of course it’s terrible that they use our content without first asking permission or, later, offering payment. But most of us – many of us, I suspect – would just relish a bit of exposure. It’s almost the silent truth that dare not speak its name.

    Mind you, you do have my sympathies for it being the Mail on Sunday. Screw ’em for every right-wing penny they’re worth, I say!

  33. JonnyB says:

    Ah. Yes. So basically what they did was write some editorial about your website and print an example of what you did. Like a review, and a positive one an’ that. I remember it well, and I was dead pleased for you.

    I have felt chuffed when that has happened in the past also. I guess – as you say – many of the people here would have as well.

    Sorry – I don’t see what it has to do with reprinting your blog to provide an unpaid space filler, however.

  34. JonnyB says:

    Sorry – for ‘chuffed’ read ‘really, really chuffed’. Everybody loves a good review. Thank you to any reviewers who are still reading this.

  35. JonnyB says:

    Ooooops – almost forgot. Hullo Reg Crowder, and welcome!!! And Deptford Dame (I think, if you are new to the comments, if not I apologise as I have totally lost track now)

  36. Katy Newton says:

    Actually, something I wrote got a mention in Kate Muir’s column once, but it wasn’t a review or a wholesale theft. She said “Oh, I read this thing by Katy Newton”… and then sort of went off and talked about something related.

    I was quite pleased about it, but I think I’d have been considerably less pleased if she’d lifted the post in question, put it in column format and stuck her name at the bottom, I must admit.

  37. Eddie 2-Sox says:

    Can someone explain please?

    I don’t understand this post. If someone quotes your blog they have to pay you money?

    And you go after them if they don’t?

    I write mine as a sort of personal therapy, and none of it is ever remotely worth printing in a national, or even local, paper. I wouldn’t give a monkey’s if it was reproduced, anywhere.

    But Jonny B’s gone after someone who printed his, and everyone is behind him? So I guess that means that JB’s blog is intended as a kind of online novel (with publishing rights), rather than an online, personal journal?

    So how does The Law differentiate between Private Blogs (mine) which are written to get personal thoughts out of the head, and Private Secret Blogs (JB) which seem – now – to be written for profit? Whether the profit is immediate, or maybe in a few years when written as a sit-com…

    But where is the dividing line?

    Someone explain please?

  38. Clunky says:

    Jonny are you going to get a copy of the article for your chickens to crap on? I think that would be sweet revenge……..

  39. wikum says:

    Long time lurker- I like your … vignettes.

    I think if since you’re paying for hosting/bandwidth your work isn’t in the public domain.

    If you were using blogger or another free service it would become the property of the hosting service- I seem to recall reading about this in one of my PC magazines and users being outraged that their work was no longer their own.

  40. Eddie 2 Sox- It’s the copyright.

    And I may be mistaken, but I believe the phrase “private blog” is an oxymoron.

  41. Eddie 2-Sox says:

    Thanks “hey bartender”.

    As you quoted my name, you owe me £15, ta.

  42. Eddie 2-Sox says:

    Bugger. I quoted YOUR name. I owe you £15 too.

    Let’s call it quits.

  43. Eddie 2-Sox says:

    But my own name, Eddie 2-Sox, appeared too. I owe myself £15?

  44. Bob says:

    By such reasoning entire libraries full of bound volumes are in the “public domain”. Owning a printing press hardly makes one the owner of everyone elses intellectual property. Bastards!

  45. kermit says:

    let me try and put it this way, commenter #38, 42,43, 44:

    “mail on sunday” is a newspaper which people pay to read. they employ people to write stuff and the writers get paid because people buy the newspaper.

    nobody pays you to write your blog (never mind the reasons you write it) and assuming you have no advertising on it, you receive no advertising revenue either. aside from paying an internet connection fee, nobody pays to access it either.

    but suppose someone from a magazine decided to publish one of your entries and give you credit for the column – same as they do for the writers that are paid to work on that magazine – except that they don’t pay you anything for it. the magazine makes money from your column, since now people pay to read it. is it fair that magazine writers get paid and you don’t, given that you’ve both done the same work?

    to exaggerate a bit, suppose i scoured the internet for popular blogs and printed all the entries i found interesting, made it all in a literary supplement and sold it at bookshops. i would get all the money from the sales and the writers would just get publicity. mind you, the only work i did was to rummage through blogs and pick out the ones i liked.

    in the above scenario, is it fair that i receive all the money, given that i wouldn’t have anything to sell were it not for the blog writers?

  46. Linda says:

    Don’t forget Petit Anglais who ended up with a book deal. This sort of publicity could lead to some such thing for you perhaps. I often find portions of my blog, or at least my link, on many other blogs without my permission. I think it is sort of a friendly blogger type thing to do. I wrote about an attack of killer caterpillars in my garden and found myself quoted in the Arkansas Retirement Home site. It made me feel rather old. Not that I am.

  47. peach says:

    no, not without your prior say so – what about your banjo playing, did they promote it? what about your skill in DIY, did they praise it? I think not!

    The Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday are wankers… and so say all of us!

  48. peach says:

    oh yeah, but you could get A Book Deal ?

  49. JonnyB says:

    Yes – Kermit has it.

    I certainly respect Eddie’s, Linda’s and AUW’s point of view – the reason that I wrote the post wasn’t because I was in some state of high dudgeon, but because I was intrigued as to whether there WERE people with blogs who would be happy for this to happen and essentially agreed with the MoS’s stance that whatever the legal situation ‘all publicity is good publicity’. So although they’re in the minority, that is perfectly all right with me!

    It would be easier if I had a screengrab I know – but (one more) clarification: this wasn’t a ‘review’, or ‘me being mentioned’, or ‘some quotes’. It was an article that consisted solely of complete blog posts lifted from this site. Nothing else. Just complete blog posts lifted from this site.

    As I say, I’m not on my high horse, and now we’ve settled financially the matter is closed between us. I do think it’s an interesting discussion point, though. If not as interesting as the chickens.

Comments are closed.