More on the Dvorak.org Mess

12.19.07 | Comment?

Confused about link etiquette? Check this handy primer.

Now that the image is removed, I feel better. But, in responses from Mr. Dvorak last night there’s still a sense that he “doesn’t get it” – I’m of two minds about sharing the correspondence – sunshine is the best deodorant is my default position – but threats of legal action by Mr. Dvorak are making me consider what I want to share. In the end, I can’t see that it makes any difference so I’m going to share. This is the note I sent directly to Mr. Dvorak last night:

Subject: Do you know this is going on?

Hi John,

I’ve been reading your work for years, so I was surprised to see what has transpired today on your blog, dvorak.org.

Here’s the summary: https://montaraventures.com/blog/2007/12/18/dvorak-steals-copyrighted-work/

Do you have any comment about this? It may not be a big deal to you, but it is to me and I’d like to get it sorted out. This can be a net good thing I’d think for the community. I’m not asking for anything other than discussion around this issue and a statement about how dvorak.org will handle such matters going forward.

Mike Harding
xxx xxx xxxx (phone number edited out)

I was a little surprised to receive a response, in fact, I got two responses. The first is this one directly to my note, it is as follows unedited:

Subject: Re: Do you know this is going on?

OK.. it was deep linked which is totally legal as linking to any URL is
legal. We took it down as is our policy on request. But this is a legal
practice..go after Huffington if you want a big fish. She makes money
doing it. Why is this a big deal to you?

When are you the gatekeeper of what is allowable on the web? Why is this a
“big deal” to you. Why do you demand to know? I’d like to know that

What you are suggesting is that LINKS THEMSELVES ARE not acceptable!!! And
that the web as it is structured is wrong! Tripod and other sites that
refuse deep linking put in code to prevent it. This is the way the web
works. Too many people have suggested that such images be downloaded and
then served from the sites using the images to “save bandwidth.” This, in
fact, is stealing. Linking to an image and then having the image appear is
not. Ask a lawyer. I spent a lot of time with Larry Lessig (Creative
Commons) discussing this. Have you? I am only doing what is legal. I would
do it other ways if the other ways were not stealing.

Being accused of stealing, by the way, IS actionable and libelous. Unless
actual theft is involved. This seriously pisses me off. Who is this prick
who calls me a thief? I’d like to know.

You can push this for whatever reason…but you are personally risking the
complete ruination of the web. Think about it.

And people take our original images in the same way and we do not complain
about it. If we didn’t like it we would block it with a few lines of
simple code.

How will we handle such matters going forward? We will link to other sites
for their posts which is what blogs do. We will add images as necessary.
We will contribute to the pool of images as necessary and hope people use
our images too as this is supposed to be a web and a community of links.

Where does the notion that linking is bad actually stem from? And what is
the rationale?

If it should be illegal then change the law and kill linking on the
Internet. That’s where this thinking leads. Even if there is some
unwritten courtesy (we complied and took down the image) it still leads to
the end of linking.

And, I should mention. The image was found on Google. Should they be
called thieves too? It was there. So is that bad too? Seriously. I’d like
to know.

Not exactly the response that I would have liked, but a response none-the-less. It’s troubling to me that Mr. Dvorak is missing the core issue completely. I created something that was used on dvorak.org without attribution or permission. When I objected to that use, my objection was removed and the image was downloaded locally and modified to hide creator and source. A second objection to the use was deleted and finally, the image was taken down (thank you.) I don’t know, but my suspicion is, that if I Googled a subject that returned a John C. Dvorak article that I copied, pasted into my own blog, and passed it off as my own that Mr. Dvorak would have a problem with that.

Not 10 minutes later by timestamp, I got a second message from Mr. Dvorak:

Subject: just a note

Dear Mike. Hot linking is not illegal. Linking is not illegal. Generally speaking sites that do not want to share pics use code to prevent it. Tripod, for example.

Calling someone a thief is libelous if no crime was committed. File charges if you think otherwise. Talk to your lawyer as soon as you can. Seriously. I’ll be talking to mine. I do not like being called a criminal when I am following the law.

From my perspective we took off the other image as requested. That was just a courtesy. Calling me (or anyone else) a criminal in a public forum on the Internet was not a good thing to do as it is a serious and slanderous declaration that is intolerable.

This is clearly not the response I hoped to see and it tells me that Mr. Dvorak doesn’t understand the core issue at hand here. It’s unfortunate that it may come to this, but I am prepared to defend my rights and what I’ve written. For completeness, my responses to Mr. Dvorak are available below:

Subject: Re: Do you know this is going on?

Mr. Dvorak,

First off, thanks for your response. Frankly, it was more than I was expecting. Here are the issues as I see them:

– Hotlinking is annoying, it is not illegal
– Suggesting that linking stop as you do in your response is ludicrous, it would kill the web
– Appropriating a copyrighted image, an image that I created, without attribution is theft (it might have been fuzzy while hot linked, but it’s crystal clear when the image is downloaded locally after the image owner defends his rights to the image.)
– You may have found it on Google, no worries, but you’ll notice it says that the images may be protected by copyright. (As a point of clarity on this, if I Googled a PC-related story you wrote and it came back on Google. I copied the text and represented it as my own on my little podunk blog, I’m sure if you knew about it you would be upset at a minimum.)

What I’d like to hear from you is the following is that dvorak.org:

– shouldn’t have hotlinked
– should have provided attribution for the image, at a minimum
– we have a policy that images we find and use will at a minimum provide attribution to the source site and if protected by copyright, will be used by permission

In your response you seem to be under the impression I’m looking for something more tangible like money. I’m not. This is a matter of principle defending little guys like me from having their work appropriated by and represented as their own.

With respect to the title of my blog entry, I can understand that it is upsetting. But I give you the definition of theft:

– the act of taking something from someone unlawfully

The facts of this situation show that your site took a copyrighted image that I created without permission. When apprised of this, downloaded said image and modified it while deleting the comments protesting the use. It’s true, the image is now replaced, thank you. That has been replaced by a rude comment responding to my third comment left on the matter.

Now, do I really think dvorak.org got up in the morning and said “hmm, what little obscure web publisher can I rip off this morning?” No, you did a story on something and found a clever image and linked it. Something that happens millions of times a day. But when confronted with the issue, the response was bad. And it was particularly bad for a professional journalist.

So, we can continue to be argumentative about this or we can make this a learning experience and let it drop. What would you like to do?

Mike Harding

And my response to the legal threat is as follows:

Subject: Re: just a note


That would be unfortunate for both of us. Do what you need to do, but be advised, a simple response outlined in my prior note will put the matter to rest for me. It may not for you. I stand by what I wrote.


It will be interesting to see how this all shakes out. Sharing on the net is a good thing, it’s what makes it great. But, when people are creating original content, it shouldn’t be appropriated for other’s use for profit. It’s a rampant abuse that is easily fixed by simple courtesy. This is about a principle and it’s one worth fighting for (and yes, it will and should even protect Mr. Dvorak’s work.)

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