Scott Hanselman

When is it stealing?

February 26, '14 Comments [89] Posted in Musings
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Image by Duncan Hill, used under Creative Commons from you put on the internet is gonna get stolen. It's preferable if it gets shared or linked to but often it gets copied and copied again.

RSS is magical but it makes it even easier to programmatically syndicate (copy) content. Search around and you'll likely find complete copies of your entire blog mirrored in other countries'.

There's so many websites (now "media empires") that have taken aggregation to the extreme, giving it the more palatable name "content curation." Now, to be clear, I respect the work involved in curation. Sites like require work and attribute creators. But taking a post, copying unique content, even paraphrasing, and then including a small link just isn't kind. Forget about the legality of it, remembering IANAL, but it's just poor netiquette to not to ask permission before using non-Creative Commons content.

Every week or two I get an email from some large aggregation site that says "We'd love to reprint your'll get you more readers." The few times I've done this they've gotten 50,000 views and I've gotten 300 referral views. Likely because the "originally appeared on" link a the bottom is in 4 point font.

Sites like ViralNova and BuzzFeed are effectively reblogging and embedding machines powered by linkbait copyrighters. "What happened next will shock you."

Even if you make a piece of software, someone may just wrap/embed your installer with their own installer and build a whole business around it.

Narrating your blog posts

Today It was pointed out to me that a nearly 7 year old (and not very good) blog post of mine had be narrated - effectively turned into a podcast - by a startup called Umano. BTW, it's more than a little ironic that my post wasn't even mine. It's an excerpt - published with permission - of my friend Patrick Cauldwell's larger post.

I've used the Umano developer tools and embedded the narrated version here.

First, let me just say that this is essentially a great idea. It's the opposite of transcribing a podcast. It's creating podcasts from existing content using professional narrators, not just text to speech. This could be great for not just the visually impaired but also for anyone who wants to catch up on blogs while commuting.

UPDATE! Umano has narrated THIS blog post! Have a listen!

Where did the Content come from?

Here's a screenshot of the post on Umano's site. You can see my name "Hanselman" is there, but it's not a link. The headline is a link, but you'd never know until you hovered over it. There's really no easy way to tell where, when, and how this content came about. I think that Umano could easily redesign this site to put the content owner front and center.


Podcasts and audio snippets from blog posts? Great idea, except I wrote the script for this podcast. If I wrote the script and they did the narration, then this must be a partnership, right?

However, if we look at Umano's own Terms of Use:

SoThree claims no ownership or control over any of the content you post to the Service ("Your User Content"). You or a third party licensor, as appropriate, retain all copyright, patent, and trademark rights to any of the content you post on or through the Service. You are responsible for protecting those rights.

Ok, they don't own the content.

By posting Your User Content on or through the Service, you grant SoThree a universal, non-exclusive, royalty-free license to reproduce, adapt, distribute and publish such content through the Service and for the purpose of promoting SoThree and its services.

I'm pretty sure I haven't granted them a universal license to my content as I didn't submit this link. On their home page they say that "you tell us what articles should be voiced." The community submits links, sometimes to content they are a fan of, but don't own, then Umano narrates it.

You may not aggregate, copy, or duplicate any SoThree Content.

Wait, but I can't copy their content? Their content that was generated from my content.

Does this mean I can get a book from the library and narrate it? Turn it into a podcast?

I am told by Umano's twitter account that I'm the first person to object to their content being copied without permission.

I certainly don't think Umano is are malicious. Umano is perhaps naive, if they think can narrate blogs without someone speaking up. That said, their narrators are top notch and their site and app are both attractive and usable. Frankly, I'd be happy if they narrated my whole blog (or at least the good stuff and not the lousy decade-old stuff) and made a podcast feed of my blog like their competitor Castify. But I'd like Umano to do it with me.

Sites like this should ask creators first and their business model should be based on partnerships with content creators, not assumptions. Stitcher has the right idea. I've submitted my content to them and entered into a partnership. They didn't just suck my podcasts in and make a radio station.

Even a single email from Umano like "hey, we would love to narrate your blog, click here and sign this little form" would have be sufficient. 

Narrate first, ask questions later? Michael Dunbar nails it with this tweet:

This is an easily solved problem, and it's not just a problem with Umano. This applies to all businesses and startups that rely on content created by others. I think it's important to honor attribution. This isn't about money or even copyright, although those things do apply. Rather, this is about netiquette. When you're building a business model, build it around partnerships and transparency, not assumptions around fair use and copyright. Aask first.

What are your thoughts, Dear Reader?

(If they narrate this one, I'll update the post and complete the circle. ;) )

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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Wednesday, 26 February 2014 11:17:51 UTC
It would be hilarious if they also narrated this blog post :)
Liam F. O'Neill
Wednesday, 26 February 2014 11:20:35 UTC
Liam - Clearly they have to now, on principle. ;)
Wednesday, 26 February 2014 11:22:23 UTC
Theft is theft, regardless of what brand lipstick you try and put on that old pig.
Go to news sites such as NeoWin and you will see they often reference articles from other sites, but generally what you will find on their site is their own summary of the main article, with a few "quotes", followed by a nice big link at the bottom to the full detailed article. That works perfectly for both parties.

Obviously with audio there is a different matter, but again, that comes down to asking permission from the original author, and then organizing your (not the author) in such a way that it is clear where the original content has come from.

At least that's how I see it. I have my own blog, and although I am no where near as popular as you, I too would get upset if people started stealing my content without at least asking permission to do so!
Wednesday, 26 February 2014 11:26:31 UTC
Looking back let's say 10+ years ago when I was in high school and took my first html course, the teacher praised copyright and that we should really ask if we want to use someone else's work. Be it images or text.

I think somewhere along the way, it's gotten easier to find things (read bing for images) and somewhere we've forgotten that we need to ask for permission. I don't mind having my content re-posted in different areas as long as I am asked and agrees to it.

I might not get as upset with someone narrating my blog as I would have been if someone narrated my book and just gave that away. What I'm trying to say that people seem to take the content that we can see in our browsers (which is easily accessible without a login) as free.

As others have said, it all can be avoided by some common sense and just asking instead of assuming that you are OK with it.
Wednesday, 26 February 2014 11:31:05 UTC
The partnership is mandatory. As a consumer I can be deceived by the content if it is not approved/signed by the author. Actually what Umano is doing doesn't seem to be legit. The idea is GREAT, the behavior not. This is my opinion and ... I DO NOT WANT TO BE PODCASTED :)
Adi Bilauca
Wednesday, 26 February 2014 11:34:35 UTC
You should come to Germany, here even thinking about a single word or a picture you did not create by yourself will bring you 10 years of prison. Minimum.
Wednesday, 26 February 2014 11:40:43 UTC
Original authors/content producers must receive credits. It is their original hard-work, creativity, that really matters. And I agree with Michael. An email asking for permission was appreciated. And I don't think people will deny permission for good cause. :)
Wednesday, 26 February 2014 11:41:41 UTC
Uwe - As I'm in Frankfurt now and I already had the idea of your comment earlier today, my lawyers will be in touch. ;)
Scott Hanselman
Wednesday, 26 February 2014 12:06:09 UTC
I've run into a few companies like this that create a compiled version of some other companies content and then resell it.

For example, creating a compiled list of all the products retailer X sell (by crawling their online store) and then selling it to retailer Y.

Something about that doesn't really sit well with me

Apologies if this is not really relevant but I was just reminded about it while reading reading this post.
Wednesday, 26 February 2014 12:08:38 UTC
I was an art major in school. This post makes me think about advice from a professor regarding public reaction to art put on display. He said once out in public, it's no longer yours. It belongs to everybody.

Whenever I blog, tweet, or otherwise put some out there for the public to consume, I think about my old professor.

My professor's words of wisdom was circa 1982. I am now wondering he would say the same thing today.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014 12:17:55 UTC
Not even a link is bad form. Is it stealing. Absolutely. But I stopped wasting ink on content thrives a LONG time ago.
Wednesday, 26 February 2014 12:18:42 UTC
I say DMCA them, their host (Amazon EC2) and their registrar (GoDaddy).

Under US Law (which applies since they're US based) their narration is an (unauthorized) derived work of your blog posts.

For reference:
Wednesday, 26 February 2014 12:39:33 UTC
I got stuck on the headline. It's actually never stealing. It might be copyright infringement, but that's not the same as theft at all. I'm sick and tired of people being unable to make that distinction.

That being said, I agree that what they're doing is unfair, rude, and illegal. They have a great idea and a service that can be of great value to both producers and consumers of content, but it seems that they haven't really thought their business modell all the way through.
Wednesday, 26 February 2014 12:47:53 UTC
Don't flame me now, I actually agree with Scott and @mikkeldunby.

I am however just wondering, if I am at home and someone is reading to me... because hypothetically speaking I am unable to do so myself... How is this different?

If I were an out of work narrator advertising my read-to-you service on, would that be the same?

If I were a weirdo on Craigslist and I would charge money for reading to you combined with other sordid acts... such as perhaps singing copyrighted works, or maybe sketching a scene from Firefly... Where do you draw the line?

I have trouble reading to my child, so I'm not asking anyone if I can read their blogs out loud, but if I did read it to others... would you care to know?
Wednesday, 26 February 2014 12:54:46 UTC
... I just related this story to someone and their response oddly enough was:

"This is terrible, who are these bloggers? Why would they be so arrogant? Just imagine telling a blind person that: if you want to access that blog content, you darn well better read it yourself."

hehehe - see what I did there
Wednesday, 26 February 2014 13:01:35 UTC
'To publish' means 'to make public'. How could anything that has been made public be stolen?
Wednesday, 26 February 2014 13:10:20 UTC
Funny thing, a colleague of mine told me, couple of moths ago, that he was attending some conference in Bosnia and Herzegovina and one of the speakers just took something you wrote, or even lectured about, and translated it in Bosnian word for word :)
Wednesday, 26 February 2014 13:18:45 UTC
I Agree with Danni.

Stealing is typically misused when talking about copyright infringement by people when trying to escalate the problem or creating FUD about it.

In your case, where you have a perfectly valid point, you should probably avoid this misnomer.


Wednesday, 26 February 2014 13:30:43 UTC
Happened to me once. Not a blog, but an entire website.

Word. For. Word.

I humiliated them as best I could in a trade association, but it was lucky they were in another state.

Never been so angry.

It eventually came down.
Wednesday, 26 February 2014 13:48:21 UTC
>Your Bio: I am a failed stand-up comic

Me too. When I failed to stand-up, they put me in a wheelchair!
Ycombinator pedestrian
Wednesday, 26 February 2014 13:49:20 UTC
Welcome (back? I seem to recall earlier portrait right issues you had?) to the hell that is copyright! IANAL either, but somewhat versed in copyright law, I'll try to clarify what they are doing, the ground under which they are doing it.

SoThree gets links to content from submitters. When someone posts a link to SoThree, this is what the person who posted it implicitly does:

"By posting Your User Content on or through the Service, you grant SoThree a universal, non-exclusive, royalty-free license to reproduce, adapt, distribute and publish such content through the Service and for the purpose of promoting SoThree and its services."

The person posting it licences SoThree to pretty much do anything they want with it. This presumes the person posting it is the owner or licensee of the content that gives them the right to do this. Since everyone always loves car analogies, this is pretty much the equivalent of them selling SoThree a car they stole from you. SoThree claims that they in good faith assumed that the person posting it is in a position to licence it in the first place. They are violating your copyright by hosting it though.

The other two sections are legally not that interesting.
SoThree claims no ownership or control over any of the content you post to the Service ("Your User Content"). You or a third party licensor, as appropriate, retain all copyright, patent, and trademark rights to any of the content you post on or through the Service. You are responsible for protecting those rights.

which pretty much means that although the submitter licensed the work to them (which they can't, but did anyway), the licensing doesn't mean a transfer of ownership of the copyright.

finally You may not aggregate, copy, or duplicate any SoThree Content.

reading the work creates a separate copyright which SoThree owns. The read content is now a combined work with part of the copyright owned by you (the content, which they claim they have received a licences from by the submitter) and part of the copyright (the reading part) owned by them. There is technically nothing wrong with that.


At the very least you can send them a DMCA takedown notice. The material is under your copyright, and they must take it down. You could also sue them (even if they do immediately take it down). This won't necessarily be successful, and will probably bring you little more than wasted time and expended aggravation. This will probably hinge on whether or not they are considered an "Online Service Provider" under the Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act which arranges for save harbour provisions, and whether it was reasonable for them to in good faith assume they were granted a copyright license to the work.

Whether you want to do this or not is up to you. Personal gains will likely be very very small. Letting people know not to be a dick with other peoples content might matter more. Though they will probably think you to be a dick for suing them over something trivial (in their perspective. It's always easy to think of someone elses rights as trivial, especially when your business model hinges on it). Good luck with whatever you choose to do, and keep us in the loop :)

P.S. It's still not too late to publish your blog under a permissive or copyleft license. I've seen a lot of love for open source from you, why not let it extend to your own blog? (this wouldn't have changed a thing with regard to the above by the way).
Wednesday, 26 February 2014 13:55:49 UTC
I agree it's quite shoddy practice.

However, one thing I've observed is that resources that rip off content hardly ever become the defacto source for the information. People who matter will always look for the original content creator to attribute or engage with.

A recent example of this is the very cheeky publishing practices of Sourcemaking, which essentially rips content and ideas out of established programming books and presents it as their own:

IMO, this does nothing to discredit or damage the original creators of the content. People who are interested in the topic will quickly discover and seek out the original authors.

Andrew Corkery
Wednesday, 26 February 2014 14:00:18 UTC
I don't think what Umano did was stealing,

I do believe they should've at least informed you they were doing it and given you credit by mentioning your name and your website with URL link included.
Wednesday, 26 February 2014 14:19:13 UTC
Based on what they are doing, it's infringement that does not benefit from the affirmative defense of Fair Use. And yes, copyright infringement is a form of stealing. If you don't like that word, you can call it misappropriation, conversion, etc. Doesn't really matter. If you are a victim of this, best practice is to send a cease and desist letter/email. Also, for your blog site, make sure you have clear terms and conditions that specifies what people can and cannot do. Not required as there is already a copyright. Just makes things a bit more clear.

It is a misnomer to think that just because something is posted on a blog, it is in the public domain. It might be based on the terms and conditions of the rights you grant.

Statutory damages... any $'s they've earned from page views can be disgorged.
Wednesday, 26 February 2014 14:56:41 UTC
Many of the comments seem to be focused on possible legal ramifications and action, but I believe the spirit of Scott's concern is more about common courtesy and attribution. That social contract was clearly violated, and could easily be rectified.

I think it's a completely different matter than the potential copyright infringement or even plagiarism. I'm pretty sure there wasn't malicious intent involved here. The goal was to repackage valuable content under a different delivery mechanism. As many have said, this is well-intentioned. They can easily smooth things over by asking first, and providing clear links back to the original article.

One question that could come up is when someone declines the request to repackage their content, or who subsequently changes their mind. Then it becomes more complicated. Because Umano made it clear they'd be willing to remove the post, I'm pretty sure there wouldn't be an issue with them. But outside of proper netiquette, they should at least consider how much wasted narration work they'd be creating by taking the "post and then apologize" path.
Wednesday, 26 February 2014 15:00:39 UTC
Hey Scott,

What do you think about what Neil Gaiman's take is on stuff like this?

I understand the fine line between respecting your ownership and making it available, but maybe the end result will be more people coming to your site since the content is good. Would you accept the trade off like Gaiman?
Wednesday, 26 February 2014 15:31:59 UTC
But where do we draw the bounds of what is copyright infringement and what is a derivative work? I understand that Umano is a company and should have lawyers that better define these bounds. It just seems like they've made things complicated.

Let me take it the other way though. I'm a small-time blogger that only gets a few thousand hits a month. I'm currently in the middle of a series of posts on SOLID based on content from our favorite Uncle Bob. While I cite my sources directly back to Uncle Bob's original material and in several places encourage the reader to read the source material, should I have asked him if I could write a series of posts on SOLID before I did it? Where I directly copy word-for-word I cite Uncle Bob, but most of the series is directly derived from his material. What is my responsibility?
Wednesday, 26 February 2014 15:34:19 UTC
@Brian : A derivative work without license *is* copyright infringement
Wednesday, 26 February 2014 15:40:03 UTC
Unauthorised copying is not theft.
Wednesday, 26 February 2014 15:55:07 UTC

Ok, you're right. I'm mixing my terms out of ignorance. Than does Umano's use of Scott's post satisfy fair use? Does my use of Uncle Bob's material satisfy fair use?

I know Scott's point here about fair use seems to be that it's better to ask than make assumptions about fair use and maybe I should be drafting an email to Uncle Bob instead of writing this.

The larger impression I get from this, with the large screen shot, even asking would not have been needed if there was a better citation. So is this about better citations or asking before using? Or both? If the citation was better and Umano could have driven a ton of traffic to this blog would Umano's use of the content have been okay?

I just kind of feel like there are two points being made in this post and they are convoluting each other (or maybe I'm being too simple minded).

  1. If you steal content at least cite it better so it's clear to the reader where the content came from

  2. If you steal content than at least ask before posting, than it's not stealing.
Wednesday, 26 February 2014 16:06:27 UTC
It's a terrible way they are going about it, but I would love a legit version of this that is like the "netflix" of blogs. I would pay $5/mo for a subset of the websites that I enjoy in audio/video form. (Or $1/mo for an individual blog)
Wednesday, 26 February 2014 16:33:57 UTC
Another point of view: copying is not theft. (If it's not properly attributed, or worse if it's mis-attributed, then there could be theft of attribution, but that's a different matter.)
Wednesday, 26 February 2014 17:11:51 UTC

I would say the differences are:

1) no loss of attribution, and
2) any concordant gains of being not just the content creator but sole distributor (page views, viral reach, ads, affiliate links, yadda yadda).

Scott isn't proscribing access to the content itself, he's proscribing the channels of that access. Your argument, phrased another way, could claim that blogs are discriminatory against: people without internet connections, people who don't enjoy reading, people who hate free speech, etc.
Matt C. Wilson
Wednesday, 26 February 2014 17:38:36 UTC
Good lord, the comments on Hacker News quickly got pedantic on this one. The argument? Is using another person's content without permission stealing? That argument misses the point: Under current US law, using another (person, company, or corporation)'s content without permission is theft. It will be until politics decides otherwise.

We're not talking about Umano finding people who are randomly reading your blog on a streetcorner and recording the public performance, then making that available. Come to think of it, that would be a really cool art project, but I'm digressing.

I'm not sure that you should do anything more than what you are doing, but I am entertained and enlightened. My wife and I are working on different projects, each of which will include a blog component. We're not expecting any sort of fame, but what happened to you is an avenue of leverage of content that we hadn't even considered. Many thanks for demonstrating a polite way to deal with this kind of issue without becoming overly-litigious.
Berin Greenbear
Wednesday, 26 February 2014 17:53:48 UTC
Windows Narrator also just stole your content and read it to me, albeit without the aid of a human as part of the process. ;) , oh and the browser copied it down into the cache, and didn't just give me the original content (plain html text files), but transformed and created a dirivative work rendering it to my screen (albeit that the derivative work, for the most part conforms to the intentions of your CSS etc.) However ReadItLater/Pocket created a derivative work that ignores.

Despite by sarcasm, I learn to your side of this debate.

This are hard though, every time you clip a full article to evernote, or readitlater or such, you are effectively doing the same thing, its just that its not public. My evernote clips however are in a publicly shared evernote notebook, so technically they all are reblogging, however they aren't indexed by google, and thus obscurity makes me look better than a jerk. However some people use blogs, not for actual republishing, but just as their own bookmarking site/technique, despite the fact they are public or private, while others are actually trying to get advertising money, clicks/links for some reason, or are trying to make it look like they created the content.
Wednesday, 26 February 2014 18:09:43 UTC

First off, let's keep the word "steal" out of it. Copyright infringement is not theft.

About the terminology: yes, there is a lot of it, and a lot of it have often confused, often confusing, and often nebulous meanings.

This is not "fair use" which is a copyright escape hatch generally used when discussing a copyrighted subject (like a book or a movie). A review, critique or satire of the work would generally fall under fair use. It's up to a judge to determine if it is fair use in those cases, and the judge looks at criteria like depriving the copyright holder of commercial opportunity, whether the work is used in an educational context, and other criteria. I don't know if your blog post(s) would be - it requires closer reading, and looking at what is Uncle Bob's content and what is yours. If it's just the code snippets or not even that in my estimation (again, I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice) it's easily fair use in the first case, and not a copyright issue in the latter (ideas are not eligible for copyright). Discussing someone elses idea doesn't mean your discussion is a derivative work.

It's also not "public domain", another often misunderstood concept. Public domain has a very specific meaning, and is reserved for things that are ineligble for copyright protection, because either they don't meet the threshold for originality, or are out of copyright due to its age.

Attribution is something that doesn't come in to it at all.

What is acceptable use of the content you create is only something you can determine. You can ensure this with a license. If you are OK if your work is used by others as long as they tell where they got it from for example (attibution), you could use the Creative Commons - Attribution licence: The advantage of placing your work under an explicit licence is that someone will know instantly what they can and can't do with your content without having to contact you to ask.

If you don't put an explicit licence on your work the default is that you can't use it at all, apart from the aforementioned fair use. You can re licence your own work as often as you want, to whoever you want, with no obligation of offering the same to others. If someone contacts you asking if they can use your work for something or another, and if you say yes, you are giving them a licence to use it (in a less formal setting). You are allowing use under a certain set of conditions. That is exactly what a license is.
Wednesday, 26 February 2014 18:32:18 UTC
Am I the only one checking out Scott's decade-old stuff to see just how lousy it is?
Simon Needham
Wednesday, 26 February 2014 18:42:43 UTC
I have a great idea for a new company. I'll make a website with a submission form on the homepage. The general public can use the submission form to send links to their favourite audio narration (preferably from Umano) and I will transcribe it for later reading. It would be great for those times when you're in a noisy environment and don't want to listen to a "podcast".

I could have the exact same terms as Umano and if they ever complained that I was copying their content, I would just reply that nobody else had ever complained. In fact, I'd probably go so far to say that most narrators appreciate the distribution and value add.
Colin Svingen
Wednesday, 26 February 2014 19:25:47 UTC
I disagree with the first paragraph. You wrote:

"Anything you put on the internet is gonna get stolen. It's preferable if it gets shared or linked to but often it gets copied and copied again."

However, legal and otherwise considerations aside, from a purely practical point of view, copying is highly preferable to linking. I have been stuck on so many dead links over the years that I have totally lost hope in any original source that promises to remain around on a given URL. Linking is nice, but if you want to safely convey the information, copy it.
Wednesday, 26 February 2014 20:00:55 UTC
Hi Scott,
Thank you for the post. Narration is coming shortly. I posted a response on Hacker News, but I will also include it here.


Full disclosure. I'm one of the Umano cofounders, I figured it's time to jump in here.

The vision behind Umano is simple. We want to provide our users with a new way of consuming content. Many times it's the content they wouldn't otherwise read. How many times have you come across an interesting article that bubbled up in your twitter stream, you added it to your Pocket, and you forgot about it forever and ever. Reading is a heavy task. Reading takes time and your full attention. You can't read while you are cooking breakfast, getting dressed, standing in a crammed Muni bus, or riding on your bike to work. Listening is passive. Listening is easy. Listening allows you consume longer pieces of content with less effort, while doing something else. Umano is here to offer great content in a different medium.

We started Umano with no licensing deals from any publishers (big or small). Sure, having licensing deals would be amazing, but "Even if 100% of people they asked were fine with it (Scott seems to imply he is) probably less than 10% would bother to respond, that then knackers their startup instantly." as @robinwarren said above. Now that we are bigger and more mature, we have deals with many large publishers. However, at this point it wouldn't be scalable for us to ask for permission from all bloggers that write amazing content that our community would like to be voiced. If the content producer doesn't want their content on the platform, we will happily take it down. As we grow and start to make money, our mission is to do revenue shares with content owners. Until then, the benefit that we bring to many bloggers is distribution. Popular articles often generate a significant number of listeners. Finally, one interesting point about Scott's article that was narrated - it was actually requested by one of our users through a new "Submit Any Link" feature that we recently launched as an experiment on Android.

Now to attribution. We never claim that the content we voice is original Umano content, and we always provide attribution. We link to the original article, and always include the name of the publisher and the author in the narration. Scott mentioned that we do it poorly on mobile web and will fix that shortly.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014 20:51:51 UTC
Thank you for your response and time, I appreciate you being part of the discussion.

(I'm looking forward to the narration, I'm hoping for Patrick Stewart)
Scott Hanselman
Wednesday, 26 February 2014 21:04:09 UTC
Authors of books sell different rights to publishers; they get paid for each market the book sells in, for each format - paperback, hardback, ebook,and audio books as well (and sometimes they sell movie options too). Audio books are a big source of revenue for publishers, authors often accept very low royalties and no control, but they still own and assign the rights. So yes, they are 'stealing' potential revenue and traffic. Screen readers like Narrator don't publish the spoken version or sell ads against it. Private readings of books are allowed; public performances require permission and sometimes payment (commercial productions of plays pay the playwright).

Authors like Neil Gaiman who have a large income stream or Cory Doctorow who have additional sources of funding are welcome to take any attitude they like. People for whom writing is the only way to pay the mortgage and put food on the table may be keener to protect their income and rights.
Wednesday, 26 February 2014 21:21:26 UTC
"Until then, the benefit that we bring to many bloggers is distribution."

Exposure (n) The eternal justification of those who take the creative work of others without payment or permission.

If your model doesn't let you "scale" without asking the permission of those whose work you are appropriating, then your model needs to change, full stop.

Kevin Stevens
Wednesday, 26 February 2014 22:03:58 UTC
@Anton: "it wouldn't be scalable for us to ask for permission from all bloggers"

Nonsense. Automate your business process. If the owner of the article doesn't respond to an offer to voice the content, remove that blog post from the queue. Done. If authors value your service, they'll jump at the chance for exposure with a quick 'yes'.

Don't let a callous, anti-community attitude ruin what could be a valuable effort on your part.
Wednesday, 26 February 2014 22:18:36 UTC
(I'm a co-founder of Castify)

We started up, we debated getting explicit permissions for each blog. We ultimately decide that it was both in our business interest and the right thing to do. We have received permissions from every single one of the blogs we offer and, yes, it was hard work to get it.

Scott, we'd be delighted for partner with on getting this blog into audio, especially if your readers are interested.
Wednesday, 26 February 2014 22:38:03 UTC
Lame excuse: " wouldn't be scalable for us to ask for permission from all bloggers"

False promise: "...As we grow and start to make money, our mission is to do revenue shares with content owners."

Because once they start making money the response will change to: " wouldn't be viable for us to share revenue with all bloggers"
Thursday, 27 February 2014 00:09:56 UTC
@ Kevin Stevens @ Ken Cox @ samyom - We try to optimize our product for both the publishers and our users. Yes, we could drop all content, where author doesn't respond, but this would hurt the users that we try to provide value for. Instead, we chose the reverse model of taking down the content if the author requests so. In fact, we do our best to notify the author of the recordings. We analyze the original page to see if we can find the twitter handle of the publisher/author, and then we include the @handle in every tweet about this article. So far, this is the most scalable method of notifying that we devised, it works for 80% of the articles. In the end, we believe that we provide extra value for all publishers, which is why so many of them that know about the service are actively working with us.
Thursday, 27 February 2014 00:14:26 UTC

You clearly don't understand. Yes, you might provide extra value for the publishers, but it must be their choice–not yours–as to whether you should be the ones to provide that value.

The model you chose is flat illegal, whether you think it's a great idea for the users or not. To say it "works for 80%" is the equivalent of saying "Only 20% of the publishers think we're ripping them off."

Your lack of respect for the created works of others in pursuit of your own self-interest is appalling. GET PERMISSION FIRST. Without them, you don't have a business to being with.
Kevin Stevens
Thursday, 27 February 2014 00:20:15 UTC

Thursday, 27 February 2014 00:20:34 UTC
This all raises an interesting question to me. Years ago, I had a site that used Google & Yahoo news rss feeds, along with a blog search engine, looking for content related to a particular subject matter. The goal was to make a simple site for people interested in this subject (architecture) to be able to get good info quickly. I used the summary text provided by the various search engines, and put clearly identified links to the original source source and below the summary, and never attempted to hijack the content (beyond the summary).

However, the process was automated, I rarely added any content of my own, and I put adsense ads the site. I always did trackbacks to the article, so the author (if they read their own comments) would be aware. Finally, I blacklisted sites from automated listing process, if the author requested it.

All that said, Google eventually unlisted my site, and threatened to kill my other sites' adsense, so I eventually killed the site.

My question is, what do people think? Was my site ok or bad? I certainly didn't set out to do bad things, but evidently not everyone agreed.
Jeremy Kane
Thursday, 27 February 2014 00:31:58 UTC
@Scott Kevin & Mike, let me ask you a question, how do you feel about services like Pulse, Flipboard and Pocket? Are they stealing content? Or are they providing users with an alternative way of consuming web content?

A quick search for "hanselman" on Pulse allows me to read all of Scott's content in the app.
Thursday, 27 February 2014 01:04:06 UTC
@Anton: What about the difference between reading an article using an application knowing full well where it came from vs creating a derived work using most if not all of the content and/or muddling the original attribution? RSS/Atom implies this: republishing articles in the exact provided form, or truncated, for the explicit purpose of reading something you already know where it came from somewhere else. It's "place-shifting". It doesn't imply that derivative works may be produced with or without attribution.

If you chose a model where users would be happy but the publishers would be outraged and "it wouldn't work if every publisher had to opt in", that was probably a poor model.

One more thing: had this been a tool that you could have downloaded and that would have read back something you fed it, whatever it was, that would have been okay. That's fair, personal use; doing something with what you already have. It doesn't involve search engine rankings or sharing or mass confusion as to the actual origin of the canonical article. It's not that "helping users" is bad. It's that you're stepping on the toes of the publishers to get ahead.
Thursday, 27 February 2014 01:25:14 UTC

Flipboard and the like that scrape the content instead of transforming it on the client end via an RSS feed are also in the same murky legal territory.

At the end of the day, the consumption of the content from that type of service doesn't generate a page view for the blogger. The matter of convenience is immaterial. That's like saying it's OK to scan the morning paper and post it on my own website with the original ads removed every day just because it's public. There's a beneficial interest for the content creator to have their content consumed at the source, whether it be ad revenue or other reasons.
Thursday, 27 February 2014 01:36:30 UTC
@Anton You're able to track all the people who recommend a blog so you can alert them to the recording. But, you can't 'scale' up to getting permission from the content developer?

Relying on a negative option/ takedown scenario puts you into the category of a rogue operation. Do you have any notion of how you're damaging your public image right now?

Thursday, 27 February 2014 02:38:15 UTC
I'm a big Umano fan and active blogger. Several of my essays have been narrated by Umano and I love it. For me, it's another distribution channel along with Medium, Quora, Svbtle, and publications that I guest post for like Pando or TNW (relevant:

I understand Scott's perspective and believe Umano should remove articles if requested by the author but I would hate to see the service become opt-in. As long as they attribute the author (which they do on the site and in the recording itself at the very beginning) I have no problem with it.
Thursday, 27 February 2014 02:41:16 UTC
@Anton: so the transgressions of others vindicates you? With that argument, you could do far worse conscience-free.

You didn't address the point that *you* are breaking the law.
Kent Boogaart
Thursday, 27 February 2014 02:52:49 UTC
Helping close the loop ;)

Thursday, 27 February 2014 07:34:44 UTC
@Ryan Hoover Awesome! Have you considered placing your blog under a free license or permissive license? It sounds like that's just what you want, and is something I wholeheartedly support. If content creators make clear what others can and can't do with their content, content reusers like Umano don't have the problem they need to get in touch with the creators to ask if they are OK with what they're doing. You could go for a permissive license like CC-BY where all you require is being credited, or for a copyleft license like CC-BY-SA where you require being credited, and that the re-user publishes it under a similar license.

@Anton Why do you think that you have the right to determine for content creators that their content can be re-used in this way? I find it awesome you do that, but the premisses that the creators are probably fine with it, and they need to complain if not if severely flawed. You simply don't have the right to do that - and in your terms of service see seem to acknowledge that. Why else do you ask for "a universal, non-exclusive, royalty-free license to reproduce, adapt, distribute and publish such content through the Service and for the purpose of promoting SoThree and its services."

What's worse, you are well aware that most submitters of links are in no situation whatsoever to grant such a licence. This sounds like you want to cover your ass legally, while you know you are in the wrong.

If you think this form of copyright is poppycock and it should be destroyed (which is a defensible position, though I don't agree with it), why do you go on and assert such copyright yourself, and restrict others from doing with your content what you are doing with theirs?

Conversely, if I have content under a free license, I also would expect you to follow the license. That means, take my content, do whatever you want with it, and publish our combined work under a compatible license. But you don't do that either. You just publish it as "don't touch this, this content is MINE now".

Time to say sorry, and fix it.
Thursday, 27 February 2014 08:27:53 UTC

What's the situation regarding the 'pickpockets' image that you use at the top of your post?
It is used (by you) under a creative commons licence but, as far as my cursory glances can tell, the originator (Duncan Hull) simply took a photograph of the sign in its original location (Hinted at by the bright patch on the red person).
Just wondered if taking a photo of a sign (which I'm assuming is sold commercially), and then publishing it, is just as much open to copyright debate as the main thrust of your article.

Definitely an interesting subject - digital copying is perceived in a far different way, due to the fact that, generally, nothing physical changes hands.

Keep writing these thought provoking articles - need to keep the old grey matter working.

Bob Armour
Thursday, 27 February 2014 09:18:59 UTC
@Bob Armour That depends very much of the circumstance. In this case, you are right, and it is a copyright violation. That is mainly because it was taken in France. If it were taken in the U.S. it would probably (but not certainly) not meet the threshold of originality, and would be ineligible for copyright.

The image is also in a public place. Some countries allow for freedom of panorama, i.e. you can freely take pictures of copyrighted material in public places. What qualifies as public varies from country to country. Neither France nor the US would allow such use though (had it been a picture taken in the U.K. it would have been fine for example).

Whether or not it is sold commercially isn't relevant to copyright protection. The difference between Scott using this image and what Umano is doing, is that I fully believe that Scott in good faith believed that this image was freely licenced to him. I don't buy for a second that Umano in good faith can say the same thing about their submissions. (He knows know though, so assuming her reads this, not taking it down now seems hypocritical to me)
Thursday, 27 February 2014 18:47:51 UTC

It says on the page that the picture is licensed under CC. Go to, scroll to the bottom of the comments on the right pane, and click on the circled i icon and see the attribution license.

Also Flickr makes it an absolute nightmare to determine the copyright status of a picture. Which seems a tad ironic for a picture sharing site!
Thursday, 27 February 2014 18:49:23 UTC

You seem impervious to logic, but let's try again.

You are taking the creative work of others, transforming it without permission, and making money off if it. That is theft, plain and simple. The fact that it is "An alternative way of presenting web content" is both true and irrelevant.

Just get permission first, not afterward. That is your legal and moral obligation to the people who create the content, without whom your alternative method is worthless.

Do it. Do it today. Do it now.

Kevin Stevens
Thursday, 27 February 2014 19:27:21 UTC
It's tempting to download their app and submit this post for narration :)
Friday, 28 February 2014 08:42:59 UTC
The link that you gave simply refers to Scott's obligation to attribute his use of the image to Duncan Hill under the creative commons licence. What I was questioning was whether Duncan has any obligation to attribute the image to its original source (Can't see anywhere that does this, other than references to the geographical location)

Your explanation is welcome, and just goes to show how tricky the whole subject is - particularly from the point of view of 'It was licenced to me, so I don't have to care about whether the licensor had right to actually licence it'. If I bought a car from somebody in 'Good faith', but it turned out to belong to a third party, then I'd accept that I had no right to buy it in the first place (Well, that's the way it works in the UK)

Having said that, I'm sure most of us have copied images from the internet at some point, so I'll admit that it's a very tricky thing to get right.

Not particularly criticising anybody - just exploring the ins and outs of the subject.
Bob Armour
Friday, 28 February 2014 17:27:43 UTC
I hear you... but you wouldn't like it when applied to you. This goes back to the "permission" mentality that anti-copyright people (like me) consider poisonous. For example, did you ever sing "Happy Birthday"? Have you asked for permission from the copyright owner? Why not, it would only have been polite? :)

You might say that the situation changes when we're talking about businesses. True. Then again, as we've seen from many lawsuits, you have ads on your website, which means everything you do is a business, which means you should have paid a license for that Happy Birthday...

Like you, IANAL; which is why assuming "things are simple, you just have to ask permission" is dangerous. Did you know that you CANNOT lose copyright according to US law? See Kinsella's comment in this article:

The state attaches property right to us, and does not give us a way to get rid of it. It’s like your “right” to sue an employer for racial or sexual discrimination, or your right to seek welfare someday. Suppose you just post somewhere, “I, Stranger, hereby ‘renounce’ my right to sue employers for racial, religious, or sexual discrimination, and i hereby ‘renounce’ my right to seek welfare if I ever need it.” Does this statement prevent you from doing these things later? No. It is not binding.
Friday, 28 February 2014 17:36:01 UTC
Sheriff, we've got a blogger down. Someone call the wambulance.

Umano couldn't have scaled how they have without just doing pressing forward. The wild west web is an open range for innovation. If you don't want your content reproduced, put it behind a pay wall or similar restriction. Had Umano limited their ability to scale by asking permission, we'd be lobbing complaints against their more-successful competitor.

You can also listen to this article using SoundGecko's text-to-speech transcription.

SoundGecko gives publishers the option to opt-out, but why limit your reach?
Aaron Kelton
Friday, 28 February 2014 19:38:45 UTC
@Aaron a pay wall has nothing to do with it, but does make for an interesting point. What if this blog were behind a pay-wall, and Umano would have paid for access, and reproduced the content? What if someone else had paid for access, and copied it to Umano? What if there was a click-through banner on this page which displays an add and generates revenue" What if that banner only said "I pinky swear that I won't copy this content without a receiving a license to do so". How is that last one different from "© Copyright 2014, Scott Hanselman." which I know is unneeded because it is automatic
Saturday, 01 March 2014 00:18:21 UTC
Good points @Martijn. I think the paywall would be a decent barrier for larger publishers like WSJ. Smaller shops may just be shooting themselves in the foot restricting content like a child hugging a toy screaming, "Mine!"

At this point it sounds like a click through "agreement" would be more effective (albeit an annoyance to the common reader) than a copyright symbol, which seems to function similar to my 6 year-old's plastic police badge.
Aaron Kelton
Sunday, 02 March 2014 16:27:37 UTC
Aaron: Which law regulates stuff stamped with your 6 year-old's plastic police badge? People's rights to their own stuff don't go away because they are easy to ignore. You can "wahmbulance" all the way to court if you'd like.

In the world I want to live in, sure, everyone gives everyone else the rights to do whatever they want with something and it's not a problem any longer. But in that world, everyone is properly credited and the web isn't full of copy-pasted pseudo-sites meant to make someone's site rank higher in the search engines, clouding the original author of something. While we work to get there, let everyone decide for themselves what they think about it and what they'll allow with their own articles.
Sunday, 02 March 2014 21:11:58 UTC
Aaron's argument is wrong that it's OK to have pushed forward simply because doing things the legal way would be hard... it's supposed to be hard. If any Tom Dick and Harry can copy something that I create for my own personal income, repost it with no attribution and then just apologize later... that makes me the pioneer with the arrows in my back. "Thanks for doing all the hard work, we'll take all the profits from here."

Umano/SoThree, you MUST ask permission first. If you only get 10% response or 10% approval, so be it - there are thousands of reputable content creators that would love to help, but you have to build your reputation on trust. Narrating the content of a written post could be construed as creating an audiobook; in the publishing world that conflicts with licensing, as when books are sold, digital, print, audio, game and movie versions are often licensed separately. If I were to make an accurate, non-parody, live action video of Scott's blogs, he'd be horrified by my acting but also have legal grounds to protect his copyright.
Monday, 03 March 2014 07:31:46 UTC
Uncle Google tells me:

noun: plagiarism; plural noun: plagiarisms

1.the practice of taking someone else's work or ideas and passing them off as one's own.
"there were accusations of plagiarism"
synonyms: copying, infringement of copyright, piracy, theft, stealing, poaching, appropriation; More

I'm surprised at the number of people saying that this is not theft. If you can't wrtite great content yourself, you have no right to misrepresent anybody elses as your own. Tiny links to the content originator are just put there to try to circumvent the laws.
Monday, 03 March 2014 19:10:37 UTC

Oops I misunderstood somehow. In re-reading it was obvious you meant. It would depend on when the sign was placed. Eiffel tower itself is considered public domain during the day, but during the night copyright applies because of the lighting installed. I'm definitely not sure where the signs are in all of that. That said, I think it would be reasonable to assume that, unless there is a specific sign or indication, that the copyright over the tower applies to the signs on the tower absent a specific law or posting. I'm not saying that it what it is, but rather that it's not sensible to assume the worst. I've never been to the Eiffel Tower though, so maybe there is clear signage.
Tuesday, 04 March 2014 02:04:27 UTC

Arguments like your are massively misplaced. The content is not Umano's to take without permission. Period. No Questions.

The fact that they can't scale the way they want to is beyond irrelevant. It their model is based on stealing–and it is stealing–the work of others for their own profit, then their model needs to change. The only question is whether it will change voluntarily or because someone sues them into oblivion.

This isn't like patent-trolling, where someone who does creates nothing sues someone who does. This is suing someone who makes money off of what others have already created.

If this is the kind of "entrepreneurial leadership", to quote your LinkedIn profile, I wouldn't do business of any kind with you.
Kevin Stevens
Tuesday, 04 March 2014 03:10:34 UTC
Seems to be the written rudeness equivalent of those who use images and video of others without permission.
Tuesday, 04 March 2014 03:30:38 UTC
Wow, this is at the same time sad and funny. I don't see how people are arguing this. Umano took what was not their creation, without any permissions and presented it in a different way.

This wasn't a parody or fair-use.

How hard would it be to reach out to the authors of the blogs and request permission? They could make up a list of all the bloggers (as they find them) and attempt to contact them once a month. If they answer no. Cross them off the list and send them a nice note. If they say yes, work with them to make great content.

A couple of people could get though quite a few bloggers in a day. And since there are thousands of bloggers, even if they only got a few to say yes, they would still have hundreds of articles, more then they could get done in a month.

I like the idea. I don't like their ethics.
Tuesday, 04 March 2014 04:54:31 UTC
@Scott - I agree with you and like how you are handling this issue. However, you haven't made it clear on what exactly is that you would like Umano to do about this now that this, and neither Umano has asked you what you would like them to do about it.
Tuesday, 04 March 2014 22:20:08 UTC
The whole content theft thing was one of the reasons I gave up blogging years ago.
And then the software side of it, I have even had people email me asking for help in re-purposing my OS app so they can sell it?!?!? :-|
Paul Kohler
Wednesday, 05 March 2014 10:31:13 UTC
I agree with the art teacher.. you don't own it once it leave your head!

You cannot own an idea comment or content. ultimately it is 99% rework of material you got elsewhere anyway.

I agree its polite to let people know where you got content or an idea, but that's about it.

Hard though it is to accept I believe all models of ownership of such things are broken and only hinder the overall development and progression of all of us.

If you disagree with me I think you are probably vastly over estimating what you personally brought to any "idea". If you find yourself saying or creating inspiring things be thankful that the universe has given you the opportunity to have the unique set of experiences you have had.

Consider ever increasing IQ levels and what this really means about how smart you think you are as an individual.

Scott.. I really appreciate what you do and don't want you to stop! recognition is nice when you get it but it should not be why you do it. You should do it because you believe its the right thing to do for all of us, that's far more important than credit! I don't know that many developers but everyone I have spoken to about you has a great deal of respect for you and takes any chance they can to see you speak - what more could you possibly ask for other than the respect and gratitude of those that understand you.

Creators should create for the passion and belief.. not so that they can say that others owe them something.

I like it when I am at work and we all try and get stuff done, we don't care too much about who did what and who has what skills beyond us wanting to work well together and deliver in such a way that makes us all proud. I hope there is a day when we feel this way collectively about our total output as a global society.

Anyone who thinks that a tester is less important than a developer doesn't really get how the world works.
Wednesday, 05 March 2014 14:35:29 UTC
Like everyone else, IANAL, I only act like one on blog posts like this. I did a quick check to see what conditions you posted on your site and all I can find is the copyright notice at the bottom. To me that means "this is my site and everything here is copyright by me" which would include content. So IMHO they effectively took your content and used it to republish something (creating a derivative work) without your permission which I think is copyright infringement. It's like me taking a copy of a video, re-dubbing all the audio or something, and uploading it to YouTube. I'm pretty sure the makers of the original film would be all over me and shut me down probably through a DMCA order or a cease and desist or something. In any case, it was wrong and while it's certainly an interesting "service" they have, I think the intent is good but the implementation needs work. For my content on my blog I simply license the entire blog and it's contents under a Creative Commons Attribution license. It covers things and I can fall back on it whenever anyone copies something like this case and I'm often asked for permission first, which is nice. In any case, I had no idea this type of thing existed but it's kind of neat so thanks for that enlightenment.
Wednesday, 05 March 2014 17:12:22 UTC
I have decided to mirror all audio content from Umano on The Pirate Bay, I'm sure they'll appreciate the bandwidth savings and opportunity to reach a new audience.
Copyright Troll
Wednesday, 05 March 2014 20:32:44 UTC
Umano is an excellent idea, but what about the blog's comments?

I usually prefer blog comments to the blogs themselves.

Please also narrate the comments, with either different actors or the same person doing different voices.

Thursday, 06 March 2014 01:42:18 UTC

You say, "Hard though it is to accept I believe all models of ownership of such things are broken and only hinder the overall development and progression of all of us."

In reply, I give you Christopher Hitchens, "That which can be asserted without proof can be dismissed the same way."

Your argument, such as it is, means that authorship is meaningless. That is an unacceptable outcome.
Kevin Stevens
Friday, 07 March 2014 23:17:58 UTC
One cannot own ideas; it's time for people to get over the idea of 'intellectual property'. Words (written or verbal), code, songs, blueprints, etc. are all just ideas.
Saturday, 22 March 2014 03:10:44 UTC
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Superb blog and terrific style and design.
Wednesday, 26 March 2014 23:54:29 UTC
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Monday, 07 April 2014 22:08:42 UTC
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Friday, 11 April 2014 07:44:11 UTC
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Sunday, 18 May 2014 07:58:50 UTC
In Sochi Sotnikova was declared as a winner who allegedly outskated Kim,
Kostner and Asada. Roche argues that the political constraints
of the time were not conducive to such a wild and selfish
alteration of American government, and the steps that were necessary to send delegates to the Constitutional Convention were far too tedious and numerous
to serve this purpose. This seems at odds with the principle of equal
voice at the polls.
Monday, 26 May 2014 18:53:47 UTC
I actually switched over to the audio version when I got to that part. I liked it.

Much better than my normal pattern of selecting the text, right clicking -> speech -> start speaking

which is interesting, is that copyright violation?

anyways. I'm glad all of this get out there, and I'm not a fan of copyrights. but I still think one thing is a bit messed up

...Umano pays it's voice actors to record the blog, but not you to write the blog...
Comments are closed.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.