over the alleged “screen-scraping” activities of Bravofly breach provisions of the Trademarks Act and the Copyright and Related Rights Act, amount to “passing off” and also breach the conditions for accessing the Ryanair website.
Other companies welcome linkages to increase traffic, and may enter into marketing arrangements (eg with price comparison sites or as affiliates) that offer financial benefits to either or both parties.
David Philips in “Online Public Relations” cites agency as one of three phenomena identified by Anne Gregory as important to online PR (alongside transparency and porosity):
‘Agency’ is the process of transformation of a message as it is passed from one person to another, and acts through the application to the original data of new context and understanding… Agency is of itself neither benign nor malicious.
PR practitioners are masters in using agency in respect of securing third party endorsement, traditionally via mainstream media reporting of messages. We seek to ensure influential people are advocates for our organisations, helping build its reputation.
The idea has always been that the wider our message spreads – especially by positive word of mouth – the better. So, the internet, email and social media add velocity to the power of PR to spread a message – and provided it is not transformed negatively, everyone is happy.
Except, there is increasingly the issue of copyright and protecting intellectual property, with commercialism coming head to head with opportunities to maximise access and reach online.
When PR practitioners send out a press release, they want its content to be reproduced as widely as possible.
Back in May, Zoe Margolis picked up on a growing trend for mainstream media to use blog content without permission or payment. In particular, the case of JonnyB comes to mind, where a 392-word post was used by the Mail on Sunday – and although the paper did subsequently pay Jonny’s invoice, its apology contained the pretty amazing statement:
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.
The Mail on Sunday attitude that blog posts are free to use as they are in the public domain is naive at best – especially when such newspapers protect their own copyright (including when this is simply reproducing corporate press releases).
Greenbanana has been quoted from twice recently by PRWeek – and I’m happy for the exposure. If I had been asked, then I would have approved the use. My posts are also picked up through spliced feeds eg FeedBurner’s PR Network and I use RSS to feed my blog to my educational website, www.greenbanana.biz (alongside feeds from the Guardian and BBC).
It is nice to be read – but there is a new trend where other bloggers lift an entire post. This has occurred a couple of times for posts at PRConversations – including my recent musings on Google juice and digital dirt, which has been reproduced at Trimedia: Blog | Europe’s leading PR Agency & Communications Consultancy.
I have not been asked for this post to be used in this way – and it implies an involvement (possibly even an endorsement) with Trimedia in Switzerland, which does not exist. If I’d been contacted, I would probably have agreed to author a guest post or allow this work to be cited, but my words have just been scraped.
I believe there needs to be a balance between enforcing laws to protect originators whilst enabling their work to reach a wider audience (if that is what they want) as the agency of online communications allows.
But scraping by commercial organisations is normally done for a vested interest, and one would expect the companies whose information is used should be asked to agree to this. The principle should also apply when lifting the majority or entirety of a blog post (whether for online or offline publication), even when acknowledgement is given in the form of a credit or link.