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Published on January 18th, 2012 | by Sharilyn Johnson

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On SOPA awareness day, throwing stones in Glass houses.

UPDATE: Apology received, accepted, all is happy in Blogland.

Original post:

Hi, it’s your friendly editor here.

Yesterday, one of the big boys in this comedy blogging game, Laughspin, publicly accused The Advocate of plagiarizing their article about Todd Glass coming out.

There were some glaring similarities, most noticably in the quotes that the Advocate chose to run, and in the way they formatted them.

Stealing sucks. So you can imagine how I felt when I checked my Facebook feed this afternoon, and saw my own photo of Todd Glass staring back at me via a shared link to Laughspin’s follow-up article.

The photo credit is clearly stated on the original post, a review of a show Glass did at Comedy Bar in Toronto last year. The image also resides in my Flickr account, tagged as “All Rights Reserved”. I was not asked permission for the photo’s usage, nor was I given credit.

Steal this photo. (Actually, please don't.)

Theft happens quite a bit online, despite any measures you try to take to protect yourself. But it’s a special kind of punch in the stomach when your work is stolen by a publication that’s already bigger, faster, and stronger than you.

I don’t have the time or resources to compete with the big boys, like Laughspin. As it is, I spend more time on this site than most people realize. Good example: you may have noticed some technical/cosmetic issues today, which I’ve spent a good part of the past 24 hours attempting to fix (and will likely continue into the wee hours).

I go with the advantage I do have, which is the ability to generate a high percentage of original content. I provide that original content in two ways: in my writing, and in my photography.

All the photo sets that run alongside the pieces you read here are shot by me. I started doing live photography a dozen years ago, primarily music. I shot on film: you know, that stuff that came on rolls and went into a camera that you had to hold up to your face? Urban Outfitters customers know what I’m talking about.

On this site, I’m exceptionally proud of shoots I did of Paul F. Tompkins backstage at the Rivoli, and the Sketchersons rehearsing with Bret Hart. This shot of Marc Maron is a favorite among my friends.

Original content is my one advantage. When my content is stolen, it’s no longer so original. And there goes my advantage. Poof.

Today is Stop Online Piracy Awareness (SOPA) awareness day. Some of the big players online, like Wikipedia and Reddit, have gone dark in protest of the SOPA bill that’s been put in front on Congress in the US. Today is intended to foster discussion about copyright issues and the rights of content creators.

I’m against SOPA on many points, including that a content creator can have another site completely shut down just by making an accusation of theft. In most cases, that would be a ridiculously harsh consequence.

Any number of things could have led my photo to end up in Laughspin’s post. Maybe it was the writer who submitted it. Maybe someone there hasn’t been briefed on the fact that not everything on the internet fair game. It’s highly unlikely that this was done out of malice, and my assumption is that Laughspin will do the right thing in response.

A single lifted photo isn’t going to ruin this site, or cause me loss of income, or even loss of sleep. But it does, on some level, feel like a diminishment of what I pour so much effort and money into. It’s just as frustrating to me right now as I’m sure the Advocate’s apparent content-lifting was to Laughspin yesterday.

Despite the intentions or effects, it’s worth talking about, today of all days. Consider this post my contribution to the SOPA conversation.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go spend several hours fixing my CSS. Unless I just copy and paste someone else’s code. Hmm…


About the Author

Called "one of the city’s most discriminating comedy critics” by NOW Magazine, Sharilyn has been covering comedy since 1998. She served as the comedy reporter for Winnipeg's Uptown Magazine for five years, and was the host of the radio show Laugh Tracks for three seasons. Her work has also appeared in the Toronto Star, the Winnipeg Free Press, The Apiary, and on CBC Radio's national comedy program LOL.


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