Saturday, February 11, 2006

When Good Sites Go Bad

I'm not sure where to start with this story, so I'll try to start at the beginning.

I got interested in DVDs late in 1999, or early in 2000, and one of the first sites I went to was DVDReview.com; I actually bought my first DVDs because of them. I found their list of "Out of Print" titles, and noticed Army of Darkness was on there. That was one of my favorite movies, and the thought that I could miss owning a movie on DVD prompted me to buy Last of the Mohicans and The Abyss: SE a few days later. I didn't own a DVD player, and wouldn't for awhile, but I had just gotten a new computer at work with a DVD-ROM drive. I would spend my lunches sitting in front of the computer watching the bonus material (at least on The Abyss). I started buying more and more discs, and still didn't have a player at home. DVDReview was the site that I checked for news and reviews, and I didn't really see the need to look anywhere else. They had a forum, which was small, but...."quaint." Eventually I discovered some other sites, but I still thought of DVDReview as my "home" for DVD news; It was a site I had great respect for. I still check in on the site from time to time, but I don't have as much time to browse DVDs sites as I used to, and when I have the time I'm hitting up sites like DVDActive.com.

Last year I was in Vegas for the VSDA show (Video Software Dealers Association) and someone told me that Guido Henkel, the person behind DVDReview, was at the show - I was eager to meet him. I've met a few others that run DVD sites, and we usually have great conversations, so I wanted to meet the person behind the site that helped get me interested in DVDs, and prompted me to make my first DVD purchases. Guido and I didn't meet up at the show, and I left Vegas a bit bummed.

Let me preface the next bit with an obvious fact; people on the 'net tend to "borrow" information from elsewhere, and not everyone gives credit to the original source. Dave and I strongly believe that credit should be given to the original source, which is why you'll see us giving it whenever we post news that didn't originate with us. It's our way of thanking the people that send the news in to us, or the other sites and publications that did the work to come up with the story. It only seems fair, and most people seem to think along the same lines, but not everyone does.

The other day we posted news about the episodes that were going to be in the Star Trek Fan Collective - Borg set. It was something we had been working on for a few weeks, and we were quite proud to be the ones to deliver the news. Star Trek has a huge audience (duh), and there were lots of people waiting for that information. A few hours later I got an email from Dave directing me to a post on the Home Theater Forum. Someone there had posted the news about the Borg episodes, but they credited DVDReview with the news. I went to DVDReview and saw the same list of episodes I had posted earlier, and in the same order. A few news posts below that was the news about The X-Files sets being repackaged, and with missing discs, something I got from Fox directly. I realized that DVDReview was "borrowing" news from us, so I sent Guido a polite email asking him to credit us as the news source if he obtained the news from us. I hadn't received a response from him (and still haven't) when I got the episode titles for the Star Trek Fan Collective - Time Travel set. I was curious to see whether these would show up on DVDReview after I posted them to the site. This was another case of something we had worked hard to get, and we were the only ones with the information. I posted the news right before bed on the 9th, then I posted the news to HTF.

One of the first things I did the next morning, after answering emails and brushing my teeth (the emails are always first though), I took a look at DVDReview's news page. It hadn't been updated yet, but I noticed they had posted news about the 3 Superman titles coming in June, most likely "borrowed" from Superman Homepage, or "borrowed" from our news story without giving Superman Homepage the credit for the original story (which we did, especially since Steve sent us the news directly). Later in the day I checked again, and I couldn't believe what I saw. Not only did they list the episodes from our news item, they displayed them in EXACTLY THE SAME WAY. That's right, they used the same formatting (link to TVShowsOnDVD.com news, link to DVDReview.com news). I completely changed the format the episodes were given to me in; my format looked a lot nicer, and I set it up in the usual way I list the contents of discs in news items. I decided to check the HTML code, and sure enough, it was exactly the same (check it for yourself). We've had news stories "borrowed" by others before (we had a rather long "fight" with another site, which has gone away now), but no one has ever copied the HTML from a story and used it on another site. Since my email from the other day hadn't been answered I turned to the next best thing; the phone. I got Guido's number from a mutual friend, and I called him. I wasn't sure exactly what I would say, but I wasn't expecting to hear the response he gave.

I explained the situation to Guido, and told him I was a bit bothered that similar news stories were appearing on his site. I told him about the most recent case involving the Time Travel episodes, and how the format was the same, including the HTML. His response, "I don't care." I think I was expecting that he would apologize, explaining that he was tired, or simply forgot to credit us with the info, but I wasn't expecting that response. Guido doesn't handle the news on the site, and he defended the person that did saying he couldn't have copied and pasted the HTML into their "system." Now I don't know what "system" Guido has on the site, but if there's an input field that accepts text, then it can accept HTML, and there's clearly HTML formatting in the news item posted to their site. I asked Guido for more clarification about "not caring" and he explained to me his philosophy on information; once it's out there it's free for anyone to use, without giving credit to the original source. He said he wasn't bothered that someone working for him was "borrowing" information from elsewhere and said he had better things to do that to talk to me about the subject. I got off the phone feeling both frustrated, angry and betrayed. This was a site that I had relied upon in the past; it's where I went for my DVD news! Guido was a person that, up until that moment, I respected, and that was all gone with a single phone call. His response to me was far worse than the act of "borrowing" the information. Maybe Guido should re-read the statement on his "Terms of Use" page:
    TRADEMARKS, COPYRIGHTS AND RESTRICTIONS

    This site is controlled and operated by "DVD Review". All material on this site, including, but not limited to images, illustrations, audio clips, and video clips, is protected by copyrights which are owned and controlled by "DVD Review" or by other parties that have made their material available to "DVD Review" ("Copyrights"). Material from www.dvdreview.com or any Web site owned, operated, licensed or controlled by "DVD Review" may not be copied, reproduced, republished, uploaded, posted, transmitted, or distributed in any way. Modification of the materials or use of the materials for any other purpose is a violation of the copyrights and other proprietary rights. For purposes of this "Terms of Use Agreement", the use of any such material on any other Web site or networked computer environment is prohibited.
I'm viewing this blog post as a form of therapy for me. Now, a day later, I'm still bothered by Guido's response, but I'm even more bothered that a site I held in high regard "borrows" news from other sources and doesn't give them credit. I won't be back to DVDReview, at least not to use it as a source of information, and if Guido happens to be at VSDA later this year I won't be seeking him out to say hi.

What are your thoughts on this? Am I wrong to be bothered by this? Do you feel credit should be given, or is information free to use once it's out there?

45 Comments:

At February 11, 2006 12:02 PM, Anonymous Alex Oatley said...

That's pretty ridiculous. In the real world, his "borrowing" is called plagiarism. It's a shame that having a convenient URL could afford a jerk like that such a high profile. As for DVD reviews, the best site I've found is DVD Verdict.

 
At February 11, 2006 12:12 PM, Blogger Phoenician said...

Here's what I think: You're perfectly right.

It's alright to tell others news once "it's out there," but NOT without giving credit to those who did the work for you.

I've refered to TVShowsOnDVD many times when I've informtion to spill about a show of mine.

To not give credit where credit's due IS called plagiarism.

 
At February 11, 2006 1:04 PM, Blogger Spiderguts said...

Yes, it's called plagiarism, and plagiarism is illegal. If you copy text from a book or a magazine, and put it directly in your own book or magazine without crediting the original source, that's a *crime*. The fact that the information is online, instead of in print, doesn't change this.

 
At February 11, 2006 2:32 PM, Anonymous Marie said...

You have every right to be mad; I only wish more people used common sense and common decency when making decisions. One of the negative things about the Internet is stories like these. (Also, Alex Oatley is right - DVDVerdict.com is a great site.)

Good luck with this!

 
At February 11, 2006 2:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That stinks.

Have you contacted dvdreview.com's webhost about this matter? I run a website and a couple of times I ran across another site/message board that "borrowed" pages and pages of stuff from my site. I usually email the webmaster the "if you violate copyright laws, we will have the right to terminate your service" clause from their webhosts' terms of service agreement. Once they realized that there were consequences to their actions, they promptly removed the "borrowed" pages.

 
At February 11, 2006 3:13 PM, Blogger Gord Lacey said...

No, I haven't emailed their host. I think I'll wait and see whether they "borrow" anything else from us before I decide what to do next. I'm more bothered by his response than the actual act of "borrowing."

Thanks for the support, it's good to know I'm not crazy.

Gord

 
At February 11, 2006 3:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the saddest part is how you sort of looked up to him. It's always hard to come to terms with someone not being what you thought, or hoped, they were.

I can certainly understand, and even sympathize, with Guido's philosophy on information. But not if he has a statement contradicting this on his site. Gord, I think it's time you made a stand against hypocrisy. Teach Guido a lesson. He just might be a happier, healther person for it.

 
At February 11, 2006 9:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have one thing to say, What a Tool!!!

 
At February 12, 2006 3:17 AM, Blogger dvdguy said...

I have run into Guido person at several media events and he is probably one of the biggest a-holes
I have ever met.

His response to you is not surprising knowing his character. Unlike THEDIGITALBITS.COM, this is a second-rate news site that doesn't hold enough clout to get information on their own so they go out and steal from others without giving credit.

No surprises here. Sorry you became a victim, Gord.

 
At February 12, 2006 4:29 AM, Blogger Pete B said...

What can I say that hasn't already? Yes... it sucks.

DVDReview was one of the first DVD sites I found as well and used to go there daily. Now it is seldomly visited. There is so many better sites out there for DVD news... especially yours. TVShowsonDVD is my absolute favorite DVD site now.

If you want to wait to see if it happens again I can understand... but I would consider reporting it to their host.

 
At February 12, 2006 10:52 AM, Blogger Gord Lacey said...

It's not going to happen again. Guido has told me they won't be using us as a source for their news anymore, and has removed both the "Time Travel" news item and the "Borg" news from the site.

Gord

 
At February 12, 2006 2:55 PM, Anonymous Wesley Mead said...

You told them, Gord! Nobody messes with TVShowsonDVD! :)

On a side note, I think it's great that you always give credit to anyone who helped out or contributed a story; so many sites don't, which is at best unfair and at worst plagiarism.

 
At February 12, 2006 6:36 PM, Anonymous Jay said...

Ok that guy needs to understand he cant do that. Hell even you watch the news ABC/NBC whatever. They give credit! Like today on NBC they were showing ABC footage put in the upper left showed ABC SPORTS FOOTAGE.

Its annoying. I wont ever go there!

 
At February 12, 2006 8:00 PM, Anonymous whotony said...

he must have had a change of heart on the star trek time travel eps.

here is what i saw just a minute ago.

"According to our friends over at TVShowsonDVD.com, the new DVD set will include the following episodes."

 
At February 12, 2006 11:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For what it's worth, you are not overreacting. Sadly, his attitude is all too common. Anything on the Net is deemed fair game. ::huffs::

I belong to quite a few message boards/forums and occasionally I share news from your site with the groups. However I always make it clear A)TVShowsOnDVD is the source, and B) a link is provided to the actual item on your site. I may include a quote as a teaser, but always with the above two items posted as well.

In case you need to hear it (well, read it), your site is much appreciated and respected. And I certainly appreciate all the work that goes into it.

::hugs::
M

 
At February 13, 2006 12:41 AM, Blogger J.D. said...

For my part, I'd never heard of that site before you mentioned it. This is really the only site I come to for DVD news (since TV shows are about all I buy anymore.)

As an avid blogger, I realize that (at least in the blog game, dunno about DVD news reporting) sometimes I have to quote other people's work just to stay current. That being said, I always give credit. That's only fair. The person I quoted went to a lot of trouble to find that information. And if you're not going to cite your source, the least you could do is throw in a hyperlink somewhere in the text that would take a reader back to the original article.

I know if anybody stole my American Idol contestant interviews, I'd be PISSED.

And, at LEAST, if someone calls complaining, why would you say "I don't care?" Even if you don't care, why not at least pretend you care, instead of just being a butt about it? It's called customer service, and now, because of that, he's lost not only one loyal visitor to his site, but potentially many more who read all this.

 
At February 13, 2006 7:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is so pathetic.

I notice that this site and SitcomsOnline often share-news. You will post and then they will thanking you and vice versa. If only other people took the time to build relationships like this.

I don't know what is worse: the offence or the attitude.

 
At February 13, 2006 8:36 AM, Blogger Jason said...

I think you have every right to be upset. Not only did the site participate in something unethical and illegal, but they were smug about doing it. What a shame!

 
At February 13, 2006 10:59 AM, Anonymous willb3d said...

If your info came out before an official press release came out, you should be credited for having scared up the info. And that credit should remain up as long as the info has not been verified by an official press release.

But once the press release is out, that info is free for all, and I would expect that sites would then credit the source of the press release itself (i.e. Paramount), rather than the hardworking site (yours!) that got the info early.

 
At February 13, 2006 1:34 PM, Anonymous Nathan said...

Every time I've e-mailed Gord with a question he's answered me with respect, a trait Guido Henkel obviously lacks.

 
At February 13, 2006 1:42 PM, Blogger deltiger said...

When a person "Borrows" something that relays the impression that they are giving something back. But when someone takes something with no intention of giving back that is "stealing". As I see it this was stealing, plagiarism and a few other bad words worked in. If the work was just Borrowed then they would have sited where they got it and provided a link back to return some form of favor or good will.

It seems some people are just to wrapped up in themselves and don't really care about others and there are always more people willing to follow or listen to them.

It is cool you do have this blog in which to vent! Yea for Venting!!

 
At February 13, 2006 5:05 PM, Anonymous Sam said...

Sounds like DVDReview is just damned lazy and selfish. How much effort does it take to say "thanks to... [insert name] ... for the info."

You're absolutely right, Gord.

 
At February 14, 2006 12:42 AM, Blogger J.D. said...

I guess they think if they omit mentioning their source then people will think they were the industrious ones and found out the information themselves. So it could be an ego thing.

And too, they might think that if they mention this site as a source that people might actually go to this site and read it and quit going to their site, since this one is more up-to-date and cutting edge.

Either way, it's a shameful move, and I won't be going to their site at all.

 
At February 14, 2006 2:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder if John Grisham would mind if I bought one of his books rip the cover off and have it published with my name on the cover?

 
At February 14, 2006 8:13 PM, Blogger charmedfan01 said...

i think you have a right to be mad and upset. i know i would be. if its one thing ive learned in school so far is , plagerism and that certainly is plagerism!!!

 
At February 14, 2006 8:51 PM, Blogger Drew said...

Looks like they finally gave you the credit you deserve. They even included a link to you site.

 
At February 15, 2006 10:23 PM, Blogger The Thomas Montalto Blog said...

Honestly, I think the guy is a total a** and I'm gonna drop him an e-mail about what you said. Especially since he said what he has is copy righted. Jerk.

 
At February 17, 2006 9:21 PM, Anonymous quicksilver_drake said...

"how strangely juxtaposed the sadness and joy we feel on the day in which we realise we have surpassed our heroes..."

... i put it in quotes because i'm sure someone much wiser than me has said it before, but i've no idea who should be given credit for it- and considering the topic of this particular post, it'd be rather hypocritical of me to claim it as my own original thought ;)

the fact of the matter is (and i feel quite validated in writing this because of your original post) that TVShowsOnDVD.com has become the new standard for collecting and reporting the most reliable & up-to-date 'insider' information regarding television releases on DVD...

---

i won my very first DVD-player in a Best Buy sales contest back in 1997 and i immediately became obsessed with owning all of my recorded media in this crisp & durable new format...

but back then, those of us surfing the web in search of the latest DVD info on our favourite movies & shows didn't really care where the info came from, as long as it was generally trustworthy & accurate: there just weren't that many reliable places to go back then- as i'm sure you can attest to...

as more people joined the 'digital revolution' though; and more and more were 'logging on' every day; and the internet startup bubble expanded; we surfers & searchers began to expect more of the sites we frequented as 'homes' for our information...

---

things, however, have changed- as they often do...

the deal now is: not only do we want access to the most recent information, we also NEED to trust its source...

in my experience, your TVShowsOnDVD.com has been exemplary in providing news in a timely yet informed & credited manner! kudos and all... ;)

your site, and your dedication to proper sourcing, is simply the next generation of what the public at large require from an 'insider information' website:

>you provide as many details as you can deduce from the perfect storm of information around us
>you report all yet make clear the differences amongst false reports, rumours, reliable rumours, and actual truths
>you almost always err on the side of caution regarding those differences
>you seem to always give informant credit where it is due (or desired)

this is why i utilise the TVShowsOnDVD site- and it is obvious that your old respected standby hasn't bothered to keep up with the times...

---

you saw the giant and revered it; you desired and then set about to emulate it; you succeeded... and upon its shoulders you realised that giant was not nearly as tall as it seemed from the ground...

a sad day because you lost a trusted hero from your past...

but surely a joyous day as well because you became a trusted hero for so many more! ;)

---

i get pretty pissed-off too when someone steals my work, but at the same time i always TRY to view it as an affirmation that at least i'm on the right path...

---

your site is on the right path- keep at it mate!

q.d.

 
At February 20, 2006 1:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I started coming to this site because my brother, who has been coming here for a while now, recommended it. Since I have been coming here I haven't even thought of looking elsewhere. You give me all the information that I need. I would have been really mad also if someone had stolen my hard work and then acted like an jerk. I am glad that he finally changed it. I will never go to that site for any info. Thank you for all the work you do to bring us the newest and best information.

 
At February 22, 2006 9:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your site is my "home" for DVD news. I am sorry to hear that your "home" site is run by a supercilious conceited jerk. But, at least I know that I can count on my "home" site to be honest and to give credit where credit is due. SMILE
Thank you for all your hard work!!!!

 
At February 25, 2006 7:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know what you should do? Copy every page of his site, call it DVDReviews.com, change the colors slightly, and put on the homepage - "Attention Guido, here's my phone number, would you like to try that conversation again?"

 
At February 27, 2006 12:31 AM, Blogger Allison Brennan said...

I'm late coming into this, but I had to comment. I periodically come to your website to check out release dates for certain shows, and just discovered this blog.

I totally believe he should give credit to the appropriate news source. As a writer, my work is protected by copyright and I would fight tooth and nail--and so would my publisher--if someone "copied" my book and put it out for public consumption.

The man has no integrity. But if you said that to him, he'd probably shrug and say, "I don't care."

 
At February 27, 2006 11:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It appears as if he has changed the site to give you credit now.

 
At February 27, 2006 11:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's too bad that you don't have a legal recourse on this. I believe that any official site (as opposed to someone's blog) should give credit to the site when presenting news as news. However, if someone is doing an overview of specific type of dvds (like Barrie Maxwell does at digital bits), where there is a lot of different sources, I think it's ok to just state that the information has been gotten from different sources on the net.

 
At March 04, 2006 11:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm surprised by the people saying this is merely plagiarism. What it is is copyright infringement and that is illegal. Perhaps the "list of names" wouldn't be copyright infringement since once it is released, it is considered news. However, copying and pasting code from one copyrighted website to another is illegal and definitely infringement. The bad thing about that is, it is a civil action and the infringed webmaster would need to show how he/she was damaged in order to collect anything. But, you could still send a cease and desist letter and give Guido a bit of a scare. It all boils down to ethics and I certainly would never frequent a site that is so unethical to stoop to this. Good luck!

 
At March 06, 2006 10:20 PM, Blogger Lee said...

You are perfectly in the right. I'll be sure to avoid his site from now on.

 
At March 10, 2006 4:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay it sucks your information got borrowed...but I don't see anywhere on the home page where tvshowsondvd.com has terms of use? No where does it say that someone else can't borrow it.

Geez, at least Guido was honest when he said he didn't care.

 
At March 12, 2006 1:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Like Allison said (way down the line), I have only discovered this blog after coming here primarily to look for info on specific series in which I am interested.

This Guido guy is a total jerk, and Gord, you are right to feel as you do. Sounds as if the twit has finally gotten his act together, but I will never go to his site to check it out.

 
At April 13, 2006 8:37 AM, Blogger WhatIGotSoFar said...

Thanks for the heads up about that site. It used to be one of my favourite sites but with the recent lack of quality information and with this now, I'm gone from that site.

 
At May 23, 2006 4:45 PM, Anonymous Michael Simpson said...

I absolutely agree with you on this one, Gord. I sometimes use TVShowsOnDVD as a source for web sites that I write for and always make a point of naming the site as such. It is discourteous and unprofessional to take news stories from other sources and not credited them. There may be some situations where it is impractical to credit every source used in researching a feature article, but when a news item is derived from another web site, the source should be acknowledged.

 
At May 27, 2006 10:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

All i know is that i religiously check tvshowsondvd almost weekly to check up on IF my favorite shows of the 70's will ever be put out at all..... you know the ones we are talking about from Universal.... Six Million Dollar Man and Bionic Woman.... those two are classics... but back to the ordeal of what was posted and everything else .... if you see something posted send an email to him 1 time if he doesnt respond go to the next person in line the HOST of the website...

 
At July 08, 2006 4:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had a similar experience with another website borrowing info and features from mine. I had posted news of a celebrity appearance with details given directly to me by the newspaper I had written to for info to my website only to find that the exact article was posted to another website- WITH the photo that I had inserted from my hard drive to dress it up.- Strange I thought- if they had gotten the info from the same source I did why would they have chosen the exact same photo I used since the original info came to ME with no photo? This person when confronted insisted that the original source had EMAILED them my website page when asked for the same info! I've heard a lot of interesting excuses but that one really threw me! Talk about borrowing HTML- they had simply saved my entire webpage and uploaded it to their own site!

 
At August 01, 2006 11:49 PM, Blogger EBS said...

Gord,
Its sad when someone you look up to turns out to be someone you can't trust...yes they finally gave you your props but after the fact to say "friends" at TVSODVD yeah right, in my opinion friendship doesn't treat you like that phone call...

What a sad day indeed, another hero hurts someone who cared...

You have the right to be upset and I'm glad you FINALLY got your props :D

 
At August 22, 2006 9:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read your post months ago, now I've returned to reread it because the same thing has been happening to me.

I run a small website about an actor. Recently I have found a long list of material from my site posted on a large entertainment information site with no credits given. (Things I spent a lot of time doing research on and wrote myself.) I've never posted there. The way this site is run, the more items someone contributes, the more credits they get and the higher their ranking is on the site. In other words, the contributors get credit but the site they've taken the information from and the person who did all the work does not. Like you, I have always given credit when I post something and didn't think it was too much to expect the same. It just seems like common sense and basic consideration.

I've always thought TVShowsOnDVD was a great site and continue to give recommendations for it on my site. (I've taken down the links I used to have to that other site.)

Gord, I don't blame you for being upset. And it's nice to see that there are still some people on the internet who have integrity. (that also goes for the others who have posted here) I've been getting very discouraged.

 
At October 16, 2006 10:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wanted to add: the website I was referring to in the above is TV.com. Beware.

 

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