I met a young blogger the other day who reported to me that one of his posts (attributed) had been used in the promotional client newsletter of one of the A-List bloggers, in fact probably the most famous blogger around. He was thrilled and hopeful that this fella’s vast audience might find their way to his own blog.

“Did he ask you if he could use your content?” I asked.

“No,” the young man replied.

“So a fellow blogger — and technically your direct competitor — stole your original content to use in marketing materials aimed at promoting his company and increasing his own sales?”

“Yes, I guess so,” he said with decidely less enthusiasm.

“Has he had any contact with you at all?”


“Do you think he even knows who you are?”

“I don’t think so.”

This really happened and I see these scenarios played out almost daily.

I have been in the corporate world a long time and I have to tell you, in any business other than blogging, what happened in this situation would probably result in a court case. I didn’t name names because the practice illustrated here is commonplace among social media bloggers.

Now I know there are certain potential benefits of exposure through the article link that can help this young blogger. But the senior blogger in question should know better and be more professional than simply using another writer’s original work without even the courtesy of asking for permission to re-print.

What is it about the social web that makes people think they have the right to use the work of others without even a common “please” or “thank you?” — let alone (gasp) COMPENSATING us for our work? This is simply arrogance and greed that is out of control.  They are giving their fellow professionals less credit than they would give to a $2 stock photo.

The sad part is, I think the entire social web is becoming numb to the fact that this whole system is corrupt.

It reminds me of the time I visited a developing country … a nation run by thugs.  The citizens had been immersed in corruption for so long, they had forgotten what free enterprise was supposed to be like.  The children looked up to and emulated the crooks because they didn’t know any other way.

A few weeks ago I wrote about the broken economics of blogging.  Business “professionals” stealing content for their personal gain is another symptom of a lack of leadership in this space. It’s like some of these bloggers are school yard bullies picking though everybody’s lunch instead of acting like leaders who should be inspiring, mentoring and creating an inclusive business model.

I don’t have any problem with a news feed aggregating content and I’ve never refused somebody’s request to use my content for their own private newsletter.  But it seems like reasonable business professionals would have the courtesy and good sense to at least ASK to use a writer’s work before publishing it as valued-added content for their customers. The social web has been overrun with an entitlement mentality that views any copywritten, original content as something that can be freely re-purposed for private commercial gain.

What’s your take on this? Aren’t you getting fed up with these bullying business practices … or are you comfortably numb?

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