Sunday, January 24, 2010

A tale of two websites

Take a look at this website, belonging to the GM DX Group. Now take a look at this one, the website of the Guernsey Amateur Radio Society. Surprisingly similar, aren't they? In fact, if you look at the HTML code that produces these pages, the similarities are more than skin deep. A friend of mine, who is a bit of a stickler for such issues and drew this to my attention, tells me that the Scottish group was the original designer and that they are a bit unhappy about the Guernsey club having ripped off their layout.

There are laws about using other people's material on a website, and some of us hams either don't know the rules or think they don't apply to us. I have had a website for a long time and I have encountered all extremes. On the one hand there are people who ask permission simply to link to an article on a site. That really isn't necessary. I have never met a webmaster who didn't want links to pages on his site as links are what bring visitors, which every site owner wants.

At the other extreme there are people who lift content willy-nilly and put it on their site without asking permission at all. One of the worst offenders right now is an Elecraft K3 owner from Florida who recently started a download site containing copies of equipment manuals and other articles. I'm pretty sure he doesn't have permission to host this material because this same friend of mine found a PDF file containing his review of the Elecraft K3 which had been lifted from his site, along with photos and other material, and his permission had never been asked at all. Indeed, this friend tells me there are even Celine Dion MP3 files on the site. Not only are US copyright laws being flouted but the terms and conditions of his hosting service as well.

I think bloggers sometimes sail a bit close to the wind too. It used to amaze me that some bloggers managed to get a picture of a guy they worked that morning to illustrate their blog, until I realized that the picture had been copied from the contact's QRZ.com page. Google Images is another easy way to find relevant pictures to illustrate blog posts about places you have worked or are writing about, but if you copy images found in this way you almost certainly don't have permission to use them on your own site.

If you have to seek permission before using an image of someone's station, by the time you receive it the topicality of the posting will have been lost. And no ham blogger is going to pay for permission to use a copyright image from a library to illustrate a post, because no-one is making money out of ham radio blogging.

Not using pictures would make many blogs rather dull. But there isn't really any difference between copying someone's website template and copying their pictures. Just because they are fellow hobbyists doesn't mean they don't deserve the courtesy of asking permission before we use material they have created.
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