It seems that these past couple months have been big "copy Eric" months. Besides the typical cases of rapscallions copying the computer terms and filename suffixes from Saugus.net without permission (there's an amazing number of these in spite of the fact that we generally freely grant permission to educational, government, and non-profit institutions who ask first) there have been a few others recently of note.
I almost never see these things right away. In fact, normally other people see them and write in to let me know. Oftentimes quite a few people will write in, depending upon how blatant the copy.
The first unusual case that people contacted me about concerned the Saugus General By-Laws. I was of course the volunteer who first converted them into electronic format, and I finished the task nearly eight years ago. In fact, I converted not only the general ones, but also the Zoning By-Laws, the Subdivision Rules and Regulations, the Housing Authority By-Laws, and basically everything that I could get my hands on at the time. In fact, I first started converting such documents back in around 1995 when I was on the Saugus Planning Board and doing occasional research on OCR, and after Saugus.net was founded I worked with the Town Clerk to finish converting everything and make it all available for free to the general public.
A few weeks ago one of the local papers was reporting that the by-laws (just the general ones, mind you) had just been converted to electronic format for the first time ever, and by someone else at that. Seeing as how the by-laws had been downloaded hundreds of thousands of times since 1998, quite a few people seemed to think this was curious and wrote in / phoned in to ask me about it.
The full story is that when the gentleman who was mentioned in the newspaper decided to make a computerized version of the by-laws, he contacted Town Clerk Jean Banks who sent him to me. He explained to me that he wanted to reconvert the by-laws from paper, and asked whether or not I'd be willing to check them and make corrections (seeing as how I was arguably one of the most familiar with the documents in question and I'd gone through the process before). I actually tried to talk him out of it; after all, it was work already done. Nonetheless, he proceeded, and I proofread his results and applied corrections. Thus he became the second person in Saugus history to convert the General By-Laws to computerized format, not the first as was reported in the paper. Was it a worthwhile or useful exercise? Probably not, but he at least really did some work. The next case is a straight rip-off.
Shortly after I got the messages about the by-laws in the newspaper I started getting messages about by-laws on another web site. Of course, I found it odd that after eight years of little notice the by-laws were seemingly getting all sorts of attention. I got a message from someone who was surprised to see an event they'd posted on the Saugus community calendar listed incorrectly on another calendar on another site. While I didn't get as many messages about this site as I had gotten about the earlier newspaper article, I decided to follow up on it. What I found was truly amazing: a web site that (aside from advertisements) basically consisted of content that it had "borrowed" from other web sites including not only Saugus.net, but the official Town of Saugus Government site, the now largely defunct Town of Saugus Assessors' Office site, the Saugus VFW site, the National Park Service Iron Works site, plus some local sports associations and the official Commonwealth of Massachusetts' site to boot. The site had neatly removed the source web sites' copyright information and replaced it all with its own. Stranger still, this site was getting promoted by the Saugus Chamber of Commerce (who apparently never bothered to look at it).
To add insult to injury, this site had apparently made the copies a few months ago and hadn't bothered to keep them up-to-date with the originals. This site is not only trying to collect advertising revenue on other people's work (if anyone deserves advertising revenue from the Saugus VFW site, for example, it's the Saugus VFW, not some random person who is just ripping off their work) but it is displaying outdated incorrect information to boot.
This one is still in progress; I tried contacting the site's proprietor via the contact information listed in the Chamber of Commerce flier and managed to speak to him briefly. He essentially threw the blame on someone else, promised to call me later in the afternoon, and I've not heard from him since. As he's apt to be reading this article, I'll again ask nicely to remove the purloined content.
I won't help this site out by linking to it; if you want to find it you can check with the Chamber of Commerce. I'll post updates here later.
The third case is more amusing. It's about the article posted on this blog last month on February 6th titled Dog Mines. The reports started coming in yesterday about how first one, and then two, and then three different newspaper articles were suddenly reporting about
a minefield in Breakheart. Tonight I even got an e-mail saying how it was now being discussed on one of the local radio stations. You know where it appeared first...
They say that
imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and it's good to know people are reading my work.