In the world of journalism there are a few things you just don’t do. You don’t fabricate stories. You don’t plagiarize someone else’s work. And, you definitely don’t steal other news publications’ content. Doing any of the three could get you fired, effectively end your career and might possibly result in a costly lawsuit and/or stiff legal fines and penalties.
Journalists understand these rules. Well, most of us any way (there’s always a bad apple somewhere). Unfortunately, many casual readers and news-media consumers either don’t know these ins-and-outs or just don’t care. But, there is one basic principle with which most people are aware: You do not steal property that does not belong to you.
Willie D. Pilkington, the publisher of the “Raleigh GLBT Cultural Report and News,” obviously missed out on his childhood lessons of right and wrong. Either someone never taught him not to steal or that lesson never sank in.
For nearly two years now, qnotes has politely waged a copyright infringement battle with Pilkington. It all started in the summer of 2008, when we noticed some of our publication’s advertisements had been screenshot from the digital versions of our print edition, forcing us to add an unsightly watermark to the PDF files we upload to our website.
As time went on, we noticed Pilkington began republishing our news content, often changing the pieces’ titles and stripping out any mention of qnotes or the staff who wrote the piece. Pilkington’s alleged theft culminated in the republication of a feature news story in July 2009 and a second online news story only a couple weeks later.
After compiling the two instances of intellectual property theft and copyright infringement, we wrote a letter informing Pilkington to stop his unauthorized reproduction of our content. We mailed the letter, certified. Pilkington refused it and it was returned to sender, unopened.
Pilkington continued to republish, without permission, more and more of our content, alongside other news stories from the Associated Press, other regional news publications and LGBT news-media across the country.
To be fair, Pilkington says community members often send him “unsolicited content” and that he has no idea of its original source. Regardless, after several warnings and pleas to stop, in both writing and over the phone, Pilkington’s continued unauthorized republication of qnotes content is troubling. His refusal to take responsibility for his actions is frustrating. His insistence on stripping away the names of hardworking writers who produced the pieces is disheartening. Above all, Pilkington’s actions are illegal and highly unethical.
I speak for the entire editorial, production and business staff here when I say we are disappointed — actually, we’re a little more than pissed — that a so-called community leader would continually disregard the hard work and effort of other LGBT community members and continue to steal what is not rightfully his. The pieces Pilkington has republished represent hours upon hours of research, interviewing, writing, proofreading, editing, production and layout time, printing costs and delivery/circulation costs. This is our time, our creative effort, our intellectual property and our company’s physical and financial resources.
We haven’t yet sued Pilkington, partly because we believe him when he says all he seeks to do is serve the Raleigh LGBT community. We’re pleased to see someone else as committed to news and media as us. But, our understanding, civility and kindness can only go so far. We can only say “pretty please” and kindly ask him to stop so many times.
This is Pilkington’s last, and public, warning to stop his unauthorized republication of qnotes content.
Willie, the content you have republished does not belong to you. It belongs to qnotes. It is born from the work and dedication of the editorial and production staff who create it and the publishing and distribution staff who see it through printing and circulation. Hopefully, protecting your own integrity and self-respect — ending the possibility of any further public shaming and/or legal consequences — will be enough of a motivator for you end your unethical practices. Perhaps, now you can begin respecting the intellectual property rights of qnotes, the Associated Press, other newspapers and several other LGBT journalists and publications from which you have allegedly stolen content.
Pride Publishing & Typesetting, Inc. is more than happy to see our work referenced or republished. However, the content is copyrighted. If you would like to republish or distribute an article or feature appearing in qnotes, you must first receive written permission from the editor or publisher. You can contact us at email@example.com. Unauthorized reproduction of any content in qnotes is a violation of 17 U.S.C. Section 101 et seq. Violators could be liable for statutory damages as high as $150,000 as forth in Section 504(c)(2) therein. : :
This piece appeared in the April 17, 2010-April 30, 2010 print edition.