Wednesday, April 20, 2011 & The Second Precept

Adam from Fly Like A Crow alerted me the other day that a blog called was reposting my blog content without permission or credit and that of several others in the Buddhist blog community (Dangerous Harvest & The Zennist). Turns out this has been going on for at least a year. We write and post, he reposts, no credit, no link, no acknowledgement. Apparently there's a word for it in the blogosphere. It's called "scraping", no bowing involved.

Now there is a strange quality to this action in my mind. For starters, you don't have to be a Buddhist to know that taking something without permission is not particularly ethical. I think if you explained the situation to most 8 yr olds, they would tell you it wasn't the "nice" thing to do. But it has an especially odd aroma to poach Buddhist flavoured writings. We're writing about awareness and considered behaviour and karma, and working with our desires. In fact the second precept in Buddhism, speaks directly to this issue: "Do not take what is not given".

I don't pay a great deal of attention to it but there has been a flurry of news of Sangha Sex Scandals lately, involving teachers and students and there is also a precept that speaks to care in the use of sexuality. So what's the deal? Where there are rules and humans it seems, there will be transgression. Perhaps those who cross the ruled line somehow reason the rules are not for them, their situation is exceptional somehow. Perhaps they avoid thinking about the issue altogether, simply doing what suits them in the moment without reflection. Perhaps their desire for something (sex, adsense dollars) is so strong they can't control their behaviour. I can never know the motivation of others for sure.

There is so much to consider at the point where rules and slippage collide. What about karma, the inevitable consequences of our actions. Am I judging, am I being self righteous in asking what's going on here. In my tiny pea brain, I assume some level of awareness in those involved or interested in studying Buddhist practice or any spiritual path for that matter, so why would you take an action that requires only a little thought to see it's unethical flavour? And when it's pointed out to you, don't you think you might cease and desist (this is cop talk for drop the blog posts) Don't you only have to ask the simple question, "how would I like it, if I was on the receiving end?" This is a simple question that even small children seem to understand.

We all have blind spots, places where we cannot see our actions clearly, where delusion prevails. So if we consider the second precept of "not taking what is not given" we can probably find a place where we cross the line. Did you have a taste from the bulk bin or borrow a newspaper in the hotel hallway? Maybe? Steal a car, rob a bank? Probably not.

So BuddhaRocks has offered us the first part of a great teaching. We have had the opportunity to reflect on the second precept from several angles. Can BuddhaRocks now offer us the opportunity to see someone consider their behaviour and make changes that truly reflect the blog name of both the Buddha and a rock? We're waiting, with palms together.


  1. Oh Carole, I'm so sorry this happened to you. It was/is wrong...absolutely and yet, there is a lovely compliment in it all too. This person felt your writing, your thoughts were worth sharing (even though it was done without crediting you and without your permission). In an unconventional (and mischievous) way, perhaps there is blessing to be found here. The wisdom has still been offered, and learning was still experienced through your writing (even though your name was not attached to it)...I am NOT condoning what was done...but saying there is at least some benefit for the readers of this other blog despite the unethical behavior that placed your words and the words of the other bloggers there.

    gentle steps

  2. Ugh. Of course he (or she) has now reposted THIS blog without citation.

    Oh the bitter irony.


  3. You know, I'm kind of torn about all of this. My posts have been going up over there for several months now at least. I actually knew about it awhile back and forgot to check in again until Adam and a few others mentioned it recently to me.

    I get the sense that whomever runs that site has just set up an RSS feed that reprints whatever comes through it. They choose the blogs to link to and that's about it. In fact, just yesterday I changed how my posts go through such feeds, and if you look at my post "Evolve your Brain" on Buddharocks - it's only a small piece of it. (That's pretty funny to see, by the way :)

    Anyway, I'm torn because first off, my views of copyright have changed over the years. I'm less concerned about it. Not that it doesn't matter, but I'd much rather share most of what I'm writing than worry too much about copyright. Also, I agree with Laura that someone out there is getting to read those posts that might never find our websites.

    On the other hand, the manner in which Buddharocks is set up just doesn't sit well with me. I don't want to encourage people setting up RSS Feeds and then grabbing whatever they like, without citation. There is theft going on in this behavior, even if some benefit is coming forth.

    *If you want to change you site feed options, on your Dashboard go to Settings, then Site Feed, and change "Full" to "Short" in the section Allow Blog Feeds.

  4. More than once when I click on your posts, I am flung through cyberspace to that other site. Hijacked. It happened again just now. I thought you were affiliated. Now I know you aren't.

  5. Laura - thanks for your kind words. it is true that the possibility for other people to read our posts, true a larger audience is being reached, but this would then imply that any means justify an end. I'm not sure that you'd agree with that but that would be the extension of that reasoning. I do believe the poaching has to do with adsense dollars as opposed to any sharing of Dharma in this case.

    Mandy - Strange irony is exactly what I intended. This was my opportunity to have a little fun. I don't think he/she gets a lot of traffic over there. And I doubt they even visit their own site much.

    Nathan - Thanks for the rss feed info. Leslie's comment below yours makes it even a little more interesting as it appears readers can be redirected from your site to Buddharocks.

    I am not bent out of shape about this but do find it distasteful and wanted to have a little fun with it. I expect this behaviour will increase in cyberspace as it becomes more lucrative for people to set up site, poach content and collect ad revenue. It's nuisance behaviour really. So far condoned by google in their non response to the info.

    Anyway it was fun to post this and know it was headed right for the Buddharocks site.

    Leslie - hmmm, that makes it even more interesting that you get redirected to Buddharocks. I wonder how many others this happens to?

  6. "I am not bent out of shape about this but do find it distasteful and wanted to have a little fun with it. I expect this behaviour will increase in cyberspace as it becomes more lucrative for people to set up site, poach content and collect ad revenue. It's nuisance behaviour really. So far condoned by google in their non response to the info."

    Yeah, this is about how I feel about it all too.

    I haven't had anyone tell me they were redirected to Buddharocks yet.

  7. I remember Adam's comment about a blog copying your material without credit.

    Nathan's suggestion about limiting your site feed is a good one. If you wanted, you could also put a link back to your blog and a copyright footer at the bottom of posts.

    I think you're right not to get stressed by it. At the same time, it's only natural to have some response, and your post was a fun read.

  8. G Juana - it was meant to be fun and to see the other side of it!

  9. I got the sense too that the other site is "automated" and the "owner" isn't really paying attention. I agree that it wasn't done to share the Dharma. And it's not so much the copyright as it is the courtesy to acknowledge someone else's writing, art, photos, ideas, creativity, etc. In blog land especially we appreciate the nod and the link. So for me it really speaks to intention. I love that you posted this post! "We're waiting" - love it! :)

  10. PS - Many times on your blog I am automatically sent to Web Ring Buddhist Blogs... Maybe it's the same automated set up. It just happened again now when I posted my previous comment... Just thought I'd let you know. :)

  11. The owner/bot of BuddhaRocks has a Twitter account and for a while she was twitting my blog posts. When BuddhaRocks started scraping my posts, I assumed it was an aggregator. Became apparent after a while it wasn't. She's also on Facebook. I'm glad I don't rate being hijacked any more. :-)

    I don't get bent out of shape much either however it is theft (I'm not as kind as you and Nathan are) and don't have trouble confronting it. Fro me, given my tendency to get bent in the confrontation, that is good practice. ;-)

  12. PS: too funny... this post on BuddhaRocks taking what is not given is listed in the post list as "BuddhaRocks & te Second Precept" - i.e. your post...!/annagoh is her account.

  13. MeANderi - Glad you enjoyed the fun part of this. And Lynette has had this happen from the Buddhist webring. This is something I set up when I first started blogging to bring traffic, but it may not really be worth it anymore.

    Lynnette - Thanks for her twitter account. Glad you enjoyed seeing the post on her site, I giggled when I thought of this idea. Better to laugh than get mad! I suspect there's not much I could say that would have any effect. I have however contacted google but won't hold my breath on that one.

  14. Any means does not justify the ends, that's not where I was going...but I can see why you might think that I was saying that...I'm sorry this has happened to you and others...and perhaps you are right and it was a financial thing and as others have stated, someone NOT paying attention...all quite ironic considering the subject matter. It was not honorable, no doubt about that. I guess I was just trying to see some possible benefit...clearly not for you, but for readers who stumbled across the posts there.

    again, I am sorry that this is causing suffering for you and others.

  15. Laura - You were not the only one to make such a comment and certainly I was not having a "grumble" at you! I haven't really been feeling irritated about it particularly, so no suffering here! More like frustrated at nuisance behaviour.

    It is true that the more people that can read the Dharma, the better which is probably part of the reason I don't see it as a big deal.

    This morning I was reading a piece on Tricycle and Ajahn Sucitto said if the affluent didn't have so much then others would not feel so poor. It made me think of this incident. Buddharocks is from Burma and so it made me stop and think of this incident for a moment.

    Much metta and a bow to you, dear Laura!

  16. This certainly sparked more conversation than I had anticipated! Reading through all the responses it gives me pause to think about all the dimensions to this. Thank you.

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  18. Greetings

    I am the designer who volunteered to put up the portal, and I discover this 'complain' only today.

    I wonder why none of you bother to contact instead of making wild, actually, almost malicious accusations against the portal all over the Internet ?

    In my humble opinion, I think what you're doing isn't very Buddhist, let alone Zennist or morally admirable ...

    Let me tell you why ?

    The domain was idling and it was me who asked the onwer, Anna why wouldn't she make use of it to do something meaningful ? She says she would like to but she neither has the time nor the expertise to do much. So, I convinced her to let me sync in related information and I thought I might as well hang couple of ad banners at the same time, hoping to generate something for charitiable causes. Sorry to disappoint those who are jealous over this particular aspect, there is no money in what we do. Not at BuddhaRocks. We generated a few pennies and that is all and yes, Adsense has terminated our account citing complaints from ... (you should know who).

    Obviously, I didn't know there are enlightenmnet seekers who actually aren't even willing share spiritual information with the masses !

    You may ask why didn't I contact you prior to doing anything ?

    First, by offering RSS feeds, you have implied you'd like to share (after all, you have full control over the feeds).

    Second, it's an impossible task for me to liase with all those involved (there are hundreds of you and I am working all alone, I wish I have the time).

    Third, you can always contact should you have any issue. Their contact is clearly printed at the site, something A thief will never do.

    Fourth, we don't see aggregrating something from the Internet to share publicly as anything wrong. But we now realise there are one or two people who don't see it that way ... We got the message now,

    Except one or two gentlemen who have contacted us with no problem whatsoever, none of those who are not willing to share even bother to contact us. Instead, they go around spreading hate messages and or malicious accusations eg. ... who not only complained at her own blog, but also at other blogs, forum etc.

    Is her action justifiable or make any sense, let alone Zennist ?

    By the way, I have recently revamped the portal. All old contents have been purged, so for the selfish ones, fret not. Your precious blogs have been cremated.

    If you have any idea what can I possibly do to help you and the community at large, please feel free to drop me a note (email to BuddhaRocks, they will forward to me). I am just trying to add something philanthropic to my resume.

    Trust all is well now.


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  20. Missed out ...

    Fifth, it's not that I deliberately do not want to link back. There is no such feature in the script.

    All I could do is to leave the hyperlinks intact as well as strip off the "word spinner". And I have been working on it ever since. Only recently did I manage to find a way to do that and more ... See the new site.