Plagiarism: The “Orange is Controversial” Controversy

We love it when other websites link to IBD. Whenever we see that we’re getting hits from another site, we click right away to see if we need to alert our web host that we’re going viral. (“Batten down the hatches! Della Jane’s baseball quilting group posted a link on Facebook!”)

So when I saw a few weeks ago that we had gotten a couple hits from a site called Dream Stream, I went to check it out. It was a surreal, Inception-esque moment when I saw on this other site my own words from a recent post about the color orange. And not just a few of my words, but all of them from that post (though none of the images from the post were included, which is a little funny, because the text specifically references the images). I don’t want to link to the site, but you can see a bigger version of the screen capture below by clicking on it.

It was even more jarring to see that not only was I not credited for the article, but someone named Philippe was.

I should point out that I get called Phil all the time. One person I know has called me Phil for the better part of a decade, and I was once quoted on the front page of The Wall Street Journal (true story!) as “Phil Caputo.”

I have several theories for this: There’s a famous author named Philip Caputo (no relation). The names Phil and Paul are easy to confuse since they both start with P and end with L, and they have the same number of letters. And finally, I root for the Phillies. (I sometimes wonder if IBD Phil and Other IBD Phil root for the Paulies.)

But I don’t think it was confusion over my name that caused my intellectual property to show up on another website attributed to someone else.

It was difficult to find contact information for the site, which is run by a company in Brussels. Comments on the blog post were closed, so after some research, I found a general mailing address on the company’s Facebook page and sent a message indicating my displeasure and asking them to remove the post. I received this response:

Dear mister Caputo,

Please accept my apologies for this. We usually put the source of each article on our internal blog. We have added your source immediately to the article. I hope this suits your request.

Kind regards,
Philippe De Wulf

Philippe had added this attribution at the bottom of the article:

I debated writing back and saying that it was not enough, and I debated trying to start a Cooks Source magazine style Internet campaign against Dream Stream (see Nerd Rage: A Response to Internet Thievery). But the wind was out of my sails. I had received an apology and attribution, though not exactly in flashing neon lights (I should have asked for my name in an animated starburst), and the prospect of a trans-Atlantic copyright battle seemed fruitless.

So words that I wrote still exist on this other site, looking to all the world like they were written by Philippe. At the very least, Dream Stream’s use of my words falsely attributed to someone else is immoral. At the most, it’s illegal copyright infringement. I can’t say for certain whether the folks at Dream Stream are simply ignorant or actively malicious, but this episode is a reminder that it’s incredibly easy to steal copyrighted materials that exist online, and that there’s a gross misunderstanding of what that little copyright symbol at the bottom of the page means.

I likely never would have known that I had been plagiarized if Philippe had thought to remove links to IBD’s other “Get to Know a Color!” articles contained within “Orange is Controversial,” but I get the idea that he didn’t look too carefully at the article before taking credit for it.

All of that being said, I hope Philippe’s Belgian friends got a big laugh at his insightful and hilarious jab at the New York Mets.

11 thoughts on “Plagiarism: The “Orange is Controversial” Controversy

  1. Yes, I do get called “Paul.” I assume it’s because we’re both whipsmart, terribly witty, and devastatingly handsome, not to mention overly modest.

    At the very least I think you should ask them to remove the “by Philippe” line, since it most clearly isn’t. Or change it to “stolen by Philippe” or something similar. Also, you should quietly leak this to Mets fan sites, so that all of Queens will be angry at Belgium. Maybe they’ll be able to virally attack DreamStream.

  2. Dear mister Caputo,
    Reading your article leaves me outraged. How can someone blatantly steal your stuff and then not really correct it when they are busted for it? This is so very wrong and I am pissed off at Phillipe. I have never been to Brussels, and now I never will go there. And to further protest, I will never ever ever ever eat brussels sprouts.

  3. I occasionally get called Mike, even though my name is Matt.
    As for Phillipe – it’s just cheap. But before attacking him, we need to make sure he’s not six foot four and full of muscles…

  4. It looks like the whole idea of the dreamstream site is a miscellany of design-related stuff found on the internet. There are several other posts lifted verbatim from other sites. Phillipe is just too clueless or lazy to post a summary and a link instead of cutting and pasting the articles themselves, which is um, illegal, even if they are attributed. He should at least say ‘reposted by’ instead of just ‘by’ Phillipe.

    I did enjoy reading about what busy places irports are these days. Who knew?

  5. Why not write a blog or two about copyrights and plagarism in general? I would love to learn more about the challenges in the digital world regarding intellectual property.

  6. A friend,, had her work stolen recently. She had even less luck getting them to credit it properly until she had a lawyer send them a letter. She makes her living as a writer and was appalled someone took her work to advertise his product. He didn’t seem to think it was “any big deal.” This is not uncommon. Copyright respect is being lost. Might not be a bad idea to post “copyright protected” on all articles. Obviously your book has a copyright, but each article\quot put on the internet probably needs a repeat.

  7. I agree with Karissa!

    Also, just start listing Phillipe as a pen name (Paul, aka Phil, aka Phillipe). I get called Holly all the time, so I feel your pain.

  8. Well, I guess I can come clean about myself now.

    I maintain a blog called “Green Screen” where I plagiarize IBD posts, but changing things such as “Get to Know a Color” to “Get to Color a Nose” and refer to Paul Caputo as Phil Rizzuto every chance I get. I also change the name ‘Shea Lewis’ to ‘Shea Stadium’ and ‘Jerry Lewis’ to ‘St. Louis’ but that’s another story for another day.

    But at least I don’t spell my name as Philippe! How gauche! Now, back to things that are less important.

  9. I feel all your pain about being called by the wrong name. I am often called “Handsome” even though my name is Cal.

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