With an eye on the food allergy community as a unique group of consumers since 2008, we're on a quest to find and share ways to continue enjoying the good things in life.

15 July 2009

A Word to the Wise Food Allergy Bloggers and Readers

The other day, I visited a relatively new food allergy blog/website from Toronto, Canada, and was surprised to spot a familiar picture in their media kit. It was a still from one of the Food Allergy Buzz video interviews Jen Trammell did with Sweet Alexis during the THRIVE Expo in Chicago months ago! Anyone who saw the video on Jen Trammell's YouTube channel would have seen the words "Food Allergy Buzz" listed among the keywords or tags for the video. In the video, Jen also mentions Food Allergy Buzz and it's very clear that the video was an interview for Food Allergy Buzz.

We did not fully realize that if you post a video on YouTube, there is no way to ensure that you will have a chance to grant permission for the video's use elsewhere or even receive credit for content you upload onto YouTube. It's a total free-for-all! As long as you permit your video to have the embed code so it can be added to other blogs or websites, you've essentially given up control over your video. My advice to bloggers and others dipping their toes into posting videos on YouTube and elsewhere is to be prepared for this! Even though it is customary for others to link back or give credit to a source, this does not always occur. Needless to say, we were disappointed to see that another allergy website used our content in this manner. Neither Jen nor I had been asked for permission to use the videos or stills from the videos. It was a disheartening and eye-opening experience.

What to do? We have removed the video interviews made during the THRIVE Expo with Sweet Alexis and disabled the embed option on all of the other videos Jen has done for Food Allergy Buzz. I also have asked the other allergy website/blog to remove the video and still from their media kit and website/blog. I was comforted to discover that YouTube does try to encourage its users and visitors to respect others and to be courteous in the use of videos from and on YouTube. I have cut and pasted it below, along with a link to that page on the YouTube website.

From the Youtube community guidelines:
"When you create something original, you own the copyright for it. Likewise, when other people create content, they may have a copyright to it. As a creative community, it’s essential that everyone on YouTube respect the copyrights of others. If you’re not sure if something will violate someone’s copyright, the safest thing to do is to create something completely original, with images and audio you’ve created. If it’s all yours you never have to worry about copyright—you own it. If you’ve recorded something from a DVD, videotaped your TV screen, or downloaded a video online, don’t post it unless you have permission."

UPDATE: In the end, it took THREE (3) days from the date of my original request for my content to be removed from the other website/blog's media kit. Only after we removed the Food Allergy Buzz videos from YouTube, reiterated the request for the content to be removed from the media kit, and published this post did the other website finally take action to remove the Food Allergy Buzz content. All Food Allergy Buzz content has been removed from the media kit and the problem has been resolved.


Ruth Smith said...

Wow Jennifer, I'm really sorry this happened to you. I know you put a lot of work, time, and effort in to those videos and your site in general.

Regardless of whether something is public, has a copyright, etc. I think it's safe to say that the allergy community is a close knit one and any "legitimate" member of that community would have asked your permission to use that video.

Ironically I think I know what site you are talking about. I was there recently when a Best Allergy Sites reader pointed out to me that they are labeling themselves "North America's Only Food Allergy Directory" yet Best Allergy Sites has been live for quite sometime and they haven't even launched yet.

I saw a still of a video and thought it was yours but assumed you were either working with them or it wasn't your video-because I didn't think someone in the allergy community would do that.

However a few other people have recently told me that content has been lifted from various sites in the allergy community and put on that sites blog.

I certainly hope that if you asked them to remove it-they will comply. That is of course the right thing to do.

Someone recently told me that when something comes from 4 sources it's journalism, when it comes from one.....it's plagiarism.

Thanks for the post. It's something all of us should keep in mind.

Nowheymama said...

Sadly, this happens sometimes. There was once a food allergy blog that a bunch of us flagged for suspicious activity because the writer was using photos and recipes from other food allergy sites and passing them off as her own.

I'm sorry this happened to you.

Unknown said...

Nowheymama, thank you so much for your comment. Flagging is a good idea.

I would like to report the blog/website that is using my (and Jen Trammell's) material. It looks like a wordpress blog. Anyone know how to flag or report a non-blogger blog/website?

ChupieandJ'smama (Janeen) said...

That totally stinks! We should all be trying to help each other not profit from the work others have already done. Very.Uncool! I haven't figured out how to post video anywhere yet (I'm so challenged) and now I'm not sure I want to. I'm already leary about all the recipes I post. Since I don't have any book aspirations I figure they are all up for grabs even though I put that little "copyright" thingy on the blog.

Unknown said...

It was definitely a bummer to discover this. Not a great way for those folks to make their entrance into the online food allergy community, eh?

Jane Anne said...

I am pretty naive but I'd hope they were just thinking about educating and not thinking about how they were copying someone else's work. I am sorry that happened. Maybe the other site will remove the video and apologize.

Unknown said...

I'm with Jane Anne on this with the hope that they just don't know the rules. That said, I'm so glad you're following up because it's NOT OKAY and others need to know that.

I don't know how to report a blogger/website.

Keep us posted.

Unknown said...

Thanks Ruth. Unfortunately, I too have heard that this new allergy website out of Toronto has copied content fro other allergy sites without permission. I am not sure if they have similarly cut and pasted others' content besides mine on their media kit, but I suggest all food allergy and related bloggers take a look at the media kit to see if anything looks familiar. Here is the url for the page where you can download or view their media kit: http://tiny.cc/am4vk

ChupieandJ'smama. Uncool is a good way to put it.

Unknown said...

Jane Anne and Food Allergy Assistant, I wish that were the case but sadly, based on my experience and other bloggers' experiences with the above website/blog, it appears this is their modus operandi.

Unknown said...

The good news is that my content has now been removed by the other website. Keep your eyes peeled, fellow bloggers! You could be next! I sure hope not.

Allergy Apparel said...

This alarms me too. I was just reviewing the site the other night. Raising awareness and educating people are all of our goals but giving credit is important. I am DISAPPOINTED that they did not at least give you credit!! Have you contacted them directly?

Unknown said...

Hello there Allergy Apparel!

Yes, the 1st thing I did was send an email saying hey, I saw my stuff on your media kit, and I don't really feel comfortable about that, please remove it. They asked me to call and we spoke on the phone and it was clear that they not eager to remove it. Instead, they offered to give me a free membership in their directory.

Long story short, after our phone conversation, I repeated my request that they remove my content. I published this post last night and was glad to received word this afternoon that my content had been removed from the media kit.

Unfortunately, I understand the media kit was sent to a number of companies before today. The media kit was, of course, to promote their business. I am very uncomfortable about my work being used without my permission to promote someone else's business.

I want to make sure that people understand that Food Allergy Buzz is not affiliated with Allergy Sense. Because Allergy Sense chose not to attribute my work, there is the appearance that a relationship exists between our two websites/blogs, but that is not the case.

Unknown said...

My comment above has so many typos! I wrote it way past my bedtime. I swear I can spell and type better when I am more awake! :)

Ruth Smith said...

Glad this was taken care of Jennifer.

I think the point and take away of this is that this was not a one time thing. Several people have come forward complaining about this after you (Jennifer) had the guts to go public with it.

Sure giving credit is important but the main lesson is that stealing information without permission is plagiarism.

There have been several questionable tactics that many people have talked about offline that have led some in the allergy community to question this site and its founders.

For anyone wanting to know-for the record the founders are not married to each other (are merely business partners) though their twitter names would imply otherwise and one of them admittedly does not have a child with allergies-though again the twitter name would imply otherwise.

I think we all need to be careful with who we trust and connect ourselves with. A good rule of thumb for anyone is to thoroughly look at a site and those running it and find out what their connection and expertise is and what makes them an authority to give advice or write about a topic.

I hope a lesson has been learned on all fronts. Thanks again Jennifer for bringing this to everyone's attention. I know it probably wasn't an easy thing to do.

Anonymous said...

Hi there - just read this over and not sure what the big deal is? people post each other's videos from YouTube all the time. that is what it is designed to do, and how people get a lot of "hits" on their videos and websites right? Not sure I am comfortable with criticizing people participating in the community for not having an allergy either. were these people rude to you or something?

Unknown said...

Anonymous, we've been waiting for you!

First, let me clarify--I did not comment about people having allergies or not. That was one of the commenters to my post. :)

The big deal is that Food Allergy Buzz paid to have the video made and Allergy Sense used it in their media kit without permission or even attribution, to promote their business. The implication to any viewer of the Allergy Sense media kit was that the video was an example of their work when in fact it was not.

Yes, of course the video can be viewed on YouTube, but that does not mean another business can use it in their promotional materials.

Karen said...

The key words to me are attribution, credit & permission.

When a fellow blogger says I found this on (X site) and have found it helpful or interesting. I don't have a problem. People have done this with my blog in very respectful ways, with link love.

When a whole video or post is copied credit should be given and permission should be asked.

Their have been several sites over the years that copy most of their content, most have failed.

Ruth Smith said...

Anonymous-If you read Jennifer's post you would see that the big deal is that even YouTube states to make sure you have consent first. The big deal is that when Jennifer asked that it be removed she was met with reluctance/resistance. It was only removed after she went public. The big deal is that other people have come forward offline and have stated that their stuff-be it blog posts, recipes, etc. have also been used without prior consent or permission. That is plagiarism.

The criticism in my last comment was NOT towards the NON food allergic in the allergy community but to those that aren't honest with who they are to begin with. Let's be clear about that.

For instance if someone had a twitter name of cancer or autism dad one would assume that person had a child with cancer or autism or at least a close connection with cancer or autism, and if cancer dad and cancer mom were running a site together it would naturally be assumed that they are husband and wife.

I just personally find that deceitful and wonder "why the deceit?" Others in the food allergy community have too and have just chosen not to be public about it.

My take away is that sites and companies are popping up all the time when they think they've found a profitable market. So my advice is to not assume that a product or company or site is safe or is an authority on a topic without doing some digging.

I personally fully support all those in the allergy community whether they have allergies or not so long as they are honest about who they are and what they are doing. When people are dishonest it raises a red flag for me.

Unknown said...

Thanks Karen and Ruth. I appreciate your support.

Lynda Mitchell said...

I'd like to point out that nonprofit organization Kids With Food Allergies (www.kidswithfoodallergies.org/marketplace.html) has had an Allergy Buyer's Guide on its Web site since 2006, which includes both Canadian and United States businesses that provide foods, products and services to the allergy community.

Unknown said...

Thanks, Lynda, for your comment. Good point!

Unknown said...

I actually know Rhonda from AllergySense as I have occasionally done technical work for her. I know her well enough to believe that she would never intentionally plagiarize from any source. (And judging by the size of her inbox, I have no doubt she is in contact with half the known universe.)
If you feel she has committed plagiarism, please send it to me or post it here. Otherwise this is just defamation of character.

Unknown said...

Hi Missy, thanks for your comment.

I do not know who was responsible for including the Food Allergy Buzz still (photo) and video in the Allergy Sense media kit. I am happy to report, however, that Food Allergy Buzz content which had been included in the Allergy Sense media kit was removed yesterday, and an apology was made today, so I consider the matter closed.

Unknown said...

I am glad you consider the matter closed and I believe Rhonda did as well. Unfortunately, Allergysense is currently receiving requests from people to removed her blog. No doubt it is due the bad press she is receiving here and elsewhere as a result of this blog.
Can anyone prove the allegations mentioned above? If so, please post.

Unknown said...

I think we are getting a bit sidetracked. This post pertains to Food Allergy Buzz content being included in another allergy website's media kit, which was being used to promote their business. As I mentioned above, the implication to any viewer of the Allergy Sense media kit was that the video was an example of their work when in fact it was not. That was the problem, and it has been resolved.

The problem was not at all a personal one.

Ruth Smith said...

Jennifer-Just want to say again that I am glad the issue was finally resolved.

I was going to leave your post as the last but wanted to say that I and others in the food allergy community fully support you and do not think you "over reacted".

We all work very hard to write and publish "original" content and while some might see it as flattering, it is still plagiarism to lift full recipes, content, articles, etc. without permission.

Only you know the true details of the situation and I'm glad you've decided to take the high road rather than correct any misinformation.

Yes-we all make mistakes-but if you take information from a site once and someone complains(which was readily admitted in the blog apology)wouldn't you have already learned the lesson and think to ask from then on just to be safe?

If Allergy Sense Inc. is such a large and reputable business which is "in contact with half the known universe" as was stated above then surely there is someone there advising them of what is appropriate and what is not.

After all one of the founders background is in email marketing and owns multiple URL's. Using your "own" pictures in a media kit is media kit 101.

Why it's now being made as one person's mistake and one person taking the fall is beyond me. As far as I know there is more than one person behind Allergy Sense Inc. and the original post was always about Allergy Sense. Inc. and no one individual.

Would this have happened with a video or article from the New York Times or another reputable news site? Probably not.

Again Jennifer-you've been doing this a long time and those in the allergy community know you and trust you-and support that you chose to bring this to everyone's attention.

Thank you for all your hard word and the great information you bring the allergy community.