Matt Comer

Liars and thieves: JustGuys.net caught in the act

Filed By Matt Comer | July 13, 2010 8:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Media
Tags: Bill Graff, Eric Wood, journalism, LGBT media, OutGayLife

Seriously, what is up? Will people never learn?

Back in January 2009 and November 2009, InterstateQ.com unveiled massive copyright infringement and intellectual property theft by the OutGayLife network owned by Eric Wood (see note at bottom) . In that case, Wood had stolen dozens upon dozens of other news organizations' and bloggers' content, including from mainstream publications and The Associated Press.

See, we weren't talking about simple quoting of a bit of an article here or another bit of an article there. No, Wood's copying and pasting went well beyond the normal "blockquoting" you'll see credible bloggers do on their sites. Wood was copying articles wholesale from dozens (maybe hundreds?) of websites and news organizations, often without even the tiniest bit or shred of credit (and, hey, forget about a link back to the original story).

Now, it seems Wood's mistakes are being repeated by yet another gay website operator.

So, here's the back story: Over the weekend, the production director at my day job alerted me to stolen qnotes content appearing on the news section at JustGuys.net, a social networking site for gay and bi men.

Tracking down contact information for the website's owners was like searching for a needle in a haystack. I searched high and low and never found it. Eventually, I sent copyright infringement notices via two contact forms, one on JustGuys.net and the other on the website of JustGuys.net's owner, Century Media Group, Inc.

After almost 24 hours of no response from Century Media, our content was still available on JustGuys.net. Unhappy with that lack of response, I turned all Machiavellian and told a little white lie to get some sort of response from the company. Just a few hours after filling out another contact form -- this one for JustGuys.net advertising inquiries -- I got a return phone call from the illusive Bill Graff, Century Media owner.

"Hello, is David James available?"

"Who am I speaking to," I asked.

"This is Bill Graff, from JustGuys.net."

"Well, actually, I'm not David James. I'm Matt Comer, editor of qnotes newspaper in Charlotte, North Carolina," I said. "Did you get our copyright infringement notices?"

Of course, he said he hadn't. I asked for a direct email address, he obliged and I emailed him the notice again. It didn't take long until the content was down.

But, then in the evening, we received this response to our take-down demand letter/copyright notice:

There has been no copyright infringement on our part but we have removed that news feed because it was not relevant. We will not be featuring news feeds from goqnotes.com in the future. If you do not want your content to be redistributed by other news aggregators, you should consider removing the RSS feeds from your website. RSS feeds are used for the sole purpose of redistributing content across the internet. I spoke to our attorney and he has assured me that if a website goes through the effort of distributing RSS feeds of it's content, then it cannot reasonably expect that content not to be redistributed.

Also, please do not use our advertising interest form for anything other than advertising interest.

Graff's not-so-honest attempt at defending himself ultimately failed. I responded:

Wrong.

Our RSS feeds do not publish the full content of our stories. You would not have been able to display the full content of that article through RSS. Further, the existence of RSS feeds do not allow someone to republish copyrighted content for commercial purposes.

Nice try, though.

You said: "Also, please do not use our advertising interest form for anything other than advertising interest."

Then you, like all reputable companies and business people, should make your full contact information readily available to the public.

Why does it seem dishonesty and theft often go hand-in-hand?

Is your content being stolen?

JustGuys.net's news section contains dozens and dozens of articles reproduced from other websites and news organizations, including mainstream daily newspapers like The New York Times, as well as content from The Associated Press. The site also includes content from LGBT news organizations, such as the Edge Media Network, 365Gay.com, Keen News Service, ProudParenting.com and others.

Edge Media Network's publisher and CEO, David Foucher, confirmed they had not given JustGuys.net permission to reproduce their stories. He told me they've also sent Graff a notice to take down their content immediately.

If you think your content might be among JustGuys.net's illegal reproductions, take time to look around the site and track down any instances of Graff's theft of your content.

If you find your content has been used illegally, you can contact Bill Graff via phone at 617-959-1792 or via email at info@justguys.net.

If you need to send Graff official, written correspondence (from an attorney, perhaps?), here are two addresses provided courtesy the California Secretary of State:

PO Box 34231
San Diego, CA 92163

4452 Park Blvd. Suite 301
San Diego CA 92116

Note on OutGayLife intellectual property theft: OutGayLife.com isn't defunct, or so I learned today. And, the website owner Eric Wood, like Bill Graff, is still engaging in copyright infringement and intellectual property theft (a quick survey of the site revealed several articles stolen from 365gay.com with no attribution, citation or link back to original stories).

Cross-posted from InterstateQ.com


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I didn't see any Bilerico content on the site, but did see several of my blogger friends' posts reprinted. I made sure to send them all links to the offending posts plus your post, Matt.

That guy is a douche. What's up with the "and don't use our advertising form for other stuff!" Is that a law now? Dumbass.

neonskeleton | July 14, 2010 1:28 PM

I understand the underlying feeling of betrayal here: JG is stealing your and other people's intellectual property. They are posting stories that anyone with access to Google can find the original copy of with only a few clicks.

However, there is another issue that I would like for people to consider. They are reporting the news - LGBT news. They are stealing and posting things that some might not read otherwise. I would say that many would not read otherwise. They are informing the public and in my eyes doing a service to our community.

What is the crime here? They are using words without the owners approval. But that is not the real crime. The crime that people are angry about is that their due credit. Which granted is due to them, but I would personally rather people be informed than receive the credit for it.

"What is the crime here?"

Copyright infringement and intellectual property theft. That is the crime.

I don't think most bloggers and news sites mind if people quote their stories, then link up for folks to read the rest at the original news organization's/blog's website. In fact, I know Bilerico.com doesn't mind that. Neither does my newspaper.

Doing that would accomplish the same goals of getting people to read news they wouldn't otherwise read. If that is someone's goal, they don't have to break federal copyright and intellectual property laws in the process.

News organizations and some blogs pay their writers to create these stories. There is overhead. Costs have to be paid. One way of paying those costs is through online advertising. If JustGuys.net is getting hundreds or thousands of views of an article someone else paid to produce, then the overhead costs aren't being paid. Copyright and intellectual property laws exist for a reason. News articles are property. Reproducing them without permission is exactly the same as if you "borrowed" your neighbor's car without permission. Theft is theft.

neonskeleton | July 14, 2010 3:27 PM

I am not disputing that intellectual theft is a crime. That is a definite given. Nor am I disputing that they should give the credit to the ones responsible for writing and producing the news stories which they are distributing without permission. Those two things go without saying.

What I am saying is that your news is being read by more people because they have posted it. The majority of those hundreds or thousands of views come from people who may never have read or even known about most of these stories. They are not significantly diminishing your readership by posting these news articles.

Ultimately this is not about money, not in my eyes. JustGuys would receive the same amount of money from advertising with or without the newsfeed, the same is true of the blogs and other webpages who are responsible for producing the material.

If it were about the money, then that would have been the first thing you said. Instead you responded that none of the sites would have cared if they had been properly sourced. Which is a way of giving credit where credit is due. It is something that has little if any effect on your bottom line, but it has a lot to do with reputation. It is notoriety and significance.

I am a little jaded an cynical, but it just does not make sense to me. They are now putting the author and source on each of their articles. Does that really change the effective result? People are being informed of the news that they would otherwise not be informed of. Is that not the intended effect of all writing?

Much like the Allegory of the Cave, a writer's responsibility is to bring revelation to those who are yet unenlightened. How this is accomplished should not matter in the ultimate sense of the goal.

This is different than stealing your neighbor's car. Stealing his car is an ultimately selfish act that profits no one but the person who is stealing the car. This act is not the same. They are not stealing or even borrowing as much as they are reproducing - copying - another's work which ultimately benefits more people than it harms.

At least this is one small man's thoughts on the matter.

"Ultimately this is not about money, not in my eyes. JustGuys would receive the same amount of money from advertising with or without the newsfeed, the same is true of the blogs and other webpages who are responsible for producing the material."

Not true. Revenue is based on page views. More page views, more revenue. Less views, less revenue.

"If it were about the money, then that would have been the first thing you said. Instead you responded that none of the sites would have cared if they had been properly sourced. Which is a way of giving credit where credit is due. It is something that has little if any effect on your bottom line, but it has a lot to do with reputation. It is notoriety and significance."

If JustGuys had simply quoted and linked up it would have accomplished your goal of getting other people to read news, but the originating sties would have still benefited from people clicking through to read the rest of the article. (Resulting of course in higher page views and more revenue).

I'm astonished that anyone could possibly even the slightest bit defend intellectual property theft. Sad, really. Further, news articles are property. Would you tolerate or try to justify theft of real property from ATT? GE? The Mom and Pop Soda Shop down the street?

Sorta makes you wonder how many of the profiles were taken (via RSS, of course!) from other sites as well.

It's not true that money isn't involved in such a situation. Many blogs have ad revenue that is based on page hits. To pretend that you are the original source for an article rather than to link to the original source denies readers the opportunity to visit the original source. In this way it might be akin to stealing web traffic and the ad revenue that comes with it. If they got big enough to have an office or something like that it makes me wonder where that money would have gone to otherwise.

But you're right that claims to financial damages in such a situation aren't as compelling as they could be. Let me share a few other concerns with you.

Perhaps you are not a writer or artist, but anyone I know who pours themselves into creative projects develops an emotional attachment to their work. As a writer I can tell you that it feels creepy as hell to imagine someone out there is pretending to be the author of your work. It just feels personally violating. What if you made a painting you were particularly proud of and found someone posting images of it online, claiming that they had painted it? Would your only thought really be that it was getting some extra exposure?

Additionally, I care a great deal about illuminating things for people, as you mention. However, often times it is not mere one way communication that facilitates that the best. I try to write articles that generate discussion -- discussion that I can be a part of. Take a look at What Transmisogyny Looks Like. It's over a year old and I'm still getting (and responding to) comments. It or excerpts of it have been reposted all over the web, with citation that directs people back to that growing conversation with nearly a hundred thoughtful comments. If it were reposted without citation people might read the original piece but the process would end there.

Speaking of that piece, one person who found it offered me an ongoing writing job because of it. If they had instead stumbled upon the article posted by someone else as if it were their own article, perhaps they would have offered that person the job instead.

And finally, it's about reputation. I use my ability and insight as a writer to build a reputation as a thoughtful, genuine, thinker and activist. It's not just pride -- although fan mail and supportive comments definitely contribute to my encouragement and ability to continue doing this time consuming and rarely monetarily compensated work. But many people have read an article of mine and been impressed enough to look up more of my work and follow my new projects. If a writer's goal is to illuminate, then websites that post other's articles as if they are their own are detrimental to that process because they cut off the extended dialog and conversation, leaving interested readers only able to access one piece of an authors work.

Oops, that was suppose to be a reply to neonskeleton.