Friday, 15 November 2013

Letters to the Editor

Despite adding a CC licence to my blog and making it very clear in a post devoted to the topic, the local hack has lifted material from Plashing Vole twice in the last four days. Cue a letter to the editor. What will happen? Mr Rhodes will doubtless write another splenetic article. 

Dear Mr Harrison or Ms Hancox (I don’t quite understand why clicking ‘Keith Harrison’ on leads to ‘Claire.Hancox’),

My name is Plashing Vole. I’m an E+S reader (congratulations on the WWFC/Bettison story: a proper scoop) and an academic at the University of The Dark Place. I also write a blog called Plashing Vole (, which covers academic life, literature, politics and popular culture. Now and then, I mention Peter Rhodes’ column, most often because I disagree with it. 

More often, he mentions my writing: I have lost count over the past few weeks. He rarely credits me and usually distorts what I’m saying, usually through being rather selective. While I’m flattered by the implication that my views are considered newsworthy on an almost daily basis, I would like to draw your attention to the terms and conditions of my blog. It is written under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No-Derivations licence. In short, this means that while ‘fair use’ and ‘fair comment’ custom applies, any use of my copyrighted material must be a) credited and b) not altered or transformed. You can find the UK Copyright Service’s definitions of fair use here and of fair dealing here

Mr Rhodes is aware of this. As an almost daily reader of my work (the analytic tracking service I use is a mine of fascinating information), he will have seen the blog entry I posted about this, and the licence icon underneath each article. And yet today’s column includes another reference to me - uncredited. 

For instance, he recently attacked my account of the Wolverhampton riots (from two years ago: how much time does he spend trawling my site?) as not being very supportive of the Chamber of Commerce, not a body to which I have any responsibility. Through selective quotation, he made it sound like I’m some kind of distant, ivory tower type. In fact, I live 200 yards from the E+S building and my own front door was kicked in during the riot. My interpretation of events might not be to Mr Rhodes’ liking, but your readers might like to have known that it was written from personal experience.

I have no wish to stop Mr Rhodes mining my blog for his material (though sometimes I think it’s so extensive that I should get the byline and commission) but I would like you to acknowledge the source as a matter of good practice. My students fail essays through over-reliance on single sources and failure to acknowledge them properly. 

Finally, for a man who wrote a whole column about ‘Why I Dislike Twitter’, he seems to spend an inordinate time on it and the web ’sashaying through cyberspace looking for yet more comments and conversations’ as he puts it, judging by the amount of my material which appears in his column, let alone the comments made on my blog and those of others who have commented on my work which he has recycled. Even the quotation from ‘an academic’ he cites in support of his position is in fact taken - without acknowledgement - from the comments section of my blog discussion of students’ news sources. This is, at the very least, ironic. 

Sorry to ramble on like this. In summary: I’m very happy for Peter to carry on lifting my thoughts. I’d just like him to acknowledge the source - perhaps providing a link on the web version - and provide enough context to give an honest impression of what I said, as per the terms of my licence. 


1 comment:

Jake said...

On the plus side, the University of The Dark Place (Wolverhampton, I take it?) can now boast that one of their teachers has an arch-nemesis. If that isn't one of the criteria for admission to the Russel Group then it ought to be!