I do think that the old adage “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” is apt: if people are willing to copy what you do, they obviously think that what you have done is valuable. So I suppose that I should be flattered by this:
Look at bit familiar? Sound a bit familiar? Yeah, that is my home page with someone else’s face on it. And name, at least in some places. What is going on?
Well, I cannot be sure but it appears that Bellal Hossain, an Assistant Professor and Chairman in the Engineering Department of the Noakhali Science and Technology University liked my site well enough to clone it. I am not entirely sure how he did it, but he is a computer scientist so I am not surprised that he managed to pull it off. All the files that make up my site are on the server that creates my site, so I guess one could pull these off en masse and then install them on one’s own server. Why one would want to do so is a bit of a mystery to me given that WordPress is free to all, but maybe this cloning saves time.
Whatever the reason, what Professor Hossain is done is very weird. Tons of my content appears — without attribution — on his site. This is a clear violation of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 license that governs content on my site. I am flattered if you imitate the way my site looks, but you had better well tell the world where you ideas came from!
What makes the cloned site even weirder is that it still presents material as if it is speaking for me:
It is a bit weird to see someone else’s face next to descriptions of me, but that is what Professor Hossain’s site is currently providing.
Here is what I suspect is happening: Professor Hossain was looking to make himself a website, found mine and liked the general format of what I presented, so he cloned it to his server. I am guessing that he will fill it in with content relevant to his own professional career soon. The problem is that self-hosted WordPress sites can be pretty complex and individually idiosyncratic due to the number of plugins that can be used to customize the look and delivery of information. So while Professor Hossain figures out how everything on my site works, my content remains up there out of context and unattributed. I would have hoped that he would have at least gotten rid of my home page text, which cannot possibly be of value to him. And I am waiting until Professor Hossain figures out how my site works in order to have my content removed; this is just bizarre.
How did I find Hossain’s site? Well, here is where the WordPress story gets deeper: through the plugin JetPack it is possible to track the source of incoming links to my site. If someone gets to my site from another site, I generally know what site that is. I noticed that Professor Hossain’s site was bringing traffic to my site and that is when I discovered the clone. So maybe I should be flattered, because I now have a satellite site? No, more reasonably I should be annoyed, because there is the chance that his site is now pulling people to the wrong place when they look for my work (although admittedly this is unlikely).
I want Professor Hossain to fix this problem, so I wrote him the following email:
Dear Dr. Hossain:
It has come to my attention that your site, http://bellalnstu.info/, is providing information from my site, http://www.christopherxjjensen.com/, without providing any credit for its source.
While my site content is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 license, this license also clearly states that you must attribute all material used and/or modified from the site. You have some attribution to do on your site.
It is also bizarre and confusing that your site reads as if it is written by me. This is likely to cause confusion among people searching the internet for my work, and therefore adversely impacts my professional life.
I respectfully ask that:
- You remove all content from your site that makes it appear that you are me, or speak for me; and
- Attribute any and all material modified from my site.
What you have done is a breach of academic good faith.
We shall see how he responds.
In the meantime, consider this irony: in discovering this cloned site and writing about it, I have put another thing up on the web about Dr. Bellal Hossain. I wonder whether his site or this post will be the first hit on Google next week.A Minor Post, Creative Commons, Ethics, Higher Education, WordPress