Effective but ethical internet vigilantism

I recently resorted to internet vigilantism when I found that a web development agency had blatantly stolen characteristic elements of the Cinnamon website for use on their own website. I asked them to remove these elements immediately. When they did not, I blogged about it.

This was very effective. The company was wrong, and I did not want them to get away with it, which they probably would have if I had taken the usual route. And it would’ve given me a headache.

At the time of this writing I don’t have a spectacular amount of readers on this blog. But I do have a few influential ones. I believe Seth Godin would call these people Sneezers. They spread the virus quickly. And Google likes that. After two days, the company changed their site, removing the elements in question. (Aside: Okay, a little sleuthing *seems* to indicate they have posted comments to my blog and another after they had changed their site, posing as random readers who “couldn’t find any hint of plagiarism on the site in question”. I digress.)

So I got what I wanted. Copyright infringement eradicated. But now when one searches for that company’s name in Google, they find a link to my post. That is Not Good For Publicity. Which is great, as long as they’re still infringing my copyright. But they aren’t anymore. Which leads us to an *ethical dilemma*.

Did these people piss me off by stealing our work, being unprofessional in their correspondence? Yes. Should they be punished forever? I don’t think so. So I have done the unthinkable in blogland: I have censored my own original post. Let the debate begin.

I see no advantage in damaging the company’s reputation, and quite frankly, I’m just satisfied that they have removed our stuff. That’s all I wanted in the first place.

The ethical part

The original post has been edited to replace the actual company name (which for obvious reasons was originally in the title) with “Company X” and remove all links to the site in question. Comments have been closed. I have also removed the screenshots, which are now unnecessary. There is one screenshot which says it all, posted on Flickr and tagged with *piratedsites*. That’s staying where it is. The name is only in the bitmapped photo, so it won’t be indexed anyway. The original link to the post will be redirected to the new version. Replacements are marked up with <ins></ins>.

Since I *have never published their company name except for on this website*, the above seems fair to me.

The vigilante part

This is a one time deal. If I notice another infringement of our copyright on the site in question or on any of the sites in their portfolio, I will put the original post back up, add a new one, and make sure they get Dugg.

Have a nice day.

3 thoughts on “Effective but ethical internet vigilantism

  1. Unfortunately, the company’s name is still in the URL of the post you edited. Now you have another dilemma: continue down the ethcial path, or avoid breaking any links to the post?

  2. Eric, you are like a wise zen master, presenting the student with a dilemma. I sought balance in the form of a redirect. Thanks.

  3. I think censorship as a whole has been demonized too hard. What you did is perfectly acceptable IMO.

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