The Toronto Sun Steals From Blogs

Specifically, Dave Fuller lifts ideas for stories and the necessary translated quotations from this community. One of the beauties of this group of Leafs fans (and various other teams) is that there is a vast and diverse fanbase that brings a unique outlook to being a Leafs fan. Last Tuesday, it meant that we were lucky enough to have an interview with Tomas Kaberle's father translated from Czech into English. It was picked up by a couple of websites that are home to hardcore Leafs fans but pretty much ignored otherwise.

Then a funny thing happened.

On Friday morning, I noticed in my google reader that The Toronto Sun had written an article about Frantisek Kaberle Sr. Normally I would ignore anything in The Sun but I was curious about whether there was anything new coming from the Kaberle pater familias. You can probably imagine my surprise when it was nothing more than a re-working of the original Hokej.cz piece including Romdgpce's translated quotes verbatim.

After the jump, the proof and fallout of James Wallace's decision to obfuscate the truth and dismiss proper ethics.

 It goes without saying that we were more than a little miffed at seeing something so obviously copied from the site used without attribution so fired off an e-mail to Dave Fuller and his editor James Wallace:

Hi Dave,
 
Just wanted to drop you a line about your latest article (http://www.torontosun.com/sports/hockey/2010/08/19/15081386.html) about Frantisek Kaberle Sr.'s comments to Hokej.cz. Much as I did two days ago (http://www.pensionplanpuppets.com/2010/8/18/1628909/frantisek-kaberle-sr-i-dont) it is considered proper etiquette to at least acknowledge the source of your work. Doubly so when they are the ones that went through the trouble of translating an article into English.

I'll dramatically withhold the rest of the e-mail. The response was pretty different than what Bill Houston offered up (part of me was disappointed):

Appreciate your email. Yes, that's where I found the story - on your site. You also included a link to the original story. Clicked on that. Copied the Czech language story, put it into Google Translation (Czech to English) and read the story through. (thus checking your translation - too ensure accuracy). I gave credit twice to the source of the story - Hokej magazine. Perhaps I could have added, "which was first translated in Pension Plan Puppets," but that's over-crediting, in my opinion. 

Of course, it seems to be standard practice to have provided the Toronto Sun with credit for "stumbling upon" the Czech article. Strange how that's done when the source is part of the traditional media. A special glove tap to both Scott Lewis, for passing the article to The Score's news desk, The Score's news desk for handling this story the proper way regardless of a blog being the source, and Greg Wyshynski for getting Yahoo! to set the record straight

So we have an author who admits that he would never have heard of the Kaberle story if not for visiting Pension Plan Puppets which he called 'great' and 'tapped in' and a translation that was done on Google Translation and 'checked against' Romdgpce's. James Wallace has yet to reply to either of my e-mails to him on the topic, seemingly out of an inability to identify the sender of an e-mail, but he did provide a reply that demonstrates his contempt for journalistic ethics:

Fuller credited the source magazine (Czech hockey magazine Hokej) for the quotes used in our article. While he read the translated article first on the pensionplanpuppets website, he checked the original article and quotes thorough Google Translate. Attributing quotes to another source is not plagiarism.

We gather information from a variety of sources, including blogs, tweet, etc. Newspapers are not websites. We don't credit links.  The Czech magazine and it's writer are the originating source of the news and thus deserve credit - not you or your website. 

Right out of the demagogue's playbook: repeat a lie often enough and people will begin to take it as the truth. This reply is where you can see James Wallace's dishonesty and his desire to do whatever it takes to keep from acknowledging that Dave Fuller stole his piece from our website. First off, a Broad Street Hockey commenter that lives in the Czech Republic was kind enough to point out that Hokej.cz is actually just a website. Secondly, here's an example of a Sun Media writer doing what blogs do often and well: taking an idea, crediting the source, and expanding on it. And what major print media did the writer source? Buffalo Rumblings. Coincidentally, another SBN site. The Toronto Sun: Just like SB Nation but shitty and two days late.

The other claim that is hilarious is that Dave Fuller completed the translation on his own. Online translation programs are notoriously terrible unless you have some idea of what you are trying to get from them especially with Eastern European languages. I think that any reasonable person (which excludes James Wallace from the conversation) will admit that Bower Power's line-by-line comparison of the two pieces makes this an open and shut case that Fuller copied the quotations and did no translating on his own. Or, as someone on twitter remarked, it's a copy and paste case.

But was it plagiarism? Well, Doogie2K provided a helpful link to the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (Paris Text 1971):

(3) Translations, adaptations, arrangements of music and other alterations of a literary or artistic work shall be protected as original works without prejudice to the copyright in the original work.

I am not sure about how that would apply to Canadian Copyright Law but I have decided to put some feelers out to see if some light can be shed on how Canada handles translations. There was some discussion about whether we even had the legal right to post a translation in the first place. SBN's lawyer did send the hockey group new guidelines for working on translations but Hokej.cz has not contacted us to complain or replied to my e-mail. It also doesn't excuse the Sun as some professional apologists have suggested since two wrongs don't make a right.

It sure feels like James Wallace's determination to paint these quotations as in the public domain because they appeared in Czech on Hokej.cz's website suggests that he has some thought that something untoward was done. But God forbid he admit it, apologise, and seek to make amends. A blog focused on the Toronto Sun family noted the plagiarism story originally and reached out to James Wallace for reply. Seeing as it wasn't me e-mailing him he saw fit to reply and once again tried to twist the facts:

To be clear, ­ we did see the story first on the sports blog. Then we did what journalists are supposed to do - ­ checked the original article from Hokej, ran it through Google Translate and did our own work to validate and rework the quotes for accuracy.

"Quotes, as you're aware, are part of the public record and it's acceptable journalistic practice to use quotations from another source particularly if they are properly attributed.

"That's what we did, attributed quotes we used in our story to Hokej, which actually invested the resources into interviewing Kaberle's father and producing the original story.

Funny how he won't mention the name of the site. The part about doing their own work is false based on even the most generous reading of Bower Power's comparison. As for his attempt to paint the quotations as part of public domain it makes sense as a strategy as MF37 found that the Canadian Association of Journalists are pretty clear on what needs to be done when borrowing a story:

There is no copyright on news or ideas once a story is in the public domain, but if we can’t match the story, we will credit the originating source. While news and ideas are there for the taking, the words used to convey them are not. If we borrow a story or even a paragraph from another source we will rewrite it before it is published or broadcast. It we do not rewrite it, we will credit the source because failure to do so is plagiarism. Using another’s analysis or interpretation may constitute plagiarism, even if the words are rewritten, unless it is attributed. This is especially true for columnists.

The other outlets that credited the Toronto Sun did so for the very same reason that the Sun should have credited us with the story: because they were unable to corroborate the quotations with Frantisek Kaberle Sr since this was a one-on-one interview and not a press conference (Dave Fuller's favourite wrongheaded example), they did not contact Hokej.cz, and they couldn't translate the article on their own.

Now, I promised you the other half of my original e-mail and you'll see why I actually had to laugh when I got home last night and saw that Dave "Open Source Content" Fuller had copied yet another story from this website:

If you are stuck for more content, we also had a reader translate an article about Jonas Gustavsson (http://www.pensionplanpuppets.com/2010/8/18/1629546/monster-loaded-for-a-difficult-year) from HockeyExpressen.se. All I would ask is that you acknowledge who provided the lead.

Best Regards and thanks for reading,

PPP

Call me crazy but I think that Dave Fuller might not understand the concept of sarcasm. It was made all the more disappointing considering that this was how Dave Fuller had left things before:

Next time, and I’m sure there will be one, I’ll figure out a way to give double credit without it seeming too wordy/awkward, etc.

Wonder if he ran the idea past James Wallace and it was shot down or if Fuller thought that giving me the brush off would bring an end to this episode? You'd think that they would have wanted to brush this under the carpet before a Google search for "Toronto Sun Plagiarism" put this story at the top of the results. Or before the stories racked up about 100 re-tweets and around 50 shares on Facebook. Or before, as you can see below, many different websites chimed in (and oddly no word outside of Twitter from a single MSM guy) on the story. And those are the ones that wrote posts that I bothered to hunt down. I saw a half dozen more that linked to the story to kick off discussions.

As for what comes next (I know everyone's in suspense), I will be following up on MF37's recommendations to approach both the Canadian Journalism Project and the Organization of News Ombudsmen as well as puckurgently's suggestion to file a complaint with the Ontario Press Council. In addition, I'll check out if there's any legal recourse. Basically, since I've received some good feedback from other bloggers, a member of the MSM, and everyone here we're going to pursue this as far as we can. Hopefully we'll get some redress. If not, then we'll always have a couple of new memes.

More Reaction From The Blogosphere

Bloggers Deserve More Respect - Blueshirt Banter
Nick looks at one of the issues around the Sun's response: a lack of respect.

The Puck Stops Here : Hockey Blogging Comes Of Age
Talking to Greg Wyshynski and Tyler Dellow Sunday night we mentioned this as well. Swiping ideas can be very easy...can be unless you're being watched Fuller.

Red Line Station: Don't Take a Translation Without Citing
You would think that it would be common sense.

Adventures In Plagiarism: Toronto Sun Blatantly Rips Off Leafs Blog, Then Defends Themselves - Broad Street Hockey
An example of why Travis is the SBN league manager.

Pension Plan Puppets vs Toronto Sun: The Latest Battlefield in Old vs New? - Hockey Wilderness
As Bryan sayds "Nothing in the world of old vs new is ever simple." It's a constant struggle but it really probably doesn't need to result in swiping stories.

Tomas Kaberle's father figures he'll be traded this year, sparks Internet firestorm over plagiarism - ProHockeyTalk
It is certainly ironic that a member of the traditional media would do something that would cause aneurysms if they were a blogger.

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