The Philosophy of Theft and Plagiarism –

Culprits: www(dot)martiniboys(dot)com
Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, Miami, NYC
Open 24hrs. Thieving for 23 of them.

I first came across the concept of online plagiarism through one of my favorite blogs, Chez Pim, when she highlighted a thief that was stealing both her pictures, and content, and representing it as their own. While i definitely felt for her indignation, I didnt really understand her level of anger. She wasnt asking for much (attribution basically), but still seemed quite angry. Apparently, it has happened again recently, and once again, there is quite a mixed response. I figured with such a popular site in the blogsphere, theft is definitely an issue, but never with us. Well, i can tell you theft is not reserved for just the big sites. Those who often patronizingly tell you that “you don’t understand until it happens to you”, here’s another story to add to your large arsenal of “I told you so’s”. I finally understand where she is coming from, and that understanding is courtesy of Canadian-based lifestyle site, martiniboys. The L’Epicerie entry by Foodosophy has been plagiarized.

I was googling L’Epicerie today to check to see if they had a website with a list of products online. Out of my own curiosity, i was interested in seeing where we ranked in the google search results. Chowhound, understandably, rated first. They are a wonderful resource with a lot of traffic, and inbound and outbound links. Then i noticed that Martiniboys ranked second – ahead of Foodosophy!? – and that they had a review of L’Epicerie as well. I was interested in seeing what they thought.

Foodosophy - ripped off!

Foodosophy - ripped off!

The first thing that caught my eye was the picture that they used. Im not a great photographer like Shokutsu is, but I recognize my own work. And i remember struggling with the right angle to take that picture in my car, in weird light. And the very flat color that the picture was finished with. While i had been warned by Shokutsu that photograph theft was a huge problem online,  I didnt think anyone would ever want my photos. While i’ve seen a lot of incidents of photo theft, maybe this wasn’t. I figured, well, maybe they took the same picture. It is cropped after all…

As i started to read their review, I caught a strange vibe – the structure was very similar to how i write. On a closer examination of the first paragraph, it was an exact paraphrase of my post. Maybe this was still an accident? People can have similar writing styles after all.

Reading on, I realized that they had taken every concept from my post, and re-worded it. Even errors and omissions. Arugula is not an ingredient that is usually on the foie gras sandwich. My typo, Moutarde spelt as Moutard, should have been corrected. They also introduced factually incorrect information. I wasn’t going to say anything MARTINIBOYS, but Teatro is not French, it’s Italian. And the Rilette at L’Epicerie is DUCK, not the traditional pork, which you would know if you actually ventured inside, instead of wikipedia’ing everything. Or been there at all. Ok, this was no longer an accident. I have been violated.

How do i feel about this? Im upset. Really upset. Why would i go from “understandably upset, but nothing to get mad about” to “im really pissed off and i’ll be contacting the DMCA and a lawyer to proceed with legal action”?  I’m mad because by participating in the blogsphere, I finally understand how much work it takes. A few hours to write a posting. Some time spent fact checking to make sure i havent said anything erroneously. It takes time to process the photos so they look somewhat attractive. Put it all together, it is a lot of time spent. Im especially upset because they arent just a small independent blogger out sharing information with all the other readers and contributors – and decided our photos looked better than theirs – but they are a site where people are paid, and advertisers pay for traffic that should be generated by original content. Lastly, im really upset, because Shokutsu warned me when we first started, and that my blind faith in humankind has once again let me down. Im the fool, I laughed at him. I told him “your photos are nice, but really, who’s going to steal any of our stuff? We’re just a few people who like writing about the food we love, and some of our experiences”.

I expect they will catch wind of this soon enough, and likely pull the offending post, but i’ve done my best to document the trail. While im hoping for a retraction, and a published apology, I don’t expect to get one. If they’ve stolen from us, i’d guarantee they’ve stolen from other sites as well. So consider this a warning to the rest of you. Check their site to see if any of your content has been stolen. And report them. Contact their advertisers. More importantly, don’t allow them to profit off of your hard work. It’s a sleazy practice, and it should be put to a stop. Sorry Pim – I didnt fully understand why you were so upset, but i do now. I’m sorry Shokutsu that i doubted you. Im sorry martiniboys that i believed people were better than this. And mostly, im sorry i had to dedicate my time and energy to posting something like this, instead of talking about the things i love most. Food and Foodosophy.

(Aug 27, 1:31pm MST) Edit: Sorry, i realized i hadnt linked the original article. Here is the original link.

15 thoughts on “The Philosophy of Theft and Plagiarism –

  1. Thanks matt – you have some wonderful photos on your site. I would be cautious of your content as well.

    I’ve been meaning to ask you though, your post on Fresh off the Boat – where is that?

  2. FWIW I’ve never really trusted martiniboys…Any info on their site I can usually get through a quick google search and typos on a site where people are paid for their work? Inexcusable. OTOH you can take plagarism as a compliment – they liked your work enough to rip it off.

    The rest of humankind still deserves a little of that blind faith. 🙂

  3. A positive way to look at things MS – i’ll try and take that approach more often. You’re right in the sense that it is complimentary. And, anything that generates a little more business for a good establishment can’t be a bad thing. However, someone profiting off your work makes me feel a bit used.

    Thanks for taking a break from CH and dropping by!

  4. WOW.
    Never thought of taking text or already posted images. My english is so second language, it is very proprietory in it’s limited vocabulary and grammar.
    I did in the past email people on Flickr to get their images and then credit them in the actual post. They usually are pretty excited about it.

    But text?


  5. I agree H. Peter – asking to borrow something, then attributing is fair game. Sometimes, my photos don’t turn out well. Someone else has nicer stuff… seems perfectly reasonable. Heck, if they had wanted to use my post verbatim, and attribute the writing credit to me, i’d probably have been fine with that too.

    The question is, if you were making money on your site, do you think people would be willing to lend you photos? I know it’s strange that something as simple as “are they getting paid” can influence a decision – but i ask myself – since they are getting money, and they are using my work to make money, shouldn’t i get a cut? It’s an interesting dilemma.

  6. That’s horrible! I’m paranoid, so I put my url in the bottom quarter of my photographs. It seems like they took the page down though.

    Next time, complain to their hosting company and say they’re stealing copyrighted work. If their host is a good one, they’ll take that page, and possibly even the whole site, off their servers.

  7. Foodosopher – a very sad story this all is, you know my personal thoughts on all of this so won’t expand on this. I won’t even say “I told ya so…”. 🙂

    burleeblog – the marking you do we’ve done here (or at least I have) but that can easily be circumvented unless you put it right into the heart of the image (or point that is in sharpess focus, or point of interest). but doing so makes the images less visually appealing so there is a balance that needs to be struck. i guess we can’t really win. 😦

  8. ARRGH. I’m so sorry this happened to you.

    I tried to put my url on my photos but was unhappy with how they ruined the overall look. I still cross my fingers and hold out hope for humankind, or at the very least that karma will bite plagiarizers in the ass.

    Keep up the good work.

  9. Thanks for your kind words. We definitely agree with you – putting it across the critical portion of the photo ruins the overall look. It’s sad really… I know flash sites are able to prevent people from stealing photos, but that kind of graphic design is beyond our capabilities, and our pocket books.

    Here’s raising a glass to karma!

  10. Karma indeed.
    It appears Martiniboys may have gone off line.
    They reviewed our place without even showing up! They just stole some photos from our website and the wrote the entire review based on our webpage and menu. Most amazingly the review was fairly negative — without ever having seen the restaurant or tasted the food.

    Luckily their review was quickly supplanted by a series of positive reviews by critics who actually had to decency to come to the restaurant before reviewing it.

    These guys are definitely web scum. And apparently are now web dust.

    • Wow – that’s horrendous. I hope it didnt have an adverse impact on your business – that really is as unethical as it gets.

      Thanks for bringing their (likely) demise to our attention! I have a special smile today 🙂

  11. good for you for catching those scoundrels and putting them out of business.
    theft is theft and those who steal should be punished.

    martiniboys used to be a great resource and, apparently, greed (when they expanded their coverage of cities), turned them into morality-devoid capitalist liars.

    sucks to be them.
    take them to the cleaners!

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