I’ve been having a lot of fun with this Petite Lap Giraffe thing, but I came across a totally fascinating situation today.  I discovered a New York-area newspaper that was lifting details from my Petite Lap Giraffe article without providing a link.  When I called them out on it, instead of simply linking to my blog, they rewrote the article to cover up the deed!

Update: Click here for a complete summary of the events.  (It’s probably easier to read.)

So here’s the long version of the story…  I was really disappointed to see LongIslandPress.com ripping off my blog without attribution.

To paraphrase Missy Yates, the author of the article:

Sorry guys … petite lap giraffe just doesn’t exist in our realm. … you’ve SEEN them. We did too. But let’s do a little research here.

From there, Yates summarizes the findings from my blog post, sans useful details, and most importantly without any attribution.  Oh, but they included advertising.

At 2:44PM I commented on the article, saying:

I’m disappointed you didn’t cite my March 23 blog post, where I actually conducted the research you are taking credit for.  Specifically, I uncovered the link to the Grey Group, and I also discovered the “hot tub” stock image.  At a minimum, you should provide attribution.

This is where it gets interesting. At the time of my comment (2:44PM), the Long Island Press article stated the following:

The Russian Petite Lap Giraffes featured on www.petitelapgiraffe.com can be traced back to a marketing group: Grey Global Group, which we’re guessing has some kind of connection to DirecTV.

And the cute little guy in the bath tub? Well, that’s a stock image with the cute little guy added in.

However, by 3:05PM the article was altered to read:

The Russian Petite Lap Giraffes featured on www.petitelapgiraffe.com can be traced back to a marketing group: Grey Global Group, which we’re guessing has some kind of connection to DirecTV.

A quick domain name lookup…which is free and public information…will give you those details.

No kidding!  They removed the detail about the stock image, since that’s something that originated on my blog and nowhere else.  Regarding the domain name, it is free and public information, but hey … I did it first, and I published it in the same article as the stock image exposé.  The point is that it’s still a “rip off” to copy someone else’s work and take credit for it as if it were your own.  Best of all, they refused to publish my comment; it is still being “held for moderation.”

As of 4:23PM, the article now includes this language:

A quick domain name lookup…which is free and public information…will give you those details, which we acquired–you know, being a newspaper with research capabilities and all–of our own accord (although some are trying to claim this information as their own “discovery” as a way to promote their own personal website! But enough of that…)

Wow.  Just wow.  They didn’t need to be jerks about it, but … here we are.  So I am left wondering about the following things:

  • Why rip off my work without providing a link?  A link is free, and it’s easy to do.
  • Why alter the article to make it appear as if the “rip off” had not taken place?  I interpret the actions of Long Island Press to constitute the acknowledgment that it is, in fact, a “rip off”, and simultaneously that they’re totally remorseless about doing it.  Booo!!!
  • I called out Yates in their comments section, but it’s been “held for moderation” for the last hour.  In that time, they’ve actually changed the article, but they haven’t published my comment.  What’s going on there!?

Like I said, it’s just kindof a bummer…  but for a newspaper to go out of their way - to actually alter an article they published in an effort to rewrite history - just so they don’t have to respond to a little (valid) criticism?  That’s kindof wild!  Let me be clear: this whole thing is so silly that I don’t actually want any kind of reparations.  I don’t want anyone to be fired or anything like that…  but I also hate it when people get busted and then try to cover it up!  …and then to be jerks about it - that sucks!

Screenshot from Long Island Press: my comment is still awaiting moderation...

Here’s what wikipedia has to say about plagiarism:

Plagiarism is defined in dictionaries as “the wrongful appropriation, close imitation, or purloining and publication, of another author’s language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions, and the representation of them as one’s own original work.”

Update: Slashdot, you rule.  Yes, there are a bunch of trolls here, and yes, this is about the most absurd situation anyone could have dreamt up…  but let me say this: I really don’t want anyone to get fired over this.  Come on: it’s a freaking mythical creature called the “Petite Lap Giraffe.”  It’s fun, it’s stupid, etc… relax, everybody!

Update: I want to point out that we don’t know who edited the article.  All we know is the original author.  Therefore, please refrain from any kind of personal accusations targeted at the author; anyone at the LIP could have made the edits.

Update: Since someone asked about my server logs, the answer is: yes, I checked them out.  On March 28 (the date their article was published) I did log one request for favicon.ico that originated at mail.longislandpress.com. Here it is:

XXX.XXX.XXX.XX – - [28/Mar/2011:20:56:31 +0000] “GET /favicon.ico HTTP/1.0″ 304 – “-” 
    “Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 5.1; rv:2.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/4.0″

It was served with an HTTP 304 code (meaning “unmodified”) which suggests the favicon was already in someone’s cache. That means the page had previously been loaded.  The timestamp is 20:56:31 UTC, meaning it was 4:56PM in New York. The timestamp on the original Long Island Press article is 5:02PM.

To put it in a simpler way: someone from longislandpress.com visited my site less than 10 minutes before they published the article in question.  I have to admit I didn’t expect the timestamps to be so close to each other, but… there they are!

Update: I kept going through the logs, and what do you know…  I noticed this entry, which originated from the same IP address as the previous entry:

XXX.XXX.XXX.XX - - [29/Mar/2011:19:40:30 +0000] "GET /blog/2011/03/total-bummer-longislandpress-com-
    plagiarism-and-coverup/ HTTP/1.0" 200 13398 "http://www.longislandpress.com/[redacted wordpress
    admin.php]" "Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 5.1; rv:2.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/4.0"

Let me unpack this for you.  Someone:

  • using the same IP address as the previous log entry
  • using the same browser as before (or at least providing the same UserAgent)
  • using the LIP wordpress admin interface (as indicated by the Referer field)
  • …clicked through to my site, in order to read this post

So this suggests that someone who has access to the longislandpress.com wordpress admin interface also visited my site 6 minutes before publishing the article I contacted them about.

Update: Welp, it looks like they took their article offline.  I consider this to be pretty much a wrap, by now.  Thanks, everybody!

Update: LongIslandPress.com put the article back online, with a attribution.  I’m happy enough.