Phantoms in the Fumosphere

–  This could happen to you, too!

Do you like to read perfume blogs? Do you appreciate the different perspectives on this or that verbal expression of olfactory art and expertise, do you love to see where the blogger’s words might take you, or what lemmings the writer will wake? And if you are a reader, do you ever wonder at the life of a perfume blogger? What goes on behind the scenes, what do all those bloggers do when they’re not posting?

The vast majority of us are working our day jobs – most of which are not connected in the slightest with the perfume industry, taking care of our quotidian lives, and to a greater or lesser degree as our life permits planning the next post. Maybe we’ve received samples of something we’d like to review and maybe we’re wearing them, and maybe in those idle moments on a freeway or a subway or city bus, in a supermarket queue, over a stove, we’re thinking about what to write about them, wondering about what places they have taken us, what wonders we have felt and seen and surreptitiously sniffed when we thought no one was looking, writing already in our minds.

You see, that’s what we do – write about perfume. We provide original content for your delectation and delight – and above all else for our own. We have a passion that perhaps is considered a bit suspect if not obsessive by our surroundings, and so…we blog and we write about that passion out of love, on our own time, and for very little or no renumeration at all. In the perfume communities of the Internet, we comment on each other’s blogs, we share discoveries, exchange information, network, and trade samples.

We do all of this for one reason.

We simply l-o-v-e perfume. We see it as the Invisible Art, we consider it a privilege to enjoy, we think it a joy to communicate that love to others who love it as we do.

Now…imagine a very different scenario. Imagine – there are no perfume blogs. At all. Imagine a world where the world of niche and independent perfume has only websites and advertising to notify the general public, and imagine therefore – that there are…no independent perfumers. Advertising is expensive. You as a consumer are stuck with the specters of corporate conglomerates who are thinking entirely different things about sensory transport – their bottom line, not your out-of-body olfactory experiences.

Hold that thought.

Now, imagine that you are what the social media marketing world calls the 1%. In Internet social interaction, it is a general rule of thumb that 90% of any given group in any given setting will enjoy the online content they have access to. They will enjoy it, they may even share it with each other. That’s all they do. Nine percent more will comment and interact with…the one percent who actually provide that content – write the blogs, post the links and share them, tweet them etc.

Every single perfume blog you read is part of that one percent. Each providing original, often beautifully written, thought-provoking, never-before-read words so that you may enjoy them.

Only that’s no longer true, I’m sad to say.

The fact is, every minute of every day, nameless, faceless phantoms stalk the blogosphere on the hunt for content to steal. Even in the friendly, rarified section of it I personally call…the fumosphere. There is an entire underground industry in Asia who trawl great blogs for their content so they can proceed to post them as new material. I’m not knowledgable enough or close enough to worry too much about them.

I worry about those other phantoms…the ones who are the stuff of haunting nightmares, the phantasms who in so many insidious ways can make me reconsider why I shouldn’t just …give up the ghost altogether.

These are the content thieves, the domain stealers, those innumerable unseen poachers who lurk in the dark and not so dark recesses of the blogosphere and on every blogging platform we use…to steal our words and even our carefully selected images and pass them off for their own.

They aren’t out to poach from the big blogs, the household names, since they are very well aware that if they did, the large audience those blogs have would expose them in a heartbeat.

Much better, so they think in their larcenous minds, to take from the smaller blogs, the cognoscenti blogs, the blogs that are just far enough under the radar of the fumosphere not to be entirely well-known. Who would notice, after all, if a domain registered since 2006 is used for a subterranean blog, who would care that blog posts are purloined wholesale and set up on another blog much further down the food chain in those overlooked shadowy corners, who cares if these thieves bask in the reflected glory of the words they loved enough to steal and try to pass for their own?

The one percent who conjure that content from thin air, sparse spare time and sleight-of-word care more about this issue than you could possibly begin to imagine. You see, this is our creativity, these are OUR words, this is what we love to do more than nearly anything else on Earth, which is exactly why we do it to begin with – for love. Those words, that content contains the DNA of our hearts and souls, the very essence of ourselves and our raison d’être. Our words, our blogs and our creativity has established a network, a reputation, and a credibility in a community that means everything to us – and to steal it amounts to something akin to violation of our souls.

Surely, I must be exaggerating? It can’t be that bad!

It is.

Last week, my friend and fellow perfume writer Lucy of Indieperfumes discovered to her horror that someone had hijacked her domain, a domain she has owned since 2006. This was a very suspect blog to begin with – there was no contact information and no links whatsoever, not even submerged in the HTML header code. In not much time and with a little help from perfumer and blogger Absinthe Dragon, we took it to the social platforms of Facebook and Twitter, shared our links, spread the word. Many of our friends in the perfume community reported the offender to the host. Less than 48 hours later, the blog name had changed. The case would have rested there – lessons learned, reports filed, copyright offices and ditto lawyers notified at exorbitant cost – except that wasn’t all that happened.

This morning, I woke up to another horror story. Lucy was notified that someone had stolen many of her own favorite posts – images and all – and passed them off as original material. Within minutes, I was informed on Facebook by Undina of Undina’s Looking Glass that another very highly regarded blogger, Krista of Scent of the Day, had also had content stolen – lock, stock and barrel.

Once again, this was a highly suspect blog, once again, there was no contact information, no About page, no attribution, no backlinks or even so much as an email requesting permission. Once again, we reported the offender to Google. And last but never least, we’re confronted with that Big Polka-dotted Elephant in the blogosphere…or anywhere original creative content is created, since this issue is nothing new – why bother to create any kind of content and share it, if it’s going to be stolen?

Music is downloaded illegally every day, as are films. Images can be copied and saved with a right-click or a drag. Even perfumes are not immune to plagiarism – formulae are analyzed, copied, watered down and released as ‘new’ and ‘original’ all the time.

I prefer to buy my music and films to support my musicians and directors, not out of any sense of charity, but because these works of art in any medium were created to be enjoyed by people who felt they had something to say and I very much like how they say it and want them to keep saying it, so I can continue to enjoy it.

Why should I care? It didn’t happen to me. It happened to two friends and fellow bloggers who have supplied original content for my delectation for a very long time but whom I would never even conceive of stealing from or even quoting without permission because I’m a firm believer in the laws of karma. Yet it could happen to me, to you, to anyone who creates at any moment of any day – perpetrated by anyone who loved it so much even imitation was too much to ask and only copy-paste content poaching was enough, all to bask in that reflected glory and clandestine thrill only theft can provide.

We content creators and providers, we artists and we dreamers share our passions and our creations in the hopes that you may enjoy them, think about them, talk about them, discuss them with your friends. We arouse your curiosity about a world that may be infinitely larger and richer than you already know, we entertain you, we engage you so that you too can pay that passion forward to those you care about. And we do all of this, every minute of every day in every context and on many platforms – for love.

Du ut des. Latin for the number one rule of social interaction on the Internet:

I’ll give so you can give.

Here’s what I give: my words, since they’re the only thing I really have TO give, to share and to care with. Here’s where I care – to raise awareness of polka-dotted elephants in the blogosphere most of us would rather prefer to ignore if we could. Here’s where I share: the knowledge I have, the connections I’ve made, the precious and priceless friendships I’ve created with the magic my own words have conjured.

Here’s where I laugh: In the world of social media, there really is such a thing as …instant karma.

Here’s what I share: what I know.

Here’s what I know: Stolen love – or stolen words – is no love and no truth! – at all. But should you forget – let me tell you a few things… about instant social media karma…

With profound thanks to Undina, who alerted me to Krista’s stolen posts, too. And to the international perfume community, who knows stealing is so deathly uncool! And the very worst karma!

Image: RelyOnHorror

28 thoughts on “Phantoms in the Fumosphere

  1. OMG, I detest those zombie perfume blog sites. Several times I’ve found weird, poorly-formatted & designed pages with copied reviews. Such a letdown because at first I’m excited because it’s a ‘blog’ I haven’t seen before but then I realize it’s only stolen content. Grrr.

    1. K, I LOVE your description of “zombie perfume blog sites”. It’s perfectly apt! The amazing thing about them – apart from their appalling lack of morals OR ethics – is …why? The perfume community – meaning, those of us who are rabid/passionate enough to keep up to date on blogs, information etc – is a fairly tight-knit one. Did they really think they were going to get away with it?
      I sincerely hope to prove just how wrong that assumption is! 😉

    1. Thank you so very, very much for sharing! You nail it on the head when you state that it’s such a horrid thing to happen to someone of Lucy’s indisputable talent! On the other hand…whoever is behind it obviously has a taste for the best. I just wish it could have happened to someone far less deserving of such a terrible fate! 😦

  2. WOW. I realize that it’s really easy to steal content and the internet makes it easy for them. What I don’t understand is what they are getting out of it. Ad clicks? Glory? Do they even like perfumes? I don’t understand.

    1. There’s the crux, right there – what are THEY getting out of it? I’m well aware of spam blogs – called ‘splogs’ – a great word, btw! – but all of these blogs are ad-free. Experience by association? Which is to say…if they can’t afford or are unable to obtain samples, they can at least misappropriate someone else’s prose because they can? The perfume community is an enticing, friendly place. We share our passion in many ways with each other – but…you have to be willing to get your metaphorical feet wet and participate! Maybe not as a blogger or writer – which takes a considerable amount of dedication, as you know! – but at least as …a member. This may be part of it. It could be an exercise/writing assignment for school/college/university. Maybe the guilty parties discovered what we all know – that perfume and our sense of smell is the hardest thing of all to write about, gave up the ghost, and went trawling for the kind of content they didn’t have the time/inclination/experience/talent/language skills to write about themselves.
      Or maybe it’s a tad more sinister than that – a matter of nailing a true creative right where it hurts the most – ownership. In which case, it’s personal, and in which case, karma really IS…a bitch! Since this is where social media can do so much….to raise awareness of the issue, to expose the perp by association, whoever it might be – and to force all of us who do care – about our subject matter, about our passion, about owning our words – to take the steps we need to protect them and to prevent this from happening to the extent that we can.

    1. She did indeed, and this does nothing to alleviate any of our fears that our content can be stolen! Or even – much as it pains me to write this – that these thieves are only the beginning of a very large iceberg…:-(

  3. It happened to Krista too? That’s awful. I knew about Lucy and Vanessa already and was already dismayed for them. This kind of crap just chaps my hide.

    1. Your hide, Dionne, mine and everyone’s, I fear! However…this Joan of Arc is on the case and preparing a blog post – which will be posted on another of my blogs, since it applies to any blogger on any subject – on how to prevent it to the extent that we can. Starting with…making people aware that it happens!

  4. I will be starting a post tonight about this, I have some points I want to make. I think it’s really important and good that the perfume community is rallying and not accepting this type of behavior as par for the course. If this becomes normalized, there will really be no point in putting original material up any longer. I started this in the first place to get into developing my aesthetic sensibility around fragrance, the sense of smell, nature, and sharing my experiences with others. Now that freely given sharing is not enough, it’s been stolen and put out as someone else’s thoughts, experiences, associations, connections, identity. I love the indieperfumes that are being made now. They require a developed aesthetic judgment to appreciate. These people need to go out and smell perfume, have some fragrance experiences, get into the ingredients and notes, read other fragrance writers. Then maybe they’ll have something to say for themselves instead of appropriating other people’s content.

    1. Lucy, since you did write about this issue, I’ll be commenting on your blog, too. But we already have a head start – in raising awareness, in rallying the perfume community as you say and in exposing the frauds for precisely what they are – frauds and imposters! I doubt they even DO have anything to say or the gumption to write – which is a perfect explanation for their theft! If not any kind of justification…

  5. I hate when it happens! Several months ago I remember Gaia (The Non-Blonde) complained about her content being stolen. Then I read Vanessa’s story. Then this one.
    I don’t know how effective it is but we should be fighting back.

    1. Undina – I’ve spent the past month immersed in social media marketing – the How, Why, What and Where…and I believe that the ONLY way to fight back is to use the one weapon we DO have – each other! If people can become aware that this IS happening, that’s a start. If they can share that knowledge – it’s a development. And if we as members of the international perfume community can rally around each other and shout it into cyberspace: WATCH OUT, BLOGGERS!!!! – we’ve already done far more than we think. After all…what are friends FOR? 😉

  6. But why would someone want to create a zombie perfume blog site in the first place? What do they stand to gain since there’s no name attached? Could this be a way for advertisers to see how many clicks a well respected blog receives for free, or something to that effect? Could it be a virus that somehow replicates a blog automatically? A “Blogamaton”?

    What am I missing here? I’d love it if someone could get to the bottom of this. Please don’t stop writing, dear bloggers!!!!!

    1. Lalu…I am indeed getting to the bottom of this. For some of my thoughts as to the why, read my reply to Madperfumista above. Neither of the two blogs who stole from Lucy contain advertising, so that’s obviously not an issue.
      Here’s what IS – to rally the perfume community around each other and expose these bloggers for the thieves they are! That’s karma…;)

  7. I see Morsie already mentioned it happening to Vanessa from Bonkers (she wrote about it this week too).
    I’m not exactly sure what is it that we can do when that happens – and how is it you learn it’s happened?
    I hope we can put a stop to it – I’ll follow any guidelines available. Because it’s so very true what you say, we pour our love into our posts and to have them stolen just feels like a violation of your intellect and love for the things you blog about.

    1. Ines – I’ll have you know that I’m in the process of researching all our options of protecting our content. It will be the subject of a future post on another blog – since it applies to any blogger on any topic. I’ll make sure to tell you all about it when it’s up! In the meantime, our best option is to spread the word as best we can – in every way we can! Thank you so much for doing – just that! 🙂

  8. What an eloquent, powerful and heartfelt piece, and how strange that several of us should have got nobbled in this way around the same time. Am just catching up with my blog reading and am grateful to Undina for alerting me to this post, and to the fact that I had inadvertently left the door open to my particular scrapers by having my RSS feed set to “full”. Following her advice, I think I have now changed this to “short” and made it more difficult for people to nick material. Given that it has been set that way all the while I have had a blog, it makes you think that many aggregator websites who potentially could have copied more of my content, respected the notion of copyright, by only putting up a small taster. Which is quite something, you could say. This just shows how much I didn’t know about my own blog controls / mechanics, and has been a salutatory lesson.

    1. Thank you so much for your comment, Vanessa! As you say, knowing you too have been a victim, this has been a lesson for all of us – one I hope too have a few solutions for, even as I know that nothing online is ever entirely bulletproofed. Yet knowledge is power, too – and so, as I’ve stated above, I’m researching a post on how we can all protect ourselves and our content from these thieves…in the (naïve??) hopes that we can all benefit from it! 😀

  9. I don’t know why that site was taking our content, they don’t seem to have any ads. But It was unpleasant to see my words on someone else’s blog. All we can do it fill out the Google complaint form. I may also have to change the RSS feed to be just an except instead of the whole post. I’m afraid that might break the threaded commenting, but it may be necessary.

    Anyway, thank you for DM ing me and letting me know about all of this. I don’t know if I ever would have noticed myself.

    1. You’re very welcome, Krista, any day of any year! 🙂 I felt that alerting you was the only thing I could do! Ah, we’ll get to the bottom of this yet – and that is a threat! 😉

      1. This is true, Undina – but comments can’t be nested on Blogger, where both Lucy and Krista have their blogs.For informing me on Facebook to Krista’s predicament – I can*t thank you enough! The more we know, the more power we have! 🙂

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