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