27

So I'm browsing YouTube and I come across a video titled "Why Wasn't Palpatine Removed as Chancellor after Zillo Beast Attack(Canon) Explain Star Wars" by BessY. It has over 460,000 views.

Immediately this reminded me of my question, "How did Palpatine's Chancellorship survive the Zillo Beast attack?". I find it cool that somebody out there had the same question as me and I watch the video. I quickly discover that it quotes exactly the same parts of the Clone Wars episodes that I do. More curiously, it includes the exact same extract from the Ultimate Star Wars factbook as Valorum's answer does.

My question is dated 20th January 2017. Valorum's answer is dated 23rd January 2017. BessY's video is dated 29th January 2017.

Bottom line: I strongly suspect that this YouTube user stole the question concept and the answer for their video.

Now part of me feels kind of flattered that a question I came up with has been given a much wider audience (my question has only 942 views, but the video has 489 times as many). Part of me feels wronged and cheated that someone else is claiming the credit for original content on this site.

What, if anything, should we do about this? I've read this meta question about third party sites but I don't know if there's a difference between code being copy-and-pasted from say Stack Overflow and material from a Sci Fi question being used for a YouTube post. In any event, it can't be proved that this is definitely a case of plagiarism without BessY confirming it themselves. However, if the YouTube video has copied us then it hasn't provided attribution, which the linked meta post says is required.

My concern is broader than just this one question. How should we respond if this happens again in the future? I'm not knowledgeable enough about our Star Wars questions (having spent most of my time in the Harry Potter tag) to know whether BessY has used StackExchange posts as the basis of any of their other videos, but they could have done. Surely we don't want to put in all the time and effort that we do on our posts just to have our work nicked without attribution by random people on the web?

My response so far has just been to leave a comment on the video asking if they got the idea from us. Maybe that's all that can be done but that makes me feel somewhat...powerless.

How should we respond to this sort of suspected plagiarism?

  • The question is, does it quote the actual content of the question/answer verbatim without attribution? That might be problematic. Or does it just share that interesting information it found on the site? In that case, that's, like,...what this site is supposed to achieve. There's not really a copyright on the mere idea an answer is based on, I'm afraid. – TARS Feb 3 '18 at 15:29
  • 3
    Go ahead to flag the video to YouTube and sue YouTube.. – Lobo Feb 3 '18 at 15:29
  • 5
    If they're quoting the exact same sources you quoted, it's not plagiarism, even if they stole your work to do so - because they're citing the original work, and so did you. If they're quoting portions of the question and answer that users here wrote in the same way, without attribution or linking, that probably counts. I know SE has some legalese regarding ownership of their content, so my guess is it'd be up to them to enforce. On our level, just putting the info out there (link back to our site) would be about it. – Radhil Feb 3 '18 at 16:37
  • 1
    The mods here were dealing with a case of double-plagiarism a while back: a user plagiarising questions from SFF.SE to other sites, then plagiarising the answers they got back to here. After deleting the plagiarised content on our own site, we wrote to the admins of the other sites to let them know about the plagiarised content over there, but AFAIK nothing was ever done about it. – Rand al'Thor Feb 3 '18 at 17:28
  • A link to your comment will help us upvote it and get it attention! – Edlothiad Feb 4 '18 at 8:15
  • 1
    @Edlothiad - Presumably this one; youtube.com/… – Valorum Feb 4 '18 at 10:14
  • @Valorum Yep, that's the one. – The Dark Lord Feb 4 '18 at 13:40
  • 1
    How deep / down do / we go? – Mwr247 Feb 9 '18 at 17:33
  • 1
    Links in my comment above to three more question answer pairs that are very clearly copied from here. I'm certain there's more, but those are all I had time for right now. – Mwr247 Feb 9 '18 at 17:36
  • @Mwr247 Thanks, that's helpful. I stumbled across the Vader's guard one already but not the others. – The Dark Lord Feb 9 '18 at 17:50
  • 5
    One more. Because those were all from a year ago, I decided to see if he was still up to it more recently. This question was asked on January 1st, and this video was posted January 5th. He's definitely still at it, and if anything, it's more blatant and lazy. – Mwr247 Feb 9 '18 at 17:51
  • @Mwr247 I think we ought to start making up troll questions based on inaccuracies just to see whether we can make him say it... – The Dark Lord Feb 9 '18 at 17:54
  • 2
    Ugh. He’s a terrible narrator. It might be something to comment on his video saying “if you want the original answer to this, go to Sci Fi Stack Exchange” and then a link. – Todd Wilcox Feb 12 '18 at 5:19
11

Bottom line: I strongly suspect that this YouTube user stole the question concept and the answer for their video.

You can't copyright a question or answer concept. Copyright controls text or presentation. So even if someone does steal the idea of quoting particular sources, that's not copyrightable. The sources might conceivably claim that their copyright is violated. But if so, we're violating it too. (The counter-argument in both cases would be fair use, but again, that applies to both the YouTube video and the Stack Exchange answer.)

All that said, those parts of the question and answer that are not quoted from other sources are under copyright. It is unclear that the paraphrases are still covered under copyright, but they might be. The correct people to report that would be Stack Exchange. You can use the contact us to let them know about it. They may or may not take any action. Presumably they have legal advice as to when they can and cannot claim a copyright violation.

If this is bothering you, the thing that you can do is report it. At worst this wastes thirty seconds of someone's life to read it. And it's possible that they will want to take some action. If it's bothering you, let them make that decision.

Note that if the video had attributed its quotes, then this wouldn't be a problem. They could claim either fair use or licensing under CC BY-SA with attribution. But apparently they didn't do that (I have not watched the video, so I can't confirm that of my own knowledge; I'm relying on your report).

  • 4
    I can assure you that no attribution was made, unlike other videos I've seen quoting my answers. – Valorum Feb 7 '18 at 11:14
  • I've taken your advice and written to Stack Exchange under the heading 'Stack Exchange content is being reproduced without attribution', which seems to sum up our position quite nicely. – The Dark Lord Feb 9 '18 at 17:49
15

Looking over the transcript it certainly looks like YouTube user BessY has intentionally plagiarised content from my answer without attribution.


BessY: This issue is dealt with, somewhat partially, in a canon book called the Ultimate Star Wars
Me: This issue is dealt with, somewhat tangentially, in the Ultimate Star Wars factbook.

Both: [Identical quote from USW]

BessY: From this paragraph it is clear that as far as the public is concerned, that this event did not harm Palpatine's reputation in any way. Because of his plans to stop the creature, he ultimately came out of this whole incident as a hero by having heroically risked his life to prevent further casualties.
Me: The implication seems to be that as far as the 'man on the street' is concerned, the Chancellor came out of the whole sorry incident smelling of roses, having heroically risked his life to prevent further casualties.

A solid 60% of his words are identical and much of the remainder is semi-identical, with one expression replacing another.


As to what we do about it, there's very little that can be done other than making snarky comments on his channel and posting links to this post and the original question.

From a legal perspective he's probably changed just enough of the text that he could claim that it was an original work if you complained to YouTube but if you're really grumpy about it, that would probably be your first action.

  • On a related note, there are several questions that look like they're cribbed from SE but I've little or no interest in trawling his channel looking for other stuff that he's stolen. – Valorum Feb 3 '18 at 17:17
  • 19
    "somewhat partially"? Seems like they not only plagiarised you, but made the writing quality worse. – Rand al'Thor Feb 3 '18 at 17:24
  • 6
    @Randal'Thor - I think it's because they didn't understand what the word meant – Valorum Feb 3 '18 at 17:25
  • 1
    I will withhold judgment until I see the youtube video answering this question. :) – Longspeak Feb 4 '18 at 11:17
  • 2
    @rand Made Valorum's writing quality worse? Like is that possible? – Möoz Feb 4 '18 at 21:23
  • 9
    @Möoz - Me write doubleplusgood. Him write doubleplusungood. – Valorum Feb 4 '18 at 21:26
  • @Valorum Newspeak is doubleplusgood. Don't be a doubleplusungood. – Nic Hartley Feb 5 '18 at 7:59
  • How deep / down do / we go? – Mwr247 Feb 9 '18 at 17:32
  • Links in my comment above to three more question/answer pairs that are very clearly copied from here. I'm certain there's more, but those are all I had time for right now. – Mwr247 Feb 9 '18 at 17:36
  • @Mwr247 - Which SE questions do they correspond to? – Valorum Feb 9 '18 at 17:49
  • First word in each pair is SE, second is youtube. – Mwr247 Feb 9 '18 at 17:52
  • @Mwr247 - got it. – Valorum Feb 9 '18 at 18:01
  • 1
    Yup. Definitely plagiarising content. Occasionally changing the odd word or dumbing down anything he doesn't understand. "Vader's castle on Mustafar is where Vader lives, so Vader would likely need to receive transmissions from Palpatine regarding Sith business. That means the guards there would know of Palpatine's secret (that he, too, is a Sith Lord), and only the Royal Guard is trusted to know that secret:" – Valorum Feb 9 '18 at 18:03
  • 1
    vs. "Vader's castle on Mustafar is where Vader spends most of his time he often got transmissions from Palpatine about furthering the imperial agenda. Only the most trustworthy were allowed to be in the same room while these conversations happen between Vader and Palpatine whose identity of him being a Sith Lord was still being kept a secret" – Valorum Feb 9 '18 at 18:04
6

First action should be direct confrontation, then escalate as necessary

So after seeing this question, I decided to dig a little deeper. And what do you know, there's a whole lot more plagarism from here going on by this guy. Here's a few from around the same time a year ago:

And this one was from just this last month:

These are all unmistakably blatant plagiarism, and the last one I linked in particular makes even less of an effort to hide it.

While copyright claims and bringing awareness en masse are also fine, a better first approach to this and other situations like this is to move forward with the olive branch first. We should reach out (he has a Discord that someone could reach him privately on, for example) and point out that what he's doing is stealing and not ok. We can then work out with him what rectifying this looks like: including links back to any SE stuff he uses (past and future), and ultimately giving credit where it's due.

If that fails, then we can proceed with the other options. This puts our best foot forward not for revenge, but for the outcome we want for proper crediting. And if he rejects it, well then we have his own confession or denial on our side to bring up.

  • I've already left a comment on the relevant video asking him innocently if we got the idea from here. It's had no response as of yet. – The Dark Lord Feb 9 '18 at 18:11
  • 1
    I also think it's wise to report it to the Stack Exchange powers-that-be first before engaging any further with BessY themselves. If SE don't want to take any action then we can always look at those options later. – The Dark Lord Feb 9 '18 at 18:13
  • @TheDarkLord I agree, especially since the TOS specifically touches on SE's license to the material, and how proper attribution offsite should work. All the same, the original authors still have a right to make their own claim if they wish, and really anyone should be free to call out any copyright infringements they see to the relevant parties, especially to help avoid the need for escalation. – Mwr247 Feb 9 '18 at 18:19
-3

We can do nothing; it's not ours, it's SE's. And no, there's no difference between code being copy-and-pasted and otherwise. It's all "Content".

You grant Stack Exchange the perpetual and irrevocable right and license to use, copy, cache, publish, display, distribute, modify, create derivative works and store such Subscriber Content and to allow others to do so in any medium now known or hereinafter developed (“Content License”) in order to provide the Services, even if such Subscriber Content has been contributed and subsequently removed by You.

And unless that poster is benefiting financially to the point it'd be worth suing them, I don't think SE can (or rather, will) do anything either.

Any other downloading, copying, or storing any Content for other than personal, noncommercial use is expressly prohibited without prior written permission from Stack Exchange, or from the copyright holder identified in such Content's copyright notice.

Re: “Our mass infringement”, is LearnHub doing anything illegal?

IMO this is like Wiki complaining that all we do is c&p their pages. You talk about views as if this is personal for you, but I don't think that poster would have to link anything, they'd just have to say something like, "Source: SE.com", meaning: if you're after street cred you won't get it.

"[Surely we don't mind if someone wants to put in all the time and effort that we do on our posts to turn our work into niffy little videos by people without regard to attribution of random people on the web?]" – Abraham Lincoln

You call it "our work". It was before you clicked post. After that it belongs to Stack Exchange.

Having yet another video that says it's unavailable in my country, because it was eating into SE's ad revenue, would be a worse situation.

  • 2
    The point isn't making or losing money, it's that attribution is not given. – Möoz Feb 12 '18 at 21:10
  • 3
    IMO this is like Wiki complaining that all we do is c&p their pages. No it isn't, so long as we give proper attribution. – Möoz Feb 12 '18 at 21:11
  • 1
    if you're after street cred you won't get it. It's about recognition of work, and the principle of it damnit! – Möoz Feb 12 '18 at 21:13
  • 1
    You said it yourself what this guy has done breaches the copyright of SE **copying**, or storing any Content for other than personal, non**commercial** use is expressly prohibited. This youtuber is making money off this channel and therefore has breached SEs copyright agreement. – Edlothiad Feb 12 '18 at 21:29

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .