Nov 012010
 

I hesitated in posting this, but then thought about it and decided I will. It’s my blog – these are just my thoughts and my opinions here, I’m not doing investigative journalism. I’m hoping to get the opinions of other reviewers on this topic.

Over the weekend I was poking around the Lelo site because a number of reviewers received one of their brand new vibes from the Insignia line and none of us could figure out how to charge it (the directions were confusing). Then I kept browsing their site and noticed that when viewing a toy there’s a tab for Reviews of that toy. Lelo has a tiny banner for the site, and a tiny blurb, but no link to click on to verify that blurb or read more. Then I clicked on the small “Reviews” tab up at the top of the site, did some looking and was unpleasantly surprised.

I truly do not recall them using our full text (and our photos, and our videos) on their site. And I certainly don’t remember being asked if this was ok with me. I don’t know about all of you, but I have copyright notices on my site. I specifically state that if you want to use something, you need my permission. I DO recall in the past seeing hits from the Lelo site to my blog, and back then I did view that section of the site. What they have at first glance is a screenshot of the blog/site’s review post, and the name (usually accurate) of the site. From what I remember, you clicked on that and it led you to that site’s review. When I looked this weekend I see that Lelo has lifted the entire content of the review (and usually photos if they were included) and for over 70 reviews, there is no link. They are not trying to claim the content as their own, to be clear. But they are using our content on their site without permission or even at the least a link in some cases.

I mentioned it on Twitter, and the Lelo response was to ask which review it was, saying it was probably an oversight (that no link was included, they ignored me saying that full content was used w/o my permission). I don’t think that 70-some constitutes an oversight. I sent an email to the PR address given on the Lelo site but have not heard back yet. I told them that they could use an excerpt but not my photos and my full text and that links must be provided.

So, what do you think? In a number of cases for the older 70-some reviews they now cannot provide a link because the site is gone. I don’t have a problem with someone giving an excerpt of my post and a link to it, but to lift the whole post?? Is this not a copyright violation? Am I the only one who is bothered? In the cases where Lelo provided the toy we reviewed, does this give them the right to use our review text/photos/videos? This isn’t just bloggers, it’s all types of sites. Fleshbot, Handbag.com, Examiner, there’s even a review that’s actually on the EF site, and the linkback is someone’s EF affiliate code. Take a look and see if your own content is there.

ETA: Polly noted below that sometimes it’s NOT full content and that made me think about why, and she mentioned how many of our reviews are done for other retailers. So I went back to look at my Gigi review (the review on my site is here) and I saw that Lelo edited my content – they removed all mention of VibeReview who sponsored my review AND they removed all of my affiliate links. From what I can tell on the instances where there’s a photo or two in the review, if it’s a photo owned by the retailer, Lelo didn’t include it so they know that that was copyright infringement (I am assuming this, judging by what I see, I cannot confirm that their intent is factual) – but yet they don’t care about MY copyright infringement of my photos and my text. Screenshot below of their altered review of mine:

 Posted by at 10:26 am
  • http://lucidobsession.wordpress.com/ Lucid Obsession

    I actually did the same thing, I heard about the new vibes and went to see if they had any info on the site and I found the reviews. If they want to show them they should link, I don’t think they should even show the full page view, it’s just not fair to the people who worked hard on the reviews.

  • http://pollyvincere.wordpress.com Polly Vincere

    From what I saw, it seems to be they just used a blub with a link at first, then they started copying full text/pics later. The first few don’t have all the content, but about half-way through they do.
    Either way, I haven’t seen any other company do that. It is clearly poor judgment on the part of someone at Lelo. This is not acceptable behavior. They are stealing content and it is very disappointing. Surely such a reputable company can do better than that?

  • http://www.josettesheridan.blogspot.com Josette Sheridan

    Lifting content and not offering a link or acknowledgment is not cool. You are helping Lelo and the least they can do is offer a link. SEO 101, link sharing is always good, especially so when sharing with a blog/site of someone who has a good mix of followers.

    I hope they get back to you and correct their error in judgment.

    ~ Yes, that’s a big deal, but to me it’s equally wrong for them to have lifted all that content. Link or no link, ALL content is on their site. And I, nor others, gave them permission to use the full post. Not even Fleshbot will do that without prior written permission.

  • http://pollyvincere.wordpress.com Polly Vincere

    Post Script
    I think it is VERY unethical for Lelo to be lifting the reviews sponsored by other companies to its own site.
    If I owned Polly’s Shop and I provide a Lelo product that I purchased wholesale for retail to a reviewer, I expect that review points to MY company – not to Lelo. I certainly wouldn’t expect Lelo to feel any entitlement to use any part of said review on its own site.

  • Jake Holden

    Yes, this is definitely unethical/copyright infringement – hopefully Lelo will remove the content and link to blog posts instead – before this turns into a bit of a PR embarrassment for them!

  • http://lelo.com Ana Campos

    Lilly and others, we get the message about the concerns regarding the reviews page, loud and clear. Give us some time to go through this and we’ll do our best to fix our mistakes.

  • http://www.essin-em.com Essin’ Em

    Given that I’ve reviewed pretty much their whole line of toys, I’m surprised that they only yoinked one review of mine.

    Let me point something out; they are not the only company doing it. I’ve have movies reviews from my site cut and pasted onto those companies pages, and Emotional Bliss as also taken text from my reviews. Why? Because I have a Creative Commons copyright, and they link back to my page.

    Should they have left the links in? Hell yes, because yes, companies expect credit for providing toys. However, unless (like DL — whole different situation) you have a specific copyright that says you cannot republish ANY part of your site without written permission, they can legally lift it and use it, as long as they link to the original site, thereby giving you credit.

    Personally, I don’t have a problem with it, except for the removing the link part. I’d RATHER they use a teaser, and direct to my site for the rest, and I’d RATHER that they had asked me about it before doing so. However, this is how the internet works often, and as long as they are providing credit to the author, and linking (which they did in my 1 case. I am NOT AT ALL OK with them posting reviews w/o author name or link to original review).

    I know this will make me unpopular, but I thought I’d put it out there. In DL’s case, with a specific “please ask me” copyright, that’s a whole other ball of wax, and they should take her stuff down ASAP.

    ~ You make a valid point, on the creative commons (which is why I dropped that because CC can be taken advantage of maliciously). Legal, sure. Ethical? Not in my opinion.

  • Riff Dog

    It’s copyright infringement if they use your creation without your permission. A link back does not give permission, by the way. That’s *your* choice (or “right,” if you will) whether a link is sufficient payment for them using your review, or even an excerpt from a review.

    There is something in Copyright Law called “Fair Use” which sometimes gives exemptions to the requirement of permission, but that actually only works in the reverse situation, where a reviewer is entitled to use portions of a book or lyric or movie or a photo of a sex toy in their review. That’s why newspapers can freely quote passages from books in a book review.

    The reverse is *not* the case. For example, Consumer Reports (not to be confused with Consumer’s Digest) never allows their reviews to be used in any advertising. It’s their “right” to decide who can copy their reviews, hence the term “copyright.” Unless, of course, the terms of them sending you the free sex toy included a clause saying they can use your review in advertising materials. That wouldn’t have to be in writing, by the way. (It’s only when you sell actual ownership to a copyright, to a publisher for instance, that a written contract is required.)

    I have no idea what Creative Commons means, but it won’t override U.S. Copyright Law without your permission. If it’s something you signed onto, then of course you’re bound to whatever terms you agreed to. If not, then no one may use your words without your permission. (Again, with certain Fair Use exceptions, like if someone wants to review/critique your blog, or if they lift a quote or two for non-profit educational purposes.)

    One minor point, a copyright notice certainly doesn’t hurt, but it’s not required (and hasn’t been since 1978.) It’s also not required to have registered any posts with the Copyright Office (at $35 a pop.) Copyright is automatic (and free) once you hit that “Publish” button. However, you must register if you want to sue. Registering late is fine, but it must be within 3 months (I think) of first publication in order to get Compulsory (punitive) damages in addition to Actual (loss of income) damages.

    So the law is completely on your side. Enforcing it is another matter. IP (Intellectual Property) attorneys start at $300/hour and will want a hefty retainer to get started. Unless lady Gaga lifted your post and used it as a lyric on one of her songs, it isn’t worth going that route. But you can threaten. If you’re really pissed, add this sentence: “I’ve been advised that since this is a ‘willful infringement,’ I can also claim up to an additional $150,000 in compulsory damages.”

    With that said, none of the above is intended as legal advice. You should consult competent counsel before pursuing any action. Riff Dog is jus’ talkin’ and assumes “no* responsibility for anything said here.

  • Jake Holden

    I thought Essin Em was incorrect when she said ‘However, unless (like DL — whole different situation) you have a specific copyright that says you cannot republish ANY part of your site without written permission, they can legally lift it and use it, as long as they link to the original site, thereby giving you credit.’ – I’ve always understood that copyright is automatic and a link does nothing to change the matter.

  • http://mrzeitgeist.net Septimus

    Creative Commons licenses don’t deprive work of copyright status. They just indicate the conditions under which you’re willing to grant a license automatically.

    The most permissive one “Attribution” just requires users of your work to give you credit. You can specify what that means– usually a link back.

    A more restrictive license, “Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivatives” would allow someone to use your work verbatim and only for noncommercial purposes.

    CC licenses don’t preclude you from licensing your work to other users under your own terms.

    Not a lawyer. Not legal advice. Not to be combined with other offers.

  • http://heyepiphora.com Epiphora

    I’ve known about Lelo posting the entire reviews for a while now. While it’s not ideal, it doesn’t hugely bother me. None of my reviews have the photos/videos copied with them, and they all have links at the bottom. Sure, it’s not very helpful to put the link at the very bottom, where nobody is going to click it once they’ve read the review, but I don’t think Lelo is doing this maliciously. I think they are just assuming it is fine, and they are certainly not the first company to do so. I have faith that they will fix this now that it has been brought to their attention.

  • Quared

    This is an ongoing problem with the Lelo site. They seem to have a blind spot when it comes to copyright issues. Simply put they publish what they want unless you take issue with them.

    Copyright law is simple – you don’t even have to slap a copyright notice on your work as some people will claim. So long as you can prove that your work is original and owned by you as you reviews and those of others undoubtedly are you can insist they take the work down or do as they should; I.E. use an extract (at most 10% of the original), link and attribute the work to the originator.

    It’s sad that even some commercial organisations seem to think that because most content on the Internet is free they can take it without exercising the common courtesy of asking permission first.

  • http://www.lelo.com LELO

    Thank you for bringing this to our attention and it’s important to get this feedback.

    It was not our intention to abuse yours or any reviewer’s intellectual property and we will address this issue immediately. We have temporarily removed online reviews from lelo.com and will revise the presentation of the content on this page of the site for all bloggers and reviewers. While we regret the offence this has caused, we are sure we can fix this to everyone’s satisfaction.

    As always, we welcome any suggestions from bloggers and reviewers that can be sent directly to pr@lelo.com

  • Jake Holden

    Yeah, I knew Lelo would be good about this. Too high-end and well regarded a brand to let something like this trip them up :)

  • His mija

    ohhh I would be pissed and disappointed.
    I’ve heard about this happening to other people.
    But I’m glad they got everything fixed.