Developing Story: Open Warfare Over Alleged Plagiarism

When a comedic picture showcasing the “many faces” of Lindsay Lohan appeared on Ebaumsworld.com, it appeared to be just another one of their many images. However, when members of YTMND.com recognized it as originally coming from their site, an open war broke out between the two sites that was unlike anything ever seen before on the Internet.

However, even now as the dust is settling from the conflict, many questions remain unanswered and many issues unresolved. In fact, many might say that the battle, which crashed at least one forum and caused chaos at several others, resolved nothing at all.

Background

YTMND.com, which stands for “You’re the Man Now Dog”, is a community driven site in which members create Photoshopped images and juxtapose them with text. According to its homepage, it has nearly eighty thousand members and one hundred and seventy five thousand pages.

Ebaumsworld.com is a media site that focuses on odd, funny and amazing pictures, video and text. It holds a monthly contest that awards submitters up to $1000 for submitting their content to the site. The site, founded by Eric Bauman in 1998, has over one million daily visitors according to their media kit and is ranked by Alexa as the 429th most popular site on the Web.

Most of the content posted on Ebaumsworld.com is tagged with a watermark in the lower right hand corner of the image/video that shows it is from the site. Though none of the various watermarks claim copyright or contain a copyright symbol, they have led many to believe that they are claims of ownership.

It was that watermark, when applied on a comic image of Lindsay Lohan, that became the center of controversy and launched a thousand ships, or at least a thousand members of YTMND.com members (along with members of NewGrounds.com, 4chan.org and various other sites) in a massive, coordinated attack on Bauman’s site.

YTMND-Day

The raid, which is now being referred to as “YTMND-Day” was slated to begin at 12:01 AM on January 8th but actually began about an hour earlier, shutting down the forums on Bauman’s site well before the raid was to start.

The raid itself involved a variety of techniques from post flooding on the forum and chat boxes to outright hacking them and executing Denial of Service attacks (DOS) on Ebaumsworld.com servers. This, in turn, resulted in a retaliation strike from Ebaumansworld members that caused severe problems at many of the attacking sites, taking many of the lesser prepared ones down completely.

Though most reports on the conflict seem to indicate that Ebaumsworld got the worst end of the stick, the conflict is still very much ongoing. Many of the sites involved are still reporting problems and things seem to change almost hourly.

But even as hackers and flamers on both sides of the conflict are working to do more damage, others are trying to pick through the rubble and make sense of what happened. Among them is Max Goldberg, the owner of YTMND.com.

Aftermath

Referring to the attack as a “vulgar display of power” in a public plea for peace, Goldberg said that he “tried to stop this all when it was a snowball, but it just turned into an avalanche.” He went on to encourage his members not to engage in any DOS attacks because “It sets a whole new precedent and will not end well, it affects a lot more than just ebaum’s world and really crosses the line.” Then, in a second posted statement, Goldberg thanked his readers for their support but encouraged them to “move on”.

However, the calls for peace have largely been drowned out by a strong anti-ebaum sentiment. One particularly potent site, ebaumsworldsucks.com, has a flash animation and song calling for people to band together and rise up against ebaum. The closing notes also make reference to an incident in which ebaum allegedly stole bandwidth from somethingawful.com (SA) by using code that caused visitors of ebaum to call pages on SA for no reason. It also leveled allegations that ebaum ignores complaints of copyright infringement and content theft.

As for Bauman, he has been exceptionally quiet. To date, he has posted no public announcement on the matter and taken no obvious action on the matter, other than working to protect his own site by banning the participants in the attack and restoring the affected sections. Even my letters to him for comment on this matter have gone unanswered (Note: This could, very likely, be due to a reported email bomb sent during the attack).

But in at least one area, all of the fighting seems to have been for naught. As of this writing, the image in question remains on Bauman’s site, complete with watermark. Even as many YTMND members have already begun declaring victory in the war, the spark that began the whole affair is still very much burning.

That, in turn, is a terrible shame considering that a simple DMCA notice sent to ebaums host by the owner of the original image, most likely would have put an end to it immediately.

Conclusions

I’ve talked a great deal about mob justice and why it doesn’t work. This doesn’t appear to be an exception to the rule. Though the hackers were able to do a great deal of damage to the Bauman’s site, they were not able to change the site’s ways or even force the removal of the image in question.

As it sits right now, all that happened was a widespread illegal act that changed nothing and only succeeded in creating some massive, but temporary, headaches for all involved. Though no one is questioning the effectiveness of those involved in shutting down the sites, it’s painfully obvious that they aren’t going to bring about the change they desired. At least not through these techniques.

Still, this is obviously a story that is continuing and I’ll be updating this article as things develop. If Ebaumsworld.com is indeed the mass of plagiarism and content theft many claim it to be, I certainly do hope that it is dealt with and either forced to change its ways or wiped off the face of the earth.

I just don’t think that these are the methods that are going to get it done.

[tags]Plagiarism, YTMND.com, YTMND, Ebaumsworld.com, Ebaum, Content Theft, Hacking, DDOS, Copyright Infringement, Copyright[/tags]

One Response to Developing Story: Open Warfare Over Alleged Plagiarism

  1. [...] will remember that, over a year ago, eBaumsWorl, and its founder Eric Bauman became embroiled in a copyright battle as many content creators accused the site of taking their works, re-watermarking them and [...]

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