Salt, Meet Wound

Salt, Meet Wound

I’ve been writing about frame builders, particularly New England-based frame builders since 1992. During that time, I’ve been quietly tucking away amazing tidbits about bike building in the region. I’ve teased remarkable details from Richard Sachs about the start of his career, and learned things about the apprenticeship of Ben Serotta and Chris Chance that those guys haven’t revealed to magazines. I first pitched a story about the interconnectedness of New England bike makers in ’97, to my boss at Bicycle Guide, Garrett Lai. It got shot down. And while I meant to do it with Asphalt, we ran out of money before I ran out of ideas. Brad Roe, the publisher of Peloton, turned out to be the guy who got the appeal of the story with almost zero prodding.

I mention this because on Friday I learned that Bike Rumor posted a piece about Chris Chance’s return to the bike biz and in it they lifted the family tree diagram that ran here at RKP as well as included a great many details from my Peloton piece. While the family tree was credited to RKP, there was zero attribution to details from my Peloton feature, without which, their post simply wouldn’t have been possible.  Had Bike Rumor contacted me and asked permission to use the image and draw from the feature and had they mentioned the feature, I wouldn’t be writing right now. Instead, Bike Rumor’s Tyler Benedict began with the excuses, that he was only human, that it was only a mistake, that it happens to them all the time. He sent me a friend request on Facebook so that he could “respond to the comments.” Dude has known me for years and only reaches out when it’s time to do damage control. Wow.

The problem is that this has happened on a recurring basis and it was clear from our numerous emails back and forth that all he was really concerned about was not being called out publicly. Sure, he said he was sorry, but in every instance where images of mine have been used without permission, the conversation has always been brief—an apology followed by a request for where to mail the check. I never outed any of those organizations because they handled the situation with such class.

So this would be where I, perhaps for the first time, post something on the actual site where the theft occurred. Bike Rumor has ripped material—everything from photos to whole paragraphs of material—from a succession of Cyclingnews stories by my colleague James Huang. James tells me he has had to contact Bike Rumor for four very specific thefts, but there have been a number of other stories where he believed attribution was warranted. These thefts have gone largely unnoticed, except with James’ followers in social media, which includes virtually everyone in the cycling media. James warned me, and it became clear in my dealings with Tyler, that his biggest concern wasn’t doing right by me (the offending piece has been removed, I’m pleased to note, but that wasn’t his first course of action), but avoiding public embarrassment. In emails with colleagues, whose names I won’t reveal just yet, the sentiment ran high that it was time for a public declaration that Bike Rumor doesn’t respect copyright, doesn’t respect original work, doesn’t really care about being friends with the rest of the bike media.

I’ve gone to some length to cultivate relationships with my fellow editors. They’re good guys and they work hard, and when I get to a product launch, that friendship helps make those events enjoyable, in part because everyone present is confident that all they have to do is good work. There’s not a sense that we’re in competition with one another; we do the work and the readers read what they want. Our brotherhood is one built on mutual respect, but we just can’t seem to get that from Bike Rumor.

The latest surprising twist to this saga is that Bike Rumor announced that to atone for their “error” (that theft was no accident), they are making a $1000 donation to People for Bikes. Let me go on record saying I’ve signed their pledge and I believe that organization is doing some of the most important advocacy work being performed on behalf of cyclists in the United States. But Tyler isn’t Robin Hood. Stealing from me and giving to them is just salt in the wound. By stealing my work without my permission or attribution, he’s making it harder for me to feed my family. Normally when you harm someone, you make amends to them, not someone else. Honestly, I’m stunned that anyone could drag an offense out for days and manage to make the situation worse at every turn.

I really don’t know how to close this piece (which is rare) except to say that I’m grateful to Cyclingnews’ James Huang, Bicycling‘s Matt Philips and Bike Hugger’s Byron, for their camaraderie and support as I’ve tried to make sense of something that should never have happened, at least, not if we were all true professionals.

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33 comments

  1. john

    Amen, Patrick. It’s happened to me as well, but they’ve never apologized. The way I see it, sites like that do nothing to help build this community. They see a potential for traffic and strike, without thinking of the repercussions. Keep up the good work man!

  2. The Umabomber

    There’s sharing and there’s “sharing”. As professionals it’s incumbent upon all of us to credit our sources, and in some instances seek approval before reposting. With so much industry related news, writing is really editing press releases or other communications from organizations or companies offering information for public dissemination. As a career creative professional, I don’t remember so much outright lifting and repurposing (without permission) before Al Gore invented the internets. It’s the double edged sword: with great ability to share information comes great responsibility. In my experience, most people are happy to have their work shared, when properly attributed—whether it’s a photographer or writer (I work with both). Good for you—and all of us—for taking a stand, and saying what should be obvious: poaching other people’s work ain’t cool.

  3. Jan

    I think the key point is that he admitted it “happens to them all the time.” That indicates that the problem is systemic; they’re using other peoples’ work without attribution or payment on a regular basis. It’s not a one time accident, but a systemic practice. They get away with it as much as they can, and only cover their tracks when someone confronts them.

    I’m sorry you were adversely affected, and hope they pay you what you deserve. They also need to change their editorial system so that it doesn’t happen again.

    1. JimmyA

      Succinctly stated. Even as an outsider to the industry, it is readily apparent who is publishing original work, and who is mindlessly republishing in an attempt to get clicks.

      There is a reason why I have RKP bookmarked.

      – Jimmy

  4. Sam

    Been reading BikeRumor for a few years now, but after this post I’m deleting it from my bookmarks. As a journalist, I can’t respect or tolerate plagiarism, and I wish that I’d noticed it sooner. Thanks for drawing attention to their actions (and attitude).

    1. kurti_sc

      +1 for me, too. As a reader, I’ve been generous with their poor editing, lacking or teasing content, and for some reason, they never posted my ‘pic of the day’ anyway so I’m done with them, too. (It was a really cool photo! in my totally biased opinion.)

      They’re gone from my favorites. I’ve been thinking about narrowing it down anyway. This makes it easy.
      Rock on RKP!

  5. Bicycle Steve

    I have avoided that site for a long time, because of the terrible annoying (and probably malicious) script in the web code, and the blatant plagiarism and continued lack of integrity. I hope that site goes under soon once this stuff gets more and more known.

  6. Adam

    The site is also riddled with errors. They really don’t know the product.
    Incidentally they ‘released’ a story on Lemond’s new bikes yesterday that they had published a month ago. It’s just an embarrassing mistake; you shoudl be excited about a launch like that if you’re into bikes, it’s not the kind of thing you forget you did after a couple of weeks.
    I’ll stop going to their site and boosting the traffic numbers.

  7. Brandon

    I too have stopped following that site, but for a very different reason. The typos, poor spelling, grammatical errors, and flat-out incorrect technical writing killed me off from visiting. Now that I know they are also stealing content I will be sure to never go back.

    1. SusanJane

      This was my experience, too. I obviously demand more then they can provide which is why I am here and not there. And more to the point would never put in for a beer fund with a site that continues to disregard the law and my intelligence.

  8. Michael

    What are the costs of taking legal action against bikerumor? Sounds like there are at least four or five of you affected that could take action and maybe some of the bigger publishers like cyclingnews would pitch in with funding until you won the case and received the damages?

  9. Pat O'Brien

    With all the pirated movies and music activity these days, and the cavalier attitude about it, theft of other copyrighted material isn’t surprising to me. Sad.

  10. Rip

    Bikerumor has been called out numerous times by their own readers in their comments section for continually stealing content and repurposing images as their own. They routinely steal from Bicycle Retailer, and those guys are too big or too lazy to do anything about it.

    I specifically remember a bikerumor posting by Tyler Benedict not long ago about some Eurobike or Interbike content that they directly stole from Bicycle Retailer. It was so obvious. One person on their comments page left a comment with a link to the original Bicycle Retailer article, then other BikeRumor commenters started criticizing BikeRumor. Know what happened next? User comments started being deleted. And Kristi Benedict posted a comment that said something to the effect of, “Dear users, we actually do not have an “open” comment policy. We have rules here: http://www.bikerumor.com/comments-policy/
    We reserve the right to moderate comments and will delete any comment for any reason that we see fit.”

  11. Cory

    As both a regular reader of RKP and a contributor to Bikerumor, I would like to apologize.
    The majority of our independent writers, like myself, work diligently to write original news pieces and to personally evaluate the products we review. Certainly there can sometimes be content overlap when we get the same or similar source information or press releases as other outlets.
    This was clearly not one of those instance, and for that I am personally taken aback and am sorry.

    The theft of content is explicitly prohibited by official internal policy, and is something that we should never accept or in any way tolerate.
    We as a site it seems need to step up our editorial oversight, to make sure that this does not reoccur.
    Once, again I’d like to apologize on behalf of our entire staff both for the appropriation of your original content and for losing the confidence of our readers.

    1. Dave King

      Cory,

      Thanks for your thoughtful reply.

      What is BikeRumor doing to improve and prevent this from happening again? And what are the consequences for contributors and editors who are responsible when this occurs?

      Thanks,

      David

  12. Hackintheback

    As I began reading the article I thought to myself, “Holy $hit – isn’t this the same site that got called out for plagiarism a year or two ago? Would they really do it again? Would they be that stupid?”

    Sadly, the answers are “Yes,” and “Yes,” and “Yes.”

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  14. Jeff

    I didn’t see the Fat Chance article but apparently pictures from my MOMBAT.org web site were used as well. I don’t do a lot of blog-reading but am always amazed at the places where our photos/description/histories show up: blogs, eBay, Craigslist, web sites……kinda frustrating.


  15. Author
    Padraig

    Cory: Thanks for joining the conversation.

    All: I’m grateful for Cory’s comment, but I don’t think we should put him in the awkward position of having to speak on behalf of his boss. It’s Tyler’s responsibility to convince us that things will be different in the future, to make things different in the future. But so far, all that’s changed is that he paid a charity less than he should have paid the author. Tyler ought to have the stones to issue his apology and change in policy on his own site, which he hasn’t done.

  16. Rip

    Fool me once, shame on me.
    Fool me twice, shame on you.

    I don’t know who Cory is, nor anyone else. For all anybody knows, BikeRumor’s multiple editors might be one guy. And quite simply, none of the so-called editors of Bikerumor needs to say anything. No apology. Nothing. The only person from BikeRumor that needs to say anything is Tyler Benedict, and he needs to come with an apology openly and directly to RKP. His fake apology and “donation” to an unaffected party is completely self-serving.

    Over on Bicycle Retailer, James Huang and Caley Fretz and other Velonews people have claimed that this stealing of other website content and then later apology is a pattern as demonstrated by this exact same thing happening in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, and now 2014. Go check out the comments from Velonews staffers about these guys over on the Bicycle Retailer page at the bottom here:
    http://www.bicycleretailer.com/north-america/2014/09/23/bikerumor-pledges-tighter-editorial-control#.VCOmlGK9KSM

    The link to the comments above are only the documented reports! No telling how many times they get away with this stuff, and several of their own readers know this to be true because if you spot something and call them out on it on their own website, they will just delete those critical user comments.

    Fool me once, shame on me.
    Fool me, twice, shame on you.
    Fool me, like 5x and it’s time for somebody to get served a lawsuit.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      No, Peloton didn’t actually suffer a theft. I own my copyright; that feature was not a work for hire. I suffered two thefts.

  17. Paul

    The fact they respond now, and apparently timidly at best, is an even bigger reason I will stop visiting their site. If they had a proper review process coupled with a modicum of journalistic integrity, this would have been corrected the first time.

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