Wednesday, December 9, 2009

AZ bike building community pulls together

It all started with a post in the forum about a possible fraudster selling one of our plans, and using our pictures. Within hours of the original post, the bike building community converged on the seller and the service provider. I have no idea how many emails were sent by our bike building community telling both parties to stop the illegal activity.

I personally fielded dozens of messages from concerned members, some of whom are lawyers and law enforcement, offering to volunteer their time to pursue the matter in the country of the offender. This all happened in a couple of days of the ruse being exposed to the community.

WOW! Talk about taking action. It reminded me of a similar incident when someone set up a web site and took photos from various builders galleries and blogs, and posted them on his site as his own. His intention was to design and sell custom bikes, but tried to pass off the pictures he took from others as his own creations. His deception was exposed very quickly.

The post appeared on a bike forum and many concerned builders, especially those whose pictures the offender posted, sprung into action with emails to the web site host and the fraudster. He had to take everything off of his site because as it turns out, none of the images were his own, a direct violation of the web host's Terms of Service (TOS) and Terms of Use.

In both cases, the offenders were flooded with emails from the community demanding that they take the unauthorized content off of their sites. It took less than two weeks for each offender to comply. You can try to hide behind pseudonyms, but eventually, somebody will find you.

The Internet has many dark sides, but it's amazing how people will suddenly come together demanding action and responsibility by those who disrespect our online community and the things we share in common, the things that bring us together. We can be a very protective group when we feel threatened and disrespected. We truly are an international community. Based on our monthly web traffic stats, tens of thousands of Atomic Zombie builders are all over the world.

There is a fine line between sharing information to benefit the online community as a whole, and blatantly stealing others' work, trying to pass it off as one's own. The best practice is to give credit where credit is due, and don't assume that it's OK to rip off other people's stuff. Some people don't understand "netiquette" and misunderstandings do happen. Not everyone is malicious in their intent. However, it's best to err on the side of caution. Don't assume - ask first.

It was incredible to see the bike building community come together many times this year to help each other, get involved in various causes and thwart illegal activities. We truly are a family that sticks together and stands together.

Cheers, friends