(This column appears in the December 05 issue of PC Advisor)

Apparently there are thieves about on the internet. No really. You can't move for them sometimes. They'll pilfer music, movies, TV shows - they'd probably steal your feet if only they could find a way of tricking you into submitting them to a fake webpage.

But nothing gets on the bloggers' nerves more than the MSM (that's mainstream media to you and I) nicking their stories and not giving them credit. It happens all the time, apparently. Not a day goes by without a trusty blog foot soldier unearthing a groundbreaking titbit of information, posting it up on their blog only to find the media megaliths of the world running the same story minutes, nay seconds, later. AND NOT LINKING BACK TO THEM!!!

It makes them so mad they'll scream about it until they're blue in the face. Or rather fingers, from bashing out a stream-of-consciousness-style rant on their blog.

Duncan Riley was so put out he started a post on his blog news site, The Blog Herald, entitled 'Weekend cryptic question: which leading website continues to steal content ideas without credit?' Without naming names, he went on to state 'Although [the site in question makes] some effort in re-writing stories, the ideas are stolen and certain parts and links are always the same, and it nearly always lacks a link to the idea source.'

Come Monday, he had gathered together his evidence and presented to the world 'The case against WebProNews', hoping to demonstrate beyond a shadow of a doubt that WebProNews.com was shamelessly stealing his ideas.

After a long and involved debate on the issues of copyright, plagiarism and coincidence in the comments section, Jason Lee Miller - the author of the articles Riley claimed to be stolen - added his thoughts. He began: "I found the need to rail on me, to understate it, surprising. That claims were unfounded and exaggerated, I found even more surprising. This whole thing seems not to be so much about attribution, but the method by which sources are cited - which is splitting hairs for unknown motives (maybe traffic?)."

Miller went on to explain the various methods of citing sources, stating: "A live link is not required, just enough information to let readers know where you got the information."

And it would appear to be the link issue that most upsets the bloggers, since it not only improves their Google ranking - akin to social standing in the real world - but also provides a hefty ego massage. Even if Miller did base his articles on the information Riley posted, as the pieces were significantly different there isn't a case for copyright infringement. Copyright only protects the expression of an idea and not the idea itself.

Interestingly, Riley used an image of Rumpole of the Bailey, dressed up in full legal wig, to illustrate his post. When questioned about whether he had permission from the copyright owner to use the image he stated: "The image was for file use and no, although I didn't take the shot, I actually own a fair wad of Rumpole videos so I'll take a shot of my TV next. There's a bloody great big world of difference from using an extract or similar to taking an entire idea without giving credit." Showing not only a huge lack of understanding of the laws of copyright but an undisputed case of pot/kettle blackness.

On that note he locked the post so no one else could add any comments since he was "sick and tired of dealing with twits".