Proper Attributions: Together We Cite!

Today I revisited a soldier I had been researching for awhile now. I had learned about Fold3.com's Honor Wall through Randy Seaver's blog post at Genea- Musings.com and thought I might like to put one together for my guy. What I came across when visiting his memorial page was shocking to me.

I got to the page on Fold3 and saw a familiar picture which I had shared many years ago (prior to learning about copyrights) with several memorial websites. I do not own the picture as it was his high school yearbook photo, so I couldn't really be upset about that. But then I read a comment that I knew for DARN sure was NOT from the person who posted it. It was a word for word of a comment posted on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund's "Wall of Faces". This quote was posted to Fold3.com with no attribution to the original site except an obscure hyperlink back to the orignal site's main webpage, with posting attributes going to the offending website. One might wonder why the link led to the VVMF's website as opposed to automatically assuming it to be the source of the comment. After all, the comment was posted by so-and-so.com so THAT must be where the comment came from, right?

Also on the Fold3 memorial page for my guy was a link to an outside memorial page at the offending website where they continued to pose the information as their own with only another obscure hyperlink to the homepage of the VVMF's site. I contacted them about this issue and they have removed the photo and moved the above mentioned comment to a link. If you click on the link it says "From the Wall" and then the original comment along with the name of the admin who posted it to the offending site. The average person will not know that "The Wall" the site refers to is the VVMF's "Wall of Faces". This is a poor attribution and upsets me.

The comment that was left does have the attribution of the person who wrote it, but because this comment was taken from another site, there should be attribution to the original site, so that everyone knows from whence the item came. It is unethical to use items from another website, giving it poor attribution, and trying to play it off as original to your site, and in this case might even be illegal. For the answer to that you would have to look into the Terms of Use of the VVMF's site and contact an expert on copyright law. But unethical it is!

So my warning to everyone, as with every bit of research we conduct, make sure that you properly attribute items you use, and check for source originations on things posted on the web. Seeing that the comment was made in 2000 but the offending website was founded in 2003 should be a red sign that the content is not original to the site.


Happy tree climbing!