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July 1, 2008

Editor’s Rant: Variety Are Thieves – Online Boycott

— Posted by John Campea

VarietytakethecreditAs most of you know, The Movie Blog isn’t the only movie website out there. We’re a part of a large and thriving online community of like minded movie sites talking about our favorite passion… film. Some of us are lucky enough to do it as a job. Some of us do it as a labour of love hobby. All of us do it because we love movies. From news sites to blogs we all share this common love.

Whenever you get any sort of community forming, unwritten sets of guidelines and rules also start to form naturally. These are the kind of “rules” that are so obvious that no one needs to put them down on paper for everyone to understand. They help keep the community functioning harmoniously. Each little community evolves its own set of guidelines to govern itself. The online movie community is really no different.

The most important rule for the online movie community is a simple one. GIVING CREDIT.

When you read a news related post on The Movie Blog you’ll always see us refer to who we got the story from and a link going back to that source. For example… if I read a news story on IMDB, I’ll say something like: “…we get the following from the folks over at IMDB” and then quote them. It is a simple practice, but absolutely vital to the harmony of the online movie community. When one site breaks a story, it is important that others who repeat that story mention where they got it from and provide links (the very life blood of the internet) back to them or at the very least to refer and link to who they found the story through (news sites and blogs will use one or the other technique).

I can tell you first hand that nothing is more frustrating that producing a piece of original work, be it a news story or an editorial, and then have someone else take it, publish it and pass it off as if they produced it themselves. It’s more than frustrating actually… it’s infuriating.

So here’s an ironic thing. Many traditional media outlets will often belittle and criticize the new emerging online movie community for not having explicit codes of etiquette and conduct… and yet now many of them are engaging in the violation of this most simple and important rule of GIVING CREDIT.

I’m specifically referring to Variety Magazine, the single most important news source in the movie world (although they aren’t the only ones). I’ll be honest with you… about 80% of the movie news you read on your favorite movie sites probably originates from Variety in either its printed or online form. We get stuff from them all the time, and over the years have provided hundreds of links back to them generating more than just a little traffic their way. Just about all other movie websites do the same, because that is the code… that’s the rule… that’s the most important thing that keeps this online community of movie sites harmonious.

So with the millions of hits sent to Variety each month from all the various members of this online movie community, you would think it would be a simple and given notion that if the situation were ever reversed and Variety actually got a story from one of us… then surely they would do something as elementary as mentioning who they got the news from and provide an easy little link back right? The big guys who often belittle us for not having stricter codes of etiquette and conduct… SURELY they would give credit to one of us if on the rare occasion we get a news story before them. Right? RIGHT?????

Well, no. Some of the major trade publications, Variety in particular, have been engaging flagrantly in REFUSING to ever mention or credit any online movie site under any circumstances.

A crisp and angry discussion has been going on for a couple of weeks amongst all of us web guys about what to do about this. Some of the webmasters have been urging all of us to in effect boycott giving credit or linking to Variety. To just take their stories and not give credit until they start providing that same courtesy that we have been giving them for years.

You have to understand, that in this online community, I personally often function as the peacemaker (at least I try to… I’m not very good at it). Sometimes when little disputes flare up amongst the community I’ll either get involved or other webmasters will ask me to get involved to try to calm matters down. When this “boycott variety” discussion started, I actually encouraged everyone to step back and not get too worked up over this… that it was probably not something we should rush into. I believed that if we all communicated to Variety our concern, then they would start crediting.

Well, a bunch of the sites didn’t listen to me and publicly started a measured boycott of Variety. I didn’t speak against it, because while I thought it was premature, I certainly understood and agreed with their anger.

So you’d think that after a bunch of prominent sites started publicly blasting Variety for not giving credit that Variety would start watching themselves right? RIGHT? Nope… it happened again.

Without going into all the details, my friend Frosty over at Collider got a scoop about the possibility of their being another 300 movie. And guess what… Variety later printed that same story… but refused to mention who it first came from, let alone provide any sort of link. They just took all the credit for the story yet again.

I now find myself with little choice but to join with some of the other sites and say that until Variety starts to credit online sources for stories that break there, then The Movie Blog will not be crediting nor linking to Variety for stories that originate with them. Two wrongs do not make a right, but it seems Variety refuses to play by the same rules we all govern ourselves by… and so we will refuse to extend the benefits of those rule to them in return.

So in the coming weeks, if you see us talking about a story and not referencing where it came from or providing a link to where we heard it… chances are it came from Variety, but we’ll never know now will we?

I want to encourage all Movie Blog readers to stop visiting Variety’s website and encourage all other movie site webmasters you read to join in this little boycott. Just because you’re big, doesn’t mean you’re above the rules of the community. Shame on them.

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39 thoughts on “Editor’s Rant: Variety Are Thieves – Online Boycott

  1. Hey there John, Rodney- It looks like Frosty & friends are still crediting any news borrowed from the trades, but they’re leaving off the links. That way, they aren’t violating any copyright. Is this what you’re doing also or, is it more like it reads, and you’re neither crediting nor linking? It seems as though Rodney has said he’s not using V or THR material period (which also works). Anywho- there are SO many CRITICAL creative property issues in play- it’ll be nice when someone finally has the big bucks to push through some legal precedent. Thanks for giving us those correct opinions!

  2. What a bunch of punks. Honestly, I’m surprised Variety would take this approach. If they have the most content, wouldn’t it be in their best interest to link and be linked? I think this boycott is the right idea, John, and as you say, it will hit them where it counts. One could call it immature, but the outcome will be one of two things. 1) Variety will see the light, stop being immature themselves and change their policy. 2) They will sue and then, win or lose, will have to change their policy. So it will have the desired effect.

    If they are not lifting news from other sources, they need to prove it at this point.

    Incidentally, I have a sports blog as well, and ESPN Radio blatantly ripped off content from a Michigan blog last year and then that same show intentionally overloaded another blog, totally shutting it down. You see a lot of mainstream newspapers finally getting on the blogwagon (e.g. Ebert’s relatively new blog). What’s Variety’s problem.

    Anyway, I say “stand firm, brothers.”

  3. I didn’t know about this! But I do like to keep up good habits myself, so I’ll still credit and take the higher ground ;-) But, I’ll make the credit un-clickable, and might add a short disclaimer with credit like “(Don’t visit, they don’t credit)… or something… tho’ I’m a quiet blogger lately, so there will likely be no reason to.

  4. Yeah I used to go variety a lot, until I found a website called “themovieblog.com”. Now I never go variety and come to the movieblog every day about 10 a day. You guys give me something to read at work, and I thank you. Hell I have a quick link to your site and your child “thetvshowblog.com”; they are right next to bungie and myspace. So boycotting variety is fine with me. :)

  5. the bigger guys(variety) are part of the online community as well and report news just as much as the other guys… regardless if they break the news or not… it’s in blog format and they need to join the gang.. or bow out…. and move on to something they can keep to themselves and not give credit which is total bullshit why they don’t… they need a checkup from the neckup. lol

  6. Rather than an all out Boycott, couldn’t the (MovieBlog) community agree that whoever posts a Variety story first, credit the story to variety or even the author, but then don’t put up any links.

    Then other sites could credit the story to the website that got the story first. Cut Variety out after that.

    It would be a gentle way of telling them to play fair or we won’t either. ????

    Personally I can’t wait to read the story about John kicking down the Variety booth at Comic Con. Haha.

  7. To GUTPUNCH:

    My sarcasm aside, i honestly am not completely sure what he meant by “creates” most of the entertainment news. Variety (as i said) just REPORTS the news like anyone else. If he means that they “scoop” the most news or get the most exclusives, than that may very well be true. (Which would just make their not giving credit “violation” that much more serious…)

    BLEH – can you clarify?

  8. Although I do agree with you on the action that you are taking. I’m also saddened by the fact that your actions are probably going to be wasted. Variety is a large publication that can afford to continue to keep stealing your stories. They are probably thinking, so what if you don’t credit us. They are talked about on TV and other mainstream media sources. They are the big fish in your little pond. I think you guys should sue, or make an attempt to bring your story into the mainstream media. Until it hurts Variety they aren’t going to care.

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