18 July 2012

Dearest StyleSeek(ers)

Mr. Ryan Plett, of such fame as You Have Broken The Internet, etc., has been hard at work on a new web thing called StyleSeek. You sign up, take a silly test where you choose from a set of pictures, and a profile is created whereby you are directed to buy a bunch of expensive things from the people with whom he is affilated. The problem? StyleSeek has lifted an extensive amount of complete blog posts wholesale from not only me, but other bloggers as well. Nobody there thinks they need to ask anybody anything. After all, the internet is a Wild West free for all, right?

My email to them:
Mr. Plett,


I am the owner and sole author of An Affordable Wardrobe (http://www.anaffordablewardrobe.com/) a menswear blog dealing with tips and advice for men of lesser means with a sense of style to find ways of living well on a tight budget. As my masthead states, penury is not an excuse.


It has recently been brought to my attention by a handful of my readers that a number of my articles, photos and titles included, have been included wholesale on your new site StyleSeeker. While I suppose I should feel flattered or something that you and other big shot New York bloggers have deemed me fit to include, it escapes me how none of you will put a link to my blog in your blogroll, but have no problem using my content to help your affiliates sell their goods. The fact that I was never contacted prior to use and had to find out "through the grapevine" as it were I find more than a little irksome. The fact that you are using my content, pulled from a blog that deals specifically with thrift shopping and bargain hunting, to help sell expensive luxury goods flies in the face of my work. The fact that someone else is profiting by all this....well, lets just say that as a working Dad with a night job and a home business who does his best to do right by his kids, I am feeling somewhat violated. If my content is going to be used to sell things, I should be getting paid. My boss pays me to help him sell things, and I see little difference here.


For your information, I frequently turn down requests for ad space for products or companies that I don't wish to support.In the old days, we called that integrity. I do run ads on my site, ocassionally, but I am very choosy about what gets through. It's nice to get paid by the internet, but it's nicer to be able to sleep at night. How do you know I care to support the companies and products linked out at the end of the articles you've chosen to take from me? If Sid Mashburn wants me to write copy for his bow ties, he can pay me. If Barney's needs help selling seersucker, I'm open to a conversation. I'm sorry, but the pictures I took of myself, in my own clothes, are not "freebies" for you or them to use to sell things. If you had asked first, or given me any say at all in the matter of how my own work was to be used, I'd be open to discussion. This, however, is a huge turn-off. An Affordable Wardrobe, as I think you know, is all about how to successfully avoid this kind of thing and still come out on top, and you seem to have subverted my writing something fierce.


Or, maybe I'm just not getting this, being a 35+ year old provincial from Boston, and I need a young, hip, New York big shot to explain this to me. If I'm wrong, I'm glad to hear it as long as you can explain this to me. For now, I'm pretty angry.

I will certainly publish Mr. Plett's response, and I look forward with great relish to it. True, money and recognition are nice, but they are far from the goal:

Update, 19 July 2012:

 It seems that my efforts combined with those of Jesse Thorn of Put This On, another blog from which content was plucked wholesale, have resulted in quick response, of a sort. Mr. Plett has apologized in his way, feigning innocence, and claiming that his intent was only to help poor little me and other small time bloggers. Apparently, the money to be made by him and his affiliates had nothing at all to do with his actions. To wit, his response in the comments, and this:

Mr. Timore,


I am sorry to hear that you were unhappy with StyleSeek using four of your blog posts. We of course respect your desire for us to not post content from your blog and as such, we have removed the posts from the StyleSeek site. We had, in fact, provided attribution to your blog for each of the four posts, just as we do for all postings on StyleSeek.

 Sincerely, Ryan Plett

 I never said you didn't attribute the posts, I said I found it reprehensible that you were using them in an effort to generate revenue. Sounds a bit more like damage control than an apology, Mr. Plett. I have small kids. I know the difference between a sincere apology and being told what someone thinks I want to hear. Boo, Mr. Plett.

I will consider the matter officially closed, so my readers and I can move on to enjoying our discussions here again.

Thanks to all my readers who commented and wrote kind emails to me. I greatly appreciate your continued support in my owrk here at An Affordable Wardrobe.

20 July 2012:

That's more like it. Apology accepted, Mr. Spalding.

46 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure Ryan Plett lives in Chicago. Not a big deal though.

Giuseppe said...

My point remains the same: do not steal from me or anyone else for your own profit. The internet may have changed the game, but sheer morality remains the same.

FLW said...

Interesting.

I Googled this thing and was told it was "by invitation only." It then asked me to "request" a password and username in addition to giving an email address. I believe Facebook, eBay, etc. call this "creating an account." If you are going to be exclusionary at least do it right. This screams "white trash with money" more than a purple Lexus.

Next Google hit is a news story telling me the SS boys have created a way to logarithmically monitor my "style" choices. This then generates my "style DNA."
...
...
It has finally happened. We now believe we actually ARE what we buy. I have to go cleanse my soul now (it's Louis Vuitton, after all).

A Gentleman of Worcester said...

As a 55+ year old provincial from Boston, I say more powah to ya!

Josh said...

Sometime, if we meet, I will tell you in private about the time everyone's favorite #menswear blogger rolled through Kennebunkport.

Anonymous said...

Precisely why Romney has to be kept out of the White House.

Jho78 said...

You tell 'em, G!

Anonymous said...

Well written! I used to be a mere fan of your blog--now I'm a devoted fan.

Rob said...

Great, classy, response. You are awesome. Love the blog, and you should definitely get credit for its content.

Josh said...

P.S. Is Chicago any better?

Winston Smith said...

Did you ever explicitly label your content with a copyright license, such as Creative Commons?

mistermidwester said...

What a load of garbage. This is one of my biggest gripes with mens style blogs in general. There's no attribution and no credit. Stuff gets stolen and reposted and reblogged without a care.

For every person creating original content, there are 25 more ripping them off without giving credit. For what it's worth, I think your site is one of the best at consistent original content and style advice.

You have a right to be pissed, and I hope this dude (wherever the eff he hails from) gets cracked by you and whoever else he ripped off. Any copyright law folks care to do some pro bono?

Jauregui said...

Shameful that he is using pieces of your empire that you built through hard work, smart work and a great frugal sense as well as very good style.

I agree that recognition, and money is good, but there is a proper way to do business. If I am given the choice I might had said yes, taking my work with out my permission, I am going to defiantly say no.

Keep up the fight, just like a Champion.

Train like a Champion.

Kionon said...

This is exactly why I have a big freaking disclaimer on the bottom. This is why I have a link the IFB fair compensation manifesto. It's why 90+% of my content is unique and original...

I don't ask for much, really. ASK, CITE, LINK. Simple.

clevelandmick said...

Long-time reader, first-time caller. Good for you! This is ridiculous.

David said...

You are far too kind. I would have sent them a cease and desist and if they didn't would report them to their webhosts (most have Terms and Conditions that ban plagerism).

Barima said...

How unpleasant. I'm glad that you brought this seedy practice to light; it's a shame that you're the one being messed around, of course

Best,

BON

Christopher Redgate said...

I don't think there is much I can say that hasn't already been said, but I just want to let you know that I'm with you all the way. As a fellow financially strapped Boston-area "provincial," (I love that line, by the way,) who makes every effort to comport himself as a gentleman should, it always saddens me to be reminded of how unchivalrous so many people can be. It saddens me even more to observe that so often they are the ones who enjoy material success. I am on the side of those who prefer integrity. Well said, and I would love to see Plett's response.

C.L. Young said...

You tell 'em G! If they want to "ride on your coat-tails" then they should produce a paycheck in an amount approved by you! I read your blog daily, so this is disappointing.

It seems these days anything that is done that can make a profit should be copyrighted, (photos, etc.). But this can be expensive...Perhaps you should watermark your photos (there are free shareware programs that allow you to do this). Besides, the watermarks can give you the self-promting credit that they are unwilling to give you, should they steal photos again. You really should explore this whole copyright thing so that you can protect your work.

Hopefully Plett will acknowledge his mistake and do the right thing.

The pictures and articles are your intellectual property and not public domain for the sake of stealing to profit from.

Profits should never surmount integrity and a man without integrity cannot be trusted. With that said, I won't be visiting StyleSeek. I can do without "big brotherism".

tiny tim said...

@ Josh

I'd love to hear about when a "famous" #menswear blogger rolled through Kennebunkport. I have images of "Where does this road go?" running through my mind. I'll buy you a six pack of your favorite brew for a few stories.

If there is anything more stereotypically hilarious than the New York city slicker in provinical New England I don't want to know about it.

That site, by the way, is the stereotypical pinnacle of #menswear. Style Icons? You got it...Steve McQueen, JFK, Robert Redford. Surprisingly, Hemingway and Newman were conspicuously absent from the list. Maybe they're slated for their own profiles.

Anyway...Boo on Plett for jacking your work. The "sartorial circle jerk," as someone once said, continues.

randall said...

Ha. I guess if your claim is that you have broken the internet you must feel like you've empowered to rebuild it as you see fit.

Young Fogey said...

Although a copyright disclaimer is good, it is not necessary: by default, every original text we write and picture we take is copyrighted.

G, I hope you write this guy again, and specifically instruct him to remove all of your original content from his website. This can, if necessary, be the basis of a lawsuit (though that might be more money than you want to spend, and more trouble than it's worth).

Good luck, buddy. You know that your loyal readers are behind you.

Young Fogey said...

Anonymous 5:30,

I seldom say things like this, but in your case, I must make an exception: yours is one of the most ignorant posts I've ever seen.

And I'm no Romney fan.

David V said...

The Chicago Ryan Plett inhabits ain't the one I know.

David V said...

And Josh, yeah.
Chicago is better.

Anonymous said...

I met the co-founders (Spalding & Walti) when they were first shopping this idea around. Neither had any experience with clothing which showed when you took their idiotic first "style tests".

They showed pictures of bands, movies, etc. and this would somehow demonstrate which clothing you should buy.

Jef said...

Good man, Giuseppe.

Perversely I was sent here by Jesse Thorn, who I only know as a voice on a podcast, while you are a dear friend who I miss.

Glad you are standing up for your labor of love. Pretty slippery business, copying and pasting someone else's sweat and then receiving ad money for it. It's a weasel way to make money and I'm glad they were caught.

maven said...

G,

You are a class act.

Ryan E. Plett said...

In regards to the issues stemming from Twitter, Put This On, and An Affordable Wardrobe, StyleSeek would like to apologize for any confusion around our intentions. The goal of linking to various menswear sites is to build awareness, drive traffic, and create influencers that the average male consumer could gain exposure to and learn from. From the beginning all content on StyleSeek.com has been 100% attributed to the original creators and sources. From our feedback we have made the decision to no longer publish complete works and will truncate posts to further drive outgoing traffic. We have reached out to all content sources to make them aware of the content usage, and again we apologize for any confusion or oversight on our part. - Ryan Plett on behalf of StyleSeek.

Donson Fisk said...

You take yourself way too seriously. It's just a blog about clothes man, relax.

Andrew Paterson said...

Bravo!

Don't let them get away with it.

There is one thing this upstart website will fear more than legal action: bad press.

Giuseppe said...

Mr. Plett,

I appreciate your apology, but I'm sure we all know that the intent here was to make money for you and your affiliates. That's fine, but the people doing the work and creating the content deserve something for that.

Giuseppe said...

Donson,

You're right, but when it becomes a matter of money, which I'm not making, I think I have a right to be concerned.

Andrew Paterson said...

"Confusion" and "oversight" Mr Plett?

Nonsense, you knew exactly what you were doing.

Nothing ruins an apology like feigned innocence.

Young Fogey said...

Donson,

You must be an employee. People who create their own businesses—or at least their own original content—know what kind of effort goes into it. To have that "blood, toil, tears, and sweat" stolen is not something that you simply "relax" about.

G has taken a pretty relaxed attitude about clothes and some of the comments here, but this is different: it is theft. Intellectual property is still property, and although Mr. Plett's apology may be sincere, he is still, in my opinion, a thief.

Shame on you, Ryan Plett.

Greg M said...

What a sleazy site and an empty, non-apology. I've enjoyed the content that floats through Ryan Plett's tumblr, but I find his pithy commentary irksome and worthless. I'll be replacing YHBTI with AAW after this fiasco.

Mike said...

I've just quit following Plett's blog.

Shame on him!

Anonymous said...

I just came across another SS apology:

http://files.styleseek.com/styleseek-letter.pdf

Brandon said...

Sorry to hear about the problem this caused, but I am glad you took a strong stance. Now you can get back to talking about fantastic style. I hope to keep reading about great products, ideas, and life from your blog.

Take care!

mpr said...

For all the posturing that goes on here about behaving like adults, etc. I think your handling of this matter demonstrates that this is all just posturing. True gentlemen would have resolved this matter in private, behind the scenes and without an "open letter" Frankly, this letter kind of just made you seem insecure and jealous about not being included in the "big boy blogger's club"

He shouldn't have done what he did, but you could have comported yourself better.

Giuseppe said...

Mpr,

Would you feel the same way had this been an open letter in a print newspaper? This is the new technology, but the rules are largely the same. Using printed material without permission is a crime, and this was hardly different. True, this particular issue effects. E directly, but the broader ethical issue effects us all. Dealing with these things via open letter format is a method as old as mass media itself.

Giuseppe said...

As for the "big boys club"....... Well, nevermind.

Anonymous said...

G, I thought your letter to be perfectly appropriate and your public approach justified. As for Ryan's apology, I found it lacking. I had signed up for StyleSeek but I think I'll deactivate my account now.

Anonymous said...

Whenever I encounter grown men using terms like "menswear ecosystem", I can't help but think how bummed out their grandfathers must be.

PW said...

Giuseppe,
J
What I find interesting is that on Mr. Plett's blog, he claims to have over 10 years experience in menswear consulting and branding, yet he used your images to sell product without compensation. I'm quite sure if the Gap used images from his blog, they would be receiving correspondence from his lawyer posthaste.

Despite how Mr. Plett wishes to portray himself on his blog it seems that integrity has no value to him. Money
trumps all I guess.

I think you handled the situation with a great deal of class. Kudos for not taking it laying down.

Mr. Sidetable said...

"Using printed material without permission is a crime." This is simply untrue. Presenting someone else's material as your own work is plagiarism, but using something someone else has written without their permission--but with attribution--is not even remotely a crime. Books, newspapers, magazines (and even blogs) quote other printed sources without the author's permission all the time.

You are entirely right to be upset that this person used text and photos produced by you and posted on your blog in a commercial enterprise of his own without offering you compensation, although it does not appear that he was claiming the work as his own. And asking to have your content taken down was perfectly appropriate. But questioning someone's manners and ethics is quite a different thing from calling them a criminal.