rants writing and blogging

A letter to sticky-fingered beekeepers

Last week I was notified by a friend that a post of mine was sent to the membership of his local beekeeping club after the title, source, and author name were stripped. Legally, there is a name for this behavior: it’s called “theft.” Taking something that belongs to another without permission is stealing.

This bee club is not unique. Anyone who publishes on the internet is well aware of the scoundrels and lowlifes who take whatever they want. Usually the material pops up someplace where you least expect it. Sometimes it is stripped of ownership information, and sometimes the works are actually attributed to others. I’ve had my entire feed redirected to another bee blog. My photos appear everywhere. Right now, pictures of my homemade top-bar hive are being used to advertise someone else’s business. There is little we bloggers can do about it.

What is hurtful about this particular instance is the post they chose. In a way, posts about how to build a frame or how to mix sugar syrup are kind of standard and hardly worth defending as original. But this post, “The iterative method of swarm capture” was personal. It relays antics my husband and I performed while trying to hive a stubborn swarm. Because it is a unique story, only I could have written it. It is my story.

For some reason, people believe that because the internet is huge and impersonal, no one will ever notice. Maybe in some disciplines that is true. But the beekeeping world is amazingly small: someone always knows someone who knows someone.

Last fall I was enrolled in one of the online beekeeping courses offered by the University of Montana. Part of the course involved answering questions and posting them so the other students could see and discuss the answers. About half way through the course, I was shocked to see a student use as his answer a block of text taken straight from my blog. I recognized my writing instantly.

Now this person owns more hives than I own worker bees—no exaggeration. And yet he felt compelled to copy an answer from the internet rather than write it out himself. Instead of reporting him, I wrote and told him to knock it off. His answer amazed me. He said, “I thought that paragraph was worded better than what I had written . . . .”

Worded better? Seriously? I spent my life learning to write, but not so some lazy-brained beekeeper could save himself the trouble. I agonize over every word and where to place it. To me, writing is a labor of love. Writing for beekeepers is one way I have of giving back—a way of paying forward what others have given me.

Each year I get dozens of requests to reprint my stories and photos, or to use them in books, magazines, slide shows, and posters. I am honored by these requests. I have never said no to a single one. I would be equally happy to provide my work to this beekeeping group—even now—and I certainly would allow the dude with a gazillion hives to use a direct quote. You don’t have to steal what I produce; I will give it to you.

The internet has changed our lives because it makes information easy to share and simple to find. The material on the net—at least the stuff worth reading—is written by people who care and who put their hearts into their work. But I can tell you from experience that the thieves make it harder for the producers to find the motivation.



  • I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’ve got to tell you I love your blog, your articles, and your writing style. I have a LOT of free time at my job, and I spend a good amount of time reading. When it comes to anything bees, your blog is one of the first places I look. I told my wife the other day that I had a crush on your mind. Please don’t take that the wrong way… nothing weird. I just really enjoy your humor and style… and the fact that while I don’t agree with everything you say… I think you’re right about most of it. =) I only share this to say in a round about way… don’t lose desire to write. Don’t let a small minded simpleton who lacks character, effect you in any way. I know how you feel… how it feels to have ideas/work stolen. It’s invasive and leaves you feeling violated and betrayed in a way… if you let it. Keep up the good work, and know that you probably have WAY more people who enjoy your work than you think you do.

  • 🙁
    I’m sorry Rusty. There are so many hazards with blogging: anything from obnoxious or mean commentators to outright content theft. Please be heartened by all of the beekeepers you help and act as your “police,” and be honored by the polite requests for your content.

  • Sometimes just confronting the thief and mentioning copyrights will do the trick. I see you have the copyright notice at the bottom of the webpage, but perhaps you need to make it more prominent, in larger font and at the *top.” Also adding something like, “Copyright infringement will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law” might give them food for thought.

    A short biography about a local Civil War soldier that I had written (and researched) was lifted wholesale and printed elsewhere on the net, so I know how it can hurt…and infuriate. I recommend your website on my club’s email list all the time – it’s a treasure and most of us greatly appreciate and understand the work you put into it.

    • Mary,

      I feel terrible about your Civil War story. It’s hard to decide how much effort to put into tracking these violations. I know a couple of photographers who, in my opinion, spend so much time they’re losing their focus. (Sorry, no pun intended.) I try to ignore most of it, but sometimes it gets to me . . . like this particular story.

  • Rusty, I’m so sorry this keeps happening to you. I’ve shared your Facebook posts a few times because I think you are such an amazing beekeeping resource, but it would never occur to me to present your words as my own. Some people really stink.

  • Rusty I am sorry for the way you feel now. I know you go to great effort to write well and carefully. I am one of those people who have asked in the past if I could use something of yours, just as you have written in your new text above your answer was a Yes. I also know the agonizing feeling of thinking you come up short when you try to write for others to read. It often seems as though other bloggers have a better knack. It is silly of the person concerned not to acknowledge you properly, your stories are often so richly informative or just plain funny, it would be bound to get back to you. I think you have readers all over the place. Please don’t ever let it deter you from being our HoneyBeeSuite girl.

  • Hi Rusty – Fellow blogger, understand completely. Nice vent you did there. I sometimes repost what I find on blogs without permission, but always fully referenced/linked and never done to make money or take money away from someone. People are not so kind to me, and as you said, find my stuff in the oddest places.

    I’m working on a Master’s degree in biotechnology, every assignment, quiz and exam we turn in has to get sent to an online service called “TurnItIn”. They compare your answers to the entire internet and also to a vast library of past tests and assignments turned in in classes prior. Makes plagiarism impossible, I can’t even steal stuff from my own blog to use in assignments…self-plagiarism is a real thing, too!

    Just want to say you do a great job of advocating for the bees and getting people interested in beekeeping. I’m eagerly awaiting my first set of bees to drop into my Mann Lake 10 frame!

  • Rusty, that is really awful. I’m sorry that it happens to you and others.
    I am very glad you ‘ keep on keeping on’. I have learned so very much from you. It actually was your writing that brought me here and keeps me here.
    Almost anyone can write about honey bees. It’s HOW you write about
    honey bees that is so amazing and valuable to me.


    All those with sticky fingers – Buzz OFF!

  • Rusty

    You are a treasure. I understand your anger and your disillusionment. Please don’t give up because of the crooks. We need you.

    I especially needed your recent oxalic acid treatments and in fact bought my first “wood bleach” today.

    I live not far in Ellensburg and have grandchildren in Olympia. I hope to one day say hello.


  • Rusty

    You need to enforce your copyright even if it’s just written notice. If you don’t you can lose it I am told. I have only been keeping bees for 2 years but if all the sites I have visited this the only one I use on a consistent basis. Thanks for all you do.

  • As a fellow writer who has been lifted time to time, I’m sorry. There’s nothing quite so miserable as having something you’ve agonized over stolen. For years, I would have my prized flowers stolen from in front of my house. Typically the thief would take just the bloom, but sometimes, they’d dig out the whole thing. My wife and I used to smile fondly at the idea of mining the front yard…. 🙂

    Sadly, the end result was that we stopped planting flowers. We’ve since moved on and haven’t yet found the courage to plant again. Maybe this year.

    • Dave,

      You must plant flowers again! This year. Please let me know when you do. Don’t let idiots take beauty from your life.

  • If it’s online, it’s public game for thieves & crooks. My identity was used to degrade a former law enforcement officer & say derogatory, slanderous things about him. It is unreal what you have to do to “catch these criminals”. We had to file an anonymous “Jane Doe” civil suit & obtain court orders to obtain email address. Plus the legal system is very little help in these matters. We found the culprit but it took hundreds of dollars & many months of backbreaking work for nothing. A jury found no “malicious intent” on her behalf against me. It’s a sad world when evil & vicious people can get away with these behaviors.

    • Elaine,

      Using your identity to slander someone else? Wow, that’s a new one on me. So sad. Glad you fought it, even if the jury didn’t support.

  • Rusty, I read your post often and I am always amazed. Not just with the content, but your writing style. I love it. Just a few nights ago I commented to my wife that I could not believe how many posts you make, but how enjoyable your style is. Having knowledge is great and important, but making it easy to transfer to others is a real skill.

    Thank you for what you do.

  • As I’ve mentioned before, I admin a Ford DIY tuning forum (eectuning.org) as well as a technical contributor to the FAQ & Tech Docs section. And I’m a relatively active member in the discussion threads. I too have had my posts and pictures show up on other websites and forums. But none of my posts and pictures are that personal or artistic in nature. They are mostly technical. And so I’ve had no emotional tie to them and have actually found it somewhat of an honor to see my words or pictures posted elsewhere doing others good even if I wasn’t recredited for the content. I don’t care about credit. I consider anything I contribute to the world in a forum/blog post as open source. Do with it as you please. Use at your own risk. No warranty expressed or implied. But that’s me.

    I get that not everybody feels this way about their online content. So I understand your sentiment. I’m sure the other person was actually trying to pay you a compliment in saying you worded the paragraph better than he could’ve. Had I been in your position, I would’ve taken that as a compliment. But I also get that this wasn’t for sharing, reblogging, and personal benefit. It was for class credit. That’s very different. And I get how that might as well be him copying answers. What I don’t know is how that is at all controlled or policed by teachers and professors today.

    The usage of online materials by educators is much more lax though. I recall that there are educational exceptions to copyright usage laws when the material is being used for educational purposes in an non-profit capacity. Permission doesn’t even have to be asked for, although common courtesy says it should be. The catch is credit DOES have to be given to the original owner/author in all material and content used.

    That’s not so for businesses using online content as marketing tools to make money. In the case of the guy using your picture for his business, that’s a blatant violation of your copyrights. If he didn’t have your expressed permission to use the content, then that puts you in a rather actionable legal position…if you cared that much to press it.

    I don’t know what I could possibly say to make these habits easier to accept other than consider releasing your content as open source licensing policy. Code has the GPL and LGPL standards. Music and Video content have the Creative Commons Licensing standard. I don’t know if online blog content and pictures fall under those or if there’s one specific for them. Regardless, having it officially listed as open source might make you feel better about it’s reuse. Or would it?

    Something to think about anyway…

  • Rusty,

    I hate it that this keeps happening to you especially as you are very polite in requesting to use material for your blog. I just realized I kind of did this to you once (though I did use your name and put a link to your blog) when I republished some of your blog about the chimney bee pictures I sent you. I hope I have not offended you. Though in all honesty I think only my wife reads my blog and that out of sympathy.

    • Robert,

      Links are fine because they take the reader to the ownership information . . . and links are what the internet is all about. Not to mention all the photos were yours!

  • OMG, I clicked on that link to your post. Too darn funny! I agree with the above poster, that suggested you place the Copyright Notice at the top of the page. People suck, really suck now-a-days.

    Thanks to your quilts, you so generously shared, my bees came through winter fabulously!

  • Hi Rusty,

    I value your posts and appreciate the leaky nature of internet ownership. I want to commend you for keeping an open heart in the face of direct theft. I write in another kind of business and often ask authors for permission to use their material and rarely get more than a request for proper attribution. Keep up the good work, and thanks very much.

    Dave B. in Chicago

  • Just read the post story that someone stole, had me giggling. The bees might have been just playing with you, who knows maybe bees can play pranks?? Ring around the rosie with a human? And I do apologize on behalf of my species, some of us are so flawed they can’t recognize or understand stealing a word or a penny is no different than stealing a million. Obviously the amount is different, but the feeling of violation, hurt, anger, trust damaged, and being disrespected is the same the thief would feel if something was stolen from them.

    But here is something that might hit home faster than even suing >>> is there anyway to send the other members of that club a commentary about how a person in their club felt your life was far more interesting they needed to steal a moment of your life by pretending it was theirs, ask these club members to please go hug the thief for they need immediate attention and obviously has a very pathetic life that they felt they needed to steal someone else’s reality and link to the post made May 2013.

    [Sometimes great compassion and humiliation combined can alter how a person behaves in the future.] Well we can hope they have a brain cell that can learn more appropriate behavior.

  • Wow I sure don’t read your blog to listen to your anger. Have you never heard that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. Go outside take a deep breath and enjoy your bees.

    • Kathleen, why do you think Rusty must write to please you? The post was not an angry rant , but the author does have a right to protect her work. Imitation and theft are not the same thing. Your post is like telling someone who has been raped that it’s really a compliment. Yuck.

  • Hi Rusty, unfortunately this is a common practice nowadays. The conscience of our population has diminished so much it hurts to think about it!

  • Rusty,

    I am so sorry to hear of this happening to you. I am not only a beekeeper but a photographer as well. I may not be much of a blogger, and rarely, very rarely do I post my opinions online. However, this is horrible! Anyone who has made it through the 3rd grade knows you are not suppose to use someone else’s creations without citing them. I don’t know if there is much more you can do beyond (C) your site as far as the text content, but for the photos there is a little more protection available. There are some free, or pay for use QR code programs available out there. I won’t list any as I also try not to advertise, but putting these somewhere on your photos is like putting a signature on them. You can make them as big or small as you like, and adjust the location on your photos so as not to block the focus of the image.

    Just thought I’d share, some people suck. 🙁

  • Rusty, thank you for sharing this story. Your posts are so well written, so informative and I feel so fortunate to have your extensive knowledge at my fingertips here! Letting your community of readers know that you’ve had posts stolen will help us be your “eyes and ears” in our communities.

    I hope you contacted the bee club and let them know they need to make it clear to their members that it was your article!

    Keep up the amazing work you do. I love your site.

  • Rusty, I’m very concerned about the cavalier attitude toward copying and piracy that a few people replying to this post have shown. That’s obviously part of the whole problem – the mindset that if it’s on the internet, it’s free to take. Technical writing, as in being able to explain a procedure or process, is a skill. People can be experts on doing something, but that doesn’t mean they have the ability to put it into writing so others can follow the same process. I liked the suggestion to contact that particular bee club and let them know the article was stolen and demand they remove it or give you proper credit. This is not the time to be shy or demure about claiming what is yours!

  • Kathleen, do you not know the difference between imitation and plagiarism? Look it up. And yes, I’m angry about it.

  • Rusty, I’m so sorry! I hope you reported it to the school. Would it have been a bad thing to mention the scoundrel’s name in your blog? Public humiliation can be pretty effective at stopping bad behavior.

    Keep writing! I love your blog! You have an army of supporters and admirers around you.

  • Rusty: Brush the “naughty person” off and still afford the majority of us that love to read and learn from your Honey Bee Suite site. I don’t know about the rest of your readers and fans; I am a newbie at this wonderful position of beekeeping (mother of the thousands) and I rely on you for information that I use.

  • How frustrating. I’m a high school English teacher and I’m CONSTANTLY telling the students that citing sources is SO simple! Even if you cite “incorrectly,” it’s still better than stealing. Like you said, there are so many great resources online these days, and it’s easy enough to mention where you got the idea from.

    One of my blog posts was recently reblogged and even in that case I was kind of unsure how I felt about it b/c it had a picture of my son in it. I mean, he’s wearing a bee suit and I knew I was putting it online, but it’s different when someone else makes the choice to share your content.

    Anyway, love your blog and reference it (and cite it!) often! 🙂

  • Emily, “mother of the thousands” is wonderful! I’m going to use that, and I’ll let everyone know I’m quoting a fellow beekeeper by the name of Emily. 🙂

  • Ahh, but Rusty you too have stolen. In your case you have stolen the hearts of many readers.

    Years ago I learned the curse “May the fleas of a thousand camels infest your armpits”. May your malefactor be doubly blessed, for I wish to add “and may the barbs of a thousand bloggers fill your mailbox.” I am sure that the error of his thievery will BEE made evident by this abundant gift from your readers.

    Glen, Olympia

  • Rusty,

    Just this morning my wife commented on how the Deacon’s sermon was so good that it exceeded her expectation…except when the Deacon had trouble pronouncing some of the words. I guess of a man of God can steal the writings of others (who apparently possess larger vocabularies), then a dude with a gazillion hives is no big surprise.

    Tom, Georgia

  • Add me to the list of your devoted readers who is appalled at people stealing your work. I was shocked once to be mentioned in a Google+ post to someone who was using one of my photos as their profile picture. I had no idea until another kind soul chastised the thief. Sadly, the thief did not remove my picture or give me credit. I rarely post my photos anymore. I want to tell those who think it’s ok, to follow all those others who are jumping off the cliff. But then, that would be mean.

  • Hello Rusty,
    I have linked your site on our club website.
    Is this ok with you?
    I find the commentary and information invaluable as a new beekeeper and want to share with our club membership.

  • When I use an article from someone else’s blog I usually print the first paragraph (with title and author name) and then link to the original source. That seems to me good blogging etiquette. Honesty (and honor) seem to be lost virtues in today’s world. Sad.

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