My good friend Mat Bowles recently took issue with Jonathan Calder, because Calder had said something disparaging about Liberal Conspiracy, and Mat wanted to know why more Lib Dems – and Liberals in general – don’t engage with that site rather than being insulting about it.
In my case, I stopped writing for the site only partly because of the illiberal slant of much of the commentary there – I’m all in favour of a broad church – but mostly because, as my resignation email shows (and it’s lucky I didn’t delete that post as I planned), Sunny Hundal, the site’s editor, has a very lax attitude towards proper attribution – sticking people’s names on stuff they didn’t write, publicly posting emails to private lists as public posts, re-editing others’ work without permission and so on. I don’t mind contributing to a debate where everyone’s voice can be heard, but don’t like seeing things go out under my name that substantially misrepresent my position.
Recently, another contributor to the site, Claude Carpentieri, asked me to write a ‘why you should vote Lib Dem’ guest post for his blog, where he’s doing posts from people ‘representing’ about a dozen of the larger political parties. I thought it rather odd that he’d ask me – and flattering, as the people he’d asked for other parties included the leader of RESPECT and Peter Tatchell, and as a seventh-tier blogger I’m not really in their league. As there wasn’t a huge amount of time or space (500 words) I wrote an extremely cut-down version of the thing I’d written for PEP! – same basic ideas, but less than half the words and for a different audience. I also checked with a few Major Lib Dem Bloggers that what I was saying wasn’t too out of step with the party as a whole, as it was in some sense ‘representing’ the party, albeit unofficially.
I meant to link to this on Friday, when it was posted, but I’ve been having some health problems recently and haven’t been online (or indeed able to get involved in campaigning for the election, about which I feel awful).
However, when I came online today, I saw Alex Wilcock had twittered that people should read something I’d written on why you should vote Lib Dem. I didn’t think Alex read Claude’s blog, so I followed the link out of curiosity, and saw it was to Liberal Conspiracy, where my post had been reposted, without my permission, and with neither Claude nor Sunny informing me of this. It also had a footer saying “Andrew is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He blogs at AndrewHickey.info.”
Luckily, a lot of people seem to have liked the post, which at first glance appears to be what I wrote, but I just want to make it clear I am *NOT* a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy, I was *NOT* asked to write for Liberal Conspiracy, or for my writing to be republished there. The reason I’ve left it to other people to reply to the comments there is because I was unaware there were any comments until five minutes ago. Had I been asked to write for Liberal Conspiracy, I would have refused, partly out of principle and partly because of the disgraceful way its associate editor, Aaron Murin-Heath, behaved when one of his friends started making threats of physical violence against me (I don’t believe calling the police when someone tracks down your address, tells you he has a gun, and threatens to beat you up, makes someone a ‘monstrous thundercunt’. Aaron apparently disagrees.)
I am stating this for the record because I have been a vociferous critic of that site in the recent past, and don’t want to look like a hypocrite now. I am retroactively giving the site permission to use that article, because it has generated discussion there and I don’t want to censor that discussion. But I want people reading this to know that I will never, *EVER* write for that site unless both its editorial line changes, the attitude towards contributors changes drastically, and Mr Murin-Heath is completely dissociated from the site.
Should any other articles appear on that site credited to me, without me having posted in advance on this site that I believe those conditions to have been met, you can be sure that it has been posted there illegally, and it may well have nothing to do with anything I originally wrote.
I do not read Liberal Conspiracy any more, so I won’t necessarily find out if this does happen. But if it does, I shall sue the site and its administrators for copyright infringement, because that will be the only way to make it clear to them that I am serious about my reputation and do not want to be associated with that site and what I consider to be extremely unethical practices.
And I’d just like to say that it is *ONLY* the fact that Mat Bowles and James Graham – two of the people I respect most in the ‘blogosphere’ – both have very different opinions of the site to mine that has stopped me doing so already. Sooner or later Sunny will do this to somone who *isn’t* as easy-going as I am, and that site *will* end up getting sued out of existence. He has reused others’ material often enough without permission that it really is a question of when, not if, and not everyone he’s done this to is a seventh-tier blogger with a handful of regular readers and no financial interest in the work.