Did UKTV Do Their Own Research?

Maybe I'm just being paranoid, but it sure seems like all the items in UKTV's list of 20 Great April Fools, which Jon Holmes presented on air on April 1st over in Britain, were lifted almost verbatim from my list of the Top 100 April Fools ever. Not to complain (actually to complain bitterly), but it took me a long time to create that list... a lot of tedious searching through decades of old newspaper archives to find all the April Fool's Day classics that had been, for the most part, forgotten. If UKTV did their own research and collected together what they thought were the Top 20 April Fools, that would be fine. But their research seems to have simply consisted of visiting here and cutting and pasting what they found, and then presenting this to their viewers as their own work. Can that actually be legal?

April Fools Day Miscellaneous

Posted on Mon Apr 03, 2006


Sounds a bit like plagarism to me, Alex.
Posted by Smerk  in  to mischief  on  Tue Apr 04, 2006  at  12:03 AM
I've taken a look too and I think they'd have a hard time denying the theft.

Can that actually be legal?

Nope. But you might have an expensive time doing anything much about it:(

You could contact Jon Holmes directly, though - .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Who knows, maybe you'll at least get an apology. (Mind you, I don't know the guy - for all I know he's a .)
Posted by outeast  on  Tue Apr 04, 2006  at  12:48 AM
It does indeed look like they used your "Top 100" list as a source, Alex. When you look through many of their entries, and compare them sentence-by-sentence to your own entries, they seem to match. Sometimes an adjective is changed, or an American term replaced with a British one, or the punctiation changed a bit, but it's still the same sentences.

For example, the first item on both lists: The Swiss Spaghetti Harvest:

UKTV: In 1957, the BBC show Panorama announced that, thanks to an exceptionally mild winter and the virtual extermination of the "spaghetti weevil", Swiss farmers were enjoying an abundant spaghetti crop.

MOH: In 1957 the respected BBC news show Panorama announced that thanks to a very mild winter and the virtual elimination of the dreaded spaghetti weevil, Swiss farmers were enjoying a bumper spaghetti crop.

UKTV: To prove it, they broadcast footage of Swiss peasants pulling strands of spaghetti down from trees.

MOH: It accompanied this announcement with footage of Swiss peasants pulling strands of spaghetti down from trees.

UKTV: Huge numbers of viewers were fooled, and many rang in wanting to know how they could grow their own spaghetti trees.

MOH: Huge numbers of viewers were taken in, and many called up wanting to know how they could grow their own spaghetti trees.

UKTV: The BBC diplomatically replied that they should "place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best."

MOH: To this question, the BBC diplomatically replied that they should "place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best."

I don't know what you can do about it, though. They do seem to have done some research of their own, though, as they have different pictures than you do sometimes.
Posted by Accipiter  on  Tue Apr 04, 2006  at  01:26 AM
it's bothersome that to some people, cutting and pasting is considered research
Posted by tapnclick  on  Tue Apr 04, 2006  at  01:38 AM
You should see if you can locate the General Manager of the station, Alex and bitch to him/her. As a practical matter, there's probably little you can do legally, but you can possibly get the guy's boss to have a little chat with him about plagerism.
Posted by Cranky Media Guy  on  Tue Apr 04, 2006  at  01:58 AM
I would notify the editor at UKTV. If they simply copied your material and changed a couple words that is far beneath journalistic standards and unethical. It probably would have been fine if they simply cited your site. Without giving credit, someone over there deserves to be fired.
Posted by zp  on  Tue Apr 04, 2006  at  01:59 AM
</i>Without giving credit, someone over there deserves to be fired.</i>

Crikey that's naive. The MSM plagiarize blogs routinely - consider this instance, where AP blatantly ripped off a laboriously researched online article and shrugged off complaints with a dismissive "we do not credit blogs."

My guess is Alex might get an apology, maybe a correction on the website or something - but without legal action (and international copyright law is a minefield) there's not going to be much else. I hardly see a media frenzy in the offing.

OTOH, I guess they paid this Jon chap (who's a comedian, not a staff hack) a hefty fee for what amounts to a C&P job. They might not be too chuffed about that, I suppose...
Posted by outeast  on  Tue Apr 04, 2006  at  02:17 AM
PS - what's with 'plagerism', guys?
Posted by spelling nazi  on  Tue Apr 04, 2006  at  02:23 AM
Lists are explicitly not protected by U.S. copyright law. I don't know about the U.K. law. So if they just stole the list, you're hosed. But if they stole any of your comments verbatim, you just won the lottery, sue away.
Posted by Doug Nelson  on  Tue Apr 04, 2006  at  05:41 AM

Sounds like it's time to add your own hoax to the list. Sort of like the fake words they put in dictionaries to fight the same type of copyright issues, or GIJoes backwards thumb (Or was that a hoax too?).

Mo in NJ
Posted by mmarvi  on  Tue Apr 04, 2006  at  06:19 AM
Yeah, like the comment above.
You should do something like Snopes did to catch out cheats - they put in false legends.

Posted by AussieBruce  on  Tue Apr 04, 2006  at  07:08 AM
No, false urban legends or April Fools jokes defeats the point of Alex's work to me. Personally, I can't say I'm a fan of Snopes' fake legends but at least it's not hard to determine that they're pulling your leg.

I'd rather Alex do the work as he sees fit, and that he stays vigilant (and us for him), to make sure his original work is not plagiarized.
Posted by AqueousBoy  on  Tue Apr 04, 2006  at  09:23 AM
And they didn't even have the courtesy to agree with the order of your list. Demand a public apology on air!
Sadly our Freeview box is too rubbish to actually pick up UKTV though, so I wouldn't get to see it.
Posted by Owen  on  Tue Apr 04, 2006  at  10:09 AM
What a rip-off. There is a message board and I suggest all fans of MuseumofHoaxes.com to post their complaints.
Posted by Leland  on  Tue Apr 04, 2006  at  10:11 AM
B*st*rds will probably say it is a quote:
"20 out of 100"
Specialy when they are not in the order they posted on your site. And they can be totally assholes by saying that they did research... on your page.
Posted by Unfairly Balanced  in  Earth  on  Tue Apr 04, 2006  at  10:51 AM
I agree with AqueousBoy. I used to read Snopes a lot, and I hated the fake legends. It made me feel like I wasted my time reading something that wasn't true.

Don't go that route, Alex!
Posted by Sakano  in  Ohio  on  Tue Apr 04, 2006  at  12:06 PM
It seems stupid to plagerize the work of one of the world's greatest "hoaxologists", especially considering there was pretty much a 100% chance that he would read it.
Posted by Dracul  on  Tue Apr 04, 2006  at  01:13 PM
I really think you should contactg a lawyer on this. It is clear copyright infringement. You should be able to find a lawyer who will do it on a contingency basis. This is astonishingly blatent.
Posted by Tom  in  NYC  on  Tue Apr 04, 2006  at  01:29 PM
Blatant plagiarism.
Sue the bastards.
Posted by Big Gary in Old Dime Box, Texas  in  Dallas, Texas, USA  on  Tue Apr 04, 2006  at  04:24 PM
Shouldn't an April Fools story be a plagarized hoax?
Posted by wdl  in  honolulu  on  Tue Apr 04, 2006  at  04:56 PM
I contacted a lawyer who's going to be sending them a letter. Same lawyer I used when I needed advice about my use of the Cottingley Fairy images. I'm now an official client of his.

If they had simply cut and pasted from my list but acknowledged me as the source, I wouldn't have cared that much. But the fact that they're claiming to have written it is too obnoxious to be left unchallenged.
Posted by The Curator  in  San Diego  on  Tue Apr 04, 2006  at  06:15 PM
spelling nazi said:

"what's with 'plagerism', guys?"

Yeah, you're right. I'm guilty as charged. Gee, and I do editing for a living, too. Please don't put me in "The Box," S.N. I'll be good.
Posted by Cranky Media Guy  on  Tue Apr 04, 2006  at  07:13 PM
Good call. Having a lawyer involved to drop them a line without getting... litigious.. right up front might get a lot of milage. It may very well be that the higher-ups didn't know the lines had been lifted, and some weaselly guy in cubical 43-D will hear a loud but rather authoritative 'A-*HEM!*' behind him come the morrow. The Brits are nothing if not polite, I'd expect a 'we're dreadfully sorry!' response.

If you're feeling snarky, you can request, say, a dollar per item lifted, with the sole expressed purpose of taking a bunch of your friends to the local british pub on their dime. Or perhaps simply the price of a steak dinner at your favorite restraunt, as your 'pound of flesh'. Make sure to send them photos. The Brits also love a good laugh, even when they're the butt of it.
Posted by Robin Bobcat  in  Californian Wierdo  on  Tue Apr 04, 2006  at  07:25 PM
To be fair to UKTV, their channels are normally hours and hours of repeats of poor British sitcoms like Are You Being Served, Keeping Up Appearances and Open All Hours. So the idea of having to do orginal research to their own program would have scared them somewhat. Anyway, they're probably products of our university system where you can degrees simply by C&Ping; from the internet.

It's a problem we Brits have :(
Posted by Timmy O'Toole  in  UK  on  Wed Apr 05, 2006  at  07:08 AM
"To be fair to UKTV, their channels are normally hours and hours of repeats of poor British sitcoms like Are You Being Served, Keeping Up Appearances and Open All Hours."

Hmm, that's also a description of our local PBS station ... when it's not doing Lawrence Welk marathons during pledge drives.
Posted by Big Gary in Old Dime Box, Texas  in  Dallas, Texas, USA  on  Wed Apr 05, 2006  at  08:55 AM

I wish you the best of luck with that. I'm sure it's not so much about any money that's due to you but rather for feeling cheated after spending so much work on your site.

I really encourage you to seek all reasonable legal avenues for getting some compensation.
Posted by Peter  in  Melbourne, Australia  on  Wed Apr 05, 2006  at  06:21 PM
It's only copyright violation if they used MOH's text. Sorry Alex, but lists of facts and lists of names/titles aren't protected. This is a frequent topic of discussion on Wikipedia. That list and accompanying quotes may also have gone through several intermediate parties before being used by UKTV. They could argue the got the (not protected) list of titles from MOH, but their accompanying text from the same sources you used and that similarity was coincidental due to using common source material.

The presenters might not have heard of MOH. They would have to be web-literate to learn of MOH's existence since very few British bookshops stock the MOH book (I've only seen a single copy in one bookshop). Over here, High Street bookshops rarely if ever stock any imported books due to the high cost.

If the TV company used it in good faith, you'd be stuck with trying to sue the researcher who might not be an employee of the TV company and if he earns the usual pittance you'd up more out-of-pocket (as you'd have to sue through the UK legal system who could declare him not worth suing).

Suggest you write to the TV station, but you're unlikely to get anything more than an apology.
Posted by Louise  in  UK  on  Tue Apr 11, 2006  at  12:40 AM
I do not agree with anyone who takes credit for someone else's work. But, couldn't UKTV argue that since this information is in the public domain they have the right to use it? Is there an implied copyright to blogs?
Posted by Matt  on  Tue Apr 18, 2006  at  07:50 PM
Commenting is no longer available in this channel entry.