Thieving Scum

Dear readers, those of you on Twitter might have seen, been followed, unfollowed and followed again by accounts claiming to be a County “Fan App”. There are 18 of them, one for each first class county. They look almost official, claiming that “[County name] Fan App is the best way to keep up to date with the club. Coming soon for iOS & Android!” but they were all created by a company called Spontly.

Did you know these “Fan App” sites have been ripping off content from sites belonging to your county club, other county club sites, the BBC and photographers? Here’s some proof:

Note: None of the links below are to Spontly or Fan App sites. They are screenshots taken from the Fan App sites over the last 24 hours.

As a Surrey supporter the Surrey CCC website was the first I checked. Didn’t take long to find a piece they’d ripped off. Here’s the original and here’s the rip off.  No attribution, no credit.  A bit more browsing found more examples:

Here’s an article about Derbyshire CCC from the BBC’s website. Here’s the same article ripped off on the Derbyshire Fan App site.  No attribution, no credit. Spontly are ripping off the BBC and Getty Images there.

Here’s an article from Kent CCC’s website. Here’s the same article ripped off on the Kent Fan App site. No attribution, no credit.

Here’s an article about Nottinghamshire CCC from the BBC’s website. Here’s the same article ripped off on the Nottinghamshire Fan App site.  No attribution, no credit.

Here’s an article from Yorkshire CCC’s website. Here’s the same article ripped off on the Yorkshire Fan App site.  No attribution, no credit.

Here’s another article from the Yorkshire CCC website. Here’s the same article ripped off on the Yorkshire Fan App site. No attribution, no credit.

The excellent Cricket Yorkshire website has also had its content ripped off and has sought advice from Phil Gorski, a Leeds based lawyer. His assessment and opinion looks clear to me.

You see the pattern?

Content scraped and reproduced giving the impression that it originates from Spontly themselves. No acknowledgement of the original author. If you look carefully towards the bottom right of the Fan App images shown here you will see in small text a “View source” link. Hardly a decent attribution.

Sarah Ansell, photographer for Kent CCC shares a similar (and correct opinion) to Phil Gorski and has made it clear to Spontly that they are not to use her work without payment. Sarah kindly shared part of an e-mail for publication here. Jim Mann, CEO of Spontly had said told Sarah they use an RSS feed to pull content. Part of Sarah’s response was:

“There’s the wider issue here that the feed is pulling & posting only ripped off material, so every post is actually violating someone’s copyright.

Many of the photos used by Kent CCC on their website & social media this coming season will be mine. I was contracted by the Club and paid to supply them, so this presumably will be an ongoing issue?

I am a professional photographer and being paid for the pictures I take is how I earn my living and pay my bills.

I won’t, therefore, be authorising the use of my images by any of the Fan Apps on any social media platform (or anywhere) unless they are properly licensed for that purposes by your company.

I hope you can appreciate my position. Thanks for your cooperation.”

Sarah’s e-mail has yet to receive a response.

Sarah’s photographs have all been replaced by a generic photo (example here) on the Kent Fan App site but still appear on their Twitter feed.

With this in mind there can only be one conclusion:

What we have here is a clear orchestrated campaign by Spontly (publishers of these “Fan App” accounts) to scrape and steal content without permission and post it on their own sites. Quoting a short piece from an article with correct attribution is acceptable. Republishing articles is not. It is theft. Plain and simple.  There’s a big difference between quoting an article and discussing it and ripping it off and passing it as your own.

It seems after some adverse publicity Spontly have changed their approach slightly. It’s still thieving though; there is still no correct attribution and photos from the original article are still reproduced, even if only the first paragraph is quoted.

Yates urges the ECB to get legal on Spontly’s ass on counties’ behalf and stop these thieving scum from ripping off counties’ employees and fans.  The counties could also help by posting news features with player pictures on their websites saying that “Fan Apps” and anything connected with Spontly is stealing content.

As a cricket fan I object to the hard work of those who work for the counties being ripped off by a company with a lazy and unethical approach to doing business.

One copyright holder has already been in touch with Twitter and has got a tweet withheld from the Middlesex Fan App feed. I urge more to do the same.

Yates is not a journalist. Yates is not here to be fair. Yates has seen unwarranted content theft and is calling out the thieving scum responsible. Others have approached Spontly for a response and had nothing back.

The message to Spontly is clear – you are not journalists, writers or content creators. You are thieves. Stop your thieving and get the hell out of cricket. You are not welcome.