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Gizmodo rips off Instructables? Answered

Gizmodo recently posted about vodka-infused gummi-bears, but presented it as if it was their own idea.

I tried to leave a comment to point out that the process was posted here, nearly three years ago, but I was informed that my post was "spam" because it was "too short", and "contained too many links".  How is one link "too many"? 

I tried again, typing a lot more, and including no links at all, yet that comment mysteriously did not appear, either.

So, I checked the FAQ, to see if I'd accidentally broken some rule, and I found it:  according to their FAQ, Gizmodo "only approve the comments we love".

To me, only allowing comments that say nice things about the site, and preventing plagiarism (or mistakes) being highlighted, is censorship, and cowardly.

Rant over - there doesn't seem to be any way to contact Gizmodo with actual criticism.


You think that courtnix was the first person ever to do this?
To establish a legitimate argument against Gizmodo (within the terms of the licence) you would have to prove that the technique was copied / modified from the Instructable you've linked.
Can that be done?


Oh, I doubt anything will come of this particular instance, despite the similarities noted by karlpinturr, but I would hope that they could be encouraged to avoid such events in future.

If you've judged that this is a knowing republication, rather than an independent or parallel publication of something that is already known and used; can you justify that or are you only standing on an opinion here?


It's not plagiarism because they do not use the images or exact text from the Instructable. The idea of mixing alcohol and candy is not protected by copyright, and could only be protected by a patent (if it wasn't already obvious).

If the author of the Gizmodo post was inspired by an Instructable, it would have been kind, and built trust with their audience, to say so; however, technically, they are doing nothing wrong.

OK, so anger futzed my definitions.

What about the deliberate practice of refusing to publish comments that are not completely complementary?

I cba to retype the coherent, annotated argument I just lost when my browser crashed, but I do not think it is at all obvious that it is not and could not be protected by copyright; according to the US copyright office recipes can, in fact, be copyrighted when they include original explanations or the like.

Original explanation refers to the prose, images, or other individually copyrightable parts of a recipe. The idea or form of the recipe cannot be copyrighted.

In the US, it is not possible to copyright "mix alcohol with candy"; it is possible to copyright the story about why one decided to try mixing alcohol with candy.

So - I finally figured out what had me confused here.

I know ideas aren't copyrightable, but kept thinking "wait, wait, I KNOW taking someone's idea from somewhere and using it without attribution is plagiarism" - it's been metaphorically beaten into me. ;) Turns out plagiarism and copyright violation are similar but not the same thing - it IS plagiarism to steal an idea, but it isn't copyright violation. This may not be copyright violation, but from the description, it is plagiarism; it may not be illegal (dunno, haven't compared the two articles side by side to check), but it is definitely unethical. I guess the distinction is that if you steal exact text, you're a criminal, but if you steal ideas, you're just dishonorable.

I posted this on the author's Facebook wall:

"You should not credit this idea, as it is not yours nor your friend's. This has been posted on Instructables before!
Please credit the original author properly!"

Yes well, there are a fair few Instructables that plagiarise other's work, particularly in the food category, and even some work from HQ members.

I'm not condoning it from anywhere (although I can understand that new bloggers might not understand the law/etiquette of crediting sources, old hands like Gizmodo and our own HQ should know much better).

I'm as much concerned by the (IMO) dishonest practice of actively filtering out all criticism from the comments.

I'm afraid that your 'opinion' doesn't have a legal leg to stand on, since you found their "only approve the comments we love" statement in their FAQ's.

On a free, democratic and largely-unregulated Web, publishing that statement allows them to do exactly that. And there isn't a damn thing anyone can actually do about it,  other than exactly the kind of thing you have done here.

We can hope that, eventually, enough people will see enough similar reactions to act-up in such a way as to give such sites cause to reconsider, and at least give credit where it's due, but I don't see any forecast of snow in Hell just yet.

And, of course, there's no actual evidence that Gizmodo got the idea directly from Instructables... For a start, there's no mention of the frozen juice concentrate that courtnix uses to disguise the taste of the vodka. Then, they test their Gummi Bears after 3 days, whereas courtnix says they'll take "a bit more than a week to complete,", and actually tells us to "Resist the urge to taste test!" in step 3 (after 5 days original soaking). And who's this 'Eileen', credited with giving the Gizmodo author the idea?

Admittedly, the Gizmodo article's concern with "a harder gummi core," after 3 days does mirror coutnix's concerns that "they will have a hard middle," if not left for another 4 days, but I think that there are, overall, sufficient differences for them to claim some sort of 'synchronicity' of ideas/methods - or, at least, that they were testing out some 'internet rumour' (which is how their first sentence, in particular, reads to me) should any legal proceedings arise from your use of the word "plagiarism" (personally, I'd advise you to retract the word before you're legally forced to).

I don't recall raising legal issues, rather I raised issues of morality and good practice.

I retract nothing.

Specifically, no you didn't 'raise' any legal issues.

But the general tone of your piece, combined with naming (only) the Gizmodo site AND (almost) ending with the actual word "plagiarism"  not only implies you believe the Gizmag article to be such, but could be seen as close enough to an accusation that some lawyers might jump at the chance to sue.

Then again, some lawyers would jump at the chance to sue...

     Ants for ruining picnics...
     Mosquitos for passing on Malaria...
     Drive-thru operators for not warning customers their coffee 'may be hot'...

etc., etc., etc.

It all depends, just how litigous Gizmodo and their lawyers are feeling, and whether they actually get to see your piece. But I would still suggest a slight alteration - maybe change "preventing plagiarism" to 'preventing possible plagiarism' would take enough sting out of the word?

It's up to you, of course, and I don't really think anything would come of it. But you never know...

They're welcome to jump wherever they like.

They'd have to extradite me first, of course, and fly me to the states at their own expense, and they'd be unable to gain anything more than symbolic damages, since I have no assets within their jurisdiction...

And the publicity would hopefully work against them...

O HAI, Gizmodo editor-in-chief. Sorry, but you aren't able to just censor comments you don't like here. And they're not particularly afraid of your threats of libel suits. People can actually freely call you out on what you do. It hurts, I know. Try to deal with the pain.


If I've given the impression of being connected in any way with Gizmodo, I apologise profusely.

It's just the word "plagiarism" started ringing all sorts of alarm bells, because it can be such a mine-field trying to prove who wrote what when, who saw it (or didn't), whether or not it could have been written significantly differently to alter (or not, if necessary) the gist of the piece and so on.

For what it's worth, I fully support Kiteman's stance in the piece - though not the specifics since, as I imply in the last paragraph of my first post, I think they're different enough to sidestep any truly-proveable link.


6 years ago

This does seem to be the trend of 2011-2012. Blatant censorship seem to be, at least to me, showing up everywhere these days, particularly from big-names we've learned to trust.

Right - the whole blog network is like that. You should read some of the stories sometime - it's rotten to the core.

Ouch. I'm happy you posted a link to the gizmodo article on the instructable. Maybe the author will have more luck getting through?

It wouldn't be the first time this has happened. There are a couple other well known sites that do this, some copy/pasting directly with no credit or no link back.