Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Plagiarism Shuffle: PokerUpdate's SLAPP C&D at PokerAddict

Author's note: I've moved this from its original posting location at FlushDraw.  Neither Ian or Paudie had anything to do with the publication of the piece there; it was mine and mine alone.  I've subsequently learned of additional legal threats, so I'm willfully moving this piece here, where it will stay up approximately until hell freezes over.  If Jamie and PokerUpdate want to sue me, well here I am. -- hh

One of those interesting stories about the inner workings of the poker world burst into public view for a brief time last week, involving a C&D (cease-and-desist) letter sent out on behalf of a site called PokerUpdate, which is connected also to PokerTube and an affiliate site called PokerVIP.

The notice was sent to writer John "PokerAddict" Mehaffey in response to a story and follow-up that Mehaffey published at  (Disclosure: Mehaffey's work also occasionally appears here at FlushDraw, though his work is featured predominantly at 4Flush and a couple of other sites.  This piece is an op-ed by me, without any input from Mehaffey or direct involvement in the situation.)

The original piece by Mehaffey (since deleted), complained about plagiaristic practices being employed by PokerUpdate in the production of content for their site.  PokerUpdate isn't much of a news site, and plagiarism complaints about it have been long-term and widespread.  Mehaffey is one of numerous legitimate writers whose work has been pilfered by PokerUpdate; they've swiped my stuff as well in the past.

Anyhow, Mehaffey recently discovered several pieces on PU -- oddly fitting, that acronym -- that were in essence cheap copy-and-pastes of several of Mehaffey's own pieces written for other sites.  Mehaffey had finally had enough, and wrote a piece called "PokerUpdate Wins Most Creative Copy Paster Award," at which he took a healthy swipe at PU's practice of swiping phrases, sentences and whole paragraphs from other people's work, and presenting them anew as PU content.

PU, and its boss, Jamie Nevin, didn't care too much for Mehaffey's journalistic insolence, and had a lawyer-in-a-box send off a cease-and-desist notice to Mehaffey on behalf of PU's corporate parent, both in regard to the Mehaffey protest against the plagiarism and against other pieces by Mehaffey against another squirrely enterprise of Nevin's, in which PokerVIP was actively linked to the surreptitious recruitment of American online poker players to play on international (non-US-facing) sites via VPN.

We also covered that story here at FlushDraw, though the actual news of how Nevin's PokerVIP site (specifically iPokerVIP as it related to the iPoker Network situation) was cracked down upon by the iPoker Network came first from other sites, when iPoker discovered the illicit American player ring participating on its network,

The smoke on that mess circled for quite a while before flaring into open flames.  The PokerVIP / VPN / Muchos Poker / Poker in Venice situation was discussed in a couple of private industry-only forums before any site reported on it, and eventually pokerfuse published a significant expose linking the iPoker crackdown to PokerVIP.

It appears that Nevin's SLAPP-based cease-and-desist against Mehaffey has regrettably worked to some extent, since either Mehaffey or 4Flush owner TJ has pulled down the story.  Oddly enough, the link now goes to an old an unrelated piece of mine over at 4Flush.

In addition, Mehaffey seems to have taken down other pieces of his that have portrayed Nevin and his business operations in a negative light, such as this one at Mehaffey's own site from last October, a piece called "PokerVIP and PokerUpdate Publish Unethical Article About PAS".  "PAS," or Poker Affiliate Solutions, is a competing affiliate operation to PokerVIP, and Mehaffey's piece detailed mudslinging tactics by PokerVIP in forum postings.

I've got the piece archived, even if it's no longer available; to me it's disappointing that Mehaffey pulled it down, but in the context of the larger situation over at 2+2, where Mehaffey serves as an unpaid moderator and PokerVIP buys advertising at that site, it's marginally understandable.

I'll just note for the record that I've had others take down things that I've written -- and heck, that's even a possibility here -- but that's always occurred over my protests.  (Note: In this case, I've voluntarily moved it; Ian and Paudie didn't ask me to.) I'll even happily send Jamie Nevin and/or his hired cartoony my address if he wants to send me a C&D; I could use the laughs.  And I will publish it if they send me anything.  Absolutely guaranteed.

Mehaffey chose not to publish the C&D in its entirety, for seemingly odd reasons.  In attempting to help close out the situation, Mehaffey even quoted some lawyer's press release claiming that a C&D itself might be protected by copyright.  That hilarious notion, published in a press release here, was quickly debunked by all sorts of legal experts.

What happened in the legal case this Dozier lawyer cited was a special circumstance where a copyright was filed in an underhanded attempt to unmask an anonymous critic, and the actual legality of the supposed C&D copyright or the opposing "fair use" doctrine was never even tested in court.  There's a lesson in that: Don't take a legal firm's press release at face value.

Which brings us back to Nevin and PokerUpdate.  The allegations as originally published by Mehaffey included the copy-and-pasting of paragraphs and sentences from several of his pieces into content at PU, without approval or proper attribution.  Those pieces have since been altered after the original author's name was removed; meanwhile, Mason Malmuth locked the thread at 2+2, censoring future commentary or not; as the owner he can do that.

However, what Mehaffey might not have known was that others were already on to the unethical journalistic practices at PokerUpdate.  I was working on my own expose of Ben Mezrich's horrid false story of the Absolute Poker situation, "Straight Flush," and as a part of my research I read all the early reviews of the book that were available.  And lo, and behold, a content rip-off by PU.

Here's the link to the NY Daily News review, and here's the link (target to which is likely to be deleted right soon!) to the PU rip-off, credited to writer "Firat Dural".  Just for the sheer joy of it, let's share some examples:

From the NYDN piece:
They were a band of frat brothers, just days away from reaping a billion dollars from their wild online poker enterprise. Then it all came crashing down. And their lives turned into a melee.

The story of the six is the subject of the new book, “Straight Flush,” and it’s by one of the coolest authors around, Ben Mezrich. His specialty is telling tales of reckless young men who make — or lose — a fortune by seizing a rogue opportunity that no one else has seen.
From PU:
In his latest book ´Straight Flush´, Ben Mezrich, one of the coolest authors around, wrote about the story of the six frat brothers who founded Absolute Poker in their basement. It is the story of a band of frat brothers who came very close to reaping a billion dollars from their wild online poker enterprise however it all came crashing down and their lives took a very dramatic turn.

Like Mark Zuckerberg. The movies “The Social Network” and “21” were based on Mezrich’s “The Accidental Billionaires” and “Bringing Down the House.”  Normally his subjects are Ivy League types who make some audacious, if not criminal, moves.

His last books “The Accidental Billionaires” and “Bringing Down the House” also focused on Ivy League types, namely like Marc Zuckerberg, who make some audacious, if not criminal, moves.

Some of them grew up hardscrabble poor and only just made it to the University of Montana in Missoula. That’s where they came together in a fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon.

“One of them sold a cow to buy his first car,” Mezrich says. “That’s where they came from.”

... Scott Tom, who describes himself as “100% trailer park,” started it all. He grew up dirt poor...
It weren´t [SIC] all Ivy League types in “Straight Flush” though, some of these kids came from a very poor background. Scott Tom, who started it all, describes himself as “100% trailer park”. “One of them sold a cow to buy his first car,” Mezrich says. “That’s where they came from.”

They all finally made their way to to the University of Montana in Missoula and came together in a fraternity called Sigma Alpha Epsilon.
And on, and on, and on, in this piece and in many others, and now Nevin and PokerUpdate have threatened another writer for calling them on these practices.  Shameful.

Well, there's more than one way to skin a dead, stinkin' cat.  I've sent an e-mail to the NYDN, as follows:

Here's a poker site that has thinly rewritten a Times review; hilarious plagiarism.



Since this site (and its owner Jamie Nevin), is now filing C&D's against sites that are pointing out its ongoing thefts of content, I say, "Sic' em."


Haley Hintze

This falls under the heading of "just desserts".  (Thanks to Phillip Martin's site for the image above, from his free-to-use clipart collection.)