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A formal complaint, and request for action from Wikia:

A matter of some concern has come to my attention. I believe it is beyond my legal capacity to deal with this situation so my intent is to list evidence here in order to complain to the Wikia Staff members who are responsible for Game of Thrones Wiki, as they may know what course of legal action to take.

FanSided's WinterIsComing.net has, apparently, been plagiarizing Game of Thrones Wiki articles, passing off the content as its own. Through ad revenue they are monetizing content which now legally belongs to Wikia.

Background

Fansided purchases WinterIsComing.net

This is unfortunately hearsay so I will be as brief as possible: throughout Seasons 1 through 3, WinterIsComing.net became one of the leading Game of Thrones news sites. When George R.R. Martin has publicly mentioned fansites, they're one of the two big ones he lists, such as "well you're going to see a whole report about this panel on a fansite like Westeros.org or WinterIsComing.net tomorrow". Writers such as Bryan Cogman even did interviews on the site.

Soon before the beginning of Season 4 this year, the founder of the website retired, and in the process sold the website to the FanSided network. Four core staffers who had been with the site from the beginning remained, however, as well as other contributors. While their report is obviously self-biased, their version is that there was a lot of behind-the-scenes tension as Season 4 progressed.

In short, they say that FanSided cut them out of the loop, didn't inform them of major changes despite promising not to interfere, and basically tried to "brand" WiC.net into the FanSided model...when the entire reason it had become such a successful fansite was for its existing content - and that success is why FanSided was willing to buy it. The old corporate takeover nightmare scenario of "oh no, if Disney buys Marvel, will they needlessly change its internal structure, "fixing" something that wasn't broken?" Or at least that's what they say happened.

Without prior announcement, a few days before the Season 4 premiere FanSided announced a new "WinterIsComing.net Live Show" - essentially imitating the format of Talking Dead or the UK's Thronecast video series. The original staff writers said that they were never consulted about this, and increasingly, FanSided treated it as the primary focus of the website - including ordering them to prioritize moderating the comments on the LIve Show's news posts, instead of working on their own recaps. Moreover, the original staff writers for WiC.net were volunteeers - it was a "fansite", as in they were all working for free and without contracts, submitting content for free. So FanSided was now giving them orders on a site they built, and also not paying them.

As the core staffers have publicly alleged (I cannot verify this myself), the problem was that the Live Show wasn't actually very successful. It didn't get very high viewcount and wasn't actually generating enough advertisement revenue.

My personal opinion is that this is because the Live Show simply wasn't that good. Instead of making some sort of podcast/skype format with the original core staff, or rotating videos the way Westeros.org does - anyone who knew what they were doing, knew the TV show - they brought in a new cast of unknowns - who I suspect actually don't even know the TV series that well (more on this later). Heck, even original staff member "Fire and Blood" (later known as "Fab", then "AxeyFaBulous", and now "AxeChucker") had a video review series, produced at no-budget out of his home which he used to post to WinterIsComing.net. But instead, FanSided wanted to imitate the talkshow format of Talking Dead and moreover, rebuild the whole thing from the ground up using their own in-house production.

In short, "WinterIsComing.net", the news source we have relied on at Game Of Thrones Wiki since Season 1, ceased to exist on a spiritual level as Season 4 progressed, and it turned into "FanSided's WinterIsComing.net".

But as the original staffers allege, the Live Show wasn't getting enough revenue - because it wasn't a very good quality product and made by people who seemed to pay only shallow attention to the TV series (this doesn't even involve the book fan vs TV fan debate, we're talking a basic level here). So FanSided's short-sighted solution was to increase their "weekly news quotas" and just start cranking out more content...which because a vicious and self-defeating cycle, because the more frantic they became to fill quotas, the more they were just slapping out inferior content that would not attract many new viewers.

The original staffers had never used a quota-system before: they wrote news when it happened, or wrote analysis because they felt like it and had something "meaningful" to say at the time. Not just cranking out content.

This spiraled out of control surprisingly fast: Season 4 episode 2, "The Lion and the Rose" aired on April 13th. By April 16th, FanSided was already putting out a new wave of quota-filling content. This was not part of a pre-arranged rollout: they were already overburdened, and the original staffers described this as a rushed, last-minute reaction to the Live Show's poor performance. This is how the "Weapons of Westeros" video series came about, with its first installment (out of a total of six) being released on April 16th, and consisting of one of the cast members from the Live Show talking about a weapon from the TV series for about 2 minutes each. There were other rapidly produced fillers of this kind, and advertising started to become obtrusive.

The folly of Fansided's quota system: "Weapons of Westeros" and "Lannister cocktails"

The low point for many people was when to fill quotas, FanSided started running cocktail recipes as news posts. Not "how to make a homemade Arbor Gold wine recreation", but making a homemade martini or cocktail, and naming it "Lannister flavored" because it was red, or spicy, or something - with the cast of the live show rotating in to show how to make the cocktail in a video. This drove a lot of readers away (in my observation) and the low quality deeply annoyed the original staff writers.

I've been told that the straw that broke the camel's back was one specific video, which was released on June 28th, about two weeks after the Season 4 finale (which aired on June 15th). Maybe FanSided simply hadn't thought of what content they could use to fill the off-season. I think they filmed the cocktail videos earlier, but keep in mind: June 28th was when the new Season 5 cast members were announced at San Diego Comic-Con, leading to a renewed burst in activity on all fansites (and the wiki) after a month of the production team resting from the finale with no news coming out.

The clouds burst

Well in this specific video, the Live Show cast (or their writers, I'm not sure if they even make their own content) made a cocktail which they called a "Tiny Tyrion": that's the whole joke, Tyrion is small therefore they use a miniature cocktail set to make a dwarf-sized drink. http://winteriscoming.net/2014/06/24/spirits-westeros-tiny-tyrion-martini/ Many saw this as casually mocking Tyrion's Dwarfism and Ableist, utterly missing the point from the TV series that Tyrion faces discrimination for his disability and it isn't a laughing matter (and their joke wasn't even that funny: "it's small because Tyrion was small"?) -- Now in and of itself I think the video was offensive, but the fallout from this caused even more problems. The original staff writers still working on the site weren't even consulted about this video, and one of them (Bex, not one of the core four but a regular contributor) directly reacted in the comment thread for that video, calling it Ableist, that if they paid any attention to the TV show they wouldn't have made such an off-color joke, and questioning why they didn't run it by the regular writers first. Well, the FanSided people didn't respond to Bex but complained about her to their Editor in Chief. Whether or not the other writers agreed with Bex (the degree of her reaction), they thought she had at least made a very valid complaint, which the FanSided people should have listened to, instead of going to the new editor and punishing her out of hand.

Bex herself summarized these events in a Tumblr post, which was one of the main sparks behind the exodus of staff writers from the site: http://tumblrofthrones.tumblr.com/post/95312985773/a-break-in-our-regularly-scheduled-programming-to-bring

This incident made clear what was already becoming increasingly obvious to the original WinterIsComing.net writing staff which had been reporting on the series since Season 1: they were no longer masters in their own house, FanSided had very little understanding of the TV series, they were cranking out hilariously bad content simply to fill quotas, and they had completely circumvented the original writing staff. All of their original columns, recaps, even news really - were being pushed to the side and marginalized in favor of FanSided generated content, which wasn't even nearly as well written as their own work.


A new hope: WatchersOnTheWall.com

At this point the original WinterIsComing.net writing staff mutinied en masse, and by the end of July had launched their own new fansite: WatchersOnTheWall.com.

http://watchersonthewall.com/message-creators-watchers-wall/

It quickly became the old WinterIsComing.net in all but name, and FanSided was left with nothing but that name. I cannot emphasize enough just how badly FanSided mishandled the situation: they had marginalized these unpaid, uncontracted writers for so long (who had built "WinterIsComing.net" into what it was) ...yet they never bothered to make them sign non-compete clauses ---- Many websites, if you sign a contract to work for them, have a clause that says if you ever resign, you legally can never join a rival website in direct competition with them. FanSided's handling of WinterIsComing.net was so laughably short-sighted that they never thought to force the original staff to sign non-compete clauses like that...then proceeded to mistreat and marginalize them throughout Season 4. What did they think was going to happen?!

(I have this mental image of when King Joffrey Baratheon dismissed Ser Barristan Selmy...which is illegal, because the Kingsguard cannot be dismissed and their vows are taken for life....and surprise surprise, Barristan promptly fled the city to join the service of Queen Daenerys Targaryen, and join her Queensgard! Cersei and Joffrey never had Ser Barristan sign a non-compete clause).


On top of this, when the original WiC.net writers left for WatchersOnTheWall.com, they took ALL of their on-set contacts with them. Think about it: the writing staff on the original WinterIsComing.net spent the past three to four years building up local contacts in Northern Ireland, Croatia, and Iceland, feeding them set reports and spy photos -- you know "actual news" which form the core of any "news site". FanSided didn't have any of those on its own, and relied upon the original staff writers for ALL of them...yet still marginalized the original staffers and treated them as insignificant. As some of you have already noticed, since late July, WatchersOnTheWall.com has been the only site producing those regular "reports from the set" in Northern Ireland and Croatia...while news reporting on WiC.net has dried up. "FanSided's WinterIsComing.net" now has no significant news contacts to call its own: they're just repeating stuff they hear in Google News, BuzzFeed, Variety, other news aggregators - no "original news" anymore. Words fail to describe how short-sighted FanSided was when they marginalized these writers. All four of the core staff writers are at WatchersOnTheWall.com, as well as a few other staff writers such as Bex and Lightbringer. NONE of the staff writers, reporters, and columnists you have been reading on WinterIsComing.net in Seasons 1, 2, and 3 are on there anymore (indeed, many who joined early in Season 4 have also left). They're not the same people anymore. The ENTIRE community and staff just moved and formed their own news site.

By late August, even the "Game of Owns" weekly podcast group which used to be hosted on WinterIsComing.net had abandoned it in favor of now being hosted on WatchersOnTheWall.com.

In the past two months since its creation, WatchersOnTheWall.com has been regularly posting exclusive news reports...while if you look at FanSided's WinterIsComing.net these past 2 months, they've slowed to a crawl, and aren't even reporting on things that Entertainment Weekly is reporting on. WinterIsComing.net had gone through something like two Editors in Chief in as many months. After all of the old staffers left at the end of June they got a new Editor in Chief, Zack Luye, but then Zack himself stopped working on WiC.net last month due to "a scheduling conflict". In the past few days they have been putting out open calls for "assistant editors" - because their entire core writing staff quit en masse, and they're going through replacement writers like tissue paper: http://winteriscoming.net/2014/08/25/wic-hiring-assistant-editors/ FanSided's WinterIsComing.net is circling the drain.

How Fansided's WinterIsComing.net plagiarized Game of Thrones Wiki

As I explained above, from the reports given by writers who resigned from WinterIsComing.net after FanSided's acquisition and mismanagement of it during Season 4 (writers who in late July reformed into WatchersOnTheWall.com), FanSided honestly thought their "WinterIsComing.net Live Show" would get a lot higher viewership than it did. According to them, the subsequent quota-filling content such as the "Weapons of Westeros" videos or the..."Lannister-flavored cocktail" videos, were a last-minute idea that FanSided came up with, scrambling to get more viewership and ad revenue...and starting only about two weeks into Season 4. I don't know how bad the viewership had to be for the Live Show for them to declare that it wasn't going to generate enough ratings after only two weeks.

In late August, WatchersOnTheWall.com posted a series of news posts explaining what happened over the course of Season 4 to make them all leave FanSided's WinterIsComing.net. Reading the comments section of one of them, someone pointed out that the "Weapons of Westeros" segments were actually very poorly produced, and at times mixed up character names. To be honest, I only watched the first one on "Ice", found it bland and uninformative, and never watched the subsequent five episodes of it. So with my curiosity piqued, I wanted to see just how bad they were, so I watched all in a row for the first time, a few days ago.

On watching these videos, I quickly recognized my own writing style. The host was using exact turns of phrase which I had used in contributions I have added into Game of Thrones Wiki.

Now obviously, and I will repeatedly stress this, once we contribute content to Game of Thrones Wiki it legally belongs to Wikia. This is the price I happily pay for my words to be read by tens of thousands of people, a wonderful opportunity to advance information about the TV series. The fact that most of the content they copied was personally written by me is only anecdotal -- it's just how I recognized it was plagiarized, because I know my own writing style. Some of the videos used content that I didn't specifically write, but still stealing content from Wikia which was produced by this community.

A total of six "Weapons of Westeros" videos were produced on FanSided's WinterIsComing.net. Each was released about a week apart, though I cannot tell if they were all filmed on the same day and then released sequentially, or if they were produced and released one week at a time. I think they were produced one week at a time, because the host (Bryan Forrest) is wearing a different shirt in each. In the order they were produced, they are:

  1. Ice (Ned Stark's sword) - http://winteriscoming.net/2014/04/16/weapons-of-westeros-ice/
  2. Wildfire - http://winteriscoming.net/2014/04/23/weapons-westeros-wildfire/
  3. Widow's Wail (Joffrey's new sword) - http://winteriscoming.net/2014/04/29/weapons-westeros-widows-wail/
  4. Needle (Arya Stark's sword) - http://winteriscoming.net/2014/05/07/weapons-westeros-needle/
  5. Dragons - http://winteriscoming.net/2014/05/14/weapons-westeros-dragons/
  6. Arakh (the curving swords used by the Dothraki) - http://winteriscoming.net/2014/05/21/weapons-westeros-dothraki-arakh/

Watch each of these videos one at a time, then read my comments on each below (watch "Dragons", then read my comments on "Dragons" below, then move on to "Arakh" so the wording is fresh in your mind).

I think it is no accident that the ones which plagiarize Game of Thrones Wiki the most are the last two, Dragons and Arakhs. Given the reports from WatchersOnTheWall.com about how FanSided couldn't handle the ridiculously over-ambitious quota system they had instituted (which I why I put all of that "Background" info above this), I think that by the time they were making these six videos and the final two in particular, they were just slapping out new content at the last minute -- with no time to do their own research, they were just reading off Wiki articles and passing it off as their own work.

Ice and Wildfire

The "Ice" one seems quite similar to our Ice article, but the "Wildfire" one is far more suspect.

The "Wildfire" article uses language from Game of Thrones Wiki much more closely. At the same time, while he is clearly quoting things...he also mixes up names now and again, indicating that alleged "Game of Thrones expert" Bryan Forrest didn't actually write the content he's reading off into the camera, but simply reciting - badly reciting - someone else's work. As was pointed out to be, he mixes up which character did what: he says that Davos fired the arrow that set the wildfire explosion, when it was actually Bronn. He says that Davos (again) was the one who said "piss on wildfire and your cock burns off", when this was actually Tyrion. He also says that Thoros of Myr gave Beric Dondarrion a sword coated in burning wildfire. Now while Thoros has famously used wildfire-coated swords in the past, he did not give one to Beric before his fight with Sandor -- particularly because the video even acknowledges "Wildfire burns with green flame"...then shows a photo of Beric fighting with a burning sword...burning with normal red-orange flames.

Widow's Wail

This also heavily copies the wording from Game of Thrones Wiki. But another point: this video in particular was copying the A Wiki of Ice and Fire hosted by Westeros.org. You see, Westeros.org's wiki for the books has been so popular and well-established for so many years that we made no attempt to compete with it. Many of use have accounts on both. A major idea behind Game of Thrones Wiki is that we're a wiki for the TV-series, and spoiler-free for viewers who have not read the books -- MOST of our articles do have an "In the books" section at the end, to compare the adaptation with the source material....but only discussing events which have already passed in the books (i.e. only after the Battle of the Blackwater aired at the end of Season 2, we then say under the "In the books" section that "this was condensed for the TV series, here is how all of the armies moved around in the battle in the books"). We therefore heavily interlink with AWOIAF: most of our articles link to their articles on people and things, with a warning about "major book spoilers" (the "Arya Stark" page on here has a link at the bottom saying "see also "Arya Stark" on AWOIAF"). In turn, AWOIAF links back to us for TV-only characters like Ros or TV episodes. There is some overlap between the two, inevitably due to similar source material, but...we always "credit" AWOIAF by virtue of the fact that we have a direct link to their wiki on most articles.

Thus if FanSided's WinterIsComing.net was stealing content from Game of Thrones Wiki, and reading our articles on "weapons", they would have easily seen this link to AWOIAF's article on "Widow's Wail": http://gameofthrones.wikia.com/wiki/Widow%27s_Wail#In_the_books

So when you watch the video, notice that they're also at certain points using content from AWOIAF, such as describing the jewels in the pommel of Widow's Wail (which they would only have known from book, not TV material). But most importantly...notice the art image that they flash in the background at one point of Joffrey unsheathing the sword: this is the exact same image shown on AWOIAF's "Widow's Wail" article. It's an official artwork produced by Fantasy Flight Games (for a card game based on the books, I think). AWOIAF posted copyright notice on the artwork that "this is from Fantasy Flight Games". FanSided's WinterIsComing.net makes no such disclaimer, on-screen or during "credits" at the end. This image just mysteriously pops into being behind the host, without attribution. But that's not a Game of Thrones Wiki issue specifically...though it does show that they're just taking content without worrying about copyright.

Needle

AWOIAF has no article on “Water Dancing”, they’re directly copying the Game of Thrones Wiki article on Water Dancing and on "Needle" (which interlink on here).

Fansided's WinterIsComing.net: "The Water Dance, so called for its emphasis on fluid motion, quick advances, and stabbing attacks…This fighting style employs a sideways stance to provide opponents with a smaller target."

I 'personally wrote this phrasing into Game of Thrones Wiki. Here are the history tabs confirming this is Wikia content: http://gameofthrones.wikia.com/wiki/Needle?diff=70312&oldid=67895 http://gameofthrones.wikia.com/wiki/Water_Dance?diff=63139&oldid=63126

Dragons

Up until this point, some of these videos seem "annoyingly similar" to Game of Thrones Wiki's content (some might be exact quotes in a line or two).

The final two videos, however, are filled almost entirely with verbatim and near-verbatim copies of our content, not even bothering to change the wording.

Nor does he even seem to comprehend what he’s saying, but just skipping around...I mean it doesn't "flow" well; he's randomly start saying "dragons are covered in scales" because that happens to be the first line of a paragraph on Game of Thrones Wiki. This reinforces my belief that, while the original core staff of WiC.net (now running WotW.com) actually new a lot about the TV series, the people FanSided has running their "Live Show" are just actors they hired to be talking heads. I'm not even sure if this "Bryan Forrest" writes his own material, or if he's reading a script someone else at FanSided prepared -- either way, one of them is blatantly making verbatim quotes from Game of Thrones Wiki:

FanSided's WinterIsComing.net: "Although long thought to be extinct, Daenerys Targaryen was able to hatch three dragons and fill the skies once more with their song."

…I *personally* wrote that! In particular this isn’t a verbatim quote, true, but he’s blatantly copying the way I framed the article: http://gameofthrones.wikia.com/index.php?title=Dragons&diff=108428&oldid=104321

“At the same time that the War of the Five Kings began in Westeros, Daenerys Targaryen – last scion of the deposed House Targaryen – miraculously hatched three new dragons from their eggs, and for the first time in generations, the skies of the world are filled with the music of dragons once again.”

I included the line as a nod to the closing line of the first novel, when Daenerys hatches the dragons ("and for the first time in hundreds of years, the night came alive with the music of dragons.")

FanSided's WinterIsComing.net:

"Not much is known of how to hatch Dragons, but we turn to the House motto of the Targaryens, "Fire and Blood""

Again, I wrote that personally: http://gameofthrones.wikia.com/index.php?title=Dragons&diff=121762&oldid=120247

"The secret key to hatching the eggs seems to involve some form of blood magic: as the House words of the Targaryens hint, it requires “fire and blood”."

FanSided's WinterIsComing.net:

"Although roughly the size of a cat when born, dragons never stop growing: the largest dragon in recorded history was Bal-er-on the Black Dread..." [he mispronounces "Balerion" as "Baleron", hinting that he's just reading something someone else wrote, as he doesn't notice the "i" in there] "who lived for nearly two centuries and had a skull the size of a horse-drawn carriage.”

Game of Thrones Wiki, the last link I gave here, also written by me personally:

"Newly hatched dragons are about the size of a small cat, but they grow very rapidly, reaching the size of a small pony in only three or four years. It is unknown at what age dragons reach reproductive maturity. Dragons never stop growing as long as they live, and they can live for centuries, though many died in combat before reaching such an age. The largest Targaryen dragon, Balerion the Black Dread, lived for nearly two centuries and had a skull the size of a carriage."

FanSided's WinterIsComing.net: "As reptiles, Dragons are covered in scales, and are also equipped with rows of long spines. Their claws and teeth are as powerful as swords. "

Game Of Thrones Wiki, section personally written by me:

"The teeth and claws of adult dragons are as long and sharp as swords.” (further down the page is the next part ) “As reptiles, Dragons are covered in scales, as well as spiny horns which run down their backs from head to tail."

FanSided's WinterIsComing.net:

"And most delightfully, they have the ability to produce and breathe fire. Most scholars believe that two chemicals are produced by two separate glands in the mouth, and when mixed, combust in a volatile, directional flame-jet. Dragonflame is said to be able to turn flesh to ash, melt steel, and even crack stone. The scales of their bodies also seem to protect the dragons from any fire damage."

Game of Thrones Wiki, section PERSONALLY written by me!

"Probably the most famous attribute of dragons is their ability to breathe fire. Dragonflame can turn flesh to ash, melt steel, and crack stone. Older dragons can produce more intense flame for longer durations. Dragons seem to produce their fire-breath by expelling chemicals out of two tubes in the back of their throats: when these volatile substances combine, they undergo an intense reaction which bursts into a directed jet of fire. The bodies of dragons are also very resistant to fire, particularly their own flames, which don’t even damage their own mouths as they expel them."

FanSided's WinterIsComing.net:

"Dragons cannot be tamed, but they can be trained or mastered. The Targaryens rode dragons into battle and unified the Seven Kingdoms."

This is a VERBATIM copy of GoTWiki’s article, in the first line, and clearly quoting the second line:

"Dragons cannot be truly tamed but they can be trained or mastered. The Valyrians rode dragons for millennia. Aegon I Targaryen and his sister-wives, descended from Old Valyria, used the last three dragons in the world to conquer and unify the Seven Kingdoms."

(I didn’t write the actual line “cannot be tamed”, though I think I myself later tweaked it to “never ‘truly’ tamed” and refined the bits about the Targaryen invasion….even so this is blatantly ripping off what was written on Game of Thrones Wiki)

FanSided's WinterIsComing.net:

"One final fun fact: dragons cannot eat raw meat. Therefore they always roast it with their flame before consuming it, although the meat itself can be anything from sheep to fallen soldiers."

I PERSONALLY WROTE THIS ON GAME OF THRONES WIKI! http://gameofthrones.wikia.com/index.php?title=Dragons&diff=123127&oldid=120536

"Dragons are obligate carnivores, with diets consisting entirely of meat. Dragons need to roast their prey with their fire-breath before consuming it. Dragons can eat almost any kind of meat, anything from sheep to fish. Historical dragons ridden as beasts of war were known to eat fallen horses and even men on the battlefield. Fully grown dragons could swallow a live horse whole."

I am stunned at this. They hired actors unfamiliar with the show to...read off Game of Thrones Wiki articles as video content? And BADLY because even with our articles open in front of them, they mix up facts like who shot the wildfire arrow or how “Balerion” is spelled and pronounced?

Dothraki Arakhs

FanSided's WinterIsComing.net: “The arakh is designed for optimum combat from horseback, it is described as being half-sword half-scythe, with a blade roughly two and a half feet long, and a handle almost the same length, providing excellent control and wrist maneuverability."

This is almost a verbatim quote of GoTWiki’s “Arakh” article. Even the bit about wrist control, which is something we sort of speculated on which wasn't stated in the books but our insertion.

"The arakh is the standard weapon used by Dothraki warriors. It has a crescent moon-shaped, curved blade about two and a half feet long and a thick handle almost the same length, making it half-sword and half-scythe. Although unable to penetrate armor, the arakh gives the wielder tremendous maneuverability of wrists."

It gets worse...

FanSided's WinterIsComing.net: “In the books, Martin describes this as a half-sword, half-scythe, actually meaning a curved sword similar to a Persian scimitar. But the armorers for the show took him at his word, creating a weapon that starts out as a sword blade, the curves into a crescent moon. The TV arakh is more reminiscent of an ancient Egyptian kopesh.”

He’s copying our "in the books" section – and the behind-the-scenes photo he uses of a stack of prop arakhs is even the exact same one from our article on “arakhs” – they didn’t bother to find their own. http://gameofthrones.wikia.com/wiki/Arakh#In the books

It isn’t an image from the TV series itself but from a production video, they didn’t expend effort into finding it but took advantage of the time and effort the wiki took in finding and screencapping it. Part of it is also copied from AWOIAF – particularly, Melanie brought up that it’s like an Egyptian Kopesh, back in July 2013, and I later interlinked that factoid into GoTWiki’s “in the books” section — the difference is that our page on “Arakhs” links to AWOIAF’s article, so we’re not exactly “plagiarizing” them if we cross-promote with AWOIAF on almost every page of the wiki. This WiC.Net video has no acknowledgements whatsoever.

The final third of the video is simply VERBATIM reading off the Game of Thrones Wiki article:

FanSided's WinterIsComing.net: “Jorah Mormont notes that while the sweeping blade is effective and indeed necessary for a warrior on horseback, the arakh pales in comparison to the Westerosi double-edged sword for battling without a mount or at penetrating armor.”

They just block quoted an entire paragraph from Game of Thrones Wiki: http://gameofthrones.wikia.com/wiki/Arakh?diff=75255&oldid=74718

"Jorah Mormont notes that while the sweeping blade is effective and indeed necessary for a warrior on horseback, the arakh pales in comparison to the Westerosi double-edged sword for battling without a mount or at penetrating armor."

Now that paragraph was mostly written back in Season 1 before I joined the site by an Admin who has since left, but that SPECIFIC phrase “effective and indeed necessary”...that’s me! That’s my writing style! They’re directly quoting the wiki, for their own monetary gain.

There are probably further examples than the ones I have directly quoted, but these were the most obvious to me. Again, the videos are short, and produced back in mid-April: go to the "History" tab on each of our articles for these, check out the version of each article in mid-April, then watch each of these six videos (one to two minutes each). They are obviously just reading off Game Of Thrones Wiki. At first they try to make token changes to sentence wording (which I think is still plagiarism in spirit) but especially by the final two, they are making exact quotations but passing them off as their own work.

Also, check out this informative Reddit thread someone pointed out to me, commenting on the collapse over at Fansided's WinterIsComing.net which led to the staff writer exodus and creation of WatchersOnTheWall.com: http://www.reddit.com/r/asoiaf/comments/2bz5o2/no_spoilers_many_of_winteriscomingnet_staff_left/

The legal standards for re-using content from Wikia

To my limited legal knowledge, Game of Thrones Wiki functions under Commons Attribution-Share Alike License 3.0:

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/us/legalcode https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/us/

...and if I understand correctly, the way that works is this: you can re-use content from Game of Thrones Wiki, even verbatim quotes...but if and only if you provide some sort of "attribution".

This can be just a fine print thing flashed at the end of the credits in a video.

But Fansided's WinterIsComing.net did nothing like this in their "Weapons of Westeros" videos.

A frank exchange of views: my complaint to Fansided

Within a day of realizing this, shocked at their plagiarism, I saw that Fansided's WinterIsComing.net was switching to a new editor *yet again* (the last one left for "scheduling conflicts" - read: jumping off a sinking ship). The post was talking about the "future" of the website, so spur of the moment I took the opportunity to write a message in the comments section.

This was entirely unplanned, and I originally meant to file this complaint to Wikia the same day...but the Fall semester had just started and real life got in the way, I've hardly been on here.

I want to highlight as much as possible that I *repeatedly stressed* in my message that I was not "speaking" for Game of Thrones Wiki and Wikia, but as a private individual, though as an Administrator on this wiki this matter did come to my attention.

I took screenshots of the conversation (in the event that they delete them) and have posted them below:

I guess I was hoping that Fansided might take the easy route and just put a "GameOfThronesWiki" sticker in fine print in the bottom of some of their videos, just a hasty fix.

After all, they can use Game of Thrones content for free, quote it as much as they want...provided that they ATTRIBUTE it. Passing it off as their own work is indeed copyright violation.

They denied everything: despite the fact that I showed them the same evidence I'm showing now: quoted and cited excerpts from their videos and from our wikia pages, clearly demonstrating that they were blatantly making verbatim block quotes from Game of Thrones Wiki. Even the head of Fansided, Adam Best, came into the comments thread and assured me that none of the content in the videos had been copied from Game of Thrones Wiki.

You see, it's not a matter of money; they could just slap a "GameOfThronesWiki" tag into the fine print and not have to spend anything. It's a matter of that their *entire* writing staff left and....well....do you have any idea how embarrassing it is to have it outed that "Fansided's WinterIsComing.net lost all of its core writers, and is now so unfamiliar with the TV show that they've resorted to just reposting stuff they read on a wiki?" -- no one wants to admit that, it's humiliating. So they *could* have somehow tried to play the "wiki copyright doesn't work like that, we're allowed to re-use it" card.....and again, wiki copyright DOES NOT work like that, you NEED an attribution if you re-use it.

But they're not even giving it that token dignity. This is like when Springfield Elementary School used the promotional tagline "The Happiest Place on Earth" for its school fair, then adamantly denied that it was a copyrighted slogan legally owned by Disney. They're trying to deny reality. These block quotes of material they're making from Game of Thrones Wiki cannot *possibly* be called "coincidence"....they are in fact, hilariously obvious.

Nonetheless, Adam Best tried to console me, with sweet sweet words. Only to find that I was...inconsolable...

Requestion for action, and suggestions

Request to the Wikia Staff

This is above and beyond my authority and responsibilities. I therefore formally ask that the Wikia Staff members overseeing Game of Thrones Wiki investigate this matter further, up to and including making contact with Wikia's legal department.

I do not request, expect, or anticipate that Fansided's Winteriscoming.net will make pay some sort of money damages. I think that sending a strongly worded Cease and Desist order might be able to push them into taking action without further legal entanglements.

My hope is that by sending a CoD (or even just formally warning them that a CoD will be filed), they will either: 1 - Pull down these videos and be careful about making verbatim copies from Game of Thrones Wiki in the future, or 2 - Put an Attribution tag in the fine print credits at their end of their videos. Yes, this might be embarrassing for them to admit, but they can't legally re-use and quote Game of Thrones Wiki's material without attribution. Those are the rules.

For the moment, Adam Best has said they fully intend to keep cranking out more videos like that when Season 5 starts again.

Suggestions to other Game of Thrones Wiki Admins and editors

My personal suggestion to everyone else is that we stop promoting Fansided's WinterIsComing.net, by no longer using them as a news source. If they're stealing our content, why would we promote them by using them as our go-to source for new information, such as when we cite sources on the casting section of the Season 5 page?

But there are two points here: the first is that we shouldn't promote them if they're stealing our content, but the second is...on a broader level...I'm just giving a general warning that WinterIsComing.net is a shadow of its former self, the entire staff of writers mutined as a group to reform as another website...and truly, if you were following "WinterIsComing.net" across Seasons 1, 2, and 3....WatchersOnTheWall.com really is the old WiC.net in all but name. They have all of the contacts and sources.

So the second reason is simple practicality: don't just blacklist WinterIsComing.net because they're stealing our content but also...they're just not a really up to date or informative news site anymore. Everyone left for WatchersOnTheWall.com.

I mean, of the dozen or so regular editors on here, and surely the other half-dozen Administrators...I've seen most of you already reading and referring to WatchersOnTheWall.com news posts, and linking to them, because they're the only game in town now. They have set reports from Croatia that WiC.net doesn't have. They have the Game of Owns podcast - which is where Cogman just gave his most recent interview.

Fansided's WinterIsComing.net is circling the drain.

Now, we can't gut the wiki of all pre-existing links to past WiC.net posts - they're too pervasive, and often were the only source for some information (back when the original writing staff was there).

But my personal suggestion, which you might not agree with, is:

1 - Stop linking to Fansided's WinterIsComing.net because they're stealing our content.

2 - Stop linking to Fansided's WinterIsComing.net...because they're simply not a productive source of "actual news" anymore (they just repeat stuff circulating on BuzzFeed and other news aggregators most of the time, not even original reporting). Most often, WatchersOnTheWall.com will have a news report that WinterIsComing.net simply doesn't have. And if, if both news sites happen to be running the exact same storyline (such as reporting on an awards show Game of Thrones was competing in, or on a trailer HBO released)...if they're reporting on the same information from another source...why link to the website plagiarizing our content (WiC.net), when we can link to the *actual reporters* we've come to know and trust since the TV series began (WotW.com)?

I'm not sure if I did the right thing. I know this is sticking my neck out.

I, personally, can do nothing about such legal matters.

Have I done anything wrong or worthy of chastisement by these complaints?

I'm trying to be humble here.

But what I know is I saw these unattributed videos and realized they were quoting an entire five sentence paragraph of content, verbatim, which I recognized as my own contribution on here, and they've been copying content contributed by other people here too.

Well, alea iacta est.

--The Dragon Demands (talk) 00:08, September 27, 2014 (UTC)

Fellow Admins Input

Hi, TDD.

Saw your note. I'm forwarding that page to the appropriate parties here. Thanks!!

Brian@fandom 01:51, September 27, 2014 (UTC)

Thank you, ser.--The Dragon Demands (talk) 03:29, September 27, 2014 (UTC)

Sorry if you didn't want us editing here, feel free to move this to a talk page if you wish. I have to agree that I think the writers of these videos used the idea, words and order of our articles. This is most obvious with the Arakh video. I understand your frustration. It definitely seems to me like they used our pages for a guide, while copying and rewording/formatting for their video segments. QueenBuffy35px-Pink crown 04:07, September 27, 2014 (UTC)

Oh god, I almost forget the funniest part:

in Adam's response....first, he defends that "nothing in this Weapons of Westeros video was plagiarized"

then....he....starts insisting that the video was produced by a third-party subcontractor: "Fansided did not pay for any of Weapons of Westeros, we're a distributor, it was produced by TheStream.tv and Dailymotion"

http://winteriscoming.net/2014/05/21/weapons-westeros-dothraki-arakh/

The *first frame* of the video is titled "Winter Is Coming / Weapons of Westeros".

They run it on their website.

LITERALLY THE *FIRST WORDS* said at the beginning of the video are, "Welcome to Weapons of Westeros, presented by Fansided and WinterIsComing.net"

Yes, at the end he says "check us out on TheStream.tv and Dailymotion...and follow us on WiC.net"...with a big link saying "WinterIsComing.net".

I...I don't have a metaphor for this. This is absurd. I don't know if there is some obscure technical loophole that "well, Fansided isn't legally responsible despite the fact that our name is STATED at the beginning"....well, in that case, we need to demand that SOMEONE stop producing it. TheStream.TV itself then. In which case, Fansided's WinterIsComing.net won't be able to "distribute" it again, same end result.

Just...the way he washed his hands of ANY responsibility. ADAM and the rest of Fansided's leadership are the ones who gutted WiC.net and pushed through quantity-over-quality production quotas which resulted in these videos just ripping stuff off of Game of Thrones Wiki. Even if his company isn't the direct, legal "producer"...their name is still in it! They're clearly "profiting" from it through ad revenue on WiC.net!

--The Dragon Demands (talk) 22:15, September 27, 2014 (UTC)

Thanks for bringing this to my attention. It looks like Wikia are aware of this now, so they'll take the appropriate action. It's embarrassing that they're stubbornly denying any wrong doing when the evidence is so unequivocal.

I was vaguely aware of the WiC/WotW schism, but not what caused it, and all the stuff that went on behind the scenes, so it was interesting to read that. As you pointed out I had stopped using WiC.net some time ago simply because there wasn't any actual content to read. I went on yesterday to read your comments, and noticed that they're now copying news and photos from Watchers on the Wall. Anyway, thanks for keeping me in the loop. --Ser Patrek, the Wolfskinner 10:06, September 28, 2014 (UTC)

Wikia Staff response

Hi everyone. Brian brought this thread to my attention. I've read it a few times to make sure I understand the relevant context. For starters, this is definitely the most comprehensive message I've ever seen from a user about a legal issue, so all of the context is certainly helpful.

It appears, however, that there is a misunderstanding about how copyright on Wikia works—not that that absolves anyone from any alleged wrongdoing, and I'll get to that later. Basically, The Dragon Demands, you said this that "once [you] contribute content to Game of Thrones Wiki it legally belongs to Wikia." That's actually not true. Because the content is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0, Wikia has no legal claim to the content. The copyright belongs to the authors who contributed it. Wikia is simply the host of the content. As such, Wikia cannot act on behalf of Game of Thrones Wiki in this situation.

So because Wikia is simply the host, not the copyright holder, it is therefore up to the author(s)/the community of the allegedly infringing content to handle any formal legal complaints. What you can do is file a takedown notice in accordance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) for any content that is being hosted elsewhere without proper attribution. Filing a DMCA takedown notice itself isn't hard to do, but it does require collecting important details. Before you file a request, you will need to know the following:

  1. If you're under 18, you should have your parent or guardian file on your behalf, as the DMCA takedown notice is a formal legal document.
  2. You'll need to include direct and specific links. One, you will need links to each piece of content that is allegedly being infringed. Two, you will need links to where the content is allegedly being infringed.
  3. There are legal and financial repercussions for filing fraudulent DMCA takedown notices. This is not a tool to be used lightly.
  4. WinterIsComing.Net will have the right to file a counter-notice if they disagree with your takedown notice.

Here is a basic tutorial on the DMCA process, including what the required elements of a DMCA takedown notice are: http://brainz.org/dmca-takedown-101/

Remember, we are not lawyers. Beyond this basic information, Wikia is not able to provide you with legal advice, and we can't help you create a takedown notice. I can open this up for follow-up questions, but please be aware that there's a good chance I won’t be able to answer them.

What I will do, though, is provide you with a piece of personal and professional advice: keep your communication with WinterIsComing.Net strictly limited to the legal issue, and do not engage in discussions about your thoughts regarding their website. Especially don't say things like "Do I look like a bitch?" Keep it calm and professional; you are unlikely to be taken seriously if you are rude, belligerent, or engaging in unnecessary criticism of how their website is operated.

I hope that helps. Thanks for asking about this! - Brandon Rhea@fandom(talk) 16:53, September 29, 2014 (UTC)

  • p.s. In the future, if you ever need to create a thread like this again, please make sure you send it to Special:Contact rather than leaving messages on the talk pages of Wikia Staff. That way, we have a record of the contact in our Community Support system. Thanks! - Brandon Rhea@fandom(talk) 16:57, September 29, 2014 (UTC)

...Yeah, I got kind of "heated" when Fansided denied any similarity while simultaneously denying that they were legally responsible for a video with their name in it...yeah....

Well, 1 - I am over 18, I think the other Admins are as well, 2 - I've already gathered all the links in this report, 3 - ...I (and apparently, the other Admins who commented here just now)...don't think this sounds close to fraudulent, but have some pretty specific examples.

...I will have to research how to file a DMCA....oh crud, we need to figure out how to do this...--The Dragon Demands (talk) 17:09, September 29, 2014 (UTC)

Season 5 onwards=

"Fansided's WinterIsComing.net" remains blacklisted as a news source in Season 5. We should keep track if they continue to make more videos or quota-filling articles which copy material from the wiki (either verbatim, or closely enough that they're blatantly just copying us without original research).

Instead, we know that the entire writing staff that originally made "WinterIsComing.net" what it was in the first three seasons simply pulled up stakes and reformed the same work team, simply under a new name: WatchersOntheWall.com. It's like the No Homers' Club of Game of Thrones fansites!.--The Dragon Demands (talk) 22:01, April 12, 2015 (UTC)

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