Director Edgar Wright (Shaun Of The Dead, Hot Fuzz, Spaced) was doing an interview with BBC radio last week, when the host commented on Wright’s tribute to actor Edward Woodward published at Rupert Murdoch’s TimesOnline website.

Wright was confused. He hadn’t written a piece for the TimesOnline about Woodward, who he’d hired in 2006 to star in the Wicker Man/village cop homage Hot Fuzz. But Wright had written a lengthy, moving tribute to the actor on his personal blog. Perhaps the BBC Radio 4 host was mistaken about where he’d read the tribute?

No.

After the interview, Wright went online and took a look at the TimesOnline. He was shocked. Not only had the TimesOnline cut and pasted the Woodward piece from his blog into the TimesOnline commentary section of November 17, but they’d butchered it, culling hundreds of words. To Wright, the most important parts of the tribute had been deleted.

“They edited out the last time I saw him,” Wright posted on Twitter. “My last remembrance of him.

“I took great care in writing my tribute. I didn’t ask some writer with a deadline to copy it and gut it of all feeling. They made that make me look ill-informed and unfeeling.”

Wright didn’t get the chance to ask a staffer at the TimesOnline anything about how his Woodward tribute was going to edited because nobody from Murdoch news website contacted him.

The TimesOnline did not ask Wright’s permission to republish his work. Nor did they pay him.

The Times didn’t even bother to include a link back to Wright’s blog, from where they had stolen the content.

In this new media world, not including a link back to Wright’s blog seemed almost more unforgivable than the original theft.

The next day, to his growing horror, Wright learned that the stolen Woodward tribute had also made it into the print edition of The Times, with a photo of himself attached to the story, as though he was now a willing contributor to the newspaper.

Bewildered, he asked his Twitter followers how The Times could do such a thing, without “my blessing or permission”.

A flurry of furious emails and tweets from Wright’s friends and readers bombarded the Rupert Murdoch news entity.

Wright asked for the gutted version of his Woodward tribute to be replaced with the full, original piece from his blog, including a link back, to apologise, to acknowledge what they’d done and to make a payment for the unauthorised use of his work to a charity chosen by Woodward’s family.

Even that was too much for The Times to get right.

In all, four days passed between The Times unauthorised publication of the butchered version of the tribute and this vague ‘clarification’ appearing on the newspaper’s website :

We have been asked to make clear that Edgar Wright’s appreciation of Edward Woodward, which appeared in the paper on Tuesday, November 17, was abridged.

As Wright demanded, the clarification included a link to Wright’s blog. But for two more days the link back directed the reader to a Times Online fail page.

Finally, after much delay, The TimesOnline agreed to make a standard contributor payment to a charity chosen by Woodward’s family.

However, The TimesOnline and The Times newspaper refused to apologise or acknowledge the theft of Wright’s blog content.

Rupert Murdoch: “The aggregators and plagiarists will soon have to pay a price for the co-opting of our content … it will be the content creators who will pay the ultimate price and the content kleptomaniacs who triumph …”

Indeed.

Daryl Mason’s blogs at www.theorstrahyun.blogspot.com

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Peter Fray
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