Editor’s Rant: Variety Are Thieves – Online Boycott

VarietytakethecreditAs most of you know, The Movie Blog isn’t the only movie website out there. We’re a part of a large and thriving online community of like minded movie sites talking about our favorite passion… film. Some of us are lucky enough to do it as a job. Some of us do it as a labour of love hobby. All of us do it because we love movies. From news sites to blogs we all share this common love.

Whenever you get any sort of community forming, unwritten sets of guidelines and rules also start to form naturally. These are the kind of “rules” that are so obvious that no one needs to put them down on paper for everyone to understand. They help keep the community functioning harmoniously. Each little community evolves its own set of guidelines to govern itself. The online movie community is really no different.

The most important rule for the online movie community is a simple one. GIVING CREDIT.

When you read a news related post on The Movie Blog you’ll always see us refer to who we got the story from and a link going back to that source. For example… if I read a news story on IMDB, I’ll say something like: “…we get the following from the folks over at IMDB” and then quote them. It is a simple practice, but absolutely vital to the harmony of the online movie community. When one site breaks a story, it is important that others who repeat that story mention where they got it from and provide links (the very life blood of the internet) back to them or at the very least to refer and link to who they found the story through (news sites and blogs will use one or the other technique).

I can tell you first hand that nothing is more frustrating that producing a piece of original work, be it a news story or an editorial, and then have someone else take it, publish it and pass it off as if they produced it themselves. It’s more than frustrating actually… it’s infuriating.

So here’s an ironic thing. Many traditional media outlets will often belittle and criticize the new emerging online movie community for not having explicit codes of etiquette and conduct… and yet now many of them are engaging in the violation of this most simple and important rule of GIVING CREDIT.

I’m specifically referring to Variety Magazine, the single most important news source in the movie world (although they aren’t the only ones). I’ll be honest with you… about 80% of the movie news you read on your favorite movie sites probably originates from Variety in either its printed or online form. We get stuff from them all the time, and over the years have provided hundreds of links back to them generating more than just a little traffic their way. Just about all other movie websites do the same, because that is the code… that’s the rule… that’s the most important thing that keeps this online community of movie sites harmonious.

So with the millions of hits sent to Variety each month from all the various members of this online movie community, you would think it would be a simple and given notion that if the situation were ever reversed and Variety actually got a story from one of us… then surely they would do something as elementary as mentioning who they got the news from and provide an easy little link back right? The big guys who often belittle us for not having stricter codes of etiquette and conduct… SURELY they would give credit to one of us if on the rare occasion we get a news story before them. Right? RIGHT?????

Well, no. Some of the major trade publications, Variety in particular, have been engaging flagrantly in REFUSING to ever mention or credit any online movie site under any circumstances.

A crisp and angry discussion has been going on for a couple of weeks amongst all of us web guys about what to do about this. Some of the webmasters have been urging all of us to in effect boycott giving credit or linking to Variety. To just take their stories and not give credit until they start providing that same courtesy that we have been giving them for years.

You have to understand, that in this online community, I personally often function as the peacemaker (at least I try to… I’m not very good at it). Sometimes when little disputes flare up amongst the community I’ll either get involved or other webmasters will ask me to get involved to try to calm matters down. When this “boycott variety” discussion started, I actually encouraged everyone to step back and not get too worked up over this… that it was probably not something we should rush into. I believed that if we all communicated to Variety our concern, then they would start crediting.

Well, a bunch of the sites didn’t listen to me and publicly started a measured boycott of Variety. I didn’t speak against it, because while I thought it was premature, I certainly understood and agreed with their anger.

So you’d think that after a bunch of prominent sites started publicly blasting Variety for not giving credit that Variety would start watching themselves right? RIGHT? Nope… it happened again.

Without going into all the details, my friend Frosty over at Collider got a scoop about the possibility of their being another 300 movie. And guess what… Variety later printed that same story… but refused to mention who it first came from, let alone provide any sort of link. They just took all the credit for the story yet again.

I now find myself with little choice but to join with some of the other sites and say that until Variety starts to credit online sources for stories that break there, then The Movie Blog will not be crediting nor linking to Variety for stories that originate with them. Two wrongs do not make a right, but it seems Variety refuses to play by the same rules we all govern ourselves by… and so we will refuse to extend the benefits of those rule to them in return.

So in the coming weeks, if you see us talking about a story and not referencing where it came from or providing a link to where we heard it… chances are it came from Variety, but we’ll never know now will we?

I want to encourage all Movie Blog readers to stop visiting Variety’s website and encourage all other movie site webmasters you read to join in this little boycott. Just because you’re big, doesn’t mean you’re above the rules of the community. Shame on them.

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39 thoughts on “Editor’s Rant: Variety Are Thieves – Online Boycott

  1. Hey there John, Rodney- It looks like Frosty & friends are still crediting any news borrowed from the trades, but they’re leaving off the links. That way, they aren’t violating any copyright. Is this what you’re doing also or, is it more like it reads, and you’re neither crediting nor linking? It seems as though Rodney has said he’s not using V or THR material period (which also works). Anywho- there are SO many CRITICAL creative property issues in play- it’ll be nice when someone finally has the big bucks to push through some legal precedent. Thanks for giving us those correct opinions!

  2. What a bunch of punks. Honestly, I’m surprised Variety would take this approach. If they have the most content, wouldn’t it be in their best interest to link and be linked? I think this boycott is the right idea, John, and as you say, it will hit them where it counts. One could call it immature, but the outcome will be one of two things. 1) Variety will see the light, stop being immature themselves and change their policy. 2) They will sue and then, win or lose, will have to change their policy. So it will have the desired effect.

    If they are not lifting news from other sources, they need to prove it at this point.

    Incidentally, I have a sports blog as well, and ESPN Radio blatantly ripped off content from a Michigan blog last year and then that same show intentionally overloaded another blog, totally shutting it down. You see a lot of mainstream newspapers finally getting on the blogwagon (e.g. Ebert’s relatively new blog). What’s Variety’s problem.

    Anyway, I say “stand firm, brothers.”

  3. I didn’t know about this! But I do like to keep up good habits myself, so I’ll still credit and take the higher ground ;-) But, I’ll make the credit un-clickable, and might add a short disclaimer with credit like “(Don’t visit, they don’t credit)… or something… tho’ I’m a quiet blogger lately, so there will likely be no reason to.

  4. Yeah I used to go variety a lot, until I found a website called “themovieblog.com”. Now I never go variety and come to the movieblog every day about 10 a day. You guys give me something to read at work, and I thank you. Hell I have a quick link to your site and your child “thetvshowblog.com”; they are right next to bungie and myspace. So boycotting variety is fine with me. :)

  5. the bigger guys(variety) are part of the online community as well and report news just as much as the other guys… regardless if they break the news or not… it’s in blog format and they need to join the gang.. or bow out…. and move on to something they can keep to themselves and not give credit which is total bullshit why they don’t… they need a checkup from the neckup. lol

  6. Rather than an all out Boycott, couldn’t the (MovieBlog) community agree that whoever posts a Variety story first, credit the story to variety or even the author, but then don’t put up any links.

    Then other sites could credit the story to the website that got the story first. Cut Variety out after that.

    It would be a gentle way of telling them to play fair or we won’t either. ????

    Personally I can’t wait to read the story about John kicking down the Variety booth at Comic Con. Haha.


    My sarcasm aside, i honestly am not completely sure what he meant by “creates” most of the entertainment news. Variety (as i said) just REPORTS the news like anyone else. If he means that they “scoop” the most news or get the most exclusives, than that may very well be true. (Which would just make their not giving credit “violation” that much more serious…)

    BLEH – can you clarify?

  8. Although I do agree with you on the action that you are taking. I’m also saddened by the fact that your actions are probably going to be wasted. Variety is a large publication that can afford to continue to keep stealing your stories. They are probably thinking, so what if you don’t credit us. They are talked about on TV and other mainstream media sources. They are the big fish in your little pond. I think you guys should sue, or make an attempt to bring your story into the mainstream media. Until it hurts Variety they aren’t going to care.

  9. There are other sites that do the same thing, we all know that. Part of the problem is that this has happened to a number of reputable sources in the blog world and it is just getting out of hand. I (as do most) realize that we get a large amount of news from Variety, but that doesn’t mean we should be ripped off whenever Variety feels like it.

    As I mentioned before, I had another reputable blog do the same thing to my blog and then deny the claim and edit theirs so that it was seemingly posted “before” mine. I’m not even the person who broke the news, I just reported it, but then they took the exact phrasing that I used on my blog and used it on theirs. Once again, it’s not a matter of who or why – it’s just a simple respect issue. We all keep this blogosphere running and to undermine the smaller people like that is just wrong. I’m all for this (possibly temporary) boycott.

  10. First, let me say that I love the Movie Blog and read it regularly.

    Second, there are no free lunches in this world. John, you stated that you get about 80% of your news from Variety. How did Variety scoop all those stories? They have a large number of reporters, photographers and editors that work for them (not to mention all the support staff that goes wth a newspaper) and these guys go out into the real world and work contacts, conduct interviews, etc to ferrett out the 80% of the news you referred to.

    Now, do what you want, but a couple things strike as funny on this. It seems like Variety is carrying most of the water on this deal. If they don’t want to link back to your sites, then maybe that is the cost of doing buisiness.

    Additionally, as was previously suggested, if you are going to boycott them, don’t steal their news. You can call it whatever you want, a “measured boycot” or whatever, but that’s just spin and you know it. I think you are above that. I also think that if you stop using their news, all of sudden you aren’t going to have the same number of posts per day are you? Just guessing…

    It would be real nice if they linked back to your stories, I agree…and it’s probably the right thing to do. But I would also suspect that all of these movie sites together are starting to put them out of buisiness. Again, they are the ones that are shelling out real costs. I know you guys have costs as well, but I would imagine they pale in comparison to their monthly nut. It may not be ethical, but I am sure they are not psyched about pushing more readers to your sites.

    Finally, it’s never a good idea to get into a pissing contest with a skunk. Good luck.

  11. Jim, you know exactly what he means when he says that they “create” the majority of the news most of these sites report. Don’t act like you don’t.

  12. John, I have been a fan of your blog for a while, and have even thought of trying one myself in the future. I am a big movie fan but I never once even looked at Variety do to kick ass blogs and smaller run sites like yours. I agree with your stance I hope that Variety will issue another statement and resolve this issue so we all can play nice and report what means alot too most of us which is movies. Good luck hope to see some updates on this story in the future.

  13. John — I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but Variety just ran an article on how they don’t report sources and how online sites should boycott them!!! — and instead of giving you credit they credited THEMSELVES as the source! And the article on their website has a link… BACK to the article on their website!!! Bastards!

    Sorry. Just F-in with ya. I would agree that it is frustrating. People posted above about Variety being more “established”, but how is a new up and coming site supposed to become more “established” if every story or scoop they break gets “hijacked” by a bigger bully entity.


    And to BLEH… you stated:
    “”They operate on a completely different level than most Movie Blogs, and they create the majority of the news.””

    1. Yes, apparently they do “operate on a different level”, a stealing level. and more seriously…

    2. “…they create the majority of the news.” Ummm… they do? So when Tom Cruise signs on for a new bisexual vampire biker movie… they created that news? Did they hook up cruise and the studio? And when its announced that Sony has greenlit another Spiderman sequel… did they CREATE taht too? Did they agree to fund it or something???

    No, they report the news just like everybody else. Unless, by “create” you mean like “make up” or “lie” about fake news whicj i dont think ANYONE feels they do… so i am a bit confused what you mean by that.

    And you also stated that:
    “”Talk about biting the hand that feeds. They provide you with the majority of the news that fuels your site (and living)””

    Well, if they dont credit ANYONE as a source for news they simply report, then YES it would seem as if much is coming from them, but that aside they are one of DOZENS (if not hundreds) of potential sources for movie news/discussion. (PRINT–Variety, Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone; TV–CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, E!, Mtv; Online–Yahoo!, Comingsoon.net and the list goes on and on) So how you feel that Variety proides “the majority” of entertainment news is byond me.

  14. “So according to you… because Variety is “bigger”, they’re allowed to do whatever they want.”

    I never said anything like that, but if you wish to go down that road, so be it. They are bigger, yes, and more established. That’s been said, it’s a common fact, and yet it’s taken for granted just how much they do to promote smaller sites such as these inadvertently. But take this is also into consideration, when the first site links to variety, and then the second site links to the first site linking to variety instead of variety, how much traffic is variety losing, and is the fact that numerous sites are now re-printing the article and instead linking secondary and tertiary sources rather than the primary plagiarism/theft as well? Shouldn’t the site originally posting the news always be references, or is a virtual chain – one site linking to another, linking to another, etc, eventually leading back to the source – really fair. I think perhaps these sites which are solely news publications (and profound ones at that) should be looked upon with different standards than much smaller blogs such as this one and the others taking part in this immature and dare I say heinous boycott.

    I also just want it to be known that I don’t read Variety, THR or EW very often, but the fact that they output most of the film based content in the blogosphere, and the added fact that you and other webmasters are in essence slapping across the face for a much lesser offense committed not even to you (unless you posted something industry related/original that didn’t stem from yours or Doug’s brain) seems ludicrous.

    Question: If they’re not obligated to give credit and link… why should anyone else give credit and link to them?

    They operate on a completely different level than most Movie Blogs, and they create the majority of the news. Also, there isn’t substantial proof that two sources gave the same information around the same general time to two different sites/publications. Without evidence of any kind beyond a statement “of policy” (vague anyone) by Variety, there’s little to substantiate such a large boycott, beyond overblown emotions of anger, jealousy, etc., from those who feel they were ripped off. However, the fact of the matter remains that those ripped off still cannot prove that they were, and the hunches on which they operate are more or less invalid unless shown otherwise.

  15. Hey John, I’m in. I’ll be doing the same on my blog as well. I haven’t had news stolen from my site by them (that I know of). But I do believe I have had news taken from my site by another blogger (whom I won’t name). So I’m with you on this – SX0T and Derek 8-Track will be following suit on Rewind and Adjust.

  16. Hey Bleh,

    So according to you… because Variety is “bigger”, they’re allowed to do whatever they want.

    Question: If they’re not obligated to give credit and link… why should anyone else give credit and link to them?

  17. Talk about biting the hand that feeds. They provide you with the majority of the news that fuels your site (and living), and since the occasional article isn’t linked to you plan on stealing credit for the majority of the articles. Sounds fairly unfair, and if anyone is coming across as immature, it’s the sites that take part in this.

  18. Should I give credit to a story I found on Variety if that story is one that appologizes for plagiarism?

    I guess I will.

    And I will say thanks to Santa and the Tooth Fairy when I see them too.

  19. Hey guys,

    Yes… that’s initially why I was hesitant to get involved. But there was proof of it happening, and Variety didn’t deny it when they were confronted on it. It’s just their “policy” they said.

  20. i’m with ya John, whenever i read variety i actually wondered why they never wrote down their sources… and well now i know…. btw i started my own movie site and all down for getting my sources.. i know you said most don’t last more than a week or two… i’m going on a month now and going strong with 2-3 posts a day like you said…. Later… DAMMIT GIVE CREDIT VARIETY!!!!

  21. i was going to ask the same question scoville asked.

    John: don’t you think that Variety is capable of doing their own reporting and maybe actually talked to a person who is working on 300? maybe i missed someting when i read your post. please clarify!

  22. I must admit I cannot boycott something I never visit. I will be honest in that this is the only movie site that I found interesting and enjoyable and that I check everyday. I agree that what they do is bullshit.

    That being said I did think of something that could work in their defense and would like your thinking on this because I am positive you have more info on this. Being that they are Variety, they probably get news bits and information all the time. Is it possible that maybe they do not credit online movie sites because when it comes right down to it they might already have the information but the online movie sites just beat them to the punch? Working a site like this is quicker and more accessible and allows for that greater freedom and faster response. It could explain why the movie sites are not credited as the source. BUT even if that is the case they should still be given credit to a movie site for breaking a story whenever possible. I believe that is only fair and responsible. Still even in those situations sometimes they might not know who broke the story until after they publish it.

    I don’t mean to play Devil’s Advocate for a company that does act like a thief in this situation, but as I read this editorial those thoughts popped into my head. I am completely ignorant of how your business works so I might be missing something

  23. Question:

    How do you know that Variety didn’t get the info from a source of their own?

    I’m not trying to defend them, just that I’m not sure you can prove that type of information was copied. It’s easier to prove specific plagiarism of your work than a scoop information like this.

  24. Hey TheMovieVampire

    That’s why i specifically called it a “measured boycott”

    When Variety started losing millions of hits per month and all the Google and Search engine juice from thousands of monthly links… they will care. Trust me… as a webmaster… they will care.

  25. I can’t say I’m all that impressed by your conviction. A boycott is supposed to involve sacrifice, your supposed to prove that you can live without the product. If you’re still going to be using Variety as a source you’re not sacrificing anything, you may not be citing them but I get the distinct feeling that they don’t see that as nearly as big a deal as bloggers probably do. I doubt this is going to accomplish much of anything.

  26. Hats off to you John and all the other movie blogs proceeding with similar boycotts. I rarely visit Variety and other big sites like that because I prefer the coverage that movie blogs give me. Not only do I get the information about the story but I also get some opinion from the author of the post about what their thoughts are on the matter. This is a nice balance whereas at places like Variety and Entertainment Weekly all you can find is the information on the story.

    The problem here is one of courtesy and politeness. It is not exactly going to take much for the Variety journalist who writes about the possibility of another 300 film to say that they got the story from Collider. Hopefully, if enough people on movie blogs join this boycott, Variety and co. will change their tune.

  27. I started my own film blog just under a week ago. First few posts I forgot to link to sites not on purpose, but because I forgot, but now I don’t forget. Like when you, John got the TDK review up, I wrote a post on your review saying head over to the movie blog to check it out and added a few lines from your review as a tease. Like I said, I’ve just started a week ago and I’ve already learned to respect where you get your news from and link back to them. I find what Variety are doing is ignorant. Like you said, all of us are like a community. Variety is coming off as the spoiled child.

    I never go to Variety anyway. I stick to here, screenrant, joblow, superherohype, IMDB and filmjunk for my main news.

  28. Hey Ray,

    Don’t start wishing for their demise… like I said, most of the news we find out about is due to their efforts and their work. I don’t want their downfall… I just want them to get with the program.

  29. Get em John… you guys work tirelessly and often do it free – I’ll support the effort as a thanks to making my work day less terrible with quality movie news and commentary.

  30. Already doing that, John. I have been avoiding them for months now because of this practice.

    It should be fun in the near future to watch the demise of traditional media outlets like VARIETY. Thank you, internet!!

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