I recently ran across a Reddit post claiming that the website, GamesToGather.org, was plagiarizing Reddit threads. Upon initial inspection it seemed that this was true. All of their content was lifted wholesale from Reddit threads with a small "source" annotation on the bottom. Clearly this was an open and shut case, right? Actually it's a lot more complicated than that.
You see, according to Reddit's User Agreement you do not actually own threads you create on Reddit. In fact, by posting on Reddit you are creating a license agreement that essentially allows anyone to freely use what you posted. Here is the exact language...
"When Your Content is created with or submitted to the Services, you grant us a worldwide, royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive, transferable, and sublicensable license to use, copy, modify, adapt, prepare derivative works of, distribute, store, perform, and display Your Content and any name, username, voice, or likeness provided in connection with Your Content in all media formats and channels now known or later developed anywhere in the world. This license includes the right for us to make Your Content available for syndication, broadcast, distribution, or publication by other companies, organizations, or individuals who partner with Reddit. You also agree that we may remove metadata associated with Your Content, and you irrevocably waive any claims and assertions of moral rights or attribution with respect to Your Content."
Just by posting on Reddit you agree to this, even if you are unaware of it, and so you can not bring a plagiarism claim against others. Furthermore, Reddit has a policy page that outlines the use of built in embed tools. The relevant section is as follows...
"When you submit content (including a post, comment, chat message, or RPAN broadcast) to a public part of the Services, any visitors to and users of our Services will be able to see that content, the username associated with the content, and the date and time you originally submitted the content. Reddit allows other sites to embed public Reddit content via our embed tools. Reddit also allows third parties to access public Reddit content via the Reddit API and other similar technologies. Although some parts of the Services may be private or quarantined, they may become public (e.g., at the moderator’s option in the case of private communities) and you should take that into consideration before posting to the Services."
When I contacted the owners of Games To Gather they cited the Reddit embed policy to me as to why they were not plagiarizing. While they are technically correct that they are not plagiarizing due to Reddit's User Agreement, they are not actually using the embed tool properly as the articles are clearly copy paste jobs and not embedded content. While this particular matter is settled, it is not where the Games To Gather story ends.
You see, according to their Twitter account Games To Gather is "A game design community and events network that focuses on positive action through play. We game for the future, we game for each other." However, the website does not reflect that at all. Another oddity is the fact that Games To Gather is based in Portland Oregon but the website features Russian ads.
As I investigated these anomalies I discovered that a Russian group snatched the domain name after it had expired and revamped the website into its current form. This Russian group is still using the old Games To Gather logos and links to the actual Games To Gather Twitter and Facebook pages so it is apparent they are trying to piggyback off the Games To Gather reputation.
Diving into the history of Games To Gather reveals that they are a non profit organization trying to organize tabletop and Roleplaying game events aimed at the LGBTQAAIP2+ community. Accusations were made against one of the Games To Gather board members and the group eventually folded. I received a brief statement from the last president, Jeremy, of the group that detailed how the Russian group stole their logos and such.
"...tldr we folded the organization at the end of last year, they swooped in and ganked the website when it was up for renewal and plagiarized our logos, and are stealing peoples shit from reddit too (which as a redditor i personally hate), and im currently asking my lawyer to draft a cease and desist letter."
This is where the story ends, for now. It will be interesting to see if the Russian group that is illegally using logos and such from Games To Gather will face actual legal consequences or if the fact they are headquartered in Russia will shield them. It will also be interesting to see if Jeremy will continue to pursue this as the costs of litigation become more and more expensive, especially when there is a good chance he will merely be able to stop the Russian group from using the Games To Gather assets and not collect any reimbursement for legal fees. If we get an update on this story I will be sure to let you all know about it.