Collaboration, cooperation and courtesy

A polite request from Melissa and Dallas

We hope our Whole9 readers know how much we enjoy sharing good stuff with the community.  (We like it so much, in fact, that we’ve recently made it our full-time jobs!)  In the last few years, we’ve offered up everything from custom workouts to nutrition advice to injury rehabilitation tips, freely distributing all of this information to anyone and everyone interested in learning, sharing and participating in our little community.  And we love nothing more than to see affiliates, gyms, coaches and fitness enthusiasts linking, referencing and passing our stuff along to others.

Take Dallas’  603 PTP, for example.  Based on Pavel Tsatsouline’s original program, the PTP represented five weeks of custom workouts specifically designed for strength-focused CrossFitters, including movement descriptions, illustrative links and daily feedback to those participating via the site. In January, we took it a step further and condensed the entire 5-week program on the Whole9 site in a format that was easy to review and implement, and saw a huge resurgence in the number of people (and entire gyms!) who PR’d their way through the  program.  See, our business model has always been pretty simple.  We have good things to share, a mechanism through which we can share them and a supportive community who is eager to learn, happy to spread the word, and willing to share their feedback with us. And as long as we have just one active and eager reader, we’ll continue to pass along our good stuff right here on the site, free and open to all.

Unfortunately, giving good stuff away for free sometimes comes with a price.   Dallas and I occasionally run across sites who have “borrowed” our exact words without any attribution to the source. Now, we’re pretty easy-going… love to hear others copping the term “sexy met-con” or “cortisol crazytown”.  No, what we’re talking about here goes way beyond poetic license. In one such example, a CrossFit affiliate asked to implement all five weeks of our 603 PTP in their gym.  This was, of course, fine with us… until we saw their web site.  All the buy-ins, workouts, cash-outs, accompanying text and fictional examples were word-for-word copied and pasted  – and in 30 days of borrowed programming, we received only FOUR brief credits, sometimes without even a link.   Despite several email communications requesting more prominent and frequent links, there is still day upon day of OUR exact programming under THEIR business  header, without a single mention of the source.

As you might imagine, this is not okay with us.

So here is a gentle reminder – while we’re happy to give our stuff away for free, we also expect the common courtesy of an internet “thank you” from those who use and benefit from our articles, programs and services. We don’t expect flowery letters of gratitude or a “Thanks, Whole9” advertisement in your local newspaper. But is it too much to ask for a reference and a link? So as we wrote in one popular Urban Gets Diesel post, feel free to borrow, sample or straight-up snatch any of our stuff, but please do it in a professional and courteous manner (that is respectful of our intellectual property and copyrights).

We don’t believe this is our issue alone – we bet many of you affiliate owners, blog writers and other sources of good stuff have found yourselves in the same position.  So below, please find what we believe to be general common courtesy guidelines when considering linking to a web site, blog or other on-line information source.

1. First and foremost, always include full and proper credit and a link to the author’s site when referencing  articles, posts or pages.

2. Don’t copy and paste another author’s entire article on your site.  We’re sure the original creator would appreciate you directing people to their site to read the full text (and poke around for other good stuff they may have written).

3. When in doubt, ask yourself, “Does it sound at all like these are MY original words?”  If the answer is yes, feature your source more prominently.

4. Don’t assume that because the internet is a big place, you can get away with “borrowing” material without giving proper credit. You’d be surprised what a small community this is – people read, people remember and the last thing you want is to get publicly busted.

5. If you’re planning to borrow an entire blog series, a month’s worth of programming or a full-page FAQ, it’s always appropriate to request up-front permission from the owner.  A polite request with your intentions and thanks goes a long way.

6. On that note, be reasonable in your requests.  Asking to implement someone’s entire program, business model or proprietary printed materials may not be appropriate in all circumstances.  (For example, we’d never ask Robb Wolf if we can photocopy his Paleolithic Solutions handouts to distribute at our workshops.)

7. Finally, respect the author’s requests regarding his/her works.  If for some reason they request that their material not be re-printed, distributed or duplicated, don’t.

We hope others find these general guidelines helpful when borrowing other’ material, and we respectfully request that others follow these tips when referencing things posted on the Whole9.  To help, we’re offering hosted graphics at the bottom of our sidebar, if you’d rather include a graphic than a text link. You can copy and paste the code straight onto your web site – easy!

For those affiliate owners, blog writers and other sharers-of-good-stuff… what are YOUR thoughts on the matter? Do you run across this issue often, and if so, how do you handle it?  Are we asking for too much, or do we (collectively) have the right and obligation to fiercely defend our intellectual property?  Should we be willing to give the benefit of the doubt in cases of “borrowed” material, or are we just asking to be taken advantage of?  As we are always eager and willing to learn from others, please post feedback to comments.

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  1. says

    I’ve long felt that the Creative Commons is a fantastic system for sharing one’s creations, but it’s way under-publicized. In a nutshell, instead of slapping a big © on everything, you decide how liberally you want to share things – with attribution alone is the simplest.

    It’s clear, it’s cool, and it’s respectful. No more, “this is okay, but that isn’t” rules that are hard to remember, or ambiguous.

  2. Heather says

    Dallas & Melissa – you make an excellent point. A couple members at the crossfit gym gym I workout at recently opened their own. When they did, they sent an email out to all local affiliates announcing their openeing to reach out and extend the community aspect that is a great part of crossfit.

    One affiliate trainer emailed back asking my friends for rowing advice. My friend offered to teach a seminar, and provided a rowing workout she created that would address the issues put out in the email. The next day, the workout was posted on the trainer’s crossfit website as the WOD of the day, with no credit given whatsoever to my friends. It was not exaclty the welcome to the community they were hoping for….

  3. says

    I was recently pretty shocked to learn that recipes can’t be copyrighted; that seems wrong to me. I’m always glad to link back to the sources of the stuff I share on my blog. Legal concerns aside, it’s just good manners to attribute content. Plus, there’s the added benefit of building community and basking in the reflected glow of people — like you and Dallas — who are way smarter than I am.

  4. Gant says

    I had a little program that was jacked, renamed, and rebranded for CF (all without attribution), so I feel your pain. People have little regard for others’ intellectual property because copying and pasting is so easy.

    I’m sure the offending trainer is reading this (for more ideas to steal). Come clean before somebody does a 5-minute search and rats you out.

  5. michaelchasetx says

    Melissa and Dallas, you guys are a class act and definitely deserve fair credit for your advice, large leaps of effort, savory suggestions, challenging programming (do you sing ? :-)

    regards from Texas!


  6. says

    @All: Thanks for the support. We really appreciate the feedback, and will continue to give credit where credit is due here on OUR site as well.

    @Mel: That TOTALLY stinks. I didn’t realize you can’t copyright an entire recipe – your Sunshine Sauce should be trademarked to the hilt.


  7. says

    All I have to say is…MLA! Or, whichever format you used in college…

    This seems to be an issue on many of the blogs I follow, as of late. Really sad actually. It seems that we run/read in a tight little circle and, if “caught”, this sort of behavior would be considered a major faux pas. I, certainly, would lose a bit of respect for a blogger who, without citation, used another person’s work as their own.

    With that being said, I value your input and am a better kettlebell swinger because of you! :)

  8. Fontaine says

    It’s outrageous that a gym, that is charging people money to train, would rip off your work. Lazy bums.

  9. Roelant says


    I used your hybrid training program (that I found on the message board a while back) at my globo and I PR’d everything under the sun. Gonna hit that again at some point this summer after rehabbing a nagging injury. a big THANK YOU for that :-)

  10. Scott says

    That kind of lazy behavior is not cool and shouldn’t be tolerated. I think you have every right to defend your work and if people blatantly steal it – to confront them and call them out on it. I believe the community would stand behind you and anyone else that had similar problems. We should all ask for that kind of respect and integrity and do our best to represent it to our clients and followers.

    I am appreciative of all the info/tips/advice that you have offered for free and though it would be a downer, I would understand if that had to change things at some point. Perhaps you could require a log in to view the content or even charge a subscription to get access to the more in-depth stuff.

  11. says

    I am very late to this post – a few years actually – but it was just shared with me in response to a post I recently wrote on the same topic. We are a sneaker data company. Another site had posted our data as if they had created it. This was our response: The feedback was unbelievable from the sneaker community – everyone universally supporting us. You can see the two follow up posts on our blog in the same category to see how it was resolved, but most importantly I wanted to share our initial reaction – our way to fight back against this behavior.