Dear UK esports org Synergy Squad – no, stealing content is not okay

Esports News UK editor Dom Sacco shares his views on content plagiarism and the UK org who were pasting others’ articles on their site.
I contacted Synergy Squad back in March after I found they were republishing our articles word-for-word on their website.
After a difficult series of Twitter messages, I think I managed to convince them what they were doing was technically theft – plagiarism pure and simple.
They removed our articles and I said I’d be happy to cover any interesting news or relevant announcements that they might have in the future.
Fast-forward to this week and they were back up to their old tricks again. They had republished this article we wrote on PUBG’s ESL esports tournament (which, ironically, was something we quickly pulled together from a pre-written press release).
Not only that, but they were now reposting entire articles from our friends over at Esports Insider, which has established itself as a solid esports industry news site (on that note, make sure you consider voting for their writer Ollie Ring who is up for Esports Journalist of the Year).
Some Esports Insider writers took to Twitter to point out Synergy’s actions:

I understand Synergy threatened legal action, claiming they were being defamed because they were accused of stealing.
UK caster Ryan “Flakes” Oliver also shared his view – but was also hit by legal threats from Synergy Squad:

Caster and meme master Tridd responded with a fresh and topical meme (of course):

Synergy Squad has since removed their entire news section and related tweets while I was writing this article, but I’m keeping this post live for the sake of marking this moment and hopefully educating others in the future.
However, they do still have this plagiarized article from the Gfinity website still live:


Synergy Squad’s reasoning

It’s not my intention to sh*t on UK orgs like this. I’ve been criticised in the past for calling out UK orgs and players (like this) and for apparently being unfair towards them with opinion pieces.
While I stand by everything I publish on Esports News UK, and feel it is important to reflect the scene and highlight incidents like this, I’m not going to town on Synergy Squad. They did, after all, agree to delete the articles they originally copied.
I’m writing this because even though I had done my best to explain the law around plagiarism to Synergy Squad, they wouldn’t listen to me. The incident is now public following the tweets above and below. And I feel this is worth sharing, if not to help educate others in the future.
While they haven’t supplied an official comment to me, the gist of their reasoning is that they believe using an RSS Feed to pull and repost entire swathes of content from another website is fine, as long as it’s credited.
They believe it cannot be stopped through legal action as they think they haven’t broken the law.
They’re wrong, of course.
UPDATE: Synergy Squad have responded on Twitter following the publication of this article:


What’s the law around content plagiarism?

Most article plagiarism cases can be resolved by contacting the offender’s website host and sending them a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notice.
However, while this can work with sites in the UK, DMCA is still a US copyright law.
In the UK, there’s the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act (see section 2). This is a little older (from 1988) and isn’t as online-friendly as the 1998 DMCA is, but offers criminal liability for ‘making or dealing with infringing articles etc’. There are more details here.
Of course, you can re-write a news story that was first published by another website (that’s ‘fair dealing’ or ‘fair use’), and make it unique, for example change the headline and the body text, as long as it’s not copied word-for-word and passed off as your own work.
It’s generally accepted practice to put a link through to the source article when doing this.
Some news aggregator sites pull in headlines and a few lines, then link through to the original site – I frown upon that practice myself but it seems to be fair game.
You can submit copyright takedown notices to Google and YouTube here.
While Synergy Squad had added in links, they still republished entire works from Esports Insider, regardless of whether they used an RSS Feed to do this or not. That’s not okay.
Google also hates duplicate content. Synergy’s site would’ve penalised on the online search rankings for doing this.


‘Kids starting orgs and getting in over their head is far too common’

Esports journalist Lydia Mitrevski told Esports News UK: “Esports is so easy to ‘get into’ that anyone can start a team and play. That doesn’t mean they’ll have success, or even that they’ll make money. They might get their five minutes of fame and sometimes that’s just enough to put them over the edge.
“People that are barely adult age think they can just start an organisation and do whatever they want with no repercussions just because esports is still fairly young in mainstream. They start organisations and don’t get trademarked, draft up contracts with no legal knowledge or assistance, but put content on their website that doesn’t belong to them, stuff like that.
“Kids starting teams or organisations and getting in over their head is unfortunately far too common.
“Now I do know a handful of people that are under 21 that either run or are high-ranked in esports organizations that do REALLY well for their age and actually handle it appropriately. They stick out, but unfortunately they’re in the minority.
“I have had this happen before from another website I write for, GosuGamers. I don’t remember the site that did it but I do know it was taken down and dealt with shortly after it was brought to our attention. I’ve also had some people ask my permission to translate my articles to other languages and publish with proper credit, which I have no problem with, considering they went through the right channels.”
UPDATE: Synergy Squad sent a note to ENUK saying they are not kids.

‘The problem is those who push professional mantra without the knowledge to back it up’ 

UK caster Ryan “Flakes” Oliver added: “The guys at Eports Insider work incredibly hard to deliver content up-to-par, not only this but they are proud of their work. I don’t see why people view this as acceptable.
“I believe it’s pivotal for the grassroots scene to have organisations act as the underlying arms of support, enabling players to grow in semi-professional environments, especially as they look to progress up the ranks, aiming to reach higher levels of play.
“However, much like players, the organisations must grow too and look to work on all things from operating professionally through to overall running it as a business – away from a hobby.
“The problem is, you have a lot of young kids buying out brands or just self-producing, pushing that professional mantra, without the knowledge to back it, in other words – risky business.
“That’s not to say organisations cant flourish in this way, I’ve seen organisations grow from nothing into strong contenders within the UK space, it’s just all about the dedication and passion from the owner’s side. You have to put it in, in order to get out.
“Unfortunately, that leaves us with a toss up of both stories of success and failure.”
Further reading: ‘You will regret every single word’ – org owner threatens to sue UK CSGO team

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