Lev Lafayette’s abuse of Creative Commons A lesson in Creative Commons and Australian Law

This article links from the FAQ.

Before I get into the breakdown, it’s important you know the actual rules for proper Creative Commons Attribution, which you can find at http://creativecommons.org.au/learn/howto/.

Let’s break down the five basic rules of attribution one at a time.

  • Provide the author’s name and the title of the work

Check, he did this, though he has both Ms Rose and I listed as authors for all the work while instead, we collaborated on some pieces and not other pieces. But still, he got this part more or less right.

  • If possible, provide a link back to the source of the work

It has the URL at the beginning now, but only because he was begged enough for it, however it is not even an active link. Originally it had a little footnote with the URL that wasn’t an active link either. So, this point still falls short of the mark.

  • Provide a link to the CC licence that applies to the original work

Nope, there’s no mention of the CC licence in any form as of 29 May 2016. The article on RPGreview.net has been presented as a completely new and unlicensed work.

  • Indicate if you made any changes to the work

The article in question is a Frankensteined cobbling together of all the articles that were currently on Phaemorea.com. Mr Lafayette defended his ‘editing’ of the work by saying it was too large. What he refuses to acknowledge is that when using Creative Commons material any edits must be made clear. Mr Lafayette claims to have spent hours on the edit to make sure the sentences flow etc. A short read of the article clearly indicates that his efforts were wasted. Of course writing, like any form of art, is subjective. However, when dealing with CC licensed work there are rules you have to follow. Mr Lafayette did not follow those rules.

  • Keep intact any copyright notice the author has provided

Again, there is no notice of copyright information in any form. He’s put my and Ms Rose’s name on it, but what’s presented there isn’t our work, it’s an abridged version so poorly constructed as to be vastly inferior to the original works. I would never put my name to something so poorly constructed.

Of course his errors don’t end there either. He also had the audacity to steal the artwork from the Phaemorea site. The art in question is by a very talented artist who identifies as Leeloomultipass on Dreamstime.com. I paid real money for a commercial license to use that art. Not only did Mr Lafayette steal art, but he didn’t even give the artist credit for their work. To protect myself from prosecution I reported the violation to Dreamstime.com so they can at least claim their due. Update 30 May: He seems to have accepted the error of his ways here and actually chosen not to risk the wrath of Dreamstime. Or maybe they contacted him :-). Maybe he only likes to steal from the little guys.

Lastly, Mr Lev Lafayette has been asked repeatedly by myself and Ms Rose to take down the article. If nothing else, I would think that basic respect for others would mean that you would comply with the wishes of the authors. I would rather be completely unknown than to have my work misrepresented.

So how did all this come to happen?

I guess all this started on 24 April 2016 where in an email to Mr Lafayette I said two things:

  1. “feel free to lift articles from the Phaemorea site if you ever need a filler.”
  2. “Of course you’re welcome to use any of it because it’s all being put out under a Creative Commons license.”

Somehow Mr Lafayette took this to mean he could just do what he wanted with anything in any way he wanted. Having run a number of periodicals in the past, I know the difficulty in getting writers to submit their stuff in time, and that subsequent mad dash to meet deadlines. My intent was to give Mr Lafayette some emergency fillers for those difficult times.

As he had the appearance of being a learned man, I expected two things: I expected he would adhere to proper practice; and I expected he would take an article here or an article there, spacing out the filler on his site, as needed. I most certainly didn’t expect him to spend all his coin in one place.

Once he proudly announced the posting of his mega article, both Ms Rose and I were sickened by the result. It’s like handing your beloved pet dog off to a friend for care, only to get it back missing three legs and to be told, “What? It’s still the same dog.” I get by as a ghost writer, and only recently started publishing work under my own name. Ms Rose is a long time writer for magazines and newspapers (often under a pseudonym). Neither of us could possibly allow the presented article to remain posted in it’s current form, because we could not allow potential clients to stumble across it and think it’s actually our work.

I had only recently joined the RPG Review Cooperative, and I wanted to support them by being as conciliatory as possible. I begged Mr Lafayette to add something to the site to say this wasn’t the work of Ms Rose and I. We wanted people to know that Lev Lafayette is responsible for mangling our work. He refused, and the best we got was an agreement to have the words “Adapted from … ” and a link added to the front end of the article. It was done, and I thought we had finally reached an agreement.

I sent a thank you email to Mr Lafayette for finally making the changes, as petty and unsatisfactory as those changes were. Within minutes of me sending that email, he had changed “Adapted” to “Selection”. Pedantic perhaps, however, ‘adapted’ suggests alteration, while ‘selected’ means pieces are cherry picked. Basically, Lev didn’t wish to acknowledged he had changed anything. He’s correct in one way that what words are there are largely the words of Ms Rose and I, but as most writers will attest, massive deletions severely alter flow and meaning of a work. At the very least what he’s done constitutes a change, which should be acknowledged by the rules of CC.

In his self proclaimed ‘longest running gaming periodical (at 28 issues)’, he re-posted the article, including the “Adapted from…” bit, but only with the inclusion of a needlessly lengthy self aggrandizing editorial, where he completely refutes the work is altered in any meaningful way.

With negotiations so far failing to bring a proper result, and further negotiations seeming to be pointless, I checked my rights under Creative Commons. I discovered that I should never have even suggested he be allowed to change the content. I notified him of same and withdrew all permissions, requesting the article be taken down. That request has been entirely ignored, and he has not responded since.

Because RPGReview.net is effectively the face of the RPG Review Collective, as a financial member, I thought I might appeal to the rest of the Victorian registered and incorporated board. The names of board members are only listed behind a paywall with the Victorian government, and requests for those contact details from Mr Lafayette have been ignored. Basically, all roads lead to Lev Lafayette. It’s suspicious to say the least.

On 27 May 2016 I noticed someone had changed ‘Selection’ back to ‘Adapted’, but it’s too little too late. Laws have been broken, and continue to be broken, and this change was never sufficient to cover the rules of Creative Commons. I immediately contacted Lev Lafayette to inform him, but have not received a response to date.

Shame on you Lev Lafayette. Should you ever have the common decency to remove the article, I shall take down this article in return.

If I have time, I’ll compile a complete record of my communication with Lev Lafayette and post it. It might help other people dealing with bullies who think Creative Commons does not apply to them.

Update 29 May: He has now added my mailing IP to the blacklist for RPGReview.net. It’s not as if I couldn’t bypass it, but I think my points have been made already.