The ease with which folks are able to blog, reblog, and otherwise reproduce (as well as remix) other people’s work is definitely among the revolutionary powers of the internet — at the heart of which is the reduction of everything to ones and zeros, which lends itself not only to obscuring the provenance of a particular work, but also to reducing the perceived value of content in general. This is a concern to anyone who values quality content, of course: if people and organizations aren’t getting paid to create, their ability to create is severely limited.
At The Verge, we follow a time-tested method of attribution. When a story is not the result of original reporting by one of our writers, we place an easy-to-read link at the bottom of the page (well, right before the comments) so readers can hit up the source of the news and check it out for themselves. Another link, marked "via," gives a shout-out to the site that turned us onto the source in the first place (in case we didn’t find it ourselves).
Of course, information is not always used fairly, and attribution isn’t always sufficient. You might remember the kerfuffle last year when a Huffington Post writer was suspended for essentially re-writing a story from Ad Age (whether or not the writer took an unfair measure of blame for what might be a systemic problem at HuffPo is another story entirely). This event is indicative of one problem facing "the curated," as New York Times journalist David Carr was referred to in a recent SXSW panel.
"I feel like such a token," Carr said at one point, addressing his fellow panelists as much as the audience in Austin this weekend. "I'm so glad that you're all here to repackage and repurpose me." Not just repackage, but remove the ads. "Which is, by the way, how I eat." This laugh line is at the heart of the problem, not just for Ad Age but for any publication that relies on page views: as more companies are established that curate other organization’s work, they will have to find ways to make sure that credit — and traffic — goes to the right source.
In order to spread awareness of the issue, Carr’s fellow panelist Maria Popova (aka @brainpicker) and designer Kelli Anderson announced the launch of Curator’s Code — a project that aims to get websites to adopt a pair of unicode symbols ( ᔥ and ↬) to signify your via and your source (or, in the parlance of journalism, hat / tip) respectively. Of course, you can always just use the words "source" and "via," but if you use project’s bookmarklet, you get the handsome characters and a link to the project’s site — doing the right thing and spreading the message at the same time.