During a recent Website cleaning spree, I found a giant glob of chametz. But getting rid of it wasn’t so simple!
Picture this: Seder night has arrived.
The whole house is spotless: the curtains have been dry-cleaned; the linen closet organized alphabetically; and the kids’ bikes doused with bleach.
The only problem is that in the dining room, right in the middle of the Seder table sits a big, freshly-baked pizza (with extra peperoni, to really drive home the hypocrisy!)
That imagine kind of describes the state of my conscience, during a recent Website cleaning spree. I was taking care of the details, while a giant glob of chametz sat there undisturbed.
Here’s the story:
Spring Cleaning for Google
Since attending SMX-Israel in January, I have been paying closer attention to Google’s advice in order to improve search engine rankings for my websites. For example, Google is saying that too much junk and clutter on your website could hurt your rankings. Therefore, two months ago I deleted about 100 low-value posts from MavenMall (e.g. announcements about coupons that expired last year). This led to a nice increase in traffic from search engines.
Inspired by this outcome, last week I decided to tackle the problem of broken links, which can also put you in Google’s bad books. Using the WordPress Broken Links Checker plugin, I was able to locate and unlink over 100 broken links on MavenMall in a matter of minutes. We’ll see if this also has an impact on my rankings.
While I was at it, I fixed up the navigation and optimized my best-performing pages.
All of this gave me a bit of a spring-cleaning high. You know the feeling you get when you finally do an important-but-not-urgent task you have been procrastinating about for a year?
But as I went about this busy work, I must admit that I had a guilty conscience. Sure it is great to get rid of unnecessary clutter, but I knew that I was ignoring some real chametz that was lurking on one of my websites.
Could I really pass another Pesach without purging this giant pizza from my proverbial Seder table?
The Non-Kosher Four Questions
It was Pesach-time last year, about a week before Seder night. I was cleaning in the kitchen while listening to some of my children’s favorite Pesach music, Rebbe Alter’s Pesach tape. I was really enjoying his rendition of Mah Nishtana in Hebrew and Yiddish, with a really lively tune that I’ve never heard elsewhere, when suddenly I had a brilliant idea.
Wouldn’t it be a great if I took this tune and made it into a cute little video for my Yiddish translation site? I thought that it would attract visitors to my site and get me a little viral exposure on Facebook.
I decided to do it right then and there. I spent an hour creating a very simple video, published it and over the next few days it got close to 1,000 views and a few hundred new visitors to my site. Nice!
A year passed, and then I noticed that that blog post and the video were starting to get a lot of views again – for obvious reasons. Pesach is coming again, and lots of Jews are looking to connect to the Seder in whatever way speaks to them. For many people, Yiddish is a meaningful way for them to connect to their Jewish identity.
In the last week, over 300 people watched my video and it’s likely that many more will watch it over the next 2 weeks. You might think that I would be happy about that. But I was not… because I never got permission from the copyright holders to use that song.
I tried all the rationalizations in the world but none of them held up:
- I wasn’t making any money off the video (err… not directly, but I’m sure the free exposure wasn’t hurting my business)
- I was helping Rebbe Alter reach a new audience and make more sales, since I gave him credit (perhaps… and…?)
- I was using the song to help Jews connect to their Jewish heritage and surely Rebbe Alter wouldn’t mind that (umm… nice try!)
- It’s almost impossible to 100% avoid copyright infringement when working online – EVERYBODY DOES IT! (or at least I thought so until I heard Rabbi Michael Green speak about avoiding copyright violations when creating PowerPoint presentations)
There was nothing else to do. I knew I had to get permission to use that song, or take it down. And I had to do it now, before the Pesach rush, since it’s all going to be irrelevant next month!
I have to say that ringing up Rebbe Alter to ask his permission to keep using his music was not something I looked forward to. Reorganizing my linen closet 10 times overs much more appealing.
However, I swallowed my pride and dialed the number on the back of the CD case.
In the pursuit of permission, I spoke to his mother, his wife and his manager. They were all warm and helpful. After some long discussions, explanations, apologies and emails, the good news is that I got permission!
So I am proud to present to you this certified Kosher-for-Pesach video. The video is pretty simple and isn’t going to win any awards… but it’s cute, chametz-free – and has viral power!
A Happy and Kosher Pesach to everyone!
PS. If you are wondering why I told you this story, it’s to encourage us all to explore what it means to run a blog or web business without copyright violations. Have you found this difficult to do? Have you ever had your content used without permission?