Online Plagiarism – So What’s the Big Deal?

image So what if someone steals your words, your thoughts, your ideas and then publishes them as their own words, thoughts, or ideas?

Where’s the harm in any of that? After all – imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right?

Actually, we have another name for this sort of behavior. It’s not called flattery – it’s called plagiarism. And it is harmful – at the very least, it causes harm to the creator of the original work.

A quick definition of plagiarism – the “use, or close imitation, of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one’s own original work. (1995 Random House Compact Unabridged Dictionary)

Note to scrapers: when you quote directly from a publication, you are required to use attribution.

For the most part, people believe that in order to be engaged in plagiarism it is necessary to copy a writer’s words, word for word, when in fact, the presentation of an author’s idea no matter the words used to describe the idea, constitutes plagiarism.

In the online world plagiarism, more commonly called content scraping, is rampant – essentially out of control. Over the course of the last six months my personal site, the one you’re reading, has been scrapped relentlessly by content aggregators, individual site owners, and other less savory characters.

My experience with scrapers is not unusual, and it has been duplicated by virtually every site owner I know.

Currently, there is a small group of Bloggers, myself included, who are being scrapped by a someone who calls himself various names including, Adrian LaSalle, Chak Fung Pang, Sean Myers, and I’m convinced, a multitude of other names.

Some of the web sites he has set up in the last few days, or weeks, include Tech and App Info, DigiShark, Scam or Not (I had to laugh at that one), and others I’m sure that have yet to be discovered. Adrian et al, when approached with evidence of his scraping, first apologizes profusely and then continues to scrape.

The objective behind this type of attack is the hacker’s need (in my view, these people are no better than common hackers), to increase his site’s reputation on Google, and other search engines, by fraudulently increasing the site’s hits. This can lead to an increase in revenue generated by that site.

These types of exploits don’t impact me financially, since I don’t run ads on my sites. Nevertheless, it’s always disappointing to know that cyber-criminals are potentially benefiting economically from the results of my efforts. Yes Adrian, or whoever you really are, you are a thief.

Google, does a relatively good job of weeding out duplicate, or close to duplicate content. In fact, Google does a great job of culling the cheaters, by shipping their copied content to the far depths of search results.

In the short run then, criminals who scrape content may benefit marginally; but in the long run, scrapping is simply a loser’s game, perpetrated by losers.

In my experience, there is no absolute method available to stop scraping, or any other form of plagiarism, on the Internet. Unless one has very deep pockets and is prepared to institute legal action to recover damages (which must be proven – no easy task), the only alternative, in my view, is to name/shame these jerks who engage in this activity. Note to Adrian: I’m already closing in on who you really are.

There are a number of free services that offer some form of protection; the one that I currently use is My Free Copyright.

From the My Free Copyright site:

How does the MyFreeCopyright.com process work?

MyFreeCopyright.com provides a third-party, non-repudiation, registered dating of your original digital creation. By using this service, you publicly associate your digital copyright and defined rights to you.

So, how does MyFreeCopyright.com date register my copyright?

Every digital file has a unique makeup of bits and bytes which is its fingerprint. MyFreeCopyright.com captures your original creation’s fingerprint, stores the fingerprint in a database and sends a copy of the fingerprint to you in an email. The email contains the verified date; the fingerprint verifies the digital creation, and your email address verifies it belongs to you.

The following graphic illustrates how this works. Click on the graphic to view larger.

My Free Copyright

If you have been, or are being scraped, I’d be very glad to hear from you by way of comment.

15 Comments

Filed under Interconnectivity, internet scams, Personal Perspective, Scrapers, Social Blogging, social networking

15 responses to “Online Plagiarism – So What’s the Big Deal?

  1. Pingback: Online – Dangers | Thievery | A New Chrome « Tech–for Everyone

  2. Hello I am Sean Myers also known as digishark and I want to offer my apologies If I have infringed on any of your work. I am new to blogging and did not intend any offence and will take down any blog posts you think I scrapped from you. I also want to clear up that I am not associated with or have any knowledge of Adrian LaSalle, Chak Fung Pang, Tech and App Info, or Scam or Not that were mentioned in your post. I hope to clear up any misunderstanding as I enjoy reading your blog and believe you do a great job.

    • Bill Mullins

      I don’t think you scraped content from my site – I know you did!

      The following, taken from you’re article Finally Fast ….Not a good choice – are more or less direct lifts from my article on FinallyFast.

      “Anyone who has even a basic knowledge of computing would have to laugh outright watching the commercial for Finally Fast.com and the Windows PC services they offer. While it was not the first clue that something was wrong with this commercial, I had to take a second look and then pick my self up off the floor from laughing when I saw the MacBook, in the commercial, showing a “blue screen of death”. After all this is supposedly a Windows based PC service

      I suppose I would have laughed at this commercial and not bothered writing an article on Finally Fast.com, except for the fact that I know people who have fallen for this and paid money to the company because the commercial made a major point of referring to coverage of the company, and products, in Newsweek, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal.

      The first thing that occurred on arriving on the Finally Fast.com site was my Internet Browser warning was activated warning me that this was a dangerous site. A very minor change here.

      The second thing, I did, was to query the Newsweek, Forbes and Wall Street Journal websites, for any references to Finally Fast, or its parent company, Ascentive Software. Not surprisingly, I found no references to either despite the claim. It also struck me that no links are provided from the company’s site to this supposed coverage”.

      As well, virtually every post on your site has been scraped from another site. You think I didn’t check this?

      You say you’re new to Blogging, well let me ask you this – are you also new to the concept of ethics and responsible blogging?

      Until I’m offered absolute proof that you are not associated with Adrian LaSalle, Chak Fung Pang, Tech and App Info, or Scam or Not, your name stays in my article.

      Bill Mullins

  3. I have removed the above mentioned post from my blog. I have no way to offer absolute proof to you that I am not associated with these other sites. I hope my willingness to work with you and my sincere apologies is enough to prove I want to do the right thing. I make no money from my blog and do it only as a hobby.

  4. g

    digi – you sir are a turd.

  5. look I aplogized removed the post in question I don’t know what more I can do to correct this so I will wash my hands of the situation and wish you the best

  6. freewareelite

    This is Adrian. I am not affiliated with digishark, Scam or Not and chak fung pang. Chak fung pang is just a nickname of mine. Bill, I know I scrapped content from Freeware Genius, but I have deleted that content already. I never scrapped anything from you except a short excerpt from your articles as a link on tech and app info.

    I will blog responsibly in the future.

    Adrian

  7. freewareelite

    Bill.

    If you want proof, check digishark and my email address with WordPress.

    Adrian

  8. swimanog

    From Swimanog this week:

    Google, Inc.

    Google Legal Support,
    AdSense DMCA Complaints
1600
    Amphitheatre Parkway
    
Mountain View, CA 94043
    U.S.A.

    19 May, 2009

    Dear Sirs,

    I am writing to point out Google’s association – inadvertent association, I accept – with the blatant theft of my copyrighted material by a site It’ s Entertainment, blazoned with Google Ads. The offending site is set up using DoshDosh.com powered WordPress software and can be found at: http://entertainment.uwant2know.info/cannes-film-festival-2009-the-big-time/

    It’s Entertainment is engaging in unauthorised holus bolus copy-theft of my original material from a post I wrote, based on a research trip I made to Cannes last week for my new novel. My original post can be found on my blog at:
    http://swimanog.wordpress.com I put the post up on 18th May, 2005. It was barely up one hour before It’s Entertainment began using it illegally for commercial purposes with Google Ads.

    I received no request by It’s Entertainment for its use and there was no attempt to properly acknowledge the original. There is no way to contact the site owners to register my disquiet or complaint. From my research, this site is a serial offender of this kind of copy-theft.

    I am a novelist and I put up my blog posts up for public awareness of my writing and for the public’s and my own enjoyment. It’s Entertainment is stealing copyrighted material placed in good faith on the World Wide Web. Google, inadvertently and unfortunately, is aiding and abetting It’s Entertainment by giving it sustenance to survive, so the offending site can carry out copy-theft.

    Please help stop this abuse by withdrawing the site’s ability to use Google Ads. The site’s unauthorised use of my writing is unlawful, unfair and wrong. Google should prevent sites like this one from acting like this. Your company will be doing a great service to everyone and will win wide respect if it does. At the very least sites like this should be forced to negotiate legal use of copy. I am not against the use of Google Ads on any site per se but have not investigated it. I am not against commercial activity, only against illegal copyright activity carried out for commercial exploitation.

    The use of my copyrighted materials as described above is not authorized by me, or the law. I swear, under penalty of perjury, that the information in the notification is accurate and that I am the copyright owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed. My thanks for your consideration of this matter.

    Yours faithfully,

    Louisiana Alba

  9. swimanog

    By the way..my novel ‘Uncorrected Proof’ looks at the whole process of appropriation in all kinds of literature not just blogs..
    http://elephantearspress.com

  10. swimanog

    My first comment didn’t get onto to yr site, too many words? ..Letter I sent Google about being ripped off by a Ad sense filled sell blog..see http://swimanog.wordpress.com
    tks,

    Louisiana Alba

  11. swimanog

    Thanks Bill for the lucid description..(my 3 comments should be read in reverse) my experience..an unreachable site took my blog and added Google Ads, starting making money off me, no request, within an hour of my blog going up

    • Bill Mullins

      Thanks Louisiana Alba for all your comments.

      It seems your email to Google has achieved some results since I couldn’t see any Google related ads on the site in question. As well, I noted the Blog owners are now offering attribution to the original author/s.

      Legitimate sites place no value on stolen content, and when notified of scrapped content will generally remove it.

      Your experience shows that a word or two in the right places can have the desired results. My experience in dealing with scrapers has taught me however, that once past the crisis of having the spotlight focused on them, they often revert to the same bad behavior.

      Bill

  12. This is really interesting! I