Plagiarism Is Alive & Well In The Blogosphere - What's A Blogger To Do?
While the book "Who Moved My Cheese?" is more about adapting to "change" in the workplace, "Who Moved My Blog" could be about the "copy and paste" mentality that unfortunately taints the Blogosphere and those who attempt to make a living working in that very crowded space.
For someone that's experienced a full career in corporate sales and marketing and a subsequent second career as a consultant and freelance journalist, I've learned the various definitions of theft - and how they apply to those two very diverse worlds of commerce. Stealing business or marketshare from your competitor is an accepted business practice. It's used more as a metaphor than the actual act of thievery. Stealing content from a fellow writer is blatant plagiarism. Submitting someone's written words as your own, whether you're a university student or an awarding winning journalist, should not be tolerated, on any level.
Unfortunately opportunities for plagiarism increased when we moved into the world of online journalism. The mere fact that there is so much content available with just the simple click of a mouse makes it a tempting proposition to copy and paste the work of others. Sometimes this is done with out malicious intent. In haste, writers might forget to include an appropriate hyperlink.
However, the comment section on most news and blog sites allows for corrections when writers have unintentionally overstepped their boundaries. And in this Web 2.0 world of user-generated content we live in, comments are an excellent tool to keep writers in check. Even if you can't post directly to the site in question (and in many cases you won't - because if their unethical about 'content scraping' they're not going to allow you to criticize them on their own site) - you can expose them on articles regarding plagiarism, like this one - or on blogs that are written about their products and services.
A current accepted practice on some Web sites that don't employ their own staff of writers is where the site posts a lead-in to a story verbatim from another site, and then provides a hyperlink to the remaining content and the actual author's originating source. Many of my articles have been picked up by these "robot" type of Web sites and look like the following:
In more severe cases, there are those that plagiarize the entire article in its entirety including many of the photos and graphics. This example does note that I am the author of this article, but without any link back to my original article, Tony Vickers Consulting is inexplicably benefiting from my published work, while calling his company a "social media consulting firm."
To see the similarity between these two posts, here is my original article that was posted just hours before before Mr. Vickers cut and pasted my content to his Web site.
What is additionally disconcerting in this case is that if you were to search on Google for "Social Media Predictions" and "Ron Callari," Tony Vickers' Web site would rank "third" on that SERP (Search Engine Result Page). To put this in perspective, if a company like Mr. Vickers was paying for SEO (search engine optimization) to get his Web site ranked 3rd on a Google Search like this, it would have cost him tens of thousands of dollars. However, instead - by posting my work, he doesn't have to pay one red cent.
So What's A Blogger To Do To Address Plagiarism Issues?
There are several things that can be done to be proactive with plagiarism and Web site owners like Tony Vickers.
1- Leave a comment on the site, preferably on the page where the alleged plagiarized content has been posted. Be specific, that you would either like the content removed in its entirety, or that it be reduced to a 'teaser' length of a couple of paragraphs with a link back to the sourcing site.
2- Send an email to the contacts listed on the Web site with the same information as above.
3- If a phone number is listed on the site, try calling the individual to resolve the issue.
4- If you are still unsuccessful, you can report the plagiarism - or unauthorized use of content to Google. Your first step is to visit Google's Help Center and read through the instructions on Google's site labeled "How do I report a copyright infringement by an AdSense publisher." (Obviously in this case the Web site would have to be advertising with Google).
5- If the Web site is not a Google Adsense publisher, you may also be able to report your plagiarized content as a violation of "Google Webmasters Guidelines." To do this, use their "Report Spam" form to notify Google of the violation. Be sure to provide specific information and links to the page where the plagiarized information is located.
Obviously, none of these tactics are full proof. In the best case scenario you will be able to resolve your issue with a simple comment or email. In the worst case, you are posting a blog like this one to provide other writers with insight as to how to be proactive - and hopefully detract those that are tempted to hit the "copy and paste" buttons on their keyboards.
In the final analysis, when in doubt as to what you think might be considered plagiarism, during your editing review, add hyperlinks, and a specific reference to the originating author and/or the publication name.
If any readers know of any additional tactics to be use to counter plagiarism, please provide us with that feedback in the comment section below. The more we can learn from each other, the less other writers will be inclined to slip down this slippery slope.
UPDATE: May 5, 2010 - Gerald Weber, a fellow blogger provided me with an additional tip to prompt content thieves to remove your content from their sites.
Contact the blog or website’s hosting company and file a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) complaint. Hosting companies are required by law to shut down the blog or website until the stolen content is removed. Most reputable hosting companies already have procedures in place for lodging your DMCA complaints with their security or abuse departments. The key to successfully using this technique is that you will need to prove to the hosting company that you were the first one to publish the content. A simple and effective way to do this is by using the free Wayback Machine.For other tips from Weber's Home of Famous Bloggers check out "How to Put the Kibosh on Content Scrapers & Thieves"
P.S. If anyone would like to contact Tony Vickers regarding other blogs he may have "copied and pasted" to his site, feel free... that is, unless you're a raving fan!