Friday, December 10, 2010

The Plagiarism Posse

The writers at have become more active lately at fighting plagiarism and copyright infringement of their articles. Of course, that's happened to me twice (that I know of): once at a site called, and one recently at a site called Market Mentalist. I've seen a number of my articles listed at news aggregation sites. These are sites that simply provide a link to an article found elsewhere, and maybe display the first 50 words or so. These are harmless, and the links may actually help a little to give your article "Google Juice".

After my last event, which was more or less simultaneous to similar circumstances of other writers, we formed the Plagiarism Enforcement Posse. I lobbied for a name change, since we are fighting not only plagiarism but also copyright infringement (the two overlap but are not identical), but lost that argument. About 25 writers have signed on. The goal is to band together whenever someone on the site posts to the forums saying their articles have been swiped. We hope that with quick and overwhelming action the site owner will take the articles down, or the host will disable the site, or Google will de-index the site, removing their source of income.

Today another writer found a site that's stealing articles, Once he posted, the Posse was alerted. We began making comments to the stolen articles, saying they were stolen. Someone found the site owner's e-mail address, in a country with abbreviation MD (not Maryland), and some of the posse e-mailed him DMCA violation notices. As of about 3:00 PM today, the four articles listed by Posse members as stolen were all removed.

Then the original writer, who just joined the Posse when this happened, just posted to say articles of seven other Suite writers are posted at this site. The theft is a curious thing. The articles are all posted saying the author is Danielle Nelson, but then at the bottom of the articles the name of the copyright holder is given—the original Suite101 author. And the site has no ads. Normally the site of an article thief is covered with ads. That's the whole point: steal articles, keep the site with fresh content, hope to score well in search engines, and hope those who come to the site click on an ad. Or possibly they have ads that pay "per impression" rather than "per click". If that's the case readers don't need to click on the ad for the thief to make money. But this site has no ads. What's the point of stealing articles and plagiarizing them if you aren't trying to get ad revenue?

So it looks as if the Posse is being successful this time, though much more work lies ahead with this one site. I wonder, though, if we are on a losing effort. The criminals are like the cockroaches we used to be plagued with in Kuwait. Every morning we went on roach patrol, killing those who came up through the drain the in the night into the sink and couldn't get out. No matter how many we killed there were as many more the next morning. Same with copyright thieves. We'll stamp out one today and find three more tomorrow and five the day after that. That's the bad news.

But the good news is that these sites have a very low ranking with Google and the other search engines. The don't score very well on search engine results pages. So maybe they aren't taking much revenue away from us. Still, having your work stolen is disheartening at first, maddening second, and angering third. I hope the Posse rides on, into the night, through the day, finding the thieving cockroaches, capturing them, and herding them to the gallows. Cyber capital punishment is fitting, I think.

Don't worry Neil, Damien, Joseph, Jim, Nick, Victoria, Asa, Brenda, Jennifer, and anyone else at Suite101 whose articles this site has stolen. We've got your back. Ride/write on.

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