Saturday, July 18, 2009

Plagiarism

When I started this blog back in December of 2005, I had no idea where it would lead or the benefits it would provide. Now more than 3 ½ years later, those benefits are obvious, numerous and great. I know from my hit counter that my blog is read by a few regularly and is found through searches and other means frequently. Most do not leave comments, but some do. More than that, I have been exposed to the writings of many of my readers – other bloggers – who have a similar perspective on blogging as I. We don’t do it for money, yet we often pour our hearts and souls into our work… and it is work. Many, if not most, writers I know do not find composing one's thoughts, feelings and perspectives easy, but we are compelled to get it just right. It is its own reward.

But probably the biggest gift I have received from blogging is a connection with people I would never have “met” otherwise. Although most of those relationships I have established through blogging are based solely in this medium, it is a medium that allows for a great deal of depth. With a few exceptions, I have never met my blog “friends” in person, yet many are friends in the truest sense of the word. We care about one another; we support each other; and we read each other. Even after a lengthy hiatus from blogging, we often pick up right where we left off. However public this medium is, it is still very much personal.

I received an email from Dana (one of those friends) this morning. It was sent to multiple recipients, many of whom are part of my blog “family” and many others part of intersecting circles of friends. It was a notification… a warning, if you will. Her work had been stolen by another “blogger” (and I use the term very loosely) and posted on his blog as his own work. I am not speaking of a sentence or paragraph mistakenly “borrowed” without attribution, and not just one entire piece – but several complete posts copied verbatim and posted as his own. It is not only wrong, but it is also illegal. Dana’s email was a call to action, and acted we did. The following is her original email message, followed by my response and finally her epilogue.

Good morning everyone.

Through a plagiarism link, I found out that some of my writing had been lifted and posted by another blogger as their own. At first I thought it was just one recent piece, but the more I scrolled through his postings, the more pieces I found! I'm absolutely incensed and quite frankly feel sick down in my gut! I know this stuff happens, but until now I guess I held onto a bit of blind faith and didn't go out there in blogland checking. I will now.

I have since left comments on all the pieces I found, but had to stop when I came across a poem I had written in the spring for a young woman who had just had a stroke two weeks after her baby was born. (she's fine now btw). He used it as a "set up" for his own ramblings about his child! I was shocked! He even posted a Q and A I did for God's sake... one where the first question was "what colour do you feel right now???"

While reading, I also stumbled across pieces that Marja had written as well and informed her. She intends to let others know.

I have also written him an email... I'll give him until the end of the day to remove all of the plagiarized pieces and if he hasn't done so, will report him to Blogger. I don't know if they can close down his site, but I will ask them to investigate.

If you have any ideas as to how to stop this illegal act, I'd appreciate any direction or advice. I will put a warning up on my sidebar, but don't know if that will stop anyone intent on lifting intellectual property.

I also suggest that perhaps you check out his blog to see if anything you have written, or if any of your photos have been stolen. Here is his site! If you check it out, please leave him a comment about this!! The more comments he receives, the more inclined he may be to stop his stealing!!!!! Thanks.

http://biologicalclockticking.blogspot.com/2009/07/having-faith-in-othersand-in-myself.html

If you want to check to see if any of your work has been used anywhere else, here is the link. It was pretty easy to use. I don't know how you check to see if someone has lifted any photos.

http://www.copyscape.com/

Thank you for your support...

Dana.


Dana, et al.,

It would appear that the blogging community has dealt the blog in question its deathblow. Earlier, the link you provided did not go to that specific post, but the blog could still be accessed. There was just one post - probably stolen as well. I flagged the blog based on your email - your word is good enough for me - and I suspect I was not alone. The blog in question (now just a short time later) no longer exists. It is as it should be. I have no problem with anyone reposting my work as long as three simple conditions are met: it cannot be for commercial use; it must be properly attributed; and it cannot be altered from its original form. If anyone reproduces my work as his or her own, I get angry. Very angry. More than angry, I get justice - and it appears as though justice has been served.

It's good to see the blogging community working together. Most of us do this as a labour of love - for ourselves and anyone else who finds our words insightful, amusing, cathartic or whatever other value they may hold. We don't (most of us) get paid to do this, but it is work nonetheless. For someone to steal it is wrong on too many levels - That it is illegal is only the tip of the iceberg.

You are a kinder soul than I, Dana. I would not have given (and in fact did not) this so-and-so a chance to remove the plagiarized material... I simply would have hit him or her with everything I had. The crime has been committed - it goes well beyond mere intention or a "little" mistake - we are talking about entire posts!

I have not checked to see if my material (which is copyrighted and noted on my blog) has been stolen in a while. Although it is difficult to be absolutely sure, it looks like my property remains within my control. But thanks for the reminder, it is a serious issue.

Mike


Hello everyone... :)

Blogging most certainly is a labour of love, Mike. You are so right. It is also such a wonderful community of shared passions. So often I am inspired by something I've read, like a jumping off point for my own writing. There is a terrific give and take, and when someone violates that flow of creativity by stealing, it is wonderful to know (and feel) that the community does pull together.

I thank you all for your assistance. I have sent him another email threatening him and making it perfectly clear that I won't sit idle again and let something like that happen. I also told him he should be ashamed of himself... asked him what the Dalai Lama would think of such sinful behaviour! :) Buddhist my ass!

I did get in touch with Blogger and file a formal complaint. Whatever he has posted in the past has been cached, so they can still follow up if they haven’t done already.

I wish I had copied the comments from everyone! They were priceless!! I had a few facebook friends nail the guy as well, so I am completely confident that he is shaking in his weasley boots today.

Thank you all! I'll post something about it all, hopefully tonight.

Cheers...

I'm off to pour myself a glass of wine and toast you all xxx

Dana

The facebook community also responded, and now there is one less worthless blog in the world. It warms my heart that such selfless camaraderie exists over such vast physical distances, amongst such a diverse group. We share a passion for not only our own creativity, but also that of others. It is a passion we are willing to fight for. It is yet another of those benefits I mentioned above.

12 comments:

Carmi said...

It warms my heart to see such teamwork in the face of outright theft of IP. The forces of good will always win out over the forces of evil.

There's a bit of a post script to this story. "Anton" did indeed pull down his old blog, Biological Clock Ticking (sorry, but is this a GUY'S blog? Sorry for the diversion...) He has since started a new one under the same Blogger ID (I don't want to give him any more publicity than he needs. If you really want to find it, use Google's cache, or e-mail me/message me on my blog.)

Not wanting my outrage to go unseen, I e-mailed him letting him know he's being watched. I also meandered through the cache of his old, now dead blog and visited a fairly large number of recent commenters. I left this message for them:

Greetings. You recently left a comment on the blog, Biological Clock Ticking (http://biologicalclockticking.blogspot.com) operated by Anton. You may have noticed that his blog was hastily taken down earlier today. Here's why:

For quite some time, the author of this blog has been copying the work of others and passing it off as his own. This is known as plagiarism. It is not only immoral. It is also an illegal, criminal act.

When confronted about this, Anton chose the coward's way out. Instead of responding, apologizing or otherwise expressing some sort of remorse, he skulked away and started another blog.

I thought you'd want to know this, and would want to verify your own archives to ensure he hasn't used some of your own work as well. I'd recommend checking out the service at http://www.copyscape.com to ensure your own material has not been stolen in a similar manner.

I invite you to contact me via my blog, Written Inc., if you would like to discuss this further.

Thank you.

Thumper said...

Sometimes the nerve people have astounds me. They think it's harmless, but they have no idea. Last year someone was bouncing around the cat blogging community, sucking up pictures and posting them as their own cats. Why? Who knows? But it was another example of bloggers having each others' backs. That was obviously less harmful than the direct theft of your writing...a picture is just a picture...but WHY do people do this??? And why do they think they can get away with it?

Awareness said...

One flap of a butterfly wing was all it took for me to find you in the first place Mike, and I'm glad I did. You were the first person I reached out to you know. I had no idea how profoundly interconnective blogging could be until I stepped out of my own writing comfort zone one day and found YOU!

Since then? I have experienced the most amazing sense of community and have met such wonderfully passionate and deep feeling people. Friends one and all.... shared visions, hopes, dreams, opinions, theories, rants have all led to a comraderie I had no idea would occur. In fact, I am going to the UK for the second time in a year to meet some of these wonderful bloggie kindreds face to face at the end of august! How cool is that.

And someday SOON, Carmi and I will eventually be in the same city at the same time... And you Mr. Althouse? One day, I want you to show me how to drive a Harley...Or at least take me for a drive. :)

Thank you for your support today. I can't tell you how much it meant and how empowering it made me feel.

As much as Anton is a scumbag thief and as Paul called him "a tosser" I've learned much today. And the biggest thing I've learned is how much I love this little community of ours....

It takes a village, eh? A blog village.!

beautiful!!

Mr. L said...

Hello, NetChick sent me!

Wow. I never really thought about anyone stealing my posts....guess it's a good thing they've become so infrequent!! Or that maybe they weren't worth stealing...LOL

Jean said...

I am glad I came here to read your post, Mike.

I had never thought someone would be so pathetic to copy someone else' blog posts and use it as their own. On one side, it is a compliment to Dana that her posts were stolen by someone! However, I can understand what she must have felt. Our thoughts and efforts are our precious property.

Anyway, there may be more of them out there much prepared to do copy+paste rather than type something from their dumb heads.

Thanks again for letting us know of this, and of www.copyscape.com which I would have never found out otherwise.

Jean

rashbre said...

Sounds as if its been fixed. It amazes me that anyone would expect it to go undetected in this universe of google searches and smart agents riffling through the net.

I haven't inspected the offending location and don't intend to. My only fleeting thought is whether the individual has some kind of 'special need' and consequently is not as aware as some of us?

But onward.

Jean said...

I put up a link at my blog to this post, so that more people read it. Here

Reader Wil said...

I sent him a comment yesterday to tell him that Marja was quite upset about the plagiarism and that he needed to apologize for using her photo and poem. I am glad that this is dealt with by you and that we have some protection. I feel sometimes guilty because I often use wikipedia and photos of google, but I always refer to both of them. Can I do that?

Mike Althouse said...

Reader Wil -

I didn't do anything more than flag his blog (twice) and send him a email. Carmi's actions were probably much more effective, and labour intensive.

As far as using images and other intellectual property found on the Internet, as long as you don't lead others to believe it is your own work, you are on safer ground than this clown "Ant" was. You should credit the writer or photographer if you can, but often we don't know who it was... but an indication that it is not you, at least, is necessary.

A word of warning about Wikipedia: It is filled with misinformation. It is good as a research tool, but I never cite it.

Mike

Kim Williams said...

i'm a little late to the party (judgement?) but i am glad to see this addressed. Namaste'

Anonymous said...

Hi, am glad you were able to address this issue. And it was handled. Personally not a Blogger, but a vistor or reader. To excape, for a few min. my very boring life. The computer that I use is a work. Item and have use only on breaks or lunch. But otherwise my world is very narrow. And enjoy, reading about what others are thinking or living thru. Am truly sorry people feel they need to steal, from others ideas or thoughts. But that is as old as time. Pat from NY.

P.S. Blogger does need a spell check for dummy's like myself. :)

Ronald Lee said...

Copyscape is so cool.