Online Plagiarists Are Easy to Catch

Back on Sept. 14, I explained why it’s stupid to post plagiarized content online. Basically, it’s incredibly easy to get caught stealing someone else’s intellectual property. It’s also likely that you’ll be publicly humiliated for this transgression, and possibly fined or sued. It’s just not worth it.

Speaking of online plagiarists, I just came across a perfect example…

One of my most popular articles is 10 Cool Things to Do with Furl, which I published on June 22. Tonight I took the URL of that article and plugged it into CopyScape, a free version of a handy little tool. The first result on the list was from the Chinese site Studying Java. Lo and behold, it is the full text of my article – without my permission, which makes this a theft of my intellectual property. Also, this unauthorized republication does not include my byline, an explanation of where it came from, or a link back to my site. In other words, it appears to be presented as the work of someone from Studying Java.

Really, really stupid. See how easy it was for me to find this? Granted, most of CopyScape’s results are only excepts (which are OK under fair use), not plagiarism, but still it turned up one instance of plagiarism awfully quickly.

You can even use Google to ferret out plagiarists. Strange as it may seem, the precise wording of most sentences is unique. So try this:

  1. Grab a sentence or two some of your content published online, preferably content you think might appeal to plagiarists. Copy that onto your computer’s clipboard.
  2. In Google, paste that string into the search field, inside double quote marks.
  3. Search. Look for any results that are not your own publication. Visit those that were not published or authorized by you. If any are complete or near-complete unauthorized reproductions of your work, you’ve caught an online plagiarist.

10 thoughts on Online Plagiarists Are Easy to Catch

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  1. Amy,

    Anyone whose ever come home to find their home burgled would know the feeling. You worked hard to achieve what you have and then someone with no conscience comes along and takes what they want. The resentment is palpable in your post.

    Such scum will never benefit from their plagiarism, however, because just as easy as it was to catch them, others will figure them out, too.

    The bright side? You’re worth copying.

  2. Online Plagiarists Are Easy to Catch
    Back on Sept. 14, I explained why it’s stupid to post plagiarized content online. Basically, it’s incredibly easy to get caught stealing someone else’s intellectual property. It’s also likely that you’ll be publicly humiliated for this transgression, a…

  3. I have a corporate site and also a personal site that has to do with popular culture. Vis-a-vis writing; I just keep writing my little heart out ’cause I make plenty of money at what I do and have no plans to write a book in the near future — if someone really, really wants to plagiarize my poor English that much, I say, let ’em have it. The problem lies in my collection of photographs and images of obscure and rare album covers and memorabilia that would thoroughly entertain folks who’re into my “bag,” pop-culture wise, but that I would be horrified to see re-printed in hi-res on, let’s say, greeting cards or stationery, or worse, used as illustrations in books (to the horror of the individuals from whom I’ve been gifted these images). Does anyone know if Google is gonna come up with an “Image-to-image” search any time soon? Right now I can’t bear to post these items, even in small, poor resolution, watermarked form on the ‘net because of the problem with the vipers out there who might painstakingly restore them (via photoshop) to a semblance of their original quality. P.S. Amy, your recommendation of FURL is the best thing that’s happened to me, computer-wise, since Spell-Checkers!

  4. Last year I was teaching English in a French school in Rome and was surprised to find the worst plagiarists (read: most flagrant) were also the brightest kids in class. It’s because plagiarism is not considered such a big deal outside the US, especially at school, and also because the brightest kids are the only ones who have and can use a computer – another big difference with the US. By the way, Amy, I found your blog from your contribution to the Waicent project at FAO, where I now work as an editor. I’ll be back!

  5. Amy, how did you handle the situation? I do this for my company with a letter that was written between myself and my department director. We’ve even had to get our lawyers involved at times when the thieves were particularly stubborn.

    But I’m very curious to know how others handle situations such as this.

  6. Amy,
    great content in “Contentious”.

    to my specific comment:

    “the precise wording of most sentences is unique”
    Very true – and the easiest way to track the origin of text, or where it has been copied
    to is to use the sentence with the most unusual word, or turn of phrase.
    A good way to knock those urban legends on the head….

    James

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