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Hey, that’s MY blog post!!! July 26, 2011

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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4 comments

A reader came on our blog, Poor Richard’s Almanac, with what we thought was an eminently sensible question. Unfortunately, we didn’t have an answer.

The reader noted that we publish a whole heck of a lot of original content, and wondered what we did to protect ourselves from being plagiarized. Plagiarism is just a fancy word for somebody stealing your original content and using it, without permission, generally as if it were their own, whether reposting it to their blog or dropping it into a term paper or what-have-you. He added that he too posted lots of original content and was concerned about protecting it from folks who have no scruples about helping themselves to other people’s research, hard work, style, and ideas.

We certainly couldn’t blame him. No writer, photographer, artist, or other creator of original content wants their work usurped and used without proper credit (and, as we’ll see, some don’t even want it used with credit). Publishers have long been vigilant about this, going after people who attempt to plagiarize their authors’ works, knowingly for profit or innocently passing information along, with a battery of lawyers. As far as blogs go, though, you’re on your own.

We’ve seen lots of attempts by bloggers to protect their content. Most put a copyright disclaimer over every photograph so it’s harder to copy. As for the writing, we’ve seen various versions of “this content protected by…” We’ve seen each post copyrighted with all rights reserved. We’ve seen hilarious threats of retribution from various gods, superpowers, sci-fi entities, even H.P. Lovecraft horror figures (thanks, Jodi, yours is the best!). We’ve seen very sober and lengthy warnings inviting violators to meet the original authors in court for copyright infringement if proper credit was not given and prior permission was not sought, in one case adding that such permission was never granted even when sought. (Hmmm.)

But does any of this really work? At a guess, no. Someone who’s immoral enough to steal your content is, in our opinion, unlikely to be deterred by a bunch of threats, however creative, dire, or legal they sound. After all, how would you ever know that someone had stolen your content, unless it suddenly appeared on a hugely popular blog or on the news? We certainly wouldn’t.

Mind you, the stolen-for-term-paper thing is under much better regulation now that most teachers and professors have recognized the potential. They regularly search the internet for phrases from term papers that seem a bit suspect, not exactly what they’d expect a particular student or any student to say, and they’ve become quite good at tracking them down to their original sources.

But the ‘stolen from your blog for my blog’ thing isn’t so easy or straightforward. We try to protect ourselves here at Poor Richard’s Almanac by being eccentric and writing about issues of interest to us in a very idiosyncratic way. It’s hard for any of us to believe that somebody would really want to try to steal our content. But if they did, we don’t know how we’d ever find out, much less do anything about it.

So we’re asking every blogger to tell us, and the reader who asked us, what you do to keep the unscrupulous and lazy good-for-nothing scavengers and scalawags lurking out there from appropriating your blog’s content for their own evil ends. Have you found something that works? How do those “protected by” thingies work? Enlightenment, please!

Busted! March 7, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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8 comments

Bloggers who care about the sanctity of your content, teachers and professors, listen up! Our friend Ben made a fascinating discovery this morning. Thanks to Poor Richard’s virtual home, WordPress, I can see the links people are using to come onto our blog. And because I find it interesting to see what brings people to our posts, I always check out the day’s list. Today I saw a link I hadn’t seen or heard of before, www.plagiarismdetect.com.

Wow! I had to rush over and check it out. Like all writers, and especially writers who post original content on the internet, our friend Ben wonders about people simply lifting my stuff and taking credit for it themselves. But because most of our posts are rather eccentric, I try not to think that this would really happen often. We might find Silence Dogood’s epic battles with the evil stinkbugs, or Benjamin Franklin’s visits with the hapless OFB, entertaining, but we doubt that they’re so entertaining that someone else is going to try to take credit for them. But occasionally, our friend Ben goes off on a philosophical or literary rant that has more universal applications.

Such is the case with this blog’s most popular post, “To thine own self be true,” which to date has been viewed by almost 2,500 visitors, with several hundred new visits occurring every week and no signs of a slowdown, though the post is now almost a year old. Our friend Ben has long assumed that most of those views are by students seeking term-paper inspiration, and that is just fine with me. What is not fine, obviously, is lifting the post or uncredited chunks of it verbatim and trying to pass it off as original thinking for a grade.

So when I saw that someone had come over to our blog this morning from the plagiarism detection site (whose official name, if memory serves, is “The Free Online Plagiarism Detection Site”), I thought, “Aha! Somebody tried to get away with it, and their plagiarism-savvy professor busted them.” Yes!!!!

Our friend Ben urges you to check out this site for yourselves. From what I could see, the process goes like this: You sign up (free), and then, if you want to check some suspicious text, you cut and paste it in, run the program, and it not only tells you if the text is plagiarized, but what percentage of it is plagiarized. The one-man hero behind this free service, Jeffrey Smith, is in the process of upgrading it to show many other nuances, including highlighting the lines that have been lifted.

Thanks to the internet, it’s easy and fun to research all kinds of topics and learn things instantly that might have taken forever to find through library searches and the like. But it’s also all too easy for lazy and irresponsible students to simply lift and drop copy into their supposedly original papers.

Our friend Ben hopes that students realize that professors are now onto this, and how. Certainly all our friends who are professors—and we have a lot of them—regularly check for plagiarism, and most of them are merciless when they find it. And professors and teachers, if you’re not acquainted with this website, do head over and check it out. One more tool in the arsenal, and it’s free!   

A final, ironic thought: Imagine copying something whose theme is “to thine own self be true”! Perhaps a bit more searching for thine own self is in order.