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Cut, copy, and paste are three mischief makers. Granted they are good guys on a normal day, but in the hands of a blackguard they turn into shears hacking away your hard work. That’s all it takes for plagiarists to do their dirty work. If you have been working creatively on the web for some time, rest assured that you have been a victim of plagiarism at one time or another. Or you will be.
In academia, detecting and preventing plagiarism is a constant exercise. But whether or not it is taken seriously is another matter because copying from previous works and stealing data is rampant. New York Times has a whole archive on plagiarism and how it is a conscious ‘crime’ around the world. Stunningly in a recent development, Germany’s education minister was forced to resign when her doctorate thesis was found to be plagiarized. The Internet has increased plagiarism. The sincere web worker – a blogger, a graphic artist, a web designer, a musician – is a victim (and also the culprit).
Plagiarism has existed for centuries – it’s not only about words; misappropriating thoughts is also plagiarism. The web has only fanned the flames.
Modern technology is making preventing plagiarism easier, but it’s an irony that technology is also making it easier for plagiarists to evade being caught. The latter phenomenon is for another day as today we focus on the positive and look at the tips and techniques for preventing online plagiarism.
What Is Plagiarism?
A euphemism for plagiarism could be ‘borrowing’. But that hardly scratches the surface. More appropriate words to describe it would be – literary theft, piracy, or cyber-cheating. Plagiarism usually is deliberate but even an inadequate and improper acknowledgement of sources in a re-published work could fall under plagiarism.
Wikipedia says – Plagiarism is the “wrongful appropriation” and “purloining and publication” of another author’s “language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions,” and the representation of them as one’s own original work.
The Oxford Dictionary traces the root to early 17th Century: from Latin plagiarius ‘kidnapper’ (from plagium ‘a kidnapping’, from Greek plagion). The same dictionary says it is a simple noun – the practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own.
There is also a difference between it and copyright infringement. Plagiarism is more of an ethical crime, while the latter is a legal one. They are similar in act but different in their legal interpretation. But on the web, the distinction gets a bit blurred.
Why Should We Try To Stop Plagiarism?
Plagiarism isn’t only about cheating. It is one of the more grievous intellectual crimes. It isn’t only about morals and ethics; it could lead to reputations being scarred and life’s work turned into ashes. Pitched legal battles are matter of course. Here are just six reasons to take on plagiarism:
- It hurts the legitimacy of your own website, work published, and online reputation.
- It leads to loss of revenue. E.g. “AdSense” sites scrape content and revenue away from bloggers who work on the original web content.
- It hits SEO because you are basically competing against your own content. The Negative Google Panda Effect was a term bandied about when Google’s SEO update hit the original publishers while copycats benefitted.
- It stifles creative and intellectual development because cut-copy-paste negates research.
- It can increase your operational costs as practices like hotlinking leach your bandwidth.
- It increases time costs as energy is wasted on detecting and preventing plagiarism.
Be On The Lookout With These Plagiarism Detectors
You quite possibly will not be able to eliminate it, but you most definitely can prevent it with proactive steps and the tools which the World Wide Web gives us. We covered a few web tools previously – 4 Easy Ways to Avoid Plagiarism on Your Blog and Plagiarism Checkers: 5 Free Websites To Catch The Copycats gave us a quiver full of arrows to go to battle with. Let’s cover them again briefly; those which have remained free and a few new ones. To start with the simplest and free plagiarism checker turn to Google.
Google Search: Simply typing a few lines on the Google Search box could should you any precedents of the text you are checking. Look for exact matches by keeping the text within double quotes. You can also use Google Image Search and TinEye to do a reverse image search for duplicates too.
Google Alert: You can use Google Alert like a burglar alarm and catch the copycats who are stealing your content. Google Alert remains a freelancer’s dream tool for defeating plagiarism. Google and other traditional search engines limit the number of words you can enter in a search query. That’s why you should turn to some specialized tools which can handle larger blocks of text.
Copyscape: Copyscape is perhaps one of the more well-known names in the plagiarism detection space. You can use the free plagiarism checker for finding copies of your web pages online. You are limited to ten searches per month per site. Copyscape also has a detailed Guide to Online Plagiarism for further information on identifying and responding to website plagiarism.
Watch the introductory video for the site below.
Plagium: Limited up to 25,000 character in the free account, you can still use Plagium to search for large blocks of your content. Plagium also supports English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish languages.
Plagiarism Checker: This free service hasn’t changed much since I last wrote about it. You use a few phrases from your document and search the web using either Yahoo or Google. You can also scan webpages and websites by entering the source URL. You can also set up a Google Alert for a few key terms in your document and use it like an early warning system.
Article Checker: Paste your content in the text area and use Google or Yahoo to search for duplicate content.
Doc Cop: Doc Cop is a collusion and plagiarism detection tool that allows you to conduct your scan through a file-upload and a web check. File Check can scan and compare a maximum of eight Microsoft Word or AdobePDF files of up to 50,000 words each against one another. Web Check charges $2.50 to check 1000 words. is a collusion and plagi ea and use Google or Yahoo to search for duplicate content.
Crossrefme: Crossrefme is a simple copy-paste tool to check your content against duplicates on the web. The report gives you an originality index that is indicative of how much the content compared is to the ones found elsewhere. The service is still strangely in alpha, so I am not sure if further development is on here.
Scirus: Scirus is a specialized search engine for academic and scientific article. Just like Google, you can use it to search for plagiarism leaks of your scientific research paper by giving it a block of text.
Be An Activist – Attack Plagiarism With All You Have Got
Apart from a passive approach of monitoring for stolen content, you can go banzai when you do find something. Here are a few tips and techniques you can apply to nip plagiarism in the bud.
- Contact the offending part directly and politely ask them to remove the content. Alternatively, you can ask them to properly credit the source.
- If polite talk fails (the likely scenario), you can contact the hosting solution company. Obtain the information from the WHOIS registry and file a complaint. Most hosting solutions have an inbuilt clause in their terms. Hosting providers in the United States are answerable to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Joshua’s post on how to respond to content thieves with a DMCA takedown notice also takes you there. International hosting providers in other countries may be bound by similar legal acts. For e.g. The Digital Economy Act 2010 regulates digital media in the U.K.
- Usually content farms stealing content use AdSense for revenue. Hit them where it hurts by reporting the infringement to Google.
Our tech guy James did a very nice piece on Reader, Beware Of Content Thieves: Why Pirates Steal Website Content. He looked into their motivation as well as six ways to combat them. This one is a must read.
Battles Hard Fought…& Hopefully Won!
Even if you are blogging for free, it hurts to see your content being farmed all over the place by plagiarists. Imitation in the digital world is not the best form of flattery. Laws are taking shape along with search engine improvements which are penalizing content thieves. But the war is definitely on and you have to fight the battles by tracing out the sources. Also, it helps to keep yourself educated. One of the well-put together blogs on the subject is Plagiarism Today.
Have you been a victim of plagiarism? How have you dealt with preventing plagiarism? Tell us about your experiences and the also the time costs it took to go after the marauders.
Image Credit: Copycat via Shutterstock