Blogging and writing

How to Deal With Plagiarism

How to deal with plagiarism – image of a copyright protected seal

A couple of days ago I discovered that someone had plagiarized a post of mine.  They had chopped off the last couple of paragraphs, but what they didn’t think to chop off was an internal link I had within the post.  It was a link to another post on my site, so when this asshat published the plagiarized post on his site, I got a pingback because of that link.  Smooth move, jackass.

As icing on the cake, I mentioned it on my weekend wrap-up post yesterday, and some other asshat at gofirstnews.com plagiarized the weekend wrap-up (and I found out because I got a pingback from an internal link).  That’s a dumb thing to plagiarize, but then again, it looks like all of the content on that site is ripped off from various places.

I have great disdain for people who plagiarize, and I’m sure most bloggers share that sentiment.  I’m not talking “plagiarism lite” where someone has quoted something from your post but didn’t properly credit it to you.  I’m also not talking people who reblog your post and give you credit.  I’m talking about the slimeballs who steal your whole post and publish it as if it was their own.

Copyright

You automatically have copyright over original content that you’ve created on your blog.  You can have a copyright notice on your blog for extra clarity, but it’s not required.  The phrase “all rights reserved” means that you don’t give up any rights you have over your work.  If you’re willing to allow sharing of your content under certain terms, you may want to check out Creative Commons and see if any of their licenses are a good fit for your site.

Unfortunately, plagiarism isn’t uncommon, but it’s hard to detect.  Unless you’re getting weird pingbacks or you just happen to come across it, you’re going to have no idea.  There are plagiarism checking sites you can use, or you can plug a couple of sentences enclosed in quotations marks into Google, but that’s rather laborious.

DMCA

The Digital Millenium Copyright Act is a piece of American legislation that gives website hosts the power to remove material that violates someone’s copyright without giving prior notice.

DMCA takedown notices have to go through the host for the plagiarist’s site.  If it’s a WordPress blog that’s actually hosted by WordPress, then that’s who you deal with.  However, if it’s a self-hosted blog, you have to go through their host.  If you’re not sure, you can plug their site address into DomainTools’ Whois lookup tool and it will tell you.

For non-WP-hosted sites, figuring out who to report the copyright violation to can be a bit of a production.  The Gofirstnews site that plagiarized my weekend wrap-up post is self-hosted, so I had to hunt down their host and send a notice to them, and I have less confidence in them that they’ll actually take it down.

DMCA Notices and WordPress

WordPress/Automattic’s DMCA Notice form requires you to enter the URLs of both your original post and the plagiarist’s post, as well as details on what copyrighted material has been used.  If you don’t have the link, you can find it easily by Googling WordPress DMCA notice.

Wordpress screenshot: report this content

You can also find it by opening up the plagiarist’s post, and down at the bottom of the screen beside the follow box, click the three horizontal dots, and then when the menu pops up, click “report this content.”  In your reader feed or in the app, click the three horizontal dots beside the like button, and click on “report this post”

Once WordPress gets the notice, they will check that it’s a valid complaint, then they will remove the copyrighted content from the plagiarist’s site.  They will then send an email to the plagiarist and the complainant saying that the content was removed because of a DMCA notice.  If the plagiarist doesn’t file a counter-notice disputing your claim, WordPress put a “strike” on their account so repeat offenders can be identified.

Dealing with the plagiarist

I’ve decided to give up contacting the plagiarist directly.  It’s unlikely to be productive, but it is likely to be aggravating.  I also like the idea of WordPress swooping in and shutting it down, plus that way WordPress has a record of their plagiarism.

One thing that I used to struggle with was wanting to let other members of the community know that someone’s engaging in shady behaviour.  I decided that I would add a not on my terms and conditions (or it could be in a site footer with your copyright notice) that I would publish the name and address of sites that violated my copyright.  Realistically no one’s going to read that, but that’s not my problem.  For me, that’s enough to overcome any reluctance to name names, and I think there’s value in making people aware of plagiarizers in our midst.  It also feels satisfying, which is a nice counterpoint to the grr of discovering someone’s ripped off your content.

I spent a good chunk of time this morning doing DMCA notices for my books.  There are loads of illegal book download sites scattered across the internet.  I hunt these down by putting the book title in quotes and the words “pdf download” into Google.  Once you’ve found sites that list your book, it’s a matter of figuring out who owns/hosts the site so you can submit a DMCA notice.  When filing the DMCA notice, I include the URL for a page/post on my site that talks about the book, as well as the URL of the book sales page on Amazon or wherever.


Have you had your blog content plagiarized before?  How did you handle it?

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29 thoughts on “How to Deal With Plagiarism”

  1. I had that issue last year with everyone else. It was resolved by the site going down. I don’t usually do spot-checking of anything other than my name on Google. I guess things could be out there…

  2. The only time I had it was last year when everyone else here had the same thing happening, resulting in the website being down. That website is back now though, as I mentioned in a blog post some months ago. They were alright then on checking. I don’t know about now. But I am confident that they learnt their lesson.

      1. They had their site set up wrong though. So if posts were not long enough meant it was shown in full, so readers would be reading it there and not fircing you back to the original site to continue reading it there. So that was my issue. They have corrected that now though, when I checked them out.

  3. 😯 Now, that is one brave bastard. Did they really think that they can get away with plagiarizing your content?

    By the way, Ashleyleia, if the offender is on WordPress.com, you can have the plagiarized content taken down with ease.

    It happened to me in the past; I made an official complaint to WordPress.com and the plagiarized content was taken down in two days’ time.

    Please keep us (your readers) updated on this particular scenario.

    1. I only happened to notice because I had links in the posts, so I had pingbacks show up in my notifications when the plagiarists’ posts were published.

  4. Thank you for sharing this tips. Long time ago, it also happened to me in which someone had fully plagiarized a post of mine. When knowing it, I wrote a comment on his related post and noticed him to add a link to my post or kindly add a proper acknowledgment.

    Then, soon after it happened to me, I add a banner of Copyscape in my site sidebar.

    1. Now that I’ve been through it a few times, it doesn’t make me angry like it used to, because I’ve gotten more familiar with the complaint poress. I used to try approaching the person directly, but that just got me more angry, so I skip that step altogether now.

  5. This is very important info in the blog post! I’ve never been plagiarized to my knowledge. I looked myself up once in an author context and found a site that claimed to have my book available for free download (with a paid subscription to the site, which included loads of free downloads). I signed up for the free trial just so I could determine if they actually had my book. Did it through PayPal. They said they wouldn’t bill you if you canceled within a week.

    I canceled later that night, after seeing that, thankfully, my books weren’t there at all.

    But then, this outfit started threatening me for not paying. (Even though I canceled the free trial on day 1.) I got snail mail (from a foreign country, but I’m not sure which one), emails, everything. I was mad as all heck, and I blamed PayPal, who must’ve given them my snail mail info. These book scammers threatened to sue me a million times over and ruin me financially if I didn’t send them money.

    So I sent them a payment… of two cents. Yeah, ’cause that’s what Meg does when she’s really angry at someone who claims she owes them money. She sends them two cents.

    Do you enact your DRM (digital rights management, I think) on Amazon when you self-publish there? I think that’s the safe thing to do!

    1. I don’t use DRM. From what I’ve read, it deters “normal” people from making unauthorized copies, but it isn’t much of a barrier for sketchy illegal sites.

  6. I sometimes see pingbacks and I check out the post they are from. Normally, it seems they hare reblogged my post. For the most part, I cannot see they are claiming any credit for it being their’s, but neither is there any comment from the blogger to say that they liked my post and decided to reblog it.

    All of the sites that have done this seem to have only one or two likes on each post, so I am guessing they are new bloggers who don’t know what they are doing may be taken as hostile. 90% of the time, I have ignored it and don’t do anything, but one blogger repeatedly reblogged my posts without adding any comment, so in his case, I did send a polite message thanking him for relogging the posts he had chosen but saying I preferred him not to reblog any more of my posts.

    As most of my parts are simply my own meaningless ramblings, I don’t worry too much. But if someone has put a lot of research and effort into their writing, or spent a lot of time in the creative process…I can imagine it would be a lot more concerning to them.

    1. I don’t mind people reblogging my posts. The rare occasion I reblog someone else’s post, I dont’ leave a comment because I know they should get a pingback

      What I have an issue with is people copying and pasting and passing it off as their own work. With these, the pingbacks I’ve gotten were only accidental because I had a link to one of my other posts within the body of the post.

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