6. The Long Haul

It’s a common mistake. A Webmaster discovers a plagiarist stealing his work and throw everything he or she can into making them stop. They rally their readers, write letters, raise a ruckus, create as much noise as possible working tirelessly to shut it down in the most personal way possible. They attack with incredible vigor, often hurling insults and evoking flame wars and celebrate merrily when, the content is removed.

Then, they applaud the stunning victory and move on, their demon slain.

Unfortunately, they quickly forget that plagiarists are like cockroaches, there are never just one, and as they begin to search out others, they realize that their initial tactics are no longer relevant or sustainable. They failed to look at the plagiarism fight over the long haul and suddenly find themselves swamped, without the tools or the stamina to handle what’s going on around them.

They fall behind in their fight, not due to the master stroke of a skillful thief, but because of nickel and dime effect of dozens of scattered incidents. Like a giant brought to his knees by a million paper cuts, many webmasters fall victim not to a single act of plagiarism, but the ongoing onslaught of it.

However, it’s a mistake that’s easily avoided, if copyright holders are willing to accept the realities of the war against plagiarism and change their tactics accordingly.

Repetition

The first step is to remember this mantra: “Do not use any technique that can not be repeated 1000 times.”

In short, a technique that can only be used once or twice is no good at all. Mob justice might work very well on specific cases but is impractical as a long-term solution. It’s simply too time-consuming, too risky and causes too much damage. Where one or two battle cries might not hurt your site, too many incidents can detract from your regular work, damage your reputation and turn readers away.

Instead, the focus should be on efficient, easy and effective. If it’s complicated, unlikely to work or detracts from your site, it should be avoided, period. There’s no reason to gamble, play around or waste time. You have to be ready to handle a decent-sized number of plagiarism incidents and then move on quickly to get back to why you run your site in the first place.

The techniques I teach in previous chapters of this series are designed to do just that, help you get in, clean the situation up and get out with the minimal amount of headache or distraction possible. In my personal experience with these methods, I’ve been able to handle dozens of plagiarism incidents in a single week without missing an update.

Still, there are ways to fine tune these techniques to make them even better and to improve one’s readiness.

Improving Efficiency

Here are some tips to improve efficiency of the techniques previously discussed:

Have Your Letters Ready – About 95% of the content of a cease and desist letter or DMCA notice will stay the same every time you send one. Most major email applications allow you to set up templates for outgoing mail and that can be used to create a pattern for these emails (Note: If you use Webmail, consider using the Signature extension for Firefox). Just set aside locations to insert the items unique to each letter (the works involved, links to infringing material, links to sources, etc.) and make it flexible enough to be used in multiple situations.

Personally, I have two cease and desist templates, one for sites that take just one work and one for sites that take multiple. They are identical in content, but vary in that one uses the plural and the other the singular. This helps to avoid wasting time editing the letter.

Set Aside an Account – Create an account solely for handling copyright issues. Not having to go through mounds of personal or regular site email will save a great deal of time when searching for a specific letter. Consider using the accounts legal@ or copyright@ to add more authority to your letters.

Handle Your Alerts Well – If you use Google Alerts, use the tips in this earlier articles to manage them and keep your inbox organized.

Consider a Database – If you deal with more than a few dozen incidents, keeping them straight in your mind could be a challenge. Consider setting up a database using a program similar to Microsoft Access or OpenOffice Base to keep track of everything. Zoho Creator is an excellent tool for creating an online database that is available everywhere.

While you’ll have to decide what information is pertinent to each case for yourself, be sure to include links, a box to mark the case closed, contact information for the plagiarist and their host as well as a place to leave notes for yourself. Any other information you choose to include or leave out is purely your choice.

Make Peace with Defeat – While not really a technical tip, it’s an important notion regardless. While over 95% of plagiarism incidents can be resolved easily, some, especially international ones, can not. There’s no reason to bog yourself down on a handful of unsolvable cases while dozens of other incidents need to be addressed and your site needs updating. Sometimes the only practical thing that you can do is make peace and move on.

Bottom Line

In the end, there’s no reason that a single incident of plagiarism should take longer than a few minutes to address. However, getting to that point will require preparation and a willingness abandon ineffective and time-consuming techniques.

Fortunately, the emotional and time cost involved in doing that will be rewarded many times over with a plagiarism fight that is both easier on the soul and on the schedule. So, while some might think that switching techniques is akin to admitting defeat, it’s actually the first step to achieving victory, especially when looked at the big picture.