My Story: My First Plagiarism Battle (Part Two)

Note: This story is a continuation of this entry. If you haven’t read the previous entry, you should probably go back and read that one first, otherwise, this one isn’t going to make a lot of sense.

Looking back on what happened, I realize now that I had an advantage over many others in my position.

First off, by this point in my life, I had already received several very good primers on copyright law, the best coming from a journalism law and ethics class that spent several days focused on the subject. However, before that I had taken a special interest in copyright law, all the way back to high school, before Raven’s Rants existed, when a previous venture of mine was being ripped off by fellow students.

Even though that foray into copyright law was unsuccessful, largely because the individuals in question weren’t actually breaking any copyright laws, it helped to give me a good primer on what my rights were and what laws, exactly, were being broken.

On top of having at least some understanding of copyright law, I had also been a message board administrator and was responsible for keeping trolls and other malcontents away from my forums. I became very good at tracking down people online and, at one point, had considered applying my talents to becoming a skip tracer or even a private eye.

So, with those skills already in place, I began to sink my teeth into my plagiarist…

This plagiarist had made the mistake of registering his own domain. It was a trivial matter to take that domain and look up the contact information for it. Within a minute of returning to my computer, I had a bevy of information on my plagiarist including his name, address and phone number.

Somehow, this was a very calming moment for me. My plagiarist had a name, he was a real person and, for the first time since I discovered his actions, I felt as if I had some level of control over him. Knowledge was power and I was starting to accumulate a great deal of it.

I restrained the urge to simply pick up the phone and call him. Never a fan of telephones, I wanted to avoid a phone confrontation and, instead, decided to email him. I figured that, since his email was splashed all over his site, he probably checked it regularly and it would be the easiest way to get a hold of him.

I sat down and hammered out a long, winding email that, looking back on it, was more emotional play than legalese. It reads as if I was speaking through clinched teeth, trying to hide my anger while making it perfectly clear how upset I was.

Part of the letter read:

I have spent countless hours maintaining and working on my web site and I will NOT allow you to simply rip it off. That is why I am giving you exactly 48 hours to take down your site and remove all infringing material before I contact both your web host and a lawyer.

I also demand a personal response from you explaining your actions and a public apology for gross inconsideration of my rights. If you wish to battle this out in court, I have dated works of all my poems, DNS records which PROVE my site was up before yours and all the works in progress for the material on my site.

At that time, I had no lawyer and I didn’t understand the DMCA well enough to contact a host. All of my threats were bluffs. However, to add a little bit of credibility to what I was saying I sent a second email to him copying and pasting his address and phone number. I was hoping that he would see I was serious and that he wouldn’t pick up on the fact I was a rank amateur muddling his way through his first plagiarism battle.

After sending the letters I began to wait. After just five minutes of wringing my hands, I realized that I needed to do something to keep this from eating me alive. I began searching through his site and looking up some of the other material that was hidden away in deeper sections (areas I previously hadn’t seen). I discovered quickly that he had also stolen a slew of other poetry from another site, taintedthoughts.com, and nothing was original.

I fired off a quick email to the Webmaster at TT and let him know what was going on. Even though TT is a collaborative site, most of the pieces involved belonged to the Webmaster himself and, despite never having spoken with him prior to this event, I felt a kinship with him since we both were poets in the same genre and both being ripped off by this “Crimson” character.

After that, there was nothing left to track. Nothing to do but wring my hands and click the “Get Mail” button repeatedly in hopes of hearing something back.

Nothing came though. Minutes turned into hours and the late evening of the 21st slid into the early morning of the 22nd. I couldn’t even consider sleep and I had to get out that room before the frustration ate me alive.

Crystal, sensing this, encouraged me to take a walk with her. We threw on some jackets and went for a few laps around the University of South Carolina Horeshoe, which was across the street from our building.

The entire time we were walking, my lips were moving. However, I was saying nothing, just repeating the same expressions of frustration and disbelief. Crystal, like a saint, was patient with me through it all. She listened intently, even after I repeated the same babbling expressions for the hundredth time, and never even hinted at being frustrated with my senseless repetition.

Nonetheless, the chilly late-night spring air did me a lot of good. For the first time since the ordeal had started, I began to feel truly calm and at ease. I didn’t feel like I was seeing red, I wasn’t having to struggle for rational thought and I even began to feel a bit sleepy.

I was finally starting to truly calm down. A good thing too, because I had the surprise of my life waiting on me when I got back to the apartment.

Previous Entries: Part One

[tags]Plagiarism, Content Theft, Whois[/tags]

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