Note: This story is a continuation of Part One, Part Two and Part Three. If you haven’t read the previous entries, you should probably go back and read them first, otherwise, this one isn’t going to make a lot of sense.
The content from the site disappeared the next day. A couple of days later, the home page was changed to a plain “site temporarily closed” message and, within a week, it disappeared altogether, returning nothing but errors.
Still, I got no satisfaction from seeing the site go down. There was no celebration, no victory party. It was a very empty experience.
First off, Crystal and I had already realized that, if one person could steal so much of my work, there were likely others out there. We devised techniques to search for my own work on the Web and, in very short order, found nearly every piece on the site underneath a different name on the Web.
Almost immediately we found ourselves shifting from a singular battle to a long-term war. I was refining my search techniques, developing a real cease and desist letter and compiling a list of Web hosts and their contact information.
However, even as the war began to escalate, I never forgot about Crimson. He remained the far and away worst plagiarist I’d seen until much later in the fight. Something about the incident left me ungratified and very empty. I decided that I had to try, one last time, to contact him.
All I wanted from him was a reason, some kind of explanation. I couldn’t imagine, without losing my faith in humanity, how someone who had an obvious appreciation for my work could steal it and try to pass it off as his own. Perhaps still a bit naïve in some regards, I didn’t want to believe that people could be liars and thieves for no reason at all.
I wrote him a lengthy and impassioned plea asking him to explain why he did what he did. I hid my anger behind an honest attempt to understand and reached out to find some kind of reason behind the madness.
He replied to me with one simple word, “Suffer.”
It was the only time I’d heard from the coward directly and, though it was meant to prolong my agony, it instantly washed it away.
First off, it let me know what I was dealing with, a cowardly spoiled child who was bitter because he got caught. When I was growing up, my mother worked in the prison system as a counselor and I’d spent a lot of time around hardened criminals, usually attending graduations and other ceremonies. For the first time in the ordeal, I realized I wasn’t dealing with a mere bully or petty thief, but someone with a criminal mentality. I felt neither anger nor pity, just a sense of happiness that I’d dealt with him so strongly and won the battle. For the first time, since I received Chris’ letter, it felt like a victory.
Second, it washed away any guilt that I had been harboring about tracking down other plagiarists. I’d already started getting the sob stories and excuses. Though I hadn’t caved into any, they were starting to weigh on me. That burden was lifted.
If it hadn’t been for that response, I don’t know if I’d been able to carry the plagiarism fight as far as I have. I caught a glimpse of the true nature of the average plagiarist and never looked back, the mystery was gone.
However, the sad end to the story is that Crimson would actually re-emerge several months later. Curious to see what was going on at the domain, I visited it only to find an even closer copy of Raven’s Rants. This time, not only had he updated his poetry section, but he added other sections of the site to it. It was a flawed copy of Raven’s Rants and nothing more.
There was no rage this time though. I simply emailed Chris and called him up later that evening. He had told me that his cousin had apologized to him and promised he simply didn’t understand copyright law. Chris then gave him the site back.
The betrayal in Chris’ voice was obvious. If I didn’t believe him before, I definitely did now. He was hurt and betrayed, much like I was. He offered me his cousin’s information and promised not to stand in the way of any legal action I wanted to take. He then offered to turn control of the domain over to me.
I told him not to bother with any of it though. I had other worries and other battles. He told me he was considering taking the domain and using it for his site, I told him to do so. I always felt the best way to turn something evil around was to use it for good.
It took a while, but he set up a role-playing site on the domain. It showed promise, but it didn’t last long. For years now, the domain has pointed into oblivion.
Since then, I’ve greatly refined my anti-plagiarism techniques. I look back on the way this was handled and cringe. I’ve learned so much since then that this seems amateurish and foolhardy.
Still, it was the experience that opened my eyes to the nature of plagiarism online, both the frequency of it and the nature of those who perpetrate it. It, quite literally, set the tone for the entire plagiarism war sense and, in that regard, I’m eternally grateful.
For, as much as I hate Crimson and what he stands for, I’m grateful for what he showed me. He probably helped me far more than he hurt me.
It’s a rather ironic twist but, because of him, I haven’t suffered since.