Tapping Your Readers

One of the most difficult elements of stopping plagiarism is spotting it. Even with the power of Google Alerts, Copyscape and other plagiarism detection schemes, finding a plagiarized work in a prompt fashion can be very difficult. After all, Google can take weeks, if not months, to index a site and, in that time, stopping plagiarism can become a moot point, especially for timely articles.

If you run a medium to large site in your particular niche and plagiarism is a problem for you, consider tapping your readers for assistance. It never hurts to have additional eyes and ears out there looking out for you and, even though many will alert you to plagiarism no matter what, it’s very easy to encourage others and get more involvement in the issue.

And the more involvement you get, the more likely you are to stop plagiarism before it gets out of hand.

Make Your Readers Aware

Odds are that, if someone is reading your site that they’re reading ones similar to it as well and are actively seeking out new sites that come up. It’s also most likely that your work is going to be plagiarized by sites in similar niches as yours. Thus, it’s very likely that one of your readers, not the search engines, will be the first to run across a plagiarized version of your work.

However, before you can expect your readers to tip you off, you need to let them know that there is a problem with plagiarism of your work. Though you don’t want to turn them into an angry mob beating down plagiarists’ doors, making them aware of the problem is the first step to having them keep their eyes open. People are much more likely to spot a duplicate work if they know that they are to be on the look

The trick to this is to let your visitors know that your work is being plagiarized and that you’d appreciate their help. Make sure that you are clear about your copyright policy (especially if you allow credited reuse of your work) and don’t encourage them to contact the thief directly. Instead, have them write you. This will keep them on the lookout, but prevent them from doing anything in your name that might be embarrassing or illegal.

Give Them a Contact Means

After that, you need to make the means of reporting as easy as possible. It needs to be simple, direct and, since some individuals will be reporting people they know, anonymous.

If you can set up a separate contact form for plagiarism reports, that’s ideal. No personal information should be required (No name, email, etc.) and it should be set up in such a way that it’s easily filtered, either by sending it to a different email address or using a designated subject line.

The simplest version of this form simply involves one text box line for an individual to copy and paste a link with a submit button out to the side. Others, like me, use a more complicated form where people can volunteer information if they want credit for their find or want a reply back.

The main thing though is to make this form as simple and as anonymous as possible to encourage submissions. It should, if at all possible, be kept separate from your regular contact form and should not be practical for use to contact you about other site issues.

After all, you don’t want to get people confused and sending you general queries through your plagiarism form, that could make for a very inefficient email experience.

Offer a Reward

Finally, encourage user submissions by offering a reward, even if it’s a token one. Though money is certainly out of the question, for most of us anyway, offering some kind of reward goes a long way to generating interest and seems to get a few people genuinely excited about finding plagiarists.

Personally, I offer links to individual’s Web sites and credit lines on my Copycat Hall of Shame (which is in dire need of updating). This is the only way to get a link on that site right now. Other options that have been kicked around include offering printable certificates, extra site membership benefits and a mention in the site’s newsletter.

Though the nature of the reward is truly up to you and will be unique to each site offering it, it’s a very vital step in the process that turns passive readers into active searchers. Even if they don’t donate any time to the issue, they will certainly be more likely to report something if they know that there’s something in it for them, even if it’s only token in nature.

Fringe Benefits

In the end, the means for motivating readers to help you with your plagiarism battle is nothing more than common psychology and sociology. However, engaging them in such a manner can have some unexpected positive benefits, especially for a community oriented site.

In short, bringing together people and encouraging them to work toward a common goal can really strengthen a sense of community and help increase loyalty, not just to the site itself, but to the people there as well.

Also, since the vast majority of people are morally opposed to plagiarism, taking a public stand against it can be seen as a very positive thing, even if the reason behind it is self-centered.

However, even without the fringe benefits, it makes good sense to recruit your readers to help you with plagiarism detection, especially if you have a sizeable presence in your niche.

The more eyes and ears you have, the more likely you are to catch something before it’s too late. After all, there’s little satisfaction in stopping plagiarism years after it takes place. However, if you rely too heavily on search engines, that’s often the reality you face.

A sad but true fact…

[tags]Plagiarism, Content Theft, Copyright, Copyright Law, Psychology, Sociology[/tags]