Plagiarism 2006: A Preview

In the six months I’ve run this site, I’ve learned a great deal about plagiarism. No matter how many times you deal with plagiarism of your own work, you always learn something when looking at other people’s problems and other people’s strategies.

However, the biggest surprise for me was seeing how rapidly this issue is changing. Far removed from the days of simply copy and paste, the methods of plagiarism have evolved and continue to do so while prevention methods, detection techniques and cessation procedures are struggling to catch up.

While plagiarism and content theft have never been simple issues, they became much more complicated in 2005. What’s coming next, no one can say for certain, however, there are a few predictions that I feel more than comfortable making.

They are, in no particular order, as follows.

Decreased Splog Plagiarism: Though splogging is likely to take off in a major way come 2006, sploggers are likely going to ease away from plagiarizing their content in favor of much faster and more legal content generation. At least one high-end content generator was released late this year and more are rumored to follow. This push-button content generation will make scraping and synonymizing obsolete in terms of generating search engine fodder. Though it’s likely that some sploggers will always scrape their content, especially inexperienced ones with limited budgets, the major sploggers will likely start to abandon that behavior in 2006.

Increased Synonymized and Translational Plagiarism: Though the SEO crowd will likely start to ease away from plagiarism, those wanting to quickly generate sites for human visitors will turn to it in greater numbers than ever. Though this will be an across-the-board problem, I expect it to be most strongly felt in the blogging community where fly-by-night bloggers tempted by easy ad revenue will lift with reckless abandon. However, those who do steal will increasingly turn to synonymizing and translation software to mask their works more effectively and fool human readers as well as search engines. Though such packages always produce inferior results to the original, the ability to avoid detection and the lack of a need to create truly good content will make these programs more popular.

At least 24 Plagiarism/Copyright Scandals: This year saw a major plagiarism story approximately every three weeks. In general, these stories came from major blogs discovering that their content was being stolen and writing about it, generating a great deal of interest in their respective circles. This trend will likely accelerate over the next year as both detection improves and plagiarism increases.

New Copyright Protection Products will Surface: As bloggers begin to talk more and more about content theft, clever marketers will try to capitalize on this by releasing products that are designed to help prevent, catch or stop plagiarism. In short, we will see anti-plagiarism applications start to leave the academic sector and enter into the private one. However, most of these products will be snake oil solutions that offer no benefit over what is already freely available. Nonetheless, I am hopeful, though not optimistic, that at least one will offer some new value.

Rise in International Plagiarism: As the Internet continues to spread in countries with little or no respect for intellectual property, economic factors combined with a desire for respect and acceptance on the Web will create an atmosphere ripe for companies and individuals alike to engage in plagiarism. These incidents will be increasingly difficult to deal with and will likely result in at least some of the aforementioned plagiarism scandals.

Aggregation Debate: I can also foresee a rise in RSS aggregation or sites that simply take a collection of RSS feeds and create a new site out of it, doing it without the original author’s permission and in a direct bid to take readers away from the people who create their content. Though not technically a plagiarism issue since most aggregate sites credit their sources, albeit limitedly, but it is still a major intellectual property issue that is going to come up. This will also be a part of a larger debate centering on the Creative Commons License and the possibilities for abuse that it opens up. Though I’m hoping that the CC organization will step up to meet this challenge, it’s not likely in 2006. Perhaps someone else will.

Shutting Doors: Finally, I fully expect at least one major site to close its doors in large part due to plagiarism. For years, small and medium-sized sites have been shutting down regularly due to plagiarists outpacing their own growth and ability to take action. As plagiarism gets more prevalent and the plagiarists get bolder, larger sites will become more and more of a target and will likely be the nail in the coffin for at least one.

Beyond that, the year is pretty much wide open as far as what I’m expecting. This next year should be a very interesting time for copyright on the Web and I’m looking forward to reporting on it.

For my final prediction is simply this: No matter what happens, I’ll be there to cover it, analyze it and, hopefully, make sense of it.

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

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