Common Questions Answered

Though it’s a rather odd entry, I’d like to take time out to address some of the more common questions I get from people as they are dealing with their own plagiarism problems. With time, I might expand this article and turn it into a permanent FAQ.

On that note, if you have any questions you’d like to add to it, feel free to leave a comment.

How can I find out if someone is plagiarizing my work?

First, take a look at my “How to Find Plagiarism” guide. It covers most of the basic information that writers, artists and musicians need to find plagiarized copies of their works.

Second, consider using various services that will proactively inform you of potential plagiarism. Google Alerts will email you when a unique phrase is found on another site, Feedburner, will alert you to uncommon uses of your feed and, in come cases, Copyscape can be useful for a quick check of your home page.

However, the biggest key seems to be simply keeping your eyes open and encouraging your readers to do the same. Do searches for similar content, read what others post and keep up to date in your niche. It is by far the best way to keep on top of plagiarism, not to mention your chosen subject.

Ok, I found someone plagiarizing my work, what do I do?

If you catch someone stealing your work, consider either sending the plagiarist a cease and desist letter or sending their host a DMCA notice.

The one thing to avoid though is trying to take the matter public and shame the person into submission. Yes, it can work, but it is very time consuming and causes more drama than is necessary. It is almost always best to resolve things quickly and move on. “Teaching a lesson” to the plagiarist rarely works out as such.

How Do I find the host?

Most of the time, the host is simply the domain name the site is under. Myspace hosts Myspace profiles/blogs, Google (AKA: Blogger) hosts Blogger blogs, LiveJournal hosts LiveJournal blogs and so forth.

If the plagiarist has acquired their own domain name or the owner of the domain isn’t cooperative, use a tools such as Sam Spade or Domain Tools. To first determine what the IP address of the site is and then perform a whois on that.

Once you know who the host is, you need to find their DMCA contact information by either visiting the U.S. Copyright Office list of DMCA agents or by looking on the site’s on terms of use or legal page.

See also: Finding the Host

What if the host is overseas?

If the host is not located in the U.S., then there is no DMCA. However, there still is a decent chance that they will cooperate, especially if they are Canadian, Australian, within the E.U. or otherwise follow a western notion of copyright law.

Still, in these cases, do not send a DMCA notice, but rather, politely inform the host of the infringement and ask politely for assistance. Many times they will help, other times they will not. Still, if you play nice, you can get very far.

What if the host doesn’t cooperate?

Though it is a very rare occurrence, sometimes hosts, especially international ones, simply won’t help and plagiarists can’t be budged. The best thing you can do then is consider filing DMCA notices to the main search engines and, if applicable, to Google Adsense.

The host removed the content but didn’t ban the user, what can I do?

Nothing. Though the DMCA requires hosts to ban repeat offenders, it says nothing about first or even second-time cases. Every host has their own policy regarding such matters and your best bet is to simply be grateful that the work is removed.

Remember, even if you disagree with the policy, as long as they did was asked of them, be nice to the host. Building good relationships is a big part of plagiarism fighting.

How can I stop this from happening in the future?

Odds are that you can’t. You can do a great deal to reduce plagiarism by doing things such as posting a clear copyright notice, warning against plagiarism, adding footers to your RSS feed, truncating your feed and so forth, but you will unlikely stop it completely.

You have to realize that, even if you have a very severe issue with plagiarism, at least 99.9% of users are legitimate. Any inconvenience or incosideration toward them must be weighed carefully against any potential benefits.

In the end, reasonable precautions that don’t impact the user experience are usually a good idea, but much else actually causes more trouble than its worth.

Final Thoughts

This is just a quick roundup of some of the most basic questions I get asked, once again, if you have questions that need to be covered, feel free to post a comment or send me an email.

I’d love to hear what you have to say.


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