When it comes to fighting plagiarism on the Web, one needs to use the right tools to license and defend their work. Tracking content, persuing infringements and shutting down cases requires a great deal of technology and at least some basic knowledge of how the Web works.
Still, with the right tools, almost anyone can effectively monitor and protect their work. For those who are curious about the tools that I use or perhaps want to see what is available, I am offering this list of my favorite anti-plagiarism tools, targeted at smaller webmasters, artists, bloggers and anyone who posts their work online.
So, without further ado, here is a quick rundown of my favorite anti-plagiarism tools.
Best Licensing: Creative Commons
The first step to protecting your content is to license it correctly and clearly. On that front, I am an unabashed supporter of Creative Commons, even using the BY-SA license on this site.
CC licenses provide machine, human and lawyer readable versions of all their licenses, a great deal of flexibility for those that want to license their work and a sense of certainty for those that want to use content.
Though the licenses aren’t perfect, they work much better for Web content than open source licenses, which have strictly-set terms and are usually targeted at software. That, in turn, is a big part of why Wikipedia moved to a CC license recently, away from the GNU Free Documentation License.
Runner up: All Rights Reserved
If Creative Commons isn’t right for you, and it may not be, then the best fall back right now is a good old-fashioned “All Rights Reserved” license. Though not an actual license since it is the default of copyright, it is the safest approach.
Besides, if one of the 6 CC licenses doesn’t fit your needs, you’re probably better off using the default and handling everything on a case by case basis. Just be sure to make this extremely clear on your site.
Best Text Tracking (Dynamic Content): FairShare
If you are running a blog and are curious about how your content is being used, FairShare is probably the best tool money isn’t needed to buy. FairShare works by having you submit your feed to the service and then subscribing to its output feed. That feed will tell you who is using your content, how much, whether they link back, etc. It even detects for CC compliance.
What makes FairShare so powerful is that it uses the same matching technology as Attributor, a professional content detection system used by major media outlets like the Associated Press.
Though there are many other great content detection tools, most are geared toward static content, not sites that update every day or even more often.
Using a digital fingerprint, which is a unique string of characters used to identify your work, and placing it in your RSS feed is a great way to track your content. Using Google Alerts to help you be alerted to new uses is even better.
Though not as thorough as FairShare, it’s free, easy to set up and may work in cases that could trip up other systems. Bear in mind though it won’t help much with those that only take part of the content or that don’t scrape from the RSS feed.
Best Text Tracking (Static Content): Plagium
Plagium and Copyscape were all but identical in my testing of their two services in terms of matching power. But Plagium brings new features to bat, including a Google Alerts-like notification system, and offers it all for free.
Plagium is a solid choice for detecting static content on the Web and, in my tests of it, it has performed extremely well.
Runner Up: Google Alerts
Though I like Copyscape a great deal, its free plan is far too limited. With a little bit of ingenuity you can turn Google Alerts into a plagiarism detection system that is both automated and free. Though Plagium simplifies this process greatly, Google Alerts is a solid alternative that may possibly generate more results, albeit with more effort.
Best Image Tracking: Tineye
Tineye’s database may be limited, but its image matching is very good and its service is free. Though I wouldn’t recommend it for professional photographers, they are probably better off with one of the runner ups, it is a great way for a photographer or artist to do a quick check of their work to see who has copied it.
Hopefully Tineye can both expand their database and add some more powerful tools to make this kind of searching faster and more automated.
Runner Up: Paid Services
There are tons of great services that are available including PicScout, C-Registry and Digimarc that visual artists can use to track their work on the Web. Though these tools are more powerful than Tineye, they all come with a price point likely beyond what your average blogger or Flickr user could muster.
Best Multimedia Tracking: N/A
No one wins this award because, first off, I don’t know enough about this particular industry to offer much feedback and, second, because no one seems interested in helping the average YouTube user track their work.
The problem isn’t that there are no companies that do this, there are at least half a dozen, but they are all geared toward record labels, TV stations, etc. with price points to match. The simple truth is that effective image matching is just now becoming practical at a low cost so video and audio has a ways to go.
Runner Up: Google
That being said, video and audio don’t suffer from the same issues with incorrect and false attribution as pictures and text do so you can likely gain at least some significant benefit from searching for your name or relevant titles.
You won’t catch everything, perhaps not even most, but you’ll at least find some.
Best Email Management: Gmail
If you find yourself dealing with a lot of copyright infringement, you’re probably going to be sending/receiving a lot of email, as such, Gmail is probably your best bet. Not only does it allow you to send and receive email from other accounts, making it possible to set up new accounts just for copyright issues and check them in the same place as your other mail, but its filtering and labeling system makes organizing your mail easy.
Nevermind that you get free IMAP and POP access as well.
Runner Up: Everyone Else
Realistically though, you don’t need a Gmail account to handle these matters. Any solid Web-based email will likely work just as well. If you have a system you’re more comfortable with, you should probably stick with it.
Best Host Location Service: Tie: Domain Tools and Who Is Hosting This
Who Is Hosting This provides drop-dead simplicity while Domain Tools provides the highest level of accuracy possible with the most information available. Which you choose probably depends more on your level of experience with these issues.
If you’re a novice, Who Is Hosting This is much less intimidating. If you are familiar with networking tools, Domain Tools is the best you can get. Both are free (though you need an account with Domain Tools if you make many requests in a day) and I even have a video on how to use them.
Runner Up: IPchecking
IPchecking is very similar to domain tools and, perhaps, a bit easier to use. However, it doesn’t provide whois information about the domain itself and may send you scrambling to another site for additional contact information. As such, I tend to favor the more complete Domain Tools, if only slightly.
Best Takedown Detection: Change Detection
When you send a cease and desist or a takedown notice, you’d probably like to be notified when the work is removed, Change Detection can help with that. It checks the pages you tell it to daily for any modifications and highlights what’s different. It will also let you know if the page goes down completely.
All you do is provide the URL, an email address and Change Detection does the rest.
Runner Up: Everyone
There are dozens of services that provide this exact funcationality. Some even allow you to set the update time to more frequent than what Change Detection allows. Most of these services are free, for at least a limited number of checks. I simply trust Change Detection more because it has been around for ten years and is widely used by security experts.
In the end, these are just my personal tools. These tools are in constant flux as new services come online and old ones die off. I may, if there is enough change, do a similar list in 2010.
If you use different tools than these, feel free to leave a comment and say why. I’d be interested to hear. That being said, there is nothing wrong with disagreement as many of these are just personal choices.
More than anything, I hope that this list gets a debate started about what the best tools are and why, I’m sure there’s a lot of disagreement out there and I’d to hear where the issues are, as we as where they are not.
Disclosure: I have consulted for Attributor and am a paid blogger for Who Is Hosting This