5 Major Changes in the Past 5 Years of Content Theft

Yesterday, I talked about the 5-year anniversary of Plagiarism Today and what it has meant for me and the site. It’s been a great 5 years to say the least, but it has also been an interesting five years for content creators.

When I walked into Plagiarism Today, I was inspired to do so by the spate of human plagiarists, people taking my work and claiming it to be their own (despite a license to freely use it with attribution). That is why this site is named Plagiarism Today and not Copyright or Content Theft Today. However, a lot has changed over those five years and the site has had to adapt and change to those movements.

So, with that in mind, here are the five biggest changes for webmasters and bloggers that I have observed over the past five years and what they mean for those who are interested in tracking and protecting their work on the Web.

5. Growing Awareness of the Issue

When I started Plagiarism Today, I had an uphill battle convincing people that plagiarism online was a serious problem. In fact, my first mention on This Week in Tech was a fairly negative one as the hosts didn’t see the plagiarism issue I did.

Things have changed though and, perhaps the greatest sign is that I am now a recurring guest on This Week in Law, which is on the TWiT network, including most recently on Episode 63.

Clearly, people are more aware of the issues of content theft and plagiarism on the Web and that has made my job, as well as the job of webmasters, much easier.

4. Hosts Less Cooperative

One discouraging trend I have noticed is that hosts are becoming more and more hostile to dealing with copyright matters. This isn’t universally true, most hosts that were great still are and some have improved, such as Google Blogger, but most paid hosts in particular have been aggressive at trying to avoid compliance.

This isn’t an issue I’ve faced much personally, likely due to my site being well-known in these circles, but I’ve been getting increasing reports of hosts being aggressive in trying to not comply with notices. In one recent case, even accepting a counter-notice before the takedown notice was filed, in violation of the protocol.

I’ll have more on this problem in the future.

3. Social Networking Boon

In 2006 Facebook had a mere 8 million unique visitors and had just opened for public use. In 2009, Facebook has an estimated 200 million unique visitors log in every single day.

This has had a huge impact not just on how people use the Internet, but where they post works and the types of copyright infringement that are more common. Where, five years ago, forums and free blogging sites were the most common sources of human plagiarism, today it’s Facebook and other social networking sites.

This is an example of a shift in the broader Web having a dramatic impact on the way content is used (and misused).

2. Rise (and Fall) of Scraping

Much of the initial interest in Plagiarism Today was not generated by human plagiarists but by automated spammers who were scraping RSS feeds, sending people to this site to find ways to stop them.

When I started PT, full RSS scraping was fairly rare, though I did mention it first within a few months of starting the site, but it became extremely common between 2006-2008. However, the method fell out of favor with many spammers since then, in part due to improved duplicate content filters and also in part due to copyright complaints from bloggers.

Though there are still plenty of RSS scrapers out there, other types of spam blogging are increasing in popularity, including scraping search engine results, truncated feed scraping and content generation. In short, full-feed RSS scraping, though common, is losing some favor and the newer methods skirt most copyright issues.

However, from what I am seeing, human plagiarism is on the rise again, meaning that there is still plenty of work for me to do.

1. Improved Technology/Tools

In 2005, the best tool for tracking your content was Google Alerts and Copyscape was still fairly new. So much has changed in 5 years that it is difficult to put it into words.

For one, we have great new tools for tracking blog content, including free services such as FairShare, Copyscape alternatives such as Plagium and even free tools for tracking images, such as Tineye. This doesn’t count the spate of more traditional plagiarism checkers, the licensing applications and non-repudation tools that register and datestamp copyrighted works.

The tools available today put what was available in 2005 to shame and gives me a great deal of trouble trying to stay on top of all the changes. If you’re a creator of content and eager to track your work, now is a great time to be active on the Web and it seems poised only get better.

Bottom Line

The past five years have been a period of rapid change for webmasters in this area and the next five will be the same. However, I am curious about what you think will happen over the next few years in this area.

Please leave your comments below or drop me a line to send me your thoughts.

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