Having run this site for over five years now, I’ve become very familiar with the seasonal ins and outs of plagiarism, both in terms of those seeking my services as a plagiarism consultant and in terms of general interest in the issue. Though you can see the trends somewhat in Google, I see them more prominently in my sites’ traffic and my personal bottom line.
For the most part, the seasonal forces are fairly muted. Though there’s a definite dip during the summer months when schools are out and businesses are getting less done as employees go on vacation. The levels remain fairly consistent during the other 8-9 months of the year.
There is, however, one exception. During the holidays, usually beginning around mid-November and through mid-late December, I always see a pointed rise in interest on plagiarism and copyright-related issues. At first this trend baffled me but as I began to think about it and look at what was going on, several factors became obvious contributors.
With that in mind, here are five reasons why the holidays are also a time for heightened interest in plagiarism and copyright issues, whether we want them to be or not.
1. Exam Season
From an academic perspective, December is one of two months of the year where final exams, papers and projects are coming due. As the semester comes to a close and schools get ready to close for winter break, students are being forced to turn in all of their work for their classes.
The pressure, combined with fear of being accused of plagiarism falsely, causes a spike in interest in the topic. Also, as professors look for ways to detect and stop plagiarism in these assignments, they take a heightened interest as well.
All in all, for the classroom, this is the zero hour for the war between plagiarist and teacher and the hour of terror for the students caught in between.
2. Court Sweep Out
It isn’t just the schools that are looking to close for winter break, courts shut down as well and many judges rush out critical decisions and attorneys rush to meet deadlines timed to hit just before they would leave for the holidays.
Most Decembers, especially in the early part of the month, there seems to be a flood activity in ongoing cases followed by a lull that lasts into late January. However, there’s usually a slowdown in new cases, as most wait until the new year to file new litigation.
Most attorneys I’ve spoken with seem to have noticed this as well, even if December is a slower month for them overall, it usually comes with a rush from the courts to bring some resolution in ongoing matters.
3. Increased Competition and General Rush
During the holidays, with so much money exchanging hands in online purchasing, retailers are watching their competition closely, tracking their content and enforcing their copyright when appropriate (and sometimes when not appropriate).
There have been rumors, albeit unconfirmed, of retailers discovering copyright infringement earlier in the year but waiting until right before the holidays to take action as so to shut the competitor down at a critical time. More common, however, is that sites in a rush to get all of their new material up for the rush include infringing material, either on accident or maliciously, creating new conflicts.
Though not all goods and services are subject to this problem, many are and it seems to send a lot of new people to my door every year.
4. Spammer Uptick
I’m not sure if it’s an actual surge in spam or if it’s just related to number 3 but people seem to notice the spammers misusing their content a lot more during this time of the year and begin to take action.
Whether its fear, perhaps unjustified, that they are hurting their holiday traffic, the presence of spam sites, doorway pages and other copycats draws more attention from companies.
Of course, it is probably a combination of increased awareness and increased spammer activity, but either way, this is the season for companies to spot spammers misusing their content and move to take action against them.
5. Holiday Copyright Hazards
Finally, the holidays are a time where sharing creative works is just more common, from posting photos and videos of holiday parties to creating blog posts about why the holidays are a time for plagiarism interest. This increase alone causes more copyright issues to arise but the season also has a series of copyright hazards relatively unique to it.
This includes carols still under copyright, Black Friday/Cyber Monday advertisements companies want to protect and much more.
Every year, it seems, companies and individuals make the news for various holiday-related copyright blunders or for being targeted in overly aggressive tactics.
Though it would be nice if the holidays could be a bit of a slow time for copyright and plagiarism issues, history has shown me that it is anything but.
So, my encouragement to everyone is simply because careful and be aware of the pitfalls and brace for what will likely be a busy upcoming month.