On August 2nd, 2005, I pushed Plagiarism Today live.
It was a bunch of firsts for me. It was my first topical blog. It was my first experience using WordPress. It was my first site with more than weekly updates.
However, it wasn’t my first time facing down plagiarism. That began in the spring of 2002 when I first learned that personal poetry/literature site had been duplicated, with all of the work on it lifted and put under someone else’s name.
In the three plus years that elapsed, I had already dealt with over 400 cases of plagiarism of my work, a number that would eventually rise to over 700 before I shuttered the site. The decision to launch the site Plagiarism Today came from those experiences and the number of other authors who were asking me for help.
Also, strangely enough, August 2nd wasn’t my first post on Plagiarism Today. That was made on June 13, 2005, where I wrote an article praising GreatestJournal’s (a now defunct blogging site) efforts for battling infringement.
I had originally planned to blog for three months in private, posting at least three times a week. This was both to build up content and to also see if there was enough material to make the site worthwhile. However, I had goofed and made the test site indexable by search engines and ping backs, meaning it was already drawing some traffic. Instead, I pushed it live barely a month and a half into the experiment.
Despite the hurried start, 2005 would go on to be a very exciting year for the site and a formative year for what it would become.
Copyright and Plagiarism in 2005
In 2005 I largely avoided talking about larger copyright issues, the site was laser-focused on the type of infringement I was used to at the time. So instead of broad copyright conversations and copyright news, there was a lot of talk about the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) includes studies done about it, problems with the law, how to write an effective notice and, if you were so inclined, how to avoid it.
Regarding specific threats webmasters faced, splogging (spam blogging) was something that came to my attention quickly after I started the site. Spam bloggers would scrape the content from sites, usually using the RSS feeds, and republish them wholesale, creating serious concern for creators. The problem grew through all of the year, so much so that, by the end of the year, there was fear that the war was being lost.
The site also looked closely at various plagiarism scandals (something I now do more on the iThenticate Blog). That year we saw scandals involving Coldplay, a legal case against Dan Brown and the firing of school board president Melissa Elias.
Also, since it was 2005, there was even some conversation about Wiki plagiarism and what it meant. That year, also featured a post on the subject of fan art and fan fiction, looking at how creators respond when the infringer is a well-meaning fan.
Needless to say, those were two topics that would come up again and again in the future.
All in all, 2005 was a year that set the tone for a lot of the topics the site would cover and provided a look forward into what the next ten years would bring.
Most Popular Post
The most popular post (in the past 90 days) from 2005 is Copyright Infringement, Plagiarism and Fair Use, a piece describing the three terms and how they overlap and differ from one another. It’s a foundation piece that’s still often referenced in recent posts.
2005 Behind the Scenes – In the Shadow of Katrina
The August 2005 start date for the site is significant for another reason for me, a long-time New Orleans resident. That’s because on August 29th, 2005 Hurricane Katrina would roar into the gulf coast and its storm surge would flood the city.
When it comes to the storm, I was truly one of the lucky ones. I was evacuated for the storm itself, having left town days before to stay with relatives. My home was spared both wind and flood damage and we were able to return as soon as the the evacuation order was lifted.
In fact, we were back in New Orleans within three weeks. Unfortunately, we had arrived just in time to find ourselves trapped by another hurricane, Rita. It was tracking farther west and was headed more toward where we had evacuated to. With limited funds and all major exits out of the city closed (save the one taking us more toward the storm), we had no choice but to hunker down and hope for the best.
Fortunately, our luck held out and we dodged two bullets that year.
But while we had our lives, a roof over our heads and food to eat, the storm had taken a drastic toll on us. Ten years later, I realize that toll was mainly in two forms:
- Altered Career Path: I had started a promising new job a week before Katrina. It was a great job with a great company. It looked like it would be the start of a new career. The last thing I said to that office was “See you Tuesday” expecting the storm to just close us an extra day. I never saw them again.
- Emotional Toll: While we were truly lucky, we didn’t and couldn’t know that while we were evacuated. Looking at the images of flooded homes and watching the violent aftermath of the storm unfold, we worried about those we knew who had stayed behind, we worried about our home, we worried about our future. I only broke down uncontrollably crying twice during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, but there were many more times I probably should have.
Instead, the combination of high emotion and inactivity led me to do the only thing I could do, work on my sites, including Plagiarism Today. Plagiarism Today became an outlet for the three weeks I was evacuated and, though I had to operate it on a slow AOL dial up connection (best available to me), it filled the time between seeking updates and other necessary activities (such as applying for government assistance, keeping in touch with employers, etc.).
Honestly, without Plagiarism Today, I might have gone crazy.
Still, though I’d like to think of 2005 as the year of Plagiarism Today. Even now, 2005 is, and likely forever will be, the year of Katrina instead.
To be honest, I’ve been loathing this entry. I know that future parts of this series will be easier and filled with better memories. But the origins of Plagiarism Today, to me, live in the shadow of a very dark time for myself and my city.
That being said, it’s a reminder that, sometimes, beautiful things are born in dark places. This little site would go on to be the center of my life in many ways. It would become my career, my chance to travel the world and my opportunity help countless other people.
Katrina may have defined 2005, but it has not defined me and it has not defined my city. For me and for Plagiarism Today, the real adventure was still ahead.