Plagiarism Today Turns 10

BirthdayOn August 2nd, 2005, Plagiarism Today was pushed live. Though I’d been writing content for the site for months prior, that was the moment it became publicly available and I embarked on what can only be described as the greatest journey of my life.

As I’ve hashed out in my recent retrospective series, it’s been an adventure that has let me travel the world, meet so many amazing people and given me opportunities that I still can’t believe.

And that feeling is made all the more amazing by looking back to the site that I launched 10 years ago.

When I first published Plagiarism Today, I had a very narrow vision for the site and its place in my life. At that time, I was a victim of rampant online plagiarism, I knew others were in the same position and I wanted to create a site that could help both them and myself.

I never envisioned that the site would last more than a decade, become my career or become as popular as it did. I simply created a site that I wanted to see exist and hoped it would help a few other people out.

To that end, it would seem that the site has had more than some success. Over the past 10 years, I’ve been involved in battling nearly every type of content theft imaginable including web scraping, unethical aggregation, spinning, photo theft and, in more recent years, revenge pornography and freebooting.

All the while, I tried very hard to remember why I was doing it. For me, it was never about representing the interests of large copyright holders or big firms, but rather, about helping people such as myself, small, independent content creators who feel hopeless against a tidal wave of misuse.

In short, whenever I needed to remind myself who the site was for, I didn’t need to picture some group of strangers, instead, I just looked in a mirror.

That has been one of the key things driving this site forward.

Changes, Face the Changes

A lot has changed over the past 10 years for me and for the site. PT went from being a side project fueled solely by passion to being, in a word, my life. Right now, Plagiarism Today is still my passion, but it is also my career and a huge part of my identity.

The site grew from scraping by with only a few dozen visitors per day to now getting thousands. It went from a virtual unknown that was mocked on This Week in Tech to being one of the most popular copyright law blogs on the Web.

None of this was in the original vision, but as the site has grown and adapted and so have I. First and foremost, I had to learn a great deal about copyright law. While I was fairly savvy at it when I started (I did have several years of plagiarism-fighting before the site began), as the site began to branch out into more and more diverse legal topics, I remember making many, many mistakes as I found my footing.

But through the fog and the mistakes emerged a new clarity and I started getting a lot more right than I got wrong. Plagiarism Today hit its stride some time ago and, mercifully, hasn’t stopped marching forward.

And move forward it has gone, whether it’s been the countless press mentions (that I’ve stopped updating because they became too frequent), the endless string of conferences I’ve spoken at or just the great conversations I’ve had on the topic, Plagiarism Today has been more than just a website to me, it’s been an adventure.

An adventure I’ve been incredibly lucky to be on.

The Adventure of a Lifetime

The ups and downs of Plagiarism Today have been nothing short of epic. From the first mention of the site in the mainstream media and the first conference I spoke at, WordCamp Dallas 2008, it was clear I had something special.

Sure there were dark times such as being attacked on Slashdot and the time that our host nearly killed the site for good, but the good has far, far outweighed the bad.

Thanks to Plagiarism Today I’ve visited 5 countries, spoken at conferences in four, have met people from all over the world and have made some of the best friends anyone could ever hope for.

Whether I was cohosting the Copyright 2.0 Show with Patrick O’Keefe, talking tech with Chris Matthieu or discussing WordPress with Lorelle VanFossen or revamping the podcast with Evan Sheres, I’ve met some of the most wonderful and talented people on this planet through this site and I am eternally grateful for that.

So while there have definitely been challenges, including long nights laying awake worrying about finances or regretting some mistake I’ve made, I still feel like the luckiest person on the earth to still be here and still be running this site.

A Decade in the Middle

One of the things that has remained consistent for me is that I am pro-copyright, but also a copyright centrist, or as I like to think of it, a realist.

This, at various points, has put me at odds with almost everyone. Over the years I’ve been accused of being a shill for just about everyone from the EFF, Creative Commons, MPAA, RIAA and the list goes on.

While I have people I know in pretty much every major organization dealing with copyright, I’ve worked very hard to remain wholly independent. I’ve never received a dime for an article I’ve written or an opinion I’ve given. The only money I’ve ever received for the site directly has been through my Patreon, which, as off this writing, could use all of the help it can get (please consider supporting if you can).

Instead, I’ve used my independence and experience to launch a consulting career, one that, for now, sustains both myself and Plagiarism Today.

To be clear, that path hasn’t been easy and, at times, has caused for more struggle than I’d like to admit. Still, it’s meant that I’ve never lost a good night’s sleep because I traded on my conscious. Every word on this site, even the views I’ve changed on and the errors that I’ve made, were 100% mine the day they were written.

I may not be perfect and I’m sure as hell not a great businessman, but I still deeply love what I do and I wouldn’t be able to say that if I couldn’t speak my mind. I wake up every morning with copyright on my mind and, by the afternoon, what was on my mind is now on this site.

It’s a simple, if inelegant, process that keeps me and this site going.

Thank Yous

Rather than wrapping up with a “Bottom Line” like I normally do, today I wanted to wrap it up with some thank you.

First off, to the women in my life, Crystal and Elli, thank you so much your patience, support and encouragement. You have done more than anyone realizes to keep this site going strong. Whether it’s tolerating my near-constant late-night work sessions, proofing articles or just providing emotional support when things got tough, you two are the rock this site is built upon. This literally could not happen without you.

Second, to my long-running friends I’ve met through this site, thank you for being an amazing presence in my life. Patrick, Chris, Lorelle, Evan and countless others, the people who I have befriended through this site have been amazing part of my life and helped make everything worthwhile.

Finally, a big thank you to all of you readers. Hundreds of you subscribe via newsletter, thousands via Twitter or Facebook and still thousands more new people show up every day. To this day I am blown away by that. It’s both honors me and terrifies me that so many people read and depend on this site as a small part of their day. I deeply appreciate your time and your support. You truly have been the greatest audience I could have ever hoped for.

Thank you all for 10 great years and here is looking forward to making the next 10 even better!

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