The only thing more frustrating that searching for a plagiarist is finding one.
For most, the act of locating and tracking down plagiarism is a relatively easy matter, but convincing those engaging in it to stop is a completely different game. Because, while knowing someone is plagiarizing your work is definitely better than being in the dark, it doesn’t do much good unless you can get the work taken down or properly attributed.
Though some feel that plagiarists are simple thieves and that you shouldn’t negotiate with, it is almost always best to try and resolve these issue face-to-face before taking any further action. This is the same as with any other kind of personal conflict.
To make matters more complicated, you don’t know where they obtained the work from or if there was some confusion that could have lead to them accidentally infringing or even plagiarizing your work. As such, it is best to give those involved a fair chance to respond and make things right.
However, this doesn’t mean that your letter shouldn’t be forward and direct. Lawyers like to call this kind of letter a “cease and desist” letter and it lives up to its name by telling someone they should stop a certain activity, in this case an infringement, or face additional consequences.
Though most cease and desist letters take on a very strong tone, there is no right or wrong way to present such a letter. The only requirement is that it have the following elements:
- What work you are claiming is infringing
- The content that is being infringed
- Your demands (usually either proper credit or removal as well as contact on the issue)
- A deadline by which the recipient must meet those demands and
- What will happen if they aren’t met (usually including possible legal action and a report filed to their host)
Since most plagiarists don’t expect to get caught, when they do they generally go along with the demands to avoid escalation. Many will do so silently, never writing back and others will write back to apologize or make excuses.
However, it is critical that you do not believe the excuses unless you have proof. For example, if the person involved claims to have gotten the content from another person, request the name and email address of that person so you can contact them. Usually, you’ll find they fail to give out those details.
But where it usually ends quickly, albeit with some excuses, there are time things get ugly, either the person doesn’t respond, the E-mail you sent bounces back or worse, the person gives an indignant response telling that he or she is not going to remove your work or respect your wishes.
Either way, it’s time to take it to the next level…
When To Skip This Step
Sadly, this method of resolving plagiarism is slowly being shown the door. Where it once made up over 2/3 of my resolutions, it now accounts for less than 10-20 percent of them.
This is due to two separate, but equally important trends: The rise of spam blogs and the rise of social networking.
With spam blogs, there is no human plagiarist to contact. The entire operation is run by machines and one person, usually with many fake identities, runs tens of thousands of blogs. In these cases, contacting the plagiarist does no good as you most likely can not reach them and, even if you can, they have no motivation to cooperate.
Social networking plagiarism, though it is usually the product of a single human, creates a similar problem by removing all practical contact information for the plagiarist. Instead, these sites try to push you to send a notice via an internal messaging network, often requiring you to register with the site before contacting the target.
This is something you should never do. It is important that you maintain your own paper trail and not rely on a service with which you have no affiliation.
Sadly, as these infringements make up a larger and larger percentage of all plagiarism cases, there is less and less room for direct resolution.