Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A blog post about plagiarism and what people should know

I have quite the interesting post today. I'd advise people to read it in its entirety and think about it before 'referencing' articles on someone else's blog.

Background: I was severely plagiarized with many of my posts being posted word for word on another person's blog including pictures and my personal commentary, sometimes not even referencing anything 'DAX Dude' anywhere in it while still retaining the identifier 'I' in the sentences which would indicate they are original thoughts of the plagiarist's. None of them had links to the original or anything indicating that they were re-posting someone else's stuff. #ShakeHead

For people that know the real me, I'm pretty chill about helping people out. I look past company loyalties and differences in the effort to advance the community of a product I decide to focus a good portion of my career around. Obviously I know more than just the Dynamics and Microsoft software stack (as should all people who call themselves coders...) so I'm not tied life or death career-wise to the success a product.

I won't hound people or be rude if they're respectful and considerate if they want to reference things from my site and use proper citation or credit to the original work where due as everyone who has graduated 3rd grade has done. Unfortunately, some people made their way through school or created a career around stealing other people's work.

The point of my daxdude.blogspot.com blog is to enhance the AX community and knowledge of the product in the effort to help out customers get a better implementations. I have spent many years working on this site casually and anonymously so it doesn't really help my personal career at all. It started as something to help me keep my sanity on the road and has grown into something much bigger.

I won't lie and say I'm not bothered by people who exploit and blatantly plagiarize my site for personal gain. I am bothered. Very bothered. I want to say I don't take it personally but I do for some reason. Maybe its because this site isn't 'business' to me so much as a hobby and eats away at my personal time it takes to write a meaningful article that someone tries (or unintentionally tries) to pass off as their own.

There are many reasons people would intentionally steal someone else's intellectual property (IP). I am so bothered in fact, I am writing this blog do discuss this topic. I did some brush up research and will share my findings here. There were some blatant cases that came up in looking at who is trying to steal my stuff that I found that made me want to stop blogging all together out of sheer disappointment... Thanks to some kind words from some people in the AX community, I decided to keep going.
  1. What is plagiarism? 
  2. How does plagiarism hurt the content originator?
  3. Why would someone knowingly plagiarize a blog?
  4. Arguments against intentional plagiarism
  5. Is is possible someone accidentally committed plagiarism?
  6. How can I make sure I don't plagiarize a site?
  7. What can I do to prevent plagiarism?
  8. How can I handle people who I have identified as plagiarizing my material?
PART 1 - What is plagiarism? 

See below from  Dictionary.com: Plagiarism Definition 
"pla·gia·ris [pley-juh-riz-uhm, -jee-uh-riz-] Show IPA


noun
1.
an act or instance of using or closely imitating the language and thoughts of another author without authorization and the representation of that author's work as one's own, as by not crediting the original author: It is said that he plagiarized Thoreau's plagiarism of a line written by Montaigne. appropriation, infringement, piracy, counterfeiting; theft, borrowing, cribbing, passing off.
2.
a piece of writing or other work reflecting such unauthorized use or imitation: “These two manuscripts are clearly plagiarisms,” the editor said, tossing them angrily on the floor."

Here is some detailed information for the inquisitive folks in the crowd:Complete version of the U.S. Copyright Law, December 2011

Enjoy! The above should be enough information for you to NOT DO IT! If you do still, I'll happily bring it to your attention.

PART 2 - How does plagiarism hurt the content originator?
  • Steal original author's ideas and content by trying to pass them off as their own thus putting into doubt in the reader's mind who was the original creator of the content.
  • Get more traffic via search engines on certain issues that are in same niche as the originator's content
  • Take away advertising revenue from the originator(this does not factor into mine as I currently don't get ad sense revenue)
  • Contribute to the group mentality that plagiarizing is ok and make the issue exponentially worse
  • Not allow the author to amend content that needs to be for corrections or additions thus leaving outdated content out on the web
PART 3 - Why would someone knowingly plagiarize a blog?  
  • Someone who doesn't understand plagiarism or what constitutes it
  • Attempting to profit off your work by drawing more traffic for ad revenue
  • Can't come up with original content on their own
  • Laziness
  • Think they are not because they don't know how to properly cite information (and they think they did)
PART 4 - Arguments against intentional plagiarism

Argument 1: "I properly cited all copied content"
Odds are, no you didn't if someone is contacting you. If you did, no one should care. Also, you wouldn't worry as the person would have no case against you anyways

I don't care about being super technical but its good practice to preface a section by saying something about how the below was from XYZ from this website (provide actual link to original blog post) and is about [whatever]. Also, give a link to their twitter handle or something. This clearly lets people know that your site, however people got there, is primarily a vehicle to share an idea from someone else. I actually encourage this!

Additionally, PLEASE DON'T JUST COPY/PASTE EVERYTHING!!! Provide a summary or something and link back to the original so it encourages people to visit the original for more detailed steps on doing the process. You already got the page views on your site, help the person get page views who gave you those hits to begin with.

Or you can be super formal, too. Check out the below for formal ways to cite a blog post.
Martin Fenner Blog - How to formally cite a blog post
ScienceBlogs.com - How to cite a blog post properly

APAStyel.org - APA Style <- Great for generally accepted standards

Arguement 2: "The content is 'Fair use'."

This is a fun and easy one to win as it's usually brought up by those that don't know really what they're talking about. It's not always black or white but is a common talking point. Sometimes judgment needs to be used to determine this. Lets look at a very reliable source to pull together our own conclusions: http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl102.html This is what your lawyer will google/bing for you at $200 an hour when I tell you I will contact my legal team if you don't remove my content from your site. Save a few bucks, read the below, and buy your significant other a nice dinner instead. See below from this link:

"Section 107 also sets out four factors to be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair.
  1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work
  3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
  4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work"
PART 5 - Is it possible someone accidentally committed plagiarism?
It is possible for things to be accidental. In certain art forms (coding included), people learn from examples. That is why there are things like genres of music (punk, trip-hop, opera, baroque era, 80's electronic pop, etc) and art (impressionist, pop art, abstract, cubism, etc) but many musicians and painters define their personal style by making personal connections through others' original works. Check out the following from YouTube's Cellardoor1994: Similar Songs Part (1 of 2). It did a good job of showing similarities of songs for examples. Some are a stretch, others... not so much... Can you determine which were intentional?

When it comes to legal matters, its all about what can be proven. Take Bach writing techniques as an example, its easy to follow the formula/rules and pump out a song that might resemble another song unintentionally. Intent is very hard to prove and why lawyers make a lot of money protecting others' IP and personal property.

I'm not a lawyer but am an amateur hobbyist in the subject. I grew up with dreams of being a lawyer and thus read many text books about the subject. Won't go into details but by all means, steal my work on this blog and don't cite it. I'd love to share a scintillating conversation with you when I find you.

PART 6 -  How can I make sure I don't plagiarize a site? 
I've found this one to not be too hard if you follow common sense. Honest mistakes are forgivable as no one is perfect. Just correct them ASAP. The grey area for me becomes less grey when exact sentences start to line up or images are swiped that I created.

One area that is tricky is when I write about a subject I have read about in the past, I am unable to find the location where I originally found the information. If I take the ideas I remember to be mine and write about them even if they were remembered from somewhere else, is that plagiarism? Depends but probably not. I always try to differentiate between facts and opinions and do my best to be as original as possible with thoughts and ideas and credit as many people as possible along the way to establish credibility as well as further my own points.

PART 7 - What can I do to prevent plagiairism?
This was a fun one. I like to blog and wanted to keep doing it but realized some people will not respect your IP so its a necessity. I'm sure there are many ways to do the below but I've found the below to be most helpful going forward.

  1. Include watermarks on your images. Note, I have not done this for my 140+ blog posts but due to some highly unethical people, I now realize I must do this rather than focus on new content...
  2. Put verbal character in your blog posts so it identifies you as you. (People will relate to you more as well).
  3. Highlight a specific sentence you in your blog and paste it into the search of google/bing. It will flush out the criminals quite quick.
  4. Avoid plagiarizing content yourself. Karma...
  5. Visit sites like
  6. PlagSpotter (www.plagspotter.com). You can batch search your entire site on the net. Very helpful but does cost money. I have yet to find a batch searcher that is free.
PART 8 - How can I handle people who I have identified as plagiarizing my material?
There are lots of fun ways to do this. I've chosen to educate people and use examples to make sure people know they plagiarized my material. Honest mistakes, that's ok. Blatantly stealing posts? Nope.

Here are some ways to do this that I've come up with over dinner/drinks:
  1. Take screenshots of the violations for future reference. Make sure to show the URLs on both sites, a lot of content from both that would prove the offense, as well as the time of the file creation. Make sure this is on one screenshot so there is no disputing that they are one and the same.
  2. Contact the person directly and ask the offending posts to be taken down. Give a short time frame
  3. Report to the site that is hosting the blog to take it down. Reference both sites. 
  4. Report the violation to any advertising companies that are on their site as it can be a violation of their terms to steal content in an effort to generate more revenue fraudulently.
  5. Comment on the offending post indicating its in violation of plagiarism and must be taken down. Reference the actual post for visitors to go to.
  6. If the situation warrants, bring a legal team down on them.
  7. Post a blog post to your site making a case for their plagiarism. This will get fun if they have something that automatically posts content from your site to their blogs.
  8. Take to social media to discredit their blogs referencing point 7 above. 
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In summation, please be respectful of content on my blog. It's not that much to ask.

2 comments:

  1. Totally agree.

    I have experienced some of the same issues, and I expect at least a proper citation to my original content.

    /Palle

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for the comment, Palle! It's a shame when it happens... Don't know why people think they get away with it as the AX community definitely seems much smaller than most ERPs due to the very active community.

    ReplyDelete