This subject really has me ticked off these days. I'm truly amazed and appalled to discover just how many people feel it is no big deal to steal the copyrighted work of others. I guess I'm a fool, because I didn't realize how many ignorant people seem to think it's just fine to copy the work of others off the Internet...their giant content provider...and slap it on their own web site.
If you saw a reporter's story on CNN or MSNBC and you copied their entire news article and put it on your own web site...do you think that maybe a lawyer from CNN or MSNBC might be knocking on your door soon? You'd better believe it. Why? Because you are stealing from them!
Worse...I'm discovering that many teachers out there are taking "fair use" policies to the extreme. Rather than taking small samplings for educational purposes, they are just swiping entire articles, giving no credit to the author and plastering it on their own technical expert web sites! Rather than inflating your own credibility as an expert on the web, how about playing within the rules and just provide a link to the real material? <sigh>
Geez...when I was in school, I had to figure out how I could read a biography and then write up my own report on that person without using any of the same words. You need to explain facts about the same person, using your own words, so it's obviously difficult to do. But we did it because, if the teacher got wind of the fact that we wrote directly from a book (took someone else's words), we were in deep trouble! From lectures about the seriousness of plagiarism to having to write I WILL NOT STEAL a few million times. Yet today, I've found many teachers who have no problem with just taking what they want and displaying it as if they wrote it!
I recently found several parts of my articles posted, word for word, on a technical expert site run by a teacher affiliated with a girls school in the UK. The school itself mentions how they pride themselves on excellence, yet when I first contacted this teacher and informed her that she was not allowed to just copy my work and post it to her own web site, she disagreed...
"As a full
time teacher it is sometimes useful to actually use
internet content to explain to kids what certain terms
That may be true, but how about giving credit where credit is due! Or rewriting the content in your own words?
"...Should every page (even written nearly 10 years ago) be sacrosanct. Should every page author be contacted to obtain permission to use in potential Powerpoint, Whiteboard, written exercise, Revision, Exam practice, homework."
"What is the point of this wonderful Internet if we can't share information without the the heavy hand of copyright?"
Sharing information is one thing...taking the words of others and making people think you are the expert who wrote those words...is dishonest! This is what they're teaching our kids? That it's okay to just take anything you want with no regard to ownership? Hello!! How about just posting a link? It's less work for you! Of course, then you don't look like the expert you are apparently trying to make people think you are!
I was originally planning to point a finger at this person in this article in an effort to get her to remove the work. But I sent her a warning email and, although she didn't initially agree with me that it was wrong, she did rewrite the content in her own words (or at least no longer in mine).
And later she realized she was wrong and wrote to me to say....
Its very late, and re-reading what I sent to you I think I was being too impolite.
"Please accept my apologies for the original problem,
you are quite right in raising the issue. I responded by changing the pages in question. Then it got a bit emotional.
"You are quite rightly using the web for passing on your knowledge to your readers and I appreciate where you are coming from."
I must say that I was thrilled to receive her last email. One down, a few million to go. It was wonderful to see that she now realizes that it is wrong to take material without at least asking permission or giving credit. Granted, I don't give permission to repost on the web, unless it is to the original author, because that can hurt our ratings in Google, which is an important factor to a web site or author who tries to make a living from their hit-rate or words.
Although, I do generally give permission to those who ask to reprint on paper for students, particularly low-income, non-profit or senior centers where the chances of the user having their own computers to read the articles online, through our site, are slim. Plus, I've been known to give companies permission to reprint on their internal Intranet sites to help with employee training.
The whole point of what I do is because I have a passion to help people learn. And if they can't find their way to our site, I'll make concessions to help them get the information they need to learn. JUST DON'T RIP ME OFF!
But there are also many folks like Alan Henderson who runs http://www.mistywindow.com/. He not only cracked me up when he asked if he could email my Inconsiderate Emailer article to everyone in his contact list<grin> (explaining that he needed the words because his friends would never bother with the link...permission I happily gave him for the good of the Internet community), but who also asked permission just to link to the article from his web site.
We don't require permission to link; in fact, we greatly appreciate it, because it drives more people to find our site. However, it was nice of him to ask. I also explained that it was fine to add a teaser, meaning he could use a few words from the article to draw interest, as you can see he's done with my article at this link: http://www.mistywindow.com/email/junkmail.htm
He properly credited the article, added a teaser to add immediate interest to his page and then linked directly to the article. This benefits us both because people come to him to see what useful stuff he's found this month and it benefits me because he points people to TechTrax. Beautifully done and much appreciated, Alan.
On the other hand, then there are people like Schpider who not only blatantly rip us off, but then even take the time to modify the advertising links to their own benefit and change the Join Us and Consultants links so it looks like they put this material together (as if I'm a writer for them). Thankfully, since all the images in TechTrax are embedded in a special database within our site, none of the images show up. So it's clear that they did a pathetic job, but the point that they are ruining our hit count and literally stealing from us is still there.
Granted, they left my name on the article, but they are literally just swiping the source code from the article and providing it to their members as their own, supplied content...it's plagiarism and it's stealing. Not to mention that they are getting advertising revenue rightly ours for this material!
Although many of these sites have their own servers, many Internet Service Providers (ISP) take plagiarism seriously. So it's highly recommended that you inform their ISP of the offending sites and hope that they take appropriate steps to deal with the web site owner. You can bet I'll be looking into this site further.
The Sudbury-Manitoulin Mason Thieves
And then we have the ultimate in arrogant thieves who do whatever they want, know it's wrong and just don't give a damn. In this case, it's the Free Mason's Union (or whatever they are in Canada) from Sudbury-Manitoulin, Ontario, Canada.
These guys ripped off my Maintaining Your Computer article, which I originally published to MouseTrax.com in 1997. I first discovered them when I got an alert from Google about one of Greg's articles: Why Does Explorer Think I Only Want to See My Documents, which they also posted to their site, as well as some of Greg's other articles and many technical, copyrighted articles directly from Microsoft.com. (Now that's playing with fire!)
I first wrote to their Chairman of Web Resources, firstname.lastname@example.org, and nicely asked him to remove my copyrighted content. No response. I then looked up the other officials, such as their Grand Master, Brother Atkinson and emailed him, as well as their web master again. Nothing.
Then I sent a blanket email to every email address I could find on their site, hoping someone there had a conscience. I was completely ignored! I then got ticked off and wrote a nastier email demanding that they remove my content. Of course, I was totally ignored by them all.
Now sure, some of you may be defending them saying...maybe they never got your email!
True. But, I KNOW they know they are stealing my material and don't care. You see, they stupidly didn't bother to change the image links, so the images were still being displayed from my web server. Out of frustration, I decided I'd make sure they knew that what they were doing was wrong. I created new graphics and changed the original ones they were pulling from my site. I wrote things in the image squares such as "this copyrighted material was ripped off from MouseTrax.com."
They knew what they were doing was plagiarism and stealing, because their solution was to just removed the images from the article! It's obviously clear that they saw the page, saw the images and the content accusing them of copyright infringement and rather than remove the material or contact me for permission, they just removed the accusations of theft so that fact wouldn't be displayed on their site.
And as you can see below, they still have my exact article posted to their web site, with no credit to me, the original author!
As you can also see below, they swiped Greg's article. (There are actually a few of Greg's articles on this site.) At least he got some credit. But the point is that they never asked for permission nor received permission to reprint...not to mention that they have errors in some of the retyping, which makes Greg look like the illiterate one!
Now I'm sure some of you are thinking...what's the big deal. Someone else wrote an article that explains the problem quite well, so I'll defer you to that article here:
When Someone Steals Your Work
Plus, you can check out this other site to see that, yes, plagiarism is wrong...a problem that many people are trying to battle on the Internet.
What is Copyright Protection
Furthermore, in case you're not aware, there is a Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which you can read about, here: http://www.google.com/dmca.html
This can become serious stuff. Particularly, if a writer decides they are angry enough to contact a lawyer. If they have the copyright infringement issues documented well enough, as I do here in this article, it can cost the offending web site a pretty penny!
My guess is there are many others out there using copyrighted material. They're probably thinking...they'll never find my web site. But think again! Because this problem is a wide-spread issue of ignorance, there are many new tools to help author's easily locate copyright infringements to help them recoup some of the financial losses from these sites who illegally post their work.
One of these, very useful tools that I recently discovered is Copyscape.com. (Thank you Susan Daffron for passing me this one!)
All you need to do is go to this free web site (although, you can also pay for more automatic checking/notifications on your work, which I will be doing!) at http://www.copyscape.com and enter the URL for your article. Then they scan the words in your article and search the Internet to find any pages that match your content.
As you can see in the image below, when I enter my Maintaining Your Computer article, there are our boys from the Subbury-Manitoulin Free Masons!
Granted, you do need to click the link to venture in and verify the details, because it may be that only a few words matched and the site listed is totally innocent. I was surprised to find a colleague's site listed once, but then saw that they had just used the same six-word term to describe a technical concept. No problem there.
When you enter the link for the potentially offending site, you will see a count of how many words match. As you can see in the image below, in the case of these Free Masons from Canada...they swiped 2,367 words, which is essentially the entire word-for-word article.
The words that have been matched will be highlighted on the page, as shown below. And yes, as you can see, they stole all my words!
You can then click the View This Page link at the top of the Copyscape page to go to the offending web site to gather information in an attempt to contact the site owners. With any luck, they will be like the teacher mentioned earlier...who realizes the mistake and removes the content, along with an apology...rather than the likes of the Sudbury-Manitoulin Masons, who ignore your requests and continue to alter the article to hide the fact that it is swiped from someone else.
But you can also click on the Who Is link to find out more about the owners of the site and even contact their ISP to report the abuse.
Sadly, you'll now see many articles in TechTrax that will contain an additional image as a reminder to potential plagiarists that we will be watching where our content turns up and will take action to have the material removed. It's a sad state of affairs, but needed when people don't play by the rules.
Note that if you are a non-profit organization, or teach low-income students or seniors and wish to reprint articles from TechTrax for training purposes, or you write a company newsletter and are looking for content, you can request permission by simply clicking our Feedback link in TechTrax or our Contact Us link in MouseTrax to state your request. Of course, you are free to print any pages here for your own learning.
To those who do take the time to request permission versus just ripping us off...thank you. And to those who just steal our content, we'll be hunting you down soon!