Back in March, 2006, I was ranting about how some people were ripping us off here in TechTrax by taking our articles, posting them to their own web sites and calling it their own work. See The Art of Plagiarism to read more.
Sadly, too few people understand that when someone posts material to the web, those are their words and that material is copyrighted. In other words, it's a Federal CRIME to take their words and use them as your own without permission from the author. Thankfully, many people are learning, as was the case of the school teacher who realized she was teaching her students to steal by posting my article to her own technical advice site, without my permission (see previous article for details).
And, amazingly, just the other day I got an email that thrilled me. If you read my Art of Plagiarism article (above), you read about the Free Masons who were making me crazy with their blatant rip offs of not only my articles, but several from Greg and also many from Microsoft. Well, I finally got an email from their District Deputy Grand Master who only recently discovered my article and the fact that their web site was ripping me off. He was appalled to learn that their web site was doing this! I was very glad to hear that!
Turns out their web master, Peter Salvas, was posting these plagiarized articles without the knowledge or approval from anyone in authority. As the District Deputy Grand Master put it..."I have just learned from your link http://pubs.logicalexpressions.com/Pub0009/LPMArticle.asp?ID=686 about the appalling behaviour of Peter Salvas who was the Computer Resources Chairman. I am shocked and extremely disappointed with his actions and promise that I will personally request an investigation into his conduct."
And to clarify that the Free Masons are not a bunch of thieves, as I felt when trying to deal with them in my previous article, allow me to further add more of this email..."Please be assured that Freemasonry is not about taking or stealing from anyone. A Freemason must believe in a Supreme Being who punishes vice and rewards virtue. We work for the benefit of humankind and do not seek profit or praise for what we do. The various branches of Freemasonry contribute millions of dollars daily to communities throughout North America. One of the most visible branches that you may be familiar with are the Shriners and the Shrine Hospitals for Children. My biggest regret is that you have experienced personal indignation and embarrassment which is truly wrong and unjust. It was my belief all items used on the Sudbury-Manitoulin District website were of proper legal stature. A belief that I now see was naive. Dian; Please accept my sincerest apology, I am deeply saddened and truly sorry for what has happened to you."
What a wonderful email to get when you've been totally frustrated with your words being used without your permission! Their site is now being redesigned and copyright content being removed. Needless to say, it is clear that this was the work of one unscrupulous individual and not the group as a whole. Great news!
But sadly, there are still people out there who have no problem with ripping off the expertise of others and posting the information as their own.
Some time ago, I discovered that a dog web site had swiped my article about Man's Best Friend.
Through Copyscape, it would have been easy to discover them, had I been looking. But in this case, it was through the watchful eyes of a TechTrax reader, Diane Blackman from dogplay.com who alerted me to the fact that my article was reposted with no credit to me.
Granted, the article highlights one of my favorite charities, Canine Assistants, so having my praise for them and wishes for more people to contribute to these wonderful assistant dogs was a good thing. But again, they gave no credit to me. And what really killed me was the fact that on the bottom of the page...with my article...they had the nerve to post their own copyright (see below image). HA!
I was able to find the owner of the web site by using various web tools, such as whois.com. These tools allow you to see if web site names are available. If they are not, you can also find out details about who owns the site. So I found the webmaster and emailed him. What really cracked me up was that I got a reply back from his web service informing me that he was using an anti-spam tool so I had to jump through a few hoops to get my email to him. HA. Nothing like a thief protecting himself from other thieves! However, I didn't hear back from him, so I contacted his web hosting service to inform them that one of their sites was using our copyrighted material. I later got a reply from the ISP simply saying, "This matter has been taken care of." A check of the site proved that my article was now removed.
So many others just don't understand that you are not allowed to post full copyrighted articles to web sites as answers to questions. Some do it fairly innocently and do provide a source link back to the article. But the fact is that just by posting the article, you are guilty of copyright infringement, a Federal Crime.
This guy posted a forum reply by using my entire article, but at least he did provide the link at the bottom of his post giving the link to the source of his information and he also left my name as the author. Still wrong, but not as bad as it could be.
To see how it could be worse, we have this guy as a sad example. Michael Tedeschi answers someone's question in The All Experts technical forum by pasting in Vic's entire COPYRIGHTED article.
Note that the highlighted words are matches to Vic's original article as processed by Copyscape, a web site that allows you to track your content to see if others are stealing it. As you can see from the highlights, the entire reply is straight from Vic's article.
And as you can also see, he closes with his signature and no notation to the source of his knowledge. In other words, he's making the step-by-step solution appear to be something that he came up with on his own.
And as we can see by checking Mike's stats, the All Experts web forum feels Mike is doing pretty good when it comes to answering questions. Sure...it's easy to look like an expert yourself when the material you're posting is directly from the real experts who worked out the solution!<sigh>
I sometimes get email from very honest people asking me if it would be okay if they printed one of our articles to read on the train. Or they are asking permission to save a copy to their own computer to use as reference in the future. It is very sweet that there are people out there like that! The fact is, as I've told them, they are more than welcomed to save copies of our articles or print them out for their own use. That's what we are here for! We want you to learn and you have the freedom to save our articles to use over and over.
And some people ask if it is okay to link to our articles from their site. Sure! We love it when you tell your friends from your own web sites that they can find good info here and provide links to our articles. We appreciate that! In fact, we even allow you to use a teaser, which is a sentence or two from the original article to entice your readers to click the link to read the entire article.
What you cannot do is reprint our copyrighted material to the web. Only the original author may do that. And you cannot reprint the article to share with students or post to your own company Intranet unless you acquire permission from the author to do so.
But know that we do often allow that type of permission, since we do want to help. However, posting to the web is frowned upon due to technical issues related to search engines. But we often allow training hardcopy reprints to be made for students...particularly to seniors or low income courses where the students might not have viable access to the Internet.
Alternatively, you are allowed to use our articles to learn and then you are free to explain what you've learned to others. So if you read one of our articles and then want to write an article that explains the things you've learned...IN YOUR OWN WORDS...that is no problem, because you are not using copyrighted material. You are reading, learning and writing your own article from free information you have used to educate yourself.
But please...before you go posting someone else's answers to the web, even in support forums, think! Did you get permission to do so? If not, then just post the link. Feel free to explain that the answer can probably be found in that article and then provide the article link.
You'll still be the hero for helping the user find the answer, but you won't be guilty of copyright infringement by posting someone else's words!