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Defend Yourself Against Plagiarism

How to prevent plagiarism, and if that fails, how to detect plagiarism and how to defeat it


It has proved to be necessary for Zyra's website to be defended against plagiarism. This page shows some of the ways in which it is defended, and how you can defend your website against plagiarism too.

On the Internet it is remarkably easy to plagiarise stuff, but it's also remarkably easy to catch-out people who are doing this. Essentially, plagiarists are up against the fact that they are very likely to be caught, and surprisingly quickly.

What is Plagiarism?:

Plagiarism is the copying of your stuff and passing it off as someone else's work. It's a form of fraud and cheating, and it undermines originality because it passes-off fakery as the original. The hazard of plagiarism online is that the cheats can beat the original in searches because of naff policies by search engines such as Google which regard temporary short-termist trivial stuff as better than good long-term reliable stuff! Thus, in Google's opinion, a cheap copy is better than your original work! ...well that's what I have observed. If Google would like to write in and say that's not so, please do!

How to Detect Plagiarism:

Your content is original, and hopefully unique. There's a mathematical relationship between the size of a chunk which is unique, and its probability of being repeated in an Internet universe of a particular size. I have found that a well-chosen group of about five or six words has a good chance of being unique on the ten thousand million pages of the Internet. Make that a dozen words, and it's pretty well characteristic and isn't going to occur again out there. Of course the more quintessence a phraseology has, the better its likeliness of singularness. Plus, if you're both erudite and eccentric, it is especially easy to reel-off shpiel which other folks aren't going to use in any likelihood unless they've copied your stuff!

What you do then is you search for turns of phrase. CopyscapeYou can do this using a search engine, or you can use specialist plagiarist-catchers www.copyscape.com whose basic search reveals first level rogues in a trice, and whose premium services have even more power to sniff out bad eggs across the expanse of the Internet. Copyscape offers a free search, but also some more powerful systems which can help long-term to look out for material being ripped-off. They also have systems by which you can have incoming material scanned to make sure people aren't contaminating your site with bogus contributions.

What to do after you've Discovered a Plagiarist:

Having located a website that's a rip-off of your own, the next thing is to do something about it. I recommend that you write a polite but firm message to the offender stating that your website is original and theirs is a plagiarised copy, and will they please do something about this?! You can also scare them with comments about the types of penalties that exist for plagiarism. It's also recommended that you give your opponent the chance to get away by some expedient move such as removing the misappropriated content. This is a good tactic in contrast to ideas of cornering a rat. If you have an intellectual property lawyer, this helps, because you can suggest that if the content isn't resolved within a specified number of days then you'll request your lawyer to deal with the situation.

This may work, or it may not. If you've expressed yourself well and your case is good, and they have a poor case, you may succeed in the opponent giving up and slinking away.

If this fails, your next set of actions involve contacting various people who operate sections of infrastructure that keep the offending site in business. The chances are that one or more of these will agree with you, and you'll see the site put out of business.

Infrastructure includes the hosting company, any mailboxes, office premises, tax accountants, etc. The hosting company is the first place to contact in the case of a website. You can find the name of the place by looking at the whois certificate. At the time of writing, www.whois.sc was a good place to look up the domain certificate of a website. The crucial feature of this is the nameservers. There's very little scope for faking these up as they have to work. You can then use a reverse-lookup of IP Addresses to locate the hosting company. A rogue website can typically have one genuine nameserver and one bogus one. You write to them both and the genuine one will respond.

Hosting companies don't usually like having a reputation of hosting dodgy businesses and will typically deal with the problem. (Note that if you make a fallacious request, you can get into a lot of trouble).

Proving You Are The Real Source:

Beware, because plagiarists can sometimes try to make a claim that THEY are the original, and that YOU are the fake. This might be expected, because they've already lied and cheated to get your material and pretended it's theirs. However, the argument isn't a matter of who shouts loudest or who has the scariest phrases. There is an ultimate proof to determine which website is the real original one and which one is the copy. The argument can be followed by a third party observing the evidence. Here it is: The original website typically has a history, and that history has form to it. It's like sedimentary layers in the geological record which can't be created by a faker unless they are allpowerful and dishonest. To assert the sedimentary history of your website, the best way is to have your own historical archive of all your previous editions. This is relatively easy if you have your definitive version offline as I recommend. However, even if you don't have such an archive, you can sometimes get historical records of your website by using www.archive.org and other online Internet history resources. However, if you are starting a website and would like to defend it, I recommend that you keep your own archive as well.

At the time of publishing this page, on Issue167 of my website, I have a complete historical archive of every past Issue, all 166 of them, since Issue1 which was published on 15th July 2000. It's not impossible for someone to create a fake history, but it would be very expensive, and would lack corroborative evidence. I have kept a variety of additional historical evidence which is all consistent. It's easy for me to be consistent because it's true. In contrast a faker would find it very difficult. In practice, fake websites don't go to all that trouble. Instead they just chance it and hope they are not going to be discovered.

Zyra's interesting websiteAnother good point: If you are setting up a website and would like to be able to have additional proof that you set it up, how about having a link from my site and from a few other websites that also have archives? Websites that link to each-other are always better off than those that don't.