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  • The Good, the Bad and the Plagiarist: WWW.ild West

    I really enjoyed a recent blog post by that most industrious search engine optimisation (SEO) commentator Jill Whalen.

    Earlier this month, she wrote a diatribe against insidious online thieves, the plagiarists who don’t steal straight copy but rewrite it so it is hard to trace as they pass it off as their own.

    I imagine everyone who publishes regularly online has come across this and knows the frustration of discovering their copy butchered into being someone else’s ‘original content’.

    Furthermore, it is very demoralising to create a blog post or article and then find some lazy unmentionable has ripped it off.

    Jill’s post sums up the problem beautifully. However, she did not really come to a conclusion or solution – possibly because there isn’t one.

    In an ideal world, perhaps search engines could employ millions of human editors – preferably graduates or sector experts – to lovingly and personally select the content which is given top rankings.

    Now, of course, that is not practical. You may have noticed the web is rather large. Even within sector-specific portals, screening all copy is difficult – users can chose a wide array of information or they can have small amounts of assured content.

    The trouble is, people keep talking about the “wild west” that is the online world, yet no one – myself included – has proposed a viable means of curbing bad and criminal practice.

    No one is going to sue some ‘copywriter’ 4,000 miles away for rewriting their content; few people will even find them. Jill Whalen says the problem is particularly prevalent within the SEO sector but I simply think we are more likely to discover it than other groups. We read a lot more content than the average online viewer.

    Still, the web must and will develop. As more money is spent on promotional tactics such as blogging and article marketing, more corporations will suffer content theft.

    It cannot be long before governments across the world will be forced to take intellectual property issues online more seriously and to put real thought into beating the thieves.

    They may not succeed until a clearer content management system develops, but at least online publishers would have a clearer legal path.

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    2 Responses to “The Good, the Bad and the Plagiarist: WWW.ild West”

    1. The good news, as I’ve said on a few other sites today, is that there is a fairly clear legal path for dealing with such spammers. Since copyright law only allows the copyright holder to create derivative works on their creations, these spun articles are just as much infringements as a verbatim plagiarism so long as an “ordinary observer” could see the relationship.

      My personal advice, when the case is clear, respond as you would with verbatim plagiarism, the law is on your side.

      If you need any help with such a case, please let me know!

    2. chris says:

      I’ve given this a lot of consideration myself and I just don’t see how to police it. In any other medium, when someone substantively lifts original words, ideas, products or services then recourse to legal action is usually comparatively straightforward – whether you’re dealing with a plagarised student essay, corporate brand theft etc. Its simply the Wild West web because we have a few sherrifs who police their own areas by their own rules of enforcement, but no coherent and over-arching legal infrastructure with one body having jurisdiction – if we did it wouldn’t be the Internet – it would be something else.

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