Thursday, February 19, 2009

Plagiarized! The Triumphant Story of One Writer's Recovery from Intellectual Property Theft, Kinda-Sorta

I'd been looking forward to this day ever since I wrote and published tons of eHow articles on the Web. But I didn't expect it to come so soon.

Mind you, I'm no raw chicken. I've been plagiarized part of an en masse plagiarism extravaganza. Not till now, though, was I singled out. They could have linked to my article. They could have asked permission. But instead they snuck into my eHow page, saw my article, fell in love with it, snatched it and fled.

Yippee! Finally! At long last, I've receive the "sincerest form of flattery" - the recognition I deserve!

I'm heavily gratified. I didn't tell that to the offender, though. No, I wrote a very polite email, vis a vis:
Dear You-Who-Resort-to-Intellectual-Property-Thievery And-No-a-Link-Doesn't-Make-It-All-Good,

I noticed you'd published my article from eHow, [Title of Article], on your website(s). While I am glad you're interested in using my article to promote your business, and that you made the effort to credit me and link to the original article, you do need my permission to post it, and I do not give that.

I'd be glad to give you permission to freely post the first paragraph (intro) only and then link to my eHow article on the eHow site (rather than to your website(s)).

Alternatively, if you'd like to post the article in full, for this particular article I charge $ for usage rights. This means you must keep my byline and not alter any of the article, and post it only on one Web page on one website (additional Web pages simultaneously or moving the article to another website are an additional $).

If neither of these solutions work for you, then I respectfully request that you remove the article in its entirety within 24 hours.

I hope to hear back from you soon. Thanks for your prompt attention to this matter.
Within hours, the article was removed, which kind of knocked the wind out of my sails. Was my original text so disposable that they didn't want to fight for it? It's like being a hard-nosed journalist and NOT getting sent to prison for protecting my sources. "Oh, was that yours? Sorry." Yawn.

So, hmm. Maybe it's not a marker that I've made it to the big leagues, after all. Maybe it's a sign that I'm one of millions, a tiny copied text dot in a vast plagiarized world.

Plagiarism is all too common an offense since the World Wide Web exploded with content over a decade ago. Despite the effort to teach students about plagiarism in schools and mucho publicity about intellectual property in the news--and, in fact, plastered all over the Internet, everywhere you look--it's all too common for folks to assume that any article or photo you find on the Web that isn't guarded by a blatant copyright notice is fair game for copying.

Is the popularity of plagiarism - and yes, I do mean popularity - due to ignorance? Is it the result of a basic disregard for intellectual property? Or is it due to the almost irresistible temptation posed by the ease of accessing almost limitless content, which never existed before?

Whatever it is, I suspect that we're in for some real changes with regards to intellectual property laws. I just don't know what.

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1 comment:

susie said...

Funny. Smart. Interesting. Very very cool. I'm a fan.