How do you stop people from lifting content from your
site and using it at their site?
one site that was reusing the content of one of
my sites verbatim….”
You can use a Web search service such as Google to
search for unique strings of text at your site and uncover
other sites with the same content. Alternatively, you
can buy a pricey infringement-detection program or hire
a public relations firm to do the work for you.
A new free service called Copyscape (http://www.copyscape.com)
makes tracking Web plagiarism easier.
Though the practice is fairly widespread, Web plagiarism
is clearly wrong. And it's against the law, a violation
of both U.S. and international copyright provisions.
Web site owners often devote considerable time and
resources to creating their content. Commercial sites
leverage it to enhance brand awareness or sell products
One exception to the prohibition against reusing the
work of others on the Web is reposting small excerpts
of another site when offering comments or criticism.
One fallacy is that unless a Web site or page is accompanied
by a copyright symbol (a "c" within a circle),
it doesn't have copyright protection.
If you're caught plagiarizing the content of another
site, you’ll often receive a cease-and-desist
letter from a lawyer. But you can also wind up having
to pay damages, particularly if it can be shown that
your unauthorized use of another site's content caused
the owner of the infringed site to lose profits or enabled
you to gain profits.
I see Copyscape as a service that helps keep people
honest. Launched in July 2004, it's both clever and
effective. I found one site that was reusing the content
of one of my sites verbatim, without permission, and
making it seem that the person had created the content
To use Copyscape, you just type in the address of your
page. Copyscape uses Google's technology to search the
Web for pages with many words copied from yours. If
the plagiarist moved sentences around or changed some
key words in a deliberate effort to remain undetected,
Copyscape will still find the page.
An offering of Indigo Stream Technologies Ltd., Copyscape
exemplifies well the worldwide nature of the World Wide
Web. The company is a legal entity of Gibraltar and
is a partnership between a Brit living in Israel and
an American. I spoke on the phone with the former, Gideon
"Plagiarism is a huge problem on the Internet
because it's so easy to do," said Greenspan, who
has been developing try-before-you-buy shareware for
the Macintosh during the past 10 years.
His company also recently developed the Web content
clipping service Google Alert (http://www.googlealert.com),
which lets you set up automatic daily Google searches
to determine if anyone mentions you, your competitors,
your interests, or anything else on the Web that you
specify. Results are e-mailed to you.
Copyscape is a free service, as is Google Alert. But
just as Google Alert has a beefed-up paid version, Greenspan
says that Copyscape will too. With the free version
of Copyscape, you have to go to Copyscape's Web site
and type in the address of your page. With the upcoming
commercial version, you'll be able to set up automatic
daily searches and have the results e-mailed to you.
Copyscape isn't perfect. It won't find JPEG and GIF
images, QuickTime movies, text contained in Flash animations,
or new text on the Web not yet indexed by Google. Still,
it's the best low-cost tool out there for controlling
how your text-based content is used on the Web.
Other products also attempt to keep people from filching
others' words on the Web. Turnitin (http://www.turnitin.com)
is targeted toward teachers and other
educators, helping them prevent students from getting
credit for plagiarized papers. iThenticate (http://www.ithenticate.com)
is targeted toward publishers, news agencies, law firms,
companies, and nonprofit organizations. Both are available
under various pricing schedules.
If you discover another site plagiarizing yours, first
collect all evidence to support your case. Next, find
the owner of the site. Most sites include contact information.
If not, do a Whois search—type "whois"
into Google to find Whois directories.
Finally, consider sending a firm but nonbelligerent
cease-and-desist e-mail. If that doesn't work, consider
having your lawyer send a cease-and-desist letter to
the person and the person's Web host. And if that doesn't
work, consider having your lawyer file suit.
At the Copyscape Web site, you can find links to additional
information about Web plagiarism and what to do about
Reid Goldsborough is a
syndicated columnist and author of the book Straight
Talk About the Information Superhighway. He can be
reached at firstname.lastname@example.org