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What is Plagiarism?

Plagiarism is the publishing of another person’s writing, photos or specific ideas without attribution to the original author. In other words, it is passing off someone else’s work as your own. There is no plagiarism if there has been a good faith effort at attribution that was simply done improperly.

Whom Does Plagiarism Hurt?

The Internet has made it effortless to copy other people’s written work. Access to practically any topic is at anyone’s fingertips. That is no excuse for stealing however. Such theft demeans both the author and the thief. Furthermore, it violates copyright laws. Besides these moral drawbacks, Internet search engines demote web pages in search results if they detect duplicate content. In this respect, the thief suffers along with the author.

Detecting Plagiarism

Online plagiarism-detecting services, such as Copyscape or Plagspotter, can find duplicate content given just a website URL. In a similar manner, a snippet of your work can be submitted to any search engine, which will show if it is used elsewhere. These methods cannot check hard copy plagiarism though.

If You Find Plagiarism

Often, people who copy others’ work do not realize they are doing something wrong. Assume, at first, their action was not malicious. If, after polite queries, they refuse to correct their error, implement formal steps to have the plagiarized content removed.

Search the offending website for contact information. You may have to look for the domain owner via a whois service. Send a polite message asking them to remove the duplicate content. If you are unable to make direct contact, then alert the web domain’s hosting company.

You may want to consult with a lawyer versed in copyright law at this point. A “Cease and Desist” order should be delivered to the site owner with a copy to the hosting company. File a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notice to search engines, which results in removal of the offending site from their search results. Proof of infringement can be found via the “Wayback Machine” search on the Internet Archive.

Steps to Prevent Plagiarism

Before you are plagiarized, there are preventative steps you should take. Place a prominent plagiarism warning on your own site. Include copyright notices on all your work. If you detect plagiarism, take the necessary steps to eradicate it immediately.


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