Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Plagiarism on an Astonishing Scale

No cute kid stories today. Today we take a stand, and make a call for action! By now most of you have probably heard of Bitacle, a website that has been plagiarizing bloggers wholesale for I have no idea how long. They take your post - no, usually they take ALL your posts - and put them up surrounded by AdSense ads. Someone is making money off MY work - and I'M not. There is something badly wrong with this. One blog I read said some 14,000 blogs were affected. (I've forgotten where I found that information, or I'd link it.) Kittenpie, Mir, Her Bad Mother, Susan, and a tonne of others have all been robbed. At first I couldn't find any of my writing there, but I accidentally stumbled over one of my recent posts there this weekend. (Are you there? Go poke around a bit (bitacle.org - no links for them from me!) and see. I tried searching under the 'aggregates' tab, but didn't find me there, either the URL or the blog name. When I clicked on the 'blogs' tab while my blog title was still in the search box, there was my most recent post!) Dorks. Various people have taken steps to stop Bitacle. This post, for example, is clear, helpful, and informative, and has lots of great STOP STEALING MY STUFF badges you can put on your blog, so people will know when they're reading stolen words. You can also set your feed to show only a snippet of your blog instead of the whole thing, thus forcing people to come to you if they want to read the rest. Mir is obviously up to something, judging by her most recent "please ignore, testing AntiLeech" post (a temporary post which will probably be gone by the time you read this). AntiLeech, hmm? The site that gave me the clearest idea of a) the problem and b) how to address it is Plagiarism Today. (Who is also, ironically, being plagiarized by Bitacle.) Here are two posts which give a clear idea of one way to shut Bitacle down. Because even if there are ways to keep B's greedy claws out of my posts, they'll just keep doing it to other unsuspecting bloggers. They have to be put out of commission. A Plan of Action Plan of Action, part 2 If you wish to write your own letter, a template for the acceptable format can be found here. And if you have the skills, here's a terrific, creative response that I just love to bits. You can indulge in a little revenge while you do your part to shoot down Bitacle. One of us isn't much, but bloggers by their thousands? We're a force to be reckoned with.
~~~~~~~~~~~~ © 2006, Mary P

22 Comments:

Blogger Lillithmother said...

Thanks Mary! I'm not that good of a writer to be plagiarised, but I know others that are...I'll put a link to this post if you don't mind so that those that visit my site can protect themselves!

*mumbles* bastards...

10/17/2006 12:13:00 PM  
Blogger Mary P. said...

I wouldn't bet on it. I came across someone whose stuff had been stolen, and she'd only been blogging a couple of weeks - six posts! I think he's far more interested in quantity than quality. In fact, I doubt he even reads the blogs he scoops - or why would he have been so foolish as to plagiarize a blog focussed on eliminating internet plagiarizing??

10/17/2006 12:20:00 PM  
Blogger Mary P. said...

OH! Which is not to say he hasn't scooped quality blogs!! Just that he doesn't care how well you write. He's an indiscriminate magpie of a thief.

10/17/2006 12:21:00 PM  
Blogger Ms. Huis Herself said...

OH MY GOD! I FOUND MY STUFF ON BITACLE! ARRRRRGH!

Must do something!
Thanks for the plans of action... got guests currently, so no time do do stuff, but will as soon as they're gone!!!

10/17/2006 04:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your right Bitacle is a bunch of idiots but your comment which reads "When I clicked on the 'blogs' tab while my blog title was still in the search box, there was my most recent post!)" does not highlight the plagiarism.

what you discribed would happen and that isn't plagiarism as the blogs tab is just a search engine it is the aggregates tab that leads you to the plagiarized material a cache of texts some of which could be yours.

Plagiarism Today explains it;

"Much like those sites, it contains a built in search engine for sorting through blogs, Web sites and more. One of the tabs on the search feature points to a search feature called “Aggregates”. A search there pulls results from blog entries, much like the regular blog search, but the results don’t lead to the original site, but to cached copies on the Bitacle server."

10/17/2006 04:26:00 PM  
Blogger Mary P. said...

MsHuis: Plagiarism Today has yet another post with even more suggestions. It's a good resource.

Anonymous: Quite right. It's the cached versions that are the issue. So perhaps they haven't plagiarized me, or perhaps I just need to search with different phrases, since they don't store things by URL.

10/17/2006 05:21:00 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

It's all theft, it's all evil, and I don't how to write about it without descending into repetitive profanity.

I'm sooo curious about what Mir is up to, tho'. Will be keeping my eye on her...

Thanks for all of the links - I knew most of them, but there were a few here that were new to me and they're great.

10/17/2006 05:44:00 PM  
Blogger jen said...

thank you for the ongoing information. i love that folks are banding together on this...

10/17/2006 06:21:00 PM  
Blogger Kelli in the Mirror said...

I'm confused about the part where it says it's a search engine. Are they trying to make it sound like it's okay? But I found SIXTY EIGHT of my posts. Argh.

10/17/2006 07:00:00 PM  
Blogger Peter said...

Here is one of the negatives to Beta Blogger. I type up a very witty comment and then have to sign into my Google account and start all over. I learn as I go.
Very flattering to be plagiarized, if they plagiarize me I hope they include a link to the store.
The way I see it the more people that read your take on parenting the better.
To bad they do not give you credit, or a piece of the profits.
Is your PIP stuff copywrited? How does a person go about getting their writing copywrit? If it is copywrit does that protect you from plagiarism? Does it provide you with a legal ramification? Is copywrit a word?
Speaking of profits, do you think they make any money? I wonder how much traffic they pull, and if anyone actually clicks on the adsense?

10/17/2006 07:27:00 PM  
Blogger Zero Latitude said...

I apologise for intruding in a space devoted to daycare and related topics. Normally I'm content to be just a frequent reader of Mary's wonderful blog, but since I do deal with the copyright issue quite a bit in my job I thought this time I'd emerge from the shadows and throw in my $.02.

I'm no legal expert in these matters, but my understanding of the way the DMCA operates (which is the US law governing copyright matters, and ratified by most other countries) is that it's pretty much illegal to copy and/or distribute anything digital (or digitally), anywhere, anytime, under nearly all circumstances without the permission of the copyright owner. It's a very big blanket, and in many folks' opinions (including mine) the DMCA goes way overboard, especially as it applies to educational settings or libraries.

But for all it's drawbacks, the law does in fact have very strong protection for the producers of copyrighted works against others who copy or distribute material without permission whether or not someone tries to actually make money off someone else's work. It's clear the bad guys here ARE trying to make money from the use of others' copyrighted works, although indirectly. As far as I can tell, these guys are breaking the law, pure and simple.

Copyright law protects against both someone making money off your work, as well as if your own income is reduced as a result of unauthorised copying (that's why music downloads are illegal). In this case, I think if you plan to publish your blogs (which many bloggers in fact do intend), the copyright law would doubly apply to you, I believe.

It is sufficient to claim copyright protection to simply append the well-known copyright symbol (©) to a work (which you have done). There is no need to "register" a copyrighted work, as it used to be many years ago. So, Mary, you are currently legally protected. (Although you should probably also read the fine print in Blogspot's Terms of Agreement, just to make sure it's not the blog site who actually owns the copyright.) The evil ones at Bitacle are potentially taking bread out of your mouth (metaphorically speaking... I hope!).

As I say, though, I am no lawyer so don't take what I say as writ. But it seems to me there are no differences in legal protection between, say, online New York Times articles and your own humble blog. The real difference is that the NYTimes has an army of lawyers to issue cease-and-desist letters, whereas you (I presume) do not.

The question "but do they actually make any money?" is not especially relevant, I think. Spammers continue what they do in spite of the fact of getting perhaps (I'm making this up) 1 out of 10,000 takers in their pitches. In the online world, it takes the same effort to broadcast an ad to 10 people as to 1,000,000, so volume is most definitely the goal. And online ads pay for lots of great "free" websites I regularly visit, so they must have enough returns to make it worthwhile as a way to generate income.

I think several creative approaches are required to tackle the black hats. Mass complaint letters are one way, as are widely distributed online bad-mouthing and boycotts. But remember the marketing adage "there is no such thing as bad publicity"... Any controversy which gets folks to "check out" the bad guys' site, to see for themselves what all the fuss is about, will actually generate more hits and thus, more income for them. (And yes, the amount of raw hits to the Bitacle site is used as a way to attract more advertisers, so even simply entering Bitacle is a bad idea.)

I would say a potentially more effective way would be to target the advertisers on that site, not the offending site itself. But then again, that strategy, too, has its flaws.

If this continues and becomes a widespread problem, I can see the only recourse will be to put blogs behind layers of login screens, making it more and more difficult for these pilfering sites to easily reach in and grab content. That will, of course, also make access by legitimate readers much less convenient, too.

So there. I apologise for gobbling up valuable bandwidth with this lengthy post. I am forever incapable of writing only a little bit, I'm afraid. You will all be grateful, I'm sure, that I'm not a regular poster here!

And now, back to your regularly scheduled topic...

10/17/2006 10:07:00 PM  
Blogger Lady M said...

I switched to "short feeds" instead of full feeds, and my more recent posts haven't appeared on bitacle. Dozens (if not hundreds) of my earlier posts are there though. grrrr.

10/18/2006 12:23:00 AM  
Blogger Erin said...

They have my whole blog--to what end I do not know.

10/18/2006 10:40:00 AM  
Blogger Candace said...

When I checked, my blog was there (and appears to be there in its entirety), but there was also this on the page: "Articles are copyrighted by their respective authors." And there were no ads connected to my blog. So what is this thing? A search engine, like Google or Yahoo!?

10/18/2006 03:00:00 PM  
Blogger Kelli in the Mirror said...

that was my question too, candace. not sure how this thing operates.

10/18/2006 05:43:00 PM  
Blogger Mary P. said...

Erin, Candace, Kelli: The question that hasn't been fully answered for me is "why"? Apparently, it has to do with making money, but how? Dinky old Adsense, that makes you $5.70/quarter? I don't get it.

There are blogs to be found under two tabs: 'blog', and 'aggregates' (whatever that means). It's the 'aggregates' bit that's problematic, because those ones are cached and don't link back to yours.

Maybe you should be asking Zero Latitude up there: that's one of the clearest discussions of the phenomena I've read thus far!

10/18/2006 06:51:00 PM  
Blogger Mary P. said...

Zero Latitude: Thank you! This makes as much - no, more - sense than anything I've read so far on the topic. Too many of the sites seem to assume you have a basic understanding of the subject, which, I confess, I don't. I needed some Copyright 101, which you've graciously provided. I think Candace, Erin, and Kelli have more questions, though...

10/18/2006 06:52:00 PM  
Blogger Zero Latitude said...

Unfortunately, what I know about copyright laws is not enough to clarify all the points which are likely to be raised here. You all should be glad to hear, though, that the Bitacle site has been disabled, at least temporarily (as of 10pm EST). (See www.plagiarismtoday.com for an update article on Bitacle's problems with Google.)

Just in the interest of furthering awareness, I got curious to know how the NYTimes Online handles copyright. (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html) Their copyright statement is a model of simple language:

"All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of The New York Times Company or in the case of third party materials, the owner of that content. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content."

(And yes, I am aware of the irony or contradiction, in that I just copied the above paragraph directly from the NYTimes website!)

Pretty clear, no? They go on with lots of other details, but in the main I suggest that if Blogspot doesn't already have some such statement it needs one. Or perhaps each blog author needs to have something like that included in his or her blog space.

Interestingly, though, it seems the NYTimes public forum pages are NOT copyrighted (at least as far as I can tell). Does that mean they cannot be or that the NYTimes is just allowing folks to copy letters posted online? Don't know... But thinking generally, I suppose it's conceivable that blogs could be protected, but that *comments* to blogs might not be. Anyway, that might be more legal hair-splitting than any of us want to deal with at this moment.

10/18/2006 10:16:00 PM  
Blogger aaron said...

Just saw this -- thanks for the tip. Went over there and found most if not all of my posts, and in the aggregates section, they appear in their entirety. At the same time, even in the aggregates section, there is a link to my blog at the start of each post. e.g., http://bitacle.org/v/24z8n56tmcw0/counting-down.html?usrmode=1. so they're reprinting without permission, but at least they seem to be crediting the source. seems a step in the right direction.

Also, I've appended a copyright notice at the bottom of my blog, for whatever that's worth.

Thanks again,
aaron

10/18/2006 11:21:00 PM  
Blogger Granny said...

I've been writing about it too and stealing info from various sources (Hi, Her Bad Mother and thanks).

I just changed my blog setting to short feed as well. It pained me to do it because I know some people were reading from Bloglines and now they can't.

10/18/2006 11:46:00 PM  
Blogger Zero Latitude said...

A copyright symbol and any other statements of ownership basically announce "Read it, but keep your hands off, buster, unless I give you permission to use what I wrote." The purpose is to put readers (and potential copiers) on notice that the work is NOT in the public domain, and it posts a fair warning which would nullify anyone's claim "But I didn't know I shouldn't copy it!" You are putting up a "No Trespassing" sign, that's all.

But if Bitacle thinks that simply acknowledging the source of the copied material is a way around the copyright laws, they are mistaken. It's a way to avoid an accusation of *plagiarism* (claiming authorship of someone else's material), and it's the barest minimum we expect from a high school student in their term papers. But even if the source of the material is attributed, Bitacle still engaged in wholesale copying without permission, and that's the problem here.

10/19/2006 05:02:00 AM  
Blogger Mary P. said...

All: Did you notice what Zero Latitude said? Bitacle was disabled, at least temporarily, yesterday evening! Off I go to Plagiarism Today to read the latest!

10/19/2006 07:01:00 AM  

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