Checks for plagiarism: Do Blog Hosts Do The Right Thing?

Posted on:August 27, 2010

Regular checks for plagiarism are critical in any situation where people are writing a lot. Blogs and their subscribers are a prime venue where such copying is a risk. How well do blog hosts respond when copying is identified? Informed, effective action on the victim’s part is needed to ensure action. Here are some tips on what to expect if you are plagiarized.
 
Are checks for plagiarism needed on blogs?
 
Blog hosts are internet servers which archive blog material and help manage the blogging communication process. Half a dozen huge players in the field is joined by a growing number of small ones.
 
US and EU blog hosts are governed by the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) and the Electronic Commerce Directive (ECD). Apparently these statutes are more directed towards video and music recordings, but imply other forms of illicit copying, as well.
A blog host server should register with their nation’s copyright office. Some don’t, surprisingly.
 
Where does one find out about checks for plagiarism on a blog host site?
 
The blog hosts list a copyright policy somewhere, in doubtfully comprehensible language. Some are buried deep in the “terms of service”. If you have to search, be suspicious.
 
Whom does one contact when a check for plagiarism shows an instance of “borrowing”?
 
There should be an easy-to-find email address for the person/department responsible for blog abuse. Some blog host servers seem to hide this information. Others fail to update it, or allow it to bounce back emails when someone’s checks for plagiarism uncover a problem.
 
What does one do if checks for plagiarism turn up potential copying?
 
Sometimes, these written policies depend on the plagiarized individual performing checks for plagiarism themselves, or others who check for plagiarism when they notice suspicious similarities.
 
When a check for plagiarism turns up an instance of unattributed use, there is a procedure to follow. Different blog hosts have different procedures. Some are very easy; others are a pain!
 
For example:

  1. The person wishing to report an instance of copied work often must identify every instance of the copying. This means they must make repeated checks for plagiarism themselves.
  2. The finding of an instance of copying through checks for plagiarism may require a handwritten signature. This is an obvious problem for email, without a scanner and necessary .pdf conversion software. This requirement may contravene a statute known as the ESIGN Act.
  3. Successful checks for plagiarism must sometimes be identified with
    • URL of every instance of copying
    • character of the copying
    • contact information for victim and plagiarizer
  4. If checks for plagiarism do turn up what seems like definite theft, a Cease and Desist Letter alerts the perpetrator to stop or risk legal action. This may not be mentioned in the blog’s policy. Automation reduces the effectiveness of such correspondence.


So what happens if the blog host accepts the results of a check for plagiarism?
 
Checks for plagiarism which successfully result in demonstrated copying are handled by each blog host as their own policies state. Removal of the plagiarized material, and perhaps blocking of the plagiarizers posts are some punishments.
 
There are time constraints on these sanctions. The DCMA requires “expeditious” removal of copyrighted material. This is necessary to maintain the “safe harbor” from copyright infringement liability which internet servers were accorded by the Act. If the results of a check for plagiarism are subsequently disproved, the material may be restored and the accused also restored to full participation in the blog.
 
How can one avoid having a check for plagiarism come up with borrowers?
 
It’s probably impossible. However try the following conveniences:

  • Stamping your material with a watermark such as from Copygator will warn off potential thieves
  • Having time-saving boiler plate language for Cease and Desist letters on hand
  • We believe in knowing the location and content of copyright policies for blog hosts with whom you work
  • Making checks for plagiarism using Google Alert will save effort

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