Wednesday, October 27, 2010

How To Catch a Plagiarist


Let's Go Sherlock on these Clowns


So you've written a novel, a story or a poem, or created a graphic design.  You were pretty confident that you owned it and no one could take it from you without your permission.  Then, you read about David Boyer, who plagiarized my work, Lisa Morton's work, Jane Baxter's work and even seems to have stooped to grabbing Activision's copyrighted artwork.  Suddenly you're not so confident anymore.  You realize that you don't even know how to find out if your work has been stolen. 

What can you do to find out?  Finding the answer to that question is the first step to catching a plagiarist.

If you're an artist/graphic designer and are looking to see if your work has been plagiarized, I suggest going to the website Tin Eye to use their reverse image lookup.  Take an image of your own work, upload it and watch as it goes through over a billion web images in mere seconds so you can see if someone else is using it.  My lead researcher discovered this resource, and I suggest you use it.

If you're a writer, you've probably heard about sites like The Rusty Nail, or Preditors and Editors or Writer Beware.  They keep you up to date with the latest information about who to watch out for.  The HWA's Lisa Morton has written a powerful cautionary piece called "PIRATES! Or, How to Protect Your Intellectual Property on the High Seas of the Internet."


And now I'll share what my researchers learned along the way:

First, plagiarists, as they get more canny, will change the titles of your work so that you can't easily find what they do.  But you should still look for your titles first.  But remember, titles are not copyrightable so you will probably run into a few works using your title.  Maybe you'll find some of your own stories under the title you gave them.  That would be great, but don't stop there because, as I said, they can also change the titles on you.

What next?  Take unique blocks of texts from your story and search the net for them with your favorite search engine.  Sometimes that will yield the good result.  Other times not, even if your story is actually out there.  What to do?  What can we do if they change the titles.  I was at a loss.

But here's something interesting that my lead researcher discovered- a lot of the works plagarized are available through Google, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. with searchable contents.  Take the books you suspect and use those searchable contents to your advantage by looking for your unique blocks of text within those windows.  You'll even be able to see the Table of Contents- and maybe just see your title there.


And screenshot every violation you find- that way when the plagiarist goes back to delete the evidence, you'll still have what you need to prove your case.


Plagiarists want to use the Internet to steal our creative work, sell it or give it away as a free download like Boyer did to me.

Let's turn the tables and use the Internet against them.  And we don't have to fight them alone.  When we find we've been plagiarized- we can let our friends in the Blogosphere know.  You'll be surpised how many good people willing to help.  

MySpace Tracker

17 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

Information is definitely the key. Anytime something like this happens the word has to go out. you've done an excellent job with this.

Rick said...

Actually, Charles, without your help and all the other fine bloggers out there, this would have been a lot, lot harder. So, thank you and Lana especially for you help and moral support.

Jules said...

Wow, there was so much here I did not know. Thanks for the info. :)
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

Rick said...

I hope it helps Jules. I learned the hard way, but better than not learning at all.

Nevine said...

Rick, I can't thank you enough for the invaluable advice. Just so you know... I just stole your entire post and copied and pasted it onto a word document. I need to keep these links you shared handy. Who ever knows? It's so sad that people won't put in the effort to do their own work. And it's more sad that people are willing to steal someone else's hard work and claim it for their own... and make money off of it! In fact, that's downright yucky! But... it does happen.

So, thank you, again for sharing all of this. I really can't thank you enough!

Nevine

Rick said...

The rest of us would have to form a posse if anyone stole any of your work, Nevine. And I'm glad this helped.

Next post will be on tracking their (plagiarists) identity shifts. This is because if you ever find you've been plagiarized, you'll likely also find that the plagiarist has identity issues- in other words, they publish your work under various names that are really all them.

laughingwolf said...

well done, rick!

hope he gets heavily fined AND a 'big ticket', as they used to call prison time! GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR

Rick said...

Wouldn't that be sweet, laughingwolf?!

Vesper said...

I'm glad you posted this, Rick! Thank you. It's great advice.
At least it's easier to find stolen complete stories and prove they're yours than stolen ideas...

Rick said...

Did you have an idea stolen, Vesper? I hope not. To tell you the truth, I hadn't even considered that angle.

Leigh Russell said...

Now we know his name it should be all over the internet like a rash - a 21st century version of the stocks. Instead of throwing rotten tomatoes at this scurrilous plagiarist, we can post comments. I don't understand why anyone would stoop to this. If you don't have the skill and creativity to produce your own work, do something else. Good for you in fighting the good fight and outing him. I hope he's severely punished for what he's done and for the aggravation he caused you.

Rick said...

Well put, Leigh!

Kathryn Magendie said...

I linked to your blog about this about a weekish ago and Victoria Straus's posts, too!

been tweeting it too ('tweeting' still sounds weird or silly!)

Rick said...

Thank you so very much, Kathryn. I really do appreciate the help. Public exposure is one of the best weapons we have about plagiarists.

Mike Brendan said...

An excellent write up. While this sort of thing is infrequent, it's good for all writers to be aware that guys like "Tin Foil" Dave are out there -- and should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Rick said...

Thanks, Mike. But it's far from over. This guy is so far over the top- he's even giving plagiarists a bad name!

Desert Rose said...

Thanks for this valuable info! i came from Nevine blog! just read her post about plagiarism and frankly i felt so sorry for her! nothing ever can be more painful to any artist or writer then seeing his work, his own piece of heart stolen and taken by some pervert!
i would ask your permission to keep your post saved..i need to check on my tracks too..my poetry is too precious for me to be facing this sad situation ever! :)
feel free to stop by anytime..and nice to meet you Rick..:)