Every now and then I get enough content piled up about a subject that I decide to dedicate a whole week-long blog post series to it. The good news is that you’ll have plenty of original material to read this week, but the bad news is that you’ll also have copied material too. Welcome to Plagiarism Week!
When I was researching material for my FreeCon, I wanted to show bloggers how to optimize their site for search engines. One of the topics involved putting related images in each blog post; if you’ve got a story about SQL Server setup checklists, you should put screenshots in there and tag them appropriately. Search engines recognize that your post is more complete than others because it’s got eye candy.
To illustrate it, I went to Images.Google.com and searched for SQL Server setup checklists because I’m quite fond of my setup checklist post and it does well in search engines. The results look like this:
The third result is mine, and I recognized it immediately because the screenshot had my company’s SQL Server name in it (from the time I wrote the post). The majority of the images on the page do indeed relate to SQL Server, but some of them are surprising. For example, the baby’s face at the bottom left might seem odd, but it’s actually from the comment avatars on my blog post. The one that intrigued me most was result #4 – the MCITP logo. That’s a pretty high-ranking result for such a generic picture – the content must be fantastic! So I clicked on it:
Wow, that is indeed some good content. Of course, I might be a little biased, because it’s my checklist.
Compare the copied checklist screenshot above (no, I’m not going to link to that guy’s site) to my SQL Server setup checklist, and you’ll notice that he stripped out my introductory paragraphs where I talk about building these checklists through my years of experience. He didn’t just delete my personal text, he also went to the effort of deleting every link back to my site, including the images. He even merged my Part 1 and Part 2 pages together to avoid linking to me.
This isn’t a casual copy/paste job or an RSS tool – this is a hard-working plagiarist who had managed to circumvent every protection I’d built into the blog. He had ads on the checklist, and he’d managed to rise to the first page of Bing results:
I hadn’t caught this guy earlier because I use Google, and he doesn’t show up in Google’s results. No, I’m not saying Bing promotes plagiarism – I’m just saying it’s like the high school teacher who didn’t quite catch on that you copied your term paper from mine.
I followed the steps in my article What to Do When Someone Steals Your Blog Posts. I contacted the author via the email on his About Me page and LinkedIn profile, neither of which I’m going to link to here. When someone links to your web site, search engines believe you have a more credible web site, and I’m not about to give this guy any Google juice. When he didn’t respond to emails, I filed DMCA takedown notices with his web host, WordPress.com, which has always been extremely responsive for me. I love how WordPress protects the rights of authors whose content has been stolen:
I wasn’t his only victim. He stole multiple posts from Microsoft, too, like this one:
The bad news is that he may have stolen your content, too. Since he went to great lengths to disguise my content, I’m guessing he may have disguised yours too, so it’s time to spend some time reading his web site:
If you interact with this author, I have two requests. First, keep it civil – he’s a real guy somewhere with a real life and a real job. He made mistakes, and he’s about to learn from them, but it’s not like he killed anybody. I could have emailed my contacts at his employer, but I don’t want to ruin his life – I just wanted the plagiarism to stop. Keep the punishment in perspective. Second, don’t make racial comments – remember that the last big plagiarism scandal around here was a white guy from the US. It can happen anywhere to anyone.