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Wednesday, 10 March 2021

Plagiarised

Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but having your writing and research stolen most definitely is not. That’s abuse. It recently happened here. This is what I managed to do about it.

Left: screen grabs from parts of my own page. Right: screen grab from part of the offending page. 


At the beginning of January, I planned a different New Month Old Post from the one I used. It was about a guitar teacher called Eric Kershaw who taught an evening class at Leeds College of Music in the early nineteen-seventies. He had been one of Britain’s top ‘swing era’ guitarists of the nineteen-thirties and -forties, playing in leading bands and West End shows, with his own programme on national radio. His 1946 book, Dance Band Chords for the Guitar, sold an amazing seven and a half million copies. He later became a lecturer in jazz guitar at Leeds College of Music. My post recalled what his class was like and how much I enjoyed it. Much of this was down to Eric’s eccentric brilliance.  

I first posted it on the 1st August 2015, and, in considering re-posting, I looked around to see if any more recent information had come to light. I discovered a page on a WordPress site which, astonishingly, apart from minor re-sequencing, contained over 1,300 verbatim words and two original images from my own post. That goes well beyond “fair use”. I was extremely annoyed. My original piece had taken considerable time and research.

The only contact channel on the site seems to be through comments on an ‘About’ page, so I left a complaint. That was on the 4th January. Comments are moderated, and my comment was not approved. A later comment by someone else on the 8th January was approved, which makes it likely that my comment was seen. I therefore gave fourteen days notice requesting acknowledgement of my material and a link to my page, with a warning that I would otherwise file a copyright claim with WordPress which could result in the whole of the site being shut down.

When this was also ignored, I demanded my material be removed immediately. This is the comment I made on the 22nd January 2021.
You have not responded to my earlier request. You cannot simply steal other people's original content and post it as if it is your own. My piece was published online in August 2015 at https://www.taskerdunham.com/2015/08/eric-kershaws-guitar-class.html   My email address is taskerdunham@btinternet.com   I now require that you remove all my content from your WordPress web site immediately.

WordPress regards breaches of its terms and conditions as a serious issue. They provide a page explaining how to report content that is spam, unsuitable or abusive (https://wordpress.com/support/report-blogs/), and for breaches of copyright they make it easy to submit a Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) Notice:

If your copyrighted material has been used without your permission and in violation of the law, please submit a formal DMCA notice by following the instructions found here: http://automattic.com/dmca

I completed the form giving details of my site, the offending site, and the material involved:

The copyrighted work is a blog page recalling the copyright holder’s personal memories of a musician called Eric Kershaw. The offending site reproduces this material from Paragraph 6 on the offending page, beginning “In the autumn of 1974  …” Practically the whole of the remainder of the page is a verbatim copy of material which begins at Paragraph 5 of the copyright holder’s page, comprising approximately 1,300 words and 2 original images of music. 

WordPress agreed and it did the trick. This is what the Eric Kershaw page looks like now.

WordPress will have notified the site owner giving the opportunity to challenge the removal. This has not happened to date. I keep checking that my material has not reappeared on the site. If it does, Wordpress would probably remove the site completely. 

Blogger provides a similar way to report offending content at: https://www.blogger.com/report

I have added a copyright notice to my blog using the Attribution gadget in the Layout section. For what good it does, the following now appears at the bottom of every screen:

Original text and images © Tasker Dunham. Copyright will be vigorously defended.

46 comments:

  1. Linking to someone else's post or quoting from it as a pointer for other readers to go and have a look is one thing, but copying - including images - is a different matter.
    You did the right thing in taking action.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you. It leads me to wonder whether any other content on the site is copied from other sources.

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  2. Funnily enough in the last three weeks I have had two scam emails, saying how good my blog was and would I like to send them an article for reproduction. It is obviously all about making money. Not sure if the two things are connected but plagiarism is an unfortunate habit.

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    Replies
    1. Responding to an invitation for a guest post is one thing, but it sounds from what you say as if someone is trying to publish a book to profit from others' writing.

      Delete
  3. Dear David,

    This is a very serious matter and you did absolutely the right thing to report it.

    We spend much of our time advising young Hungarian high school students about applying to study abroad. As part of this, we cover an academic writing course which has a strong focus on plagiarism, what it is and how one should avoid accidental plagiarism.

    Universities take the matter of plagiarism seriously and students need to be made aware that they can forfeit their degree or their university place by plagiarising work. There can be no excuse for what you show here. To copy verbatim and even include the images is beyond disrespectful. And, with the warning now on the site, one would hope that potential readers of the site will now look elsewhere for information.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you. I have blogged about plagiarism in universities too, most outrageously two occurrences of final year dissertations copied in their entirety. In essence the students got away with it. The first in the 1980s was simply marked down for "using a limited set of sources" and it was me that got into trouble by refusing to attend the examiners' meeting. The second did at least have to do another dissertation.

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  4. Well defended, Tasker. At least my blog is too boring to steal.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you. I think you will enjoy my forthcoming posts about living on the IoM.

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  5. This is quite an amazing story of plagerism given that your piece was written in the first person and was clearly a personal experience well beyond a mere factual piece on Kershaw. To pick it up and repeat it verbatim without a word of acknowledgement such as "here is another man's experience of Kershaw" or something similar is almost beyond belief.

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    1. Absolutely. It gave the impression that the author of the other site had personally attended the class. I think a brief summary of my post with a link to the full thing would have been the correct way to reference it.

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  6. Replies
    1. That's in Eric's medley page 40 - "Nice work if you can get it, and you can get it of you try".

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  7. In 12 years of image-heavy blogging, I've received about 4 complaints concerning use of copyrighted photos or art. When Blogger sends me the complaint, I always apologize profusely and immediately remove the image from my blog. I've seen my own posts appear on other blogs too, usually being used as clickbait on monetized blogs. I don't bother complaining about it though, because it's not like my posts are terribly original, being full of swiped images and memes as they usually are.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think that probably we're all guilty of using some copyright text and images, and I doubt I would object too much if some of mine were used occasionally (although acknowledgement would be polite). What annoyed me in this case was the extent of it.

      Delete
  8. I applaud your tenacity. How would you have felt if the offender had prefaced the lifting of your material with something like this..."When researching Eric Kershaw I came across this very helpful material from a fellow called Tasker Dunham who runs a blog called "Yorkshire Memories": "LONG QUOTE"?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Depends on the length of the quote and whether it's "fair use". It's acceptable to summarise, acknowledge and link, but the web author seems to have been too lazy to do that. 1300 words goes way beyond acceptability.

      Delete
  9. Well done. I've never written a post that required sufficient research to be worth plagiarising. I have had a number of requests to use photos from my blogs though - usually from charitable or religious bodies. I've taken them as compliments.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is indeed a compliment, and they asked for permission. It's difficult to know when images have been used without permission. It's not like big corporations that have automatic software to identify copyright songs on YouTube. We've have to do image searches on all our images which would be an enormous task.

      Delete
  10. I've had the same experience, though not with a WordPress blog. I had an entire long blogpost complete with my photography, images depicting my own artwork, taken and posted under a different name in their blog.

    I found it by chance as I did an unrelated Google search. It was an account of an experience I had with a small group, at which he was not present, a wonderful day of visiting and demonstrating. I demanded that he remove it immediately. He tried to pretend it was accidental, yeah. Then he said I thought I'd appreciate the exposure! I explained the difference between theft and giving a link, also said there would be legal action if it was not gone by close of business that day. In an hour it was gone.

    I put the whole account into a blogpost with a request to my readers to notify me if they saw anything like this anywhere other than my blog with my name attached. And sent him the post,just to drive it home that I wasn't alone in this.

    Good for you for fighting back. Those of us who stick strictly original text and images have to be vigilant.

    There's always the consolation that it must be good if it's worth stealing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well done, and it was good that the person who copied your stuff acknowledged and removed it. Contacting the offender is the logical first step but in my case all attempts to make contact were ingnored.

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  11. Well done - defending your work! No excuse for copying your work.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks. It is absolutely indefensible. The thing is, if I'd been asked for a guest post I would probably have submitted the piece anyway, provided it was properly acknowledged.

      Delete
  12. I applaud you for your action in taking care of this! I can't get over what some people will do and he didn't even try to change it from yours. Thank goodness you found it. I imagine he has done the same to others and should have his page taken down.

    I have only been blogging a year and I have not put any kind of copyright notice on my page but wondered if I should. There is not much to the posts that I make but I still don't want anyone to use my words. I have also wondered about putting a watermark on my photos, particularly family photos. Have you considered using a watermark on your photos?

    ReplyDelete
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    1. I would if I found they were used by others a lot, although it only serves to prove ownership and doesn't prevent theft. It's also possible to 'watermark' text by use of special spacing, etc.

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  13. That's crazy! Thank goodness you found the material and bravo to you for taking action. It can be hard to know what to do in these situations and I appreciate the tutorial.

    Years ago I found that someone had used one of my photos on a flier to advertise a photography exhibit in Italy. The exhibit was already over, but I've always wondered -- did they use that photo in the show? Was the WHOLE SHOW made up of my photos? It boggles the mind.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would think that the flier picture was included. I wonder who they attributed it to.

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  14. Replies
    1. It's satisfying to see WordPress took it seriously.

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  15. Very interesting and good on you and Wordpress. I wonder why the person ignored you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wonder why they've left the page there with the takedown notice for all to see. It suggests that whoever it is has lost interest in the site.

      Delete
  16. Thanks for all your work in giving us interesting original material, and also presenting a lovely page on what can happen to copyright infringers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your support and readership. It was reassuring to see that WordPress take these matters seriously. Of course, it's in their interests to do so, otherwise we'd all be reluctant to post anything.

      Delete
  17. Kershaw blew it. I often wonder what folk like him are thinking--well I guess they think they'll get away with it. Thanks to your tenacity, this man didn't.

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    Replies
    1. It wasn't Kershaw who infringed the copyright, he was the subject of the post that was infringed. Apologies if that's not clear. But, yes, it was satisfying to get the stolen post taken down, so long as it doesn't crop up again later.

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  18. It is maddening if someone steals your text, your ideas and your work - so very good of you to fight for your rights!
    I once had the problem when from Japan I was asked to send them my already published book for - maybe - translation -- then a bit later it was a book from Asia, a bit varied (and it is very difficult to prove it if someone uses only similar related words).

    But to take it verbatim, as they did from you: that is really brazen!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's appalling. Books, unfortunately, are not easily searched online or challenged. What concerns me is that the blog that copied my content has been produced as the draft of a printed book which would be very costly to contest.

      Delete
  19. Someone once started a site using nothing but posts from my blog. Don't know if it still exists. Someone else set up a Twitter site using my name and avatar, describing their site as a satirical parody. It contained nothing but lies and abuse, but when I complained to Twitter, nothing was done on the grounds that satire and parody are permissible. I explained many times to them that lies and abuse do not qualify as satire or parody, but would they listen? No! I suspect I was just getting automated responses and that no 'real' person had even looked at the account I was complaining about.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Good grief. I would have done everything I could to have shut down the rogue web site. And I know a lot of people complain about various aspects of WordPress, but in this particular case they can't be faulted. Twitter should folow similar standards.

      Delete
  20. Re what you said to Britta, wouldn’t the page on your blog have an earlier publication date than the purloined content on the thief’s blog? And wouldn’t that be evidence of proof of authorship?

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    1. Yes the date of the blog post provides evidence and can be checked against internet archives (in case of attempts to fake the posting date). I think that's why WordPress accepted my case against the offending site. Also, my understanding is that you don't have to actually say "copyright of xxx" and the date - it is automatically copyright as soon as published, possibly even as soon as written. My concern about the possible use of stolen material in a printed book is that once published it cannot be withdrawn, so defence would probably involve legal proceedings which would be costly.

      Delete
  21. Ugly situation, Tasker. Well done to you for pursuing the thief.

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    1. Thanks. You're right, it does leave a bad taste.

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  22. Well done. It is an ongoing problem for all writers. Carol

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    Replies
    1. It was good to be able to do something in this case. Only a minor victory, really.

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