This is a story all about how my life got twisted upside down, and I'd like to take a minute just to sit right here and tell you all about how an article of mine was plagiarized and distributed and how I managed to get it taken down. Intrigued? Read on.
Plagiarism. Copyright infringement. Two terms that are similar but that have key differences.
Let's start by distinguishing the difference between plagiarism and copyright infringement. Plagiarism is the practice of taking someone else's work and passing it off as your own. Copyright infringement however, is described as infringing on the rights granted to copyright holders. These rights include:
- the right to reproduce
- the right to distribute
- the right to display or perform the protected work
- the right to make derivative works These rights are given automatically given to the creator of the original content but, this may differ according to which country you live in.
Keeping this in mind, we can deduce that by replacing the author name with their own, they committed plagiarism. By reproducing the article, distributing the article through social media and displaying it on their blog, they infringed upon my rights as the copyright holder thus committing copyright infringement.
I posted an article about CSS Specificity originally on dev.to around October and then submitted it to Freecodecamp's publication, which was accepted and published mid-November. As I was looking through the stats on Medium for that particular article, I clicked on one of the external referrals, which was from LinkedIn. I clicked on the LinkedIn link to see who had shared the post. There, I saw that someone had shared the article and as I looked closely, I noticed that the shared post
- Did not have a picture
- Had a different name as the author
I clicked on the link to see where it would lead me and sure enough, it led me to that person's website, where my article was copied word for word without any mention or back-link to the original article.
Not only did this person commit copyright infringement by displaying and distributing my posts without my permission, but they also committed plagiarism by taking credit for the article by replacing the author's name with their own.
I knew that someday that this would happen but, it still gave me a shock to see someone do this with such blatant disregard for other people's hard-work. It's one thing to copy someone else's work but to then share it with others and pass it off as your own? That's unacceptable.
First thing I did was let my family and friends know about it- several brains work better than one. My friend advised me to report them on LinkedIn for copyright infringement. Before that though, I thought that I could try to settle the matter by messaging them. Problem was, LinkedIn wouldn't allow me to do so which then meant that I would have to connect with the person THEN if they accepted, which I doubt they would've, send them the message. I wasn't going to do that. Instead, I wrote a comment under the shared link letting them know that they were committing copyright infringement and to delete the post ASAP.
24 hours later, no response. That left me with no choice but to fill out the notice of copyright infringement form on LinkedIn. Four days later, I received a response from LinkedIn that said that because the " the reported content is not occurring within the LinkedIn platform. For that reason, we have no authority to address the issue".
Despite the fact that the content that was shared was plagiarized and infringed on my copyright, because the content was not on the LinkedIn platform itself, they couldn't do anything about it.
It was clear that this person had no intention of deleting the post so the next step was to find out who their hosting provider was and write them a message, informing them of the situation and asking them to pull it down. Finding this information was easy - I used https://hostingchecker.com/ and typed in the domain name and voila! There was the name of their hosting provider.
I immediately went to the hosting provider's website, located their contact information and emailed them. They sent an automated email straight away to say that they would get back to me. About five hours later, they did get back to me asking me to fill out a form about my complaint. The hosting provider is a German company so the form was in German but auto-translate came to the rescue so I was able to fill out the form without any problems.
After receiving another automated email after submitting the form, I waited. A week went by, then another. Still no word from the hosting provider. Another couple weeks went by in a flash as life got busy but I remembered a few days ago that I didn't hear anything back. So, rather than emailing the hosting provider again, I opted to DM them via Twitter for an update. A couple of days later, I received a response from the company's marketing department who said that she was unable to access the complaint records due to strict data privacy laws so suggested that I email them instead.
I emailed the hosting provider, asking if they can give me an update on the case. Within a couple minutes, which is unbelievably fast, I received a response that said that URL to the blogpost had already been removed. I checked to see if this was true and sure enough, it was gone. Furthermore, the "blog" section of that person's website, which contained the articles of many other writers, was removed.
What is the purpose of this article? To bring awareness to the issue of copyright infringement and plagiarism, particularly when it comes to online content. Dealing with having your content plagiarized and your rights as original author infringed upon isn't cool and it can be difficult, time-consuming and cause stress. It took a little over a month to get the plagiarized content taken down. In some cases, it could take even longer or be near impossible to get the content taken down. By documenting the process, I want this article to serve as a point of reference and a resource to anyone who is dealing with or may deal with copyright infringement and plagiarism in future.
I love sharing my thoughts, ideas and experiences with others and this will not deter me from continuing to do so. But, it would be nice to not have to worry about your content being stolen.
Don't plagiarize or infringe on the rights of copyright holders/original authors. People put blood, sweat and tears into their work, don't disrespect them by claiming ownership for something that does not belong to you. ALWAYS cite the original author. ALWAYS get permission for use of other people's work. ALWAYS provide back links to the original content.
I'd love to hear your experiences with copyright infringement and plagiarism, particularly with online content. How did you deal with it?