Pages

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Waging War Against a Plagiarizer

earl53/morguefile.com
For the last few weeks, I've declared an all out war against an online plagiarizer.  Little ole' me with limited tech experience, has decided that no matter how many people try to tell me that there's nothing I can do about a China based website, I will not stop until this site has been removed.  And if I see them again under a different name, I'll start the next round.

The site's name is dvdscollection.com (I don't want to give them a link back so I'm not linking it up).  They are not only skimming articles from Associated Content and Examiner, but they are also selling bootlegged DVD's.  Here's the story thus far.

I received an alert concerning one of my articles having been "Buzzed Up" on Yahoo!Buzz.  Great!  But that isn't all.  The link was to a site I didn't recognize, not to my article on AC.  Following the link took me to dvdscollection.com.  There was over half my article without attribution or even a link.  So I contacted the administrator.  I politely told them they could either pay me for the reprint (since this was a DO on AC) or they could remove the article from the site.

Now usually, this works.  Some people don't realize that this is infringing and upon learning they take immediate action.  Others who are knowingly stealing content get scared that I'm onto them and take immediate action.  One time I did have to research the site owner (which is weird because he was a lawyer in Utah) and call him personally to ask him to remove or link my content properly which he did.  But generally, an email is all it takes.

Not so in this case.

Round 1

I received a reply that they would handle the situation.  But the deadline came and went and my article was still up on the site.  So I started digging.  As it turned out, this seemingly U.S. based site actually originates in China.  Where I would usually start filing DMCA reports to hosts and advertisers, I couldn't find information on anything like that.  Asking around about what to do netted little response and most of the responses weren't hopeful.  It looked like I couldn't do anything about it.  Digging around the site some more revealed that every news article they had up on their site was skimmed from other authors.  I contacted some of those authors but realized that it would not do much good.

I researched the site some more and found out that a great number of people believed this to be a bootlegged DVD site.  This blog post on Random Ramblings confirmed that.  In addition, the company that ships these DVDs (Yan Hai Electronic Commerce (Beijing) Ltd.), has several complaints against them for a variety of problems like damaged products, incorrect products, poor service, and a whole host of other problems which are indicative of a company running illegal products.  Additionally, while speaking with a live chat rep, I was told that the DVD's were the "Asian" version.  I'm not stupid.

In another email, I again asked them to remove my article.  They didn't respond and the article remained.

Round 2

Not willing to give up, I started with reporting their activity on Yahoo!Buzz and was able to get several posts of theirs removed.  I started researching further and began reporting them on every site that I saw them posted on.  I was able to get them removed from several networking and article sites which they were using to promote their website and have left reviews and comments where they post.  Just today, I received an email from the YouTube legal team that stated their content was being removed.  Those are small victories in the war, something that makes me feel good when there might otherwise be no recourse.

I wrote the site another email and let them know what I was doing and how I was reporting them to everyone they were coming in contact with.  Low and behold, after two weeks of fighting with them, my article has been removed from their site.

ppdigital/morguefile.com
But the war continues

But even though I was able to get them to take my content down, which was the original intention, I've decided not to stop there.  What happens to those authors who don't know they are being stolen from?  What about the copyright owners of these DVD's that are being pirated?  Why should the owner of this company continue to make money from other people's hard work?

If you're not a writer and just don't understand why I take this so personally, allow me to give you a perspective.  Let's say you're sitting in your house and someone you don't know walks in and takes your television and there's nothing you can do about it.  Then they come back in and start lifting your small appliances from your kitchen.  You have no recourse but to sit there and do nothing while your property is being stolen.  Can you imagine what that feels like?

That's exactly how writers feel when our work is stolen.  It's a terrible feeling.  And it takes desperately needed money out of my pocket, money that pays bills and puts food on the table for me and my children.

So I've made it my mission to continue reporting where ever these people representing this website pop up.  I even obtained numbers from a Disney rep to contact their legal department, which is exactly what I did yesterday.  I've also been reporting them to other networks and companies they are infringing.

A couple of roadblocks

In this war, though, there will inevitably be those people who refuse to take a look at the evidence and who want to say they aren't involved when they really are.  While a good number of websites that I've reported to have investigated and removed content related to dvdscollection.com, two websites, thus far, insist that because the article (or in one case the document) isn't directly infringing, they will take no action.  One site is docstoc.com (don't want to give them a link back either so here's a copy/paste URL to the document in question, http://www.docstoc.com/docs/38426682/Dvdscollectioncom-Intro-Archer-Season-1-Dvd-Box-Set), who, since initially telling me that they couldn't take action, have ignored me.  The other site is ArticlesBase.com who stated that I should contact the author and that they had no authority to remove articles that aren't directly plagiarized (regardless if it promotes illegal and unethical activity).  (This is the URL paste of the author in question who is using article writing to promote this website: http://www.articlesbase.com/authors/jetame/167362)  I tried to explain to them that the author doesn't give two craps about promoting such a site (okay, I didn't use those exact words but you get the drift).

I also spoke with an AC YCN staffer as it would pertain to Associated Content if someone had reported a contributor writing articles about a site which, upon investigation, turned out to be a site engaged in unethical or illegal activity.  My suspicions about how AC YCN would handle it was confirmed.  They would look into it and if the reports were valid, the author and articles would be removed from the site.  (Did I mention that I heart AC YCN?)

So I included in my response that I knew ArticleBase.com had every authority to remove the author if they saw fit but they just didn't want to follow-up on the reports.  I haven't heard anything from them since and the articles remain published on their site.

So the war continues and will likely drag on for a long time.  It doesn't hurt my feelings any to take a little time here and there to see what other site I can report them to.

Oh, and if you happen to catch them on a site, will you do me a favor and report them, too?  Thanks!

ETA (later the same evening I published this): I've just been informed that docstoc.com has removed the document.  Here was their email to me:
"   As the document appears to be an advertisement of sorts, as a one-time courtesy, we have removed it.  We cannot, however, assure that we will do so again in the future if it is re-posted by a Docstoc user, or is available elsewhere on the Docstoc site, though you are free, of course, to let us know again in the future if it is, or similar documents are, available on the Docstoc site."
Well, that was nice of them, even though they were a little begrudged to do so. :)

ETA: 11/22/10

ArticlesBase has finally removed the author in question who was posting the articles promoting the website.  After several emails back and forth, they decided that they do have the power to remove them.  Thank you, ArticlesBase.

Update and resolution to this war (11/29/10): Read:

I won the war against the plagiarizer! I guess I'm a hypocrite.

5 comments:

  1. Carol Bengle GilbertNovember 18, 2010 at 5:27 AM

    For sites originating in China, I found out from the Embassy a few years back that you can report them to the regional government authorities.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks, Carol! How in the world would I do that?

    ReplyDelete
  3. I don't blame you for not stopping. Although at times it seems like the war will be never-ending, like you I will continue to fight it. Plagiarism and profiting from stolen content is just so wrong!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I can tell you for a fact that they are selling bootlegged DVD's. Having just purchased Series 1+2 of Castle I have found that the second series has been burnt from TV episodes and they have ABC news flashed throughout the episodes. I researched the company before buying from them but unfortunately didn't find this article. I paid through Paypal so hopefully I will get my money back.

    ReplyDelete