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Plagiarism Among Programming Blogs And How To Resolve

With the success of my blog over the years, it was only time before people started plagiarizing my content. Plagiarism is a nasty thing and it really hurts the people who put time and effort into the content that they produce. In case you’re unfamiliar with what plagiarism is, it can be defined as below:

Plagiarism via Google Dictionary:

The practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own.

I’m going to share some examples on how my content was plagiarized and what can be done to help eliminate the problem if it is found.

First off, let me dive into more details about what plagiarism is to grow our scope. Per plagiarism.org, the following is considered acts of plagiarism:

  • Turning in someone else’s work as your own
  • Copying words or ideas from someone else without giving credit
  • Failing to put a quotation in quotation marks
  • Giving incorrect information about the source of a quotation
  • Changing words but copying the sentence structure of a source without giving credit
  • Copying so many words or ideas from a source that it makes up the majority of your work, whether you give credit or not (see our section on “fair use” rules)

Examples of Plagiarism

Now let me give an example of how I was plagiarized based on the above criteria. See the two images below (click to zoom):

Plagiarism Example - Nic Raboy's Original Content

Plagiarism Example - Content Taken From Nic Raboy

First you have an article I wrote in early 2016. Then you have an article written a few days later by pointDeveloper that is too similar to overlook. I took screenshots in case the other poster tries to change the content and play like this never happened.

Now it doesn’t take a software engineering expert to prove that those two look pretty similar. Code was copied and changed only very slightly, but yet no credit was given to me. I’ve been writing since 2014 and if you are familiar with my other posts you’ll know that many of his sentences and formatting matches my content. Some times even exactly. Take the following sentence from the screenshot for example:

Via pointDeveloper:

Note that you will need a Mac computer if you wish to add and build for the iOS platform.

Although my note is similar, I don’t think it is enough to make accusations of plagiarism, even though it is obviously inspired by what I said. However, if you dig deep into my older content, you’ll see sentences like this:

Via Nic Raboy:

You must also be using a Mac if you wish to add and build for the iOS platform.

Can you tell me in a serious way that pointDeveloper didn’t plagiarize that sentence of mine? This is only one of many posts that this particular person plagiarized from me.

Why is Plagiarism Bad for Bloggers?

I work hard on my content. I take the time to do a quality job and help anyone asking in my comment section. When someone steals my content and passes it off as their own, it hurts because of the time I put into it. On a more analytical level it hurts more than just my feelings. My hard work boosts my ranking in search engines. When someone steals my content, they are then feeding off my success and growing their own rank in the search engines and in some cases may even pass my rank. To push this even further, often these people have ads on their site or are selling plagiarized content making money off of something they didn’t even create. I don’t make much money from my content production so when I see someone else profiting from my work, it doesn’t feel good.

Taking Action Against Plagiarism

There are many circumstances where not a whole lot can be done to remove plagiarizing offenders from the internet. For example, if the offender is in your country you may be able to sue them, but what if they’re not in your country? I’m in the United States and most of the people plagiarizing my work are in India. I wouldn’t know the first thing about taking legal action against them. Even if I did, how much would I really gain out of it?

Here is what I do at a minimum to take action against people.

Issue a DMCA Takedown Notice to Google and Other Search Engines

If you run into a website that is sharing or taking credit for your material, do a web search for them. Search engines like Google and Bing take copyright infringement very seriously and if you can send them your original work and the offending person’s work, chances are these search engines will remove their content from search and penalize them in the ranking department.

If you need to issue a takedown request with Google, you can fill out their form.

Issue a DMCA Takedown Notice to the Offender’s Web Host

In most circumstances people are not running their own in house servers because it is pretty damn expensive. Especially for independent bloggers and developers. This means they are hosting with a service that has its own set of policies regarding copyright theft. However, how do you figure out where the person is hosting their website?

Well you can start with a simple Whois lookup from your Terminal like so:

whois pointdeveloper.com

That will return various information about the domain name. An example of the results can be something like this:

Domain Name: POINTDEVELOPER.COM
Registrar: GODADDY.COM, LLC
Sponsoring Registrar IANA ID: 146
Whois Server: whois.godaddy.com
Referral URL: http://registrar.godaddy.com
Name Server: NS33.DOMAINCONTROL.COM
Name Server: NS34.DOMAINCONTROL.COM
Status: clientDeleteProhibited https://www.icann.org/epp#clientDeleteProhibited
Status: clientRenewProhibited https://www.icann.org/epp#clientRenewProhibited
Status: clientTransferProhibited https://www.icann.org/epp#clientTransferProhibited
Status: clientUpdateProhibited https://www.icann.org/epp#clientUpdateProhibited
Updated Date: 08-jan-2016
Creation Date: 19-jan-2015
Expiration Date: 19-jan-2017

Sure it will return other information like the person’s address and email, but in this scenario we’re looking for the registrar. In this case it is GoDaddy. If you’re not able to use a Terminal, you can do a Google search for a Whois website that will do it for you.

The domain registrar is good, but we want to do better. We want to know where the website is hosted. From your Terminal you can run the following:

nslookup pointdeveloper.com

This will get us the IP address for the domain name. With it you can go on free websites like Web Hosting Hero and see who owns that IP address. I found that GoDaddy also owns it.

Now I have enough information to issue a DMCA notice to GoDaddy for this website.

Contact Relevant Parties Who Share an Interest in the Material

Let’s continue my example of me versus pointDeveloper. We both have content production for Ionic Framework and Telerik NativeScript. In this scenario, what I do is I reach out to Ionic Framework and Telerik and point out that the particular individual is sharing plagiarized content. It is in the best interest of the company to be aware of this so they don’t promote this individual and damage their brand name.

Expose the Offender on Social Media

It is easy to take this one too far when you’re angry, but I feel you should point out that a particular person or company is plagiarizing your work and passing it around as their own. You should do this on social media outlets like Twitter to build awareness that it is happening. I know I don’t like visiting questionable websites and I’m sure others share the same idea.

Conclusion

Plagiarism is a terrible thing when another person takes your original content, copies it to their own production outlet, and passes it off as their own without sharing the credit. This certainly isn’t the first time I was plagiarized. Redwanhilali plagiarized some of my blog posts as well as pointDeveloper, however, pointDeveloper has been the worst offender to date.

There are steps you can take to try to remove offending bloggers from the internet. Although not a guarantee, it will at least give some hope in saving your original quality content from thieves and other malicious people.

Did I miss anything? If you know of other tips or of programming blogs plagiarizing my material, please share a link to them in the comments section. I’d love to have multiple eyes in the world helping me clean up the internet from malicious behavior.

Nic Raboy

Nic Raboy

Nic Raboy is an advocate of modern web and mobile development technologies. He has experience in Java, JavaScript, Golang and a variety of frameworks such as Angular, NativeScript, and Apache Cordova. Nic writes about his development experiences related to making web and mobile development easier to understand.

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