This is an article I never anticipated having to write.

If you have ever had your copyrighted works plagiarized, you know the resulting feelings of outrage and helplessness. This article is about what you actually CAN DO when faced with someone copying and using your content for their own benefit. Plagiarism cannot be prevented, but with a few -steps, you can at minimum, force the perpetrator to remove your copied content, and in extreme cases actually force attribution or even gain compensation as the result of a court judgment against the perpetrator.

Background

On August 23rd 2012, my browsing experience on Google+ began with a notification from a Google+ friend of mine - Ronja Addams-Moring, letting me know she had discovered that among many, I was the victim of a plagiarist. An individual going by the name of PJ Rosenberg (not his real name as we have discovered) had been lifting copyrighted content from articles and using it word-for-word as his own. The image above shows my article on the left, and the plagiarized copy on the right. Click on it to expand, and notice the dates, and the content.

Because of the sheer volume of posted content from this individual, he had developed quite a following on Google+, and had been added to many popular circles like “Engagers” and “High Signal to Noise Ratio”. Here is a gallery of the exploits of Mr Rosenburg, where you will be treated to an assortment of articles with text lifted verbatim in most cases, screen captured by Ms. Addams-Moring before their removal, who followed up on the original detection of the plagiarism by another friend of mine, Dan Soto. Dan has systematically and expertly taken down “Mr. Rosenberg”, discovering that PJ Rosenberg is a false identity, and finding all sorts of malfeasance, including alleged published books of poetry from the actual work of others.

So, what to do when you find yourself victim to this kind of thing? Here are the steps I recommend you take.

1.Get a screen capture, URL, and all other available information about the offending content right away.

The person responsible for stealing your content will often seek to remove the evidence as soon as they discover that you are onto them. A screen capture, with dates of when the work was published is invaluable to those who will take action on your behalf. In the above screen capture, you can easily see my article published on July 25th, and it was copy posted the very next day on Google+. A screen capture like this may represent the only evidence you can submit when you take the following step.

2. File a DMCA complaint.

DMCA stands for “Digital Millennium Copyright Act.” This act criminalizes copyright infringement. Although it is no longer legally required for you to have a copyright statement within your article for you to claim it as your own, it is still always a good idea to do so when you can. The penalties for copyright infringement can range from $750 to $300,000 for each violation of the law. I filed a report on the above, due to the sheer volume of offenses the person in question committed. In fact, I filed it twice. (DMCA request #1100287389)

3. Confront your Plagiarist in writing.

Before the person can remove the work in question, confront them with the knowledge of what they have done, and demand in writing removal, attribution, or payment. Inform the perpetrator that you have electronic copies of their infraction, and have reported them under a DMCA complaint. At this point (as in my case) the plagiarist will busy themselves removing not just copies of your work, but likely remove all other instances of plagiarized content. In another case which involved my work, a college professor in Europe was using the writings of dozens of writers with all the works listed on his web site as his own. A group of Google+ friends went through each one, and contacted the violator directly, resulting in every single article, numbering in the hundreds, being removed from the site, and a personal apology received.

4. Get the word out.

Like me, many writers are completely outraged to see their researched, professional works simply lifted by someone else, often within the same industry and used to compete against them. Can you imagine having your own article (like mine above) used by someone to compete against you? You might wish to get medieval on them but that is not a good option for anyone. Spread the word as far and wide as possible. Tell EVERYONE. You never know how much damage the perpetrator has already caused. This alerts others who may have also been affected, and you might prevent someone else from becoming a victim. Do what you can to make them famous.

5. Use the Rel=Author tag in the html of your online content.

Search Google on “Rel=Author”, and learn how to incorporate its use into your online content. I use this tag in my articles so that when searched, they show up on the SERP (search engine results pages) with a picture of my fat mug right next to them. This way, there is then no doubt as to the original content, or to its owner.

6. Take a bow.

Nobody copies a lousy article. Mitigate the anger caused by the plagiarist by recognizing that had you written an awful piece of work, nobody would have stolen it from you. So pat yourself on the back for a job well done, and get back to work on your next article!