Tuesday, July 5, 2011

You read it here first . . . It could happen to you!

Yesterday morning, I accidentally discovered something that almost caused me to shut down my blog. Instead, I spent the day thinking and feeling a bit ill and talking to Pater and getting some perspective, and, finally, taking a bit of action and deciding to wait and see. . .

Checking my Statcounter, I noticed that a visitor had been referred from another site.  When I clicked on the link, it took me a few seconds to figure out what was happening. I saw a picture of myself, then another a bit lower down, and another below that. In between was text. I started reading, and found the text eerily familiar. Have you guessed yet? It took me a minute or two to realize that the entire post was one of mine -- from March 2010. The link some visitor had followed to my site was a link I had included in that post, linking back to an earlier post of my own. I spent some time looking around on the site and saw three other posts of mine, same titles and all, every word, every photo, even the labels, copied verbatim from my blog and placed against a black blog background with someone else's banner.  Besides the background, the different blogname, the thief (human or autobot?) had also changed it up a bit by interpsersing my posts with some on cars, some on girls in bikins, you know, a real class act. (I'm not going to link to this blog. They don't deserve another "click," so far, as much as I can tell, not registering with Search Engines).

So what would you do? Have a look at your Blogger (or whatever platform you're using). Spend some time thinking how you would make contact to report what seems a very obvious abuse. It's not as easy as you might hope. I googled a bit for some advice, some of which included getting a lawyer. For now, I've filled out Blogger's on-line form (intimidatingly full of warnings about making false copyright claims) and submitted it, getting an auto-generated e-mail in reply. And I'll wait to see what happens.

For now, other than a brief, almost involuntary "You've got to be kidding me!" comment left on the copycat post I discovered, I have not tried to contact The Plagiarist, and s/he is hidden, of course, by the byzantine (to me) nature of the net.  But there are templates out there for cease-and-desist letters for exactly this scenario -- which, apparently, happens so often that it's a question of WHEN, not IF, a blogger will be plagiarized. For now, I'd prefer that whoever investigates for Blogger finds all the plagiarized posts still there, so I'm going to hold off on requesting/demanding she remove the posts -- I'd prefer to see the blogger identified and refused future accounts. How realistic that is I have no idea.

Since my first discovery, I've gone back and found that the four posts I saw were a small fraction of the theft -- in fact, my blog has been plundered for four years. Yes, I was just getting ready to celebrate my fourth anniversary. Feeling less celebratory right now, thanks very much. It's so weird to see a description of a friend's gift, photos of it, a recognition of that friendship, all in my own words, but offered up as someone else's. Vertigo as much as nausea, I must say . . .

However, where my first instinct was simply to shut down (the "open only to invites" option doesn't appeal to me; part of the fun was growing the blog), I am now going to persevere and try to ignore what has, after all, been out there for four years in my ignorance. The little bit of name-googling I tried led me to a 37-year-old Indonesian woman, and I'm trying to concentrate on how much luckier I am in the life I write about than she is in the one that's encouraged, if not required, her to steal. I'm not quite there yet, but I'm working on it.

I'm still a bit resentful at Blogger, to tell you the truth, for accommodating her and making it tough for me, but we'll give them a chance to "do good."  Worst of all is that I feel stupid for putting my life out there -- violations often result in a victim's self-blame, and that's where I'm at right now. Blogging the way I like to do it always demands I ignore those internal critics that say I'm being narcissistic, trivial, silly, etc., and then there are all the external critics, the friends and family who just don't get it. This theft feels like a resounding "I told you so," from all of them.

But you understand, don't you?

So feedback of the supportive kind is very welcome today. I've got a few posts in the line-up, but I'm not sure how I'll feel about getting them out. Tomorrow, three women who survived the PhD process with me are arriving from across the country to sit on my porch, eat, talk, drink, dance, and congratulate each other on having all finished (two of us 6 years ago, the last one just over a year ago).  I'm going to push this nastiness to one side for now and celebrate their presence.  They remind me, always, that tough times are made so much easier with some understanding companions. Like you readers. . .

37 comments:

  1. That's terrible! Wishing you all the best as you move forward. But please don't stop blogging! Those of us who "know" you would miss your presence! xxxooo

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  2. What a horrible feeling that must be - almost as if someone had rifled though your wardrobe, put on some of your best clothes then paraded around town in them. Is there any way of telling whether or not the other site actually gets any traffic?

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  3. That's just awful and, I think, particularly horrifying to an academic. We are so accustomed to reacting to plagiarism as the worst sin of all. I hope you don't shut down your blog. If you do that, you have let the other person win. How pathetic that (s)he has to steal from your life to make hers/his interesting.

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  4. What a horrendous violation! I've heard about this happening occasionally. I can certainly understand your inclination to "close the curtains," as it were. I do hope you'll continue to persevere, and let us know how this is going.

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  5. I am so shocked and sorry to hear this. I think anyone who writes a blog like yours - so open and friendly- is very brave. Please don't give up.

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  6. This happens to me a lot. I do take the time to fill out the DMCA reports if the plagiarist is making money from clickable links. And it does take a LOT of time to fill out those forms. Blogger will respond by removing the offending posts and hopefully that will scare off your copier. This is the main reason I watermark my images and why I've right-click disabled my blog. I'm so sorry you're going through this.

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  7. My web designer did that for me, but I think it is just a matter of simple code that you can add to your blogger template. A Google search should bring up the info you need. It doesn't stop everyone and it can be frustrating for regular readers who want to copy a web address, but I had no choice.

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  8. When I first started the blog people told me this would happen. They also told me not to let it bother me, to see it as a compliment, and to be glad my stuff got out there in the world:). Not sure I'm quite happy per se, but I have simply turned a blind eye when I see it, so far.

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  9. I'm so sorry that this has happened - it is appalling that you've been plagarized. I read your blog for inspiration but I couldn't dream that someone would try to steal your written life. Thank you for making the decision to continue on - I would miss your writings. Pat

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  10. I just can't imagine how someone can be so dishonest, or feel so poorly about themselves that they have to steal someone else's content. It's very disturbing. I really wonder how much of it goes on - how unaware we really are. I wouldn't have a clue if someone was stealing my blog.

    Enjoy today. Know that you are living your own life with integrity.

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  11. Ugh! I don't know how I would respond to such a hideous violation but I don't have the nerve to research the possibility that this has hapened to me. So sorry you have had such an experience...

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  12. Just horrible and, sadly, you are the second of my blogging friends to whom this has happened. It is a risk we all take when we choose to blog but we never think it will happen to us. However, like your other readers, I do hope that you will continue to blog; the value and significance of the positive global connections we make are worth so much more than the other kind. You have been so generous and welcoming in your posts and you would be sorely missed.

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  13. mater - as Couture Allure suggested, I googled how to disable right click on the blog. Got it working on mine, and will e-mail you the website with the directions. It's a very easy fix.

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  14. That is very creepy...I had no idea that this would happen...I am going to read up on this and please keep blogging mater.
    Please do let us know how we can protect ourselves if you find out.
    Hope that there are blue skies and sunshine overhead for you today.
    Hugs
    Hostess
    XO

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  15. Sorry to hear this!
    My husband had a blog be taken over by a string of chinese commenters one time. It was not that easy to get google to take care of it.

    If you haven't already I hope you will your password.

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  16. I am horrified to hear of this plagiarism, and hope very much that it will not discourage you from posting on your excellent blog, which I so enjoy. I don't quite understand the mechanisms of the theft (my ignorance of how blogs work is profound), but I am indignant and angry on your behalf. And I would so miss your words if they were to disappear!

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  17. I am so new to blogging that it confuses me as to even "why" someone would do such as thing much less than even "how." I hope your time with wonderful girlfriends puts some happiness into your day and that you don't give up blogging because of the crimes of a few. There are so many others who feel connections to your writing and get inspiration to do something beautiful because of it.

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  18. Like your readers above I'm appalled at this violation. I hope that you are able to find out how to protect yourself somewhat - as others have said, it's be a pretty poor blogging world without you! P.

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  19. That bites! Just think of it as having "arrived". No, wait. That doesn't make it feel any better. I've had it happen several time, always blog scraping, and I know this types of thing has happened to many people I know. It's too easy to get away with, sadly. Please don't go away!

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  20. Oh, how awful for you. Take your time to recover but please stay!

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  21. OMG, that is just a terrible violation and I can completely understand how you must feel sick about it. Knowing that we put our words out there for the world to see, and even reading that it does happen, does not change the sense of violation that is felt when the abstract becomes personal. Fie on that person who caused such internal devastation!

    I think it is true that many non-bloggers do not understand, and of course the internal voice of self-doubt always has to raise her head as well, but that doesn't mean that your words are not important and appreciated. It does not mean that you would not be missed.

    I think time with friends will be a great tonic, perhaps with a little added gin, and I hope to be reading your words for a long time to come.

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  22. Ughh, what a bummer. I'm so sorry this happened to you.

    But remember, you do have a lot of real readers who enjoy your blog and look forward to visiting with you. This too shall pass.

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  23. This is a terrible violation of trust - like having your house broken into - and I'm so sorry it's happened to you. Don't know that I've commented before, Mater, but I've been reading you since, probably, close to the beginning of your blog. Hope you continue but would totally understand if you were to close it down.

    The Internet is such a wonderful, creepy, beast. We launch onto/into it every day without a second thought as to our own security and are truly wounded when it turns on us. This is a reminder that there are predators and, as you say, people with lives so sad they need to steal yours. Compassion would be in order if it were not such a damn outrage!

    One way or another, mater, it's been a wonderful ride, and I thank you. Keep the faith.

    Jan

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  24. Mater, how miserable! I'm so sorry.

    I'm late to the post as I've been practicing internet abstinence by request from sweetie :-)

    You are doing the exactly right thing, considering options, processing, reaching out to your readers. You might not know right away what you want to do.

    Since you asked, my thoughts on this are similar to Lisa's -- I don't worry about it.

    All along I've assumed that when I post it's as public as a politician with a megaphone riding through a small town, barking a message.

    Of course I mean to speak intimately, among online kindred spirits, but I know the internet is NOT private.

    Mater, you are such a dignified person -- I don't think you should worry about what you've posted!

    It's such a pleasure reading your blog; I really hope you'll find a way to continue.

    xoxo

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  25. Hello Dear Mater,
    Myh thoughts are with you as you work your way through this appalling discovery. I have signed up just now as one of your "official" followers (although I've been reading your blog since last fall) as a sign of support. Your thoughtful, delightful and intelligent blog adds so much delight to the days of MANY, just like me. Best wishes!

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  26. I made a disturbing realization of a different sort when I looked at my stats last week...and it made me sick to my stomach.

    Veshoevius at Taxonomy of my Wardrobe did a post on this sometime back and you might want to dig that up and add Copyscape to your blog. She has told me it is happening to me as well.

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  27. Many years ago a colleague presented some of my work as her own, it still makes me cross when I think of it.
    Unfortunately there are thieves all around us, in all aspects of our lives. They are a minority but they damage our freedom. We have to find a balance between keeping ourselves safely locked in our houses and engaging with the world.
    Sometimes I feel guilty because I read and enjoy blogs and don't blog myself, but I am a very appreciative audience.
    I hope the outrage and violation you feel doesn't lead to shutting down your blog. I would miss you.
    Lilibet

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  28. if you need me to unleash my redhead temper on some thing or someone, you know how to get a hold of me. This totally sucks mom! Bu don't you stop blogging!!!

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  29. I checked the page and I suspect it was done by someone (probably from Thailand judging by some of the text)who is trying to divert search traffic to their site rather than yours and using the traffic to generate advertising revenue. It may even be automated, ie. grabbing a post on a regular basis. The page is programmed to automatically refresh every so many seconds, so they may be getting advertising pennies each time it loads. And should people click on any ad then they would receive more pennies -- actually fractions of pennies, hence the reason they try to attract as many people as they can.
    I wouldn't be surprised if they have a system where they have created hundreds of similarly plagiarized blogs. Note the growth of their postings over the last 3 years. No one has time to post over 2000 posts in six months.
    So I don't think this is a little miss-informed wanna-be, I suspect this is a full-fledged operation looking to make a buck.
    So don't get too upset about thinking this is a small time plagiarizer, get upset because this is mass misuse of the media. And this may help Blogger.com understand the problem from a different angle as probably many of their users are in the same boat.

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  30. Miss C: Thanks so much for the encouragement. Means more than you'd imagine.
    Lesley: LizHK (last commenter, just above, seems to have teased out a wealth of info -- I know her in IRL and she's just as knowledgeable as she sounds here.
    SewingLib: Yes, it actually makes most e.g.s of plagiarism pale in comparison -- but it's more likely to be automated software than an individual, as LizHK points out above.
    Pseu: Thanks so much. We take this risk daily, but until we see ourselves in unexpected places on the screen, it doesn't register.
    Parthenope: Such kind words are very much appreciated. Thanks for taking the time to leave them.

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  31. Couture Allure: You are so helpful and kind -- I really appreciate the time you've taken to provide this information for me -- for all of us, really. And I see that Une Femme has found out how the more amateur among us could achieve the results you've suggested. Thanks, both of you.
    LPC: This is so extensive, you might be surprised, altho' with your background in software, probably not. And while my attitude has been similar to yours, it shifted slightly looking at that screen. Still, in the end I'll probably shift back that way, but meanwhile hope to rattle a chain or two.
    Pat: Thanks so much for taking time to comment -- it's great to hear new voices speaking up here, all so very supportive.

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  32. Lorrie: LizHK's comment above is instructive on this -- and I looked up "blog-scraping" since Jillian referred to it. Most likely an automated software program combing thousands, millions? of blogs . . . depending on the keywords they're looking for, they may have picked yours up . . . I suspect "what I wore" and "Paris" might be my downfall.
    Marsha and Jane: It means so much that you say my words would be missed. Thank you!

    Hostess: I know you have a family member who works in software or something related and perhaps he can help you research this -- I've found out a bit more than I wanted to know!
    Rose AG: Sorry about your husband's experience -- I long for the days when big companies (Blogger, I'm looking at you) were reachable on the customer's terms rather than solely on their own. Hard to get behind that wall.

    60/16: Your kind and encouraging words are a demonstration of why I will stay on -- the good far outweighs the bad, I've decided. Thank you!

    K: I know! I'd almost prefer to return to my three-days-ago self who just didn't know. After all, it's been going on for years and what I didn't know didn't obviously hurt me . . .

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  33. Patricia: Thanks for taking time to comment. You must be in the middle of packing now -- hope the move goes well!
    Jillian: Bite it does! Thanks for adding to my vocab -- "scrape" indeed!
    Tiffany, Mardel: Thanks so much for your support -- you help form the community that I've come to value so much over four years of blogging. And Mardel, yes, T&G, coming up!
    Nancy: Thanks for the reminder and the perspective.
    Jan Hughes: For some reason, I'm very moved to see readers step up to the mike for the first time -- thank you for your support, and I hope you'll continue to read here, commenting only when you feel comfortable and/or motivated. It's great to have you as part of my blogging community.

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  34. Mater, I can only imagine your distress to discover that not all parts of the web (or the world) share our own sense of right and wrong; but please be assured that there are many of us who do recognize the value of original effort. I showed your posting to my husband (he is a retired IT professional with LOTS of years experience with the web world) and he cautioned that disabling the right click may not solve the problem and the browser itself allows you to "view source". Disabling this function my affect other functionality on your page. But he did locate this article which may at least provide you with a smile about the situation http://rainbow.arch.scriptmania.com/scripts/no_right_click.html Your reader, Kris

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  35. Susan: I haven't worried about this in the past, although I was certainly aware of the possibility, but there's something about seeing one's whole post sandwiched between girls in bikinis and motorcycles . . . and ads flashing above . . .
    However, having gone through the initial jolt, I'm daily getting my perspective back. Thanks for the support and the kind words.
    C'est Chic: That's so sweet of you! Thanks very much and welcome. Concentrating on all the blog community's goodness is a powerful way to turn away from the negative.
    Terri: Oh, I'm so sorry. Given that you're still posting, I assume that you've managed to reconcile yourself as well to having the bad along with the good. Still, it's disturbing, isn't it! I'll go search out that post you recommend. Knowledge is some kind of power, at least. . .

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  36. Lilibet: Thanks for the understanding and the encouragement. Please never feel guilty about reading blogs while not blogging yourself -- if there weren't readers like you, we'd all be stuck at our keyboards and screens, writing and reading and reading and writing. . . We need some who just read, really! But feel free to comment when you get an urge to write!
    Megan: Hey sweetie, you can be my not-so-secret weapon. ;-)
    LizHK: As you can see, I've already referred readers down to your great, informative comment -- you really help put this in a perspective where it's about much more than my personal sense of violation -- collectively, we bloggers are used to provide content for revenue-generating sites -- all supported on Blogger. And were you as surprised as I was by how legit some of the advertising businesses were? That occurs to me as a possible avenue to protest through. Um, Rogers, did you know you're associated with a sleazy, thieving website? Might want to check out your advertising contracts!
    Hope we'll get a chance to chat in person -- I'd love to know how you tracked this info down, especially since I was careful not to name the site, and you've found it anyway. So clever and pretty fast with a spindle to boot!

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  37. Kris, that did indeed make me smile. I'll have to think some more about the disabled right-click -- as you suggest, and given the little I've learned about scraping, I'm inclined to think this wouldn't protect me but might be a nuisance for my readers. Not sure, will think about it, but meanwhile, I'm out in the backyard digging a big hole for some floppy discs. . . ;-)

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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