What to do with a plagiarist
September 24, 2004 7:59 AM   Subscribe

PlagiarismFilter. A Xanga user made a post to her site that is far too similar to a post on my site (self-link, apologies) for my comfort. What should I do about this?

So far, I have contacted Xanga via their abuse form notifying them that this user is in violation of their Terms of Use, which state that users agree to not "upload, post, email or otherwise transmit any Content that infringes any patent, trademark, trade secret, copyright or other proprietary rights ("Rights") of any party." I have yet to hear a response.

I have a brief copyright statement at the bottom of each page on my site. Is my work really "copywritten"? Can I demand someone remove a copy of my words that aren't attributed to me?

For what it's worth, none of the comments left on the site are from me. My righteous posse appears to be up in arms.
posted by LeiaS to Writing & Language (26 answers total)
You could make a cunning self-link to AxeMe.
posted by keswick at 8:17 AM on September 24, 2004

Freaky. That Xanga post was just there a second ago and now it's gone. It was definitely plagiarized though. No doubt about that.
posted by Otis at 8:19 AM on September 24, 2004

I tried to post a comment to the page but instead received a note that the page was no longer pubic. Perhaps the issue has been resolved? I'm curious, I've found photos from my web site being improperly "linked" (live linking is it called?) but how did you find this case of plagiarism?
posted by Dick Paris at 8:22 AM on September 24, 2004

"i made a mistake, but i guess christians aren't allowed to do that"

Priceless. An apology worthy of Rod Paige.
posted by Otis at 8:29 AM on September 24, 2004

The offender's profile lists her birthdate as 1980. I can't believe a grownup posted that pouty little tirade.
posted by jpoulos at 8:41 AM on September 24, 2004

(Also, I can' t believe that people born in 1980 are now grownups. I'm old.)
posted by jpoulos at 8:43 AM on September 24, 2004

The latest entry:

Friday, September 24, 2004

so i made a few people mad...i actually thought i had sited the girl from whose site i found the entry (thought "blame me" [you know the words in green] at the top linked you there..should have), but i guess i didn't...however thanks to those of you that have nothing better to do than create blog names just to slam me, however to appease you and shut you up i deleted it...i am so sorry that my site bothered you..oh wait, actually i couldn't care less. i admired someone elses' randomness and wanted to share it..oh wait, why am i explaining myself to you? your thoughts and opinions mean nothing to me.

however thanks for your comments...at least you took the time to read the entry..apparently for the second time.

hope you are able to put this all behind you and go on with your lives. oh and i'll repent of my theft...seeing as how i i'll burn in hell for it...i made a mistake, but i guess christians aren't allowed to do that..its hard to be perfect all the time, unlike you. i'll pray i can only be more like you.

In the entry before that, she/he wonders if anyone reads her/his journal. Oooo the irony.
posted by iconomy at 8:45 AM on September 24, 2004

xanga users are psycho.
posted by Space Coyote at 8:53 AM on September 24, 2004

Lord, grant me the strength to post the things I can get away with plagiarizing,
the serenity to delete the things I cannot, and the gall to take offense when
called out on the difference.
posted by Danelope at 9:09 AM on September 24, 2004

so i made a few people mad...i actually thought i had sited the girl

Stephen Ambrose has a xanga account?
posted by drezdn at 9:11 AM on September 24, 2004

I guess she finally pulled down the post moments after I put this post up, but about 22 hours after she wrote it. Here's a screenshot of the original. I guess this is victory. Thanks ask.mefi!

Dick Paris - I found it in my referrer logs. Early on in her text-jacking, she still had "my" in the second paragraph linking to another post of mine.
posted by LeiaS at 9:13 AM on September 24, 2004

She quite clearly has some serious self-image issues.

it explains my awful sin and points out the loser that i am.

She's trying to come of as snarky, and only succeeding in seeming whiny, petulant and self-loathing. And throwing some confused religion into the mix just in case anybody had any doubts about her mental stability.

Good for you LeiaS.
posted by signal at 9:21 AM on September 24, 2004

Find the other 998 monkeys and take away their typewriters.
posted by yerfatma at 9:34 AM on September 24, 2004

What should I do about it
My preference would be to leave her alone. There's one blog post copied verbatim with what I assume is a link to the original. It may be misguided, but I think she only wanted to say "Hey - read this, this is cool". I think your reaction was too extreme.

What should I do about it
From where you are now, I'd apologise. She's done nothing wrong.
posted by seanyboy at 9:35 AM on September 24, 2004

I'd think it was fairly obvious to any readers she might have that she stole that material from somewhere. All those capital letters, combined with a lack of randomly inserted extra periods were a sure tell.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:47 AM on September 24, 2004

seanyboy, she didn't link back to the original. But upon reviewing this woman's site, I think we should all be nice. She's not a happy person, and any damage she did has now been undone. I'd hate for her to come across this thread and find more nastiness.
posted by jpoulos at 9:48 AM on September 24, 2004

posted by quonsar at 9:54 AM on September 24, 2004

She's done nothing wrong..

I disagree. I don't believe her intent was to point out a post she liked on a different site. The title at the top did not contain a link, though I don't have proof of that. She had changed some words in the text (it was not verbatim): "Texas" became "North Carolina" to fit her locality, "kickass" became "great", etc.

I also don't feel my reaction was too extreme. I posted a link to her plagiarized content on my blog and contacted her site's adminstrators to notify them of a violation of ToS. Then, I posted here for advice on what to do next. I posted here because I wanted to pursue this rationally, without a flame war ensuing.
posted by LeiaS at 10:15 AM on September 24, 2004

She has done something wrong, but this certainly explains why people like Blair Hornstine can swear they don't know nothing 'bout no plagiarizing: people want to excuse the behavior instead of saying "You did wrong. I'm sorry if it hurts your feelings to be called on it, but now you know better, which means your feelings won't be hurt this way again providing you treat this as a learning experience."

Contacting the Xanga admins was the right thing to do, IMHO, LeiaS. Ordinarily, I would contact the person first, but more often than not, that's an ineffective strategy, whereas contacting the Admins almost always gets something done.
posted by headspace at 10:50 AM on September 24, 2004

Yes, and if the children outside are laughing too loud during their play, call the police. Those little brats are disturbing the peace. Oh sure, I might normally talk to the kids or maybe their parents, but that never really works. Nope, it's jail for those noisy little serenity thieves. There's just no point in simply shrugging it off. It's not that I'm petty -- it's the principle of the thing.
posted by willnot at 10:57 AM on September 24, 2004

people want to excuse the behavior

Not sure if you're referring to me. I only meant that we shouldn't pile on the woman's psychological problems (as I and others had started to do). What she did was definitely wrong and she should be called out on it. But she *has* been called out.
posted by jpoulos at 10:58 AM on September 24, 2004

And in the end, it's not like she stole LeiaS's life's work. It's just a blog entry, ferchrissakes.
posted by jpoulos at 11:01 AM on September 24, 2004

molehill >> mountain
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 12:54 PM on September 24, 2004

I have a brief copyright statement at the bottom of each page on my site. Is my work really "copywritten"? Can I demand someone remove a copy of my words that aren't attributed to me?

Just for reference: yes and no, assuming you live in the United States. In America, any work published, created, or produced after 1978 is copyrighted to the owner by nature of it simply existing. If you scribble a crude drawing on a napkin, you have the copyright to it.

The issue of enforcement, however, relies on how easy you can prove that you created this work and own the copyright. The easiest and most concrete way is registering with the copyright office, or certifying your work via a notary public. Having originals of a work is another way but not a guarantee, especially if you aren't the creator.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 1:44 PM on September 24, 2004

Is it just me or did she plagiarize a post about the weather?
posted by PrinceValium at 8:35 PM on September 24, 2004

jpoulos: I'm pretty sure she was referring to seanyboy, who was urging her to apologize (!). And willnot's being a jerk too: uh-huh, complaining about this is just like putting someone in jail.

You did right, LeiaS. Pay no attention to the snarkers. Stealing someone else's words is bad juju.
posted by languagehat at 7:30 AM on September 25, 2004

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