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The Kidnapping of Content

http://www.plagiarism.org and http://www.Turnitin.com

Latin kidnapped the word "plagion" from ancient Greek and it ended up in English as "plagiarism". It literally means "to kidnap" - most commonly, to misappropriate content and wrongly attribute it to oneself. It is a close kin of piracy. But while the software or content pirate does not bother to hide or alter the identity of the content's creator or the software's author - the plagiarist does. Plagiarism is, therefore, more pernicious than piracy.

Enter Turnit.com. An off-shoot of www.iparadigms.com, it was established by a group of concerned (and commercially minded) scientists from UC Berkeley.

Whereas digital rights and asset management systems are geared to prevent piracy - plagiarism.org and its commercial arm, Turnit.com, are the cyber equivalent of a law enforcement agency, acting after the fact to discover the culprits and uncover their misdeeds. This, they claim, is a first stage on the way to a plagiarism-free Internet-based academic community of both teachers and students, in which the educational potential of the Internet can be fully realized.

The problem is especially severe in academia. Various surveys have discovered that a staggering 80%(!) of US students cheat and that at least 30% plagiarize written material. The Internet only exacerbated this problem. More than 200 cheat-sites have sprung up, with thousands of papers available on-line and tens of thousands of satisfied plagiarists the world over. Some of these hubs - like cheater.com, cheatweb or cheathouse.com - make no bones about their offerings. Many of them are located outside the USA (in Germany, or Asia) and at least one offers papers in a few languages, Hebrew included.

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The problem, though, is not limited to the ivory towers. E-zines plagiarize. The print media plagiarize. Individual journalists plagiarize, many with abandon. Even advertising agencies and financial institutions plagiarize. The amount of material out there is so overwhelming that the plagiarist develops a (fairly justified) sense of immunity. The temptation is irresistible, the rewards big and the pressures of modern life great.

Some of the plagiarists are straightforward copiers. Others substitute words, add sentences, or combine two or more sources. This raises the question: "when should content be considered original and when - plagiarized?". Should the test for plagiarism be more stringent than the one applied by the Copyright Office? And what rights are implicitly granted by the material's genuine authors or publishers once they place the content on the Internet? Is the Web a public domain and, if yes, to what extent? These questions are not easily answered. Consider reports generated by users from a database. Are these reports copyrighted - and if so, by whom - by the database compiler or by the user who defined the parameters, without which the reports in question would have never been generated? What about "fair use" of text and works of art? In the USA, the backlash against digital content piracy and plagiarism has reached preposterous legal, litigious and technological nadirs.

Plagiarism.org has developed a statistics-based technology (the "Document Source Analysis") which creates a "digital fingerprint" of every document in its database. Web crawlers are then unleashed to scour the Internet and find documents with the same fingerprint and a colour-coded report is generated. An instructor, teacher, or professor can then use the report to prove plagiarism and cheating.

Piracy is often considered to be a form of viral marketing (even by software developers and publishers). The author's, publisher's, or software house's data are preserved intact in the cracked copy. Pirated copies of e-books often contribute to increased sales of the print versions. Crippled versions of software or pirated copies of software without its manuals, updates and support - often lead to the purchase of a licence. Not so with plagiarism. The identities of the author, editor, publisher and illustrator are deleted and replaced by the details of the plagiarist. And while piracy is discussed freely and fought vigorously - the discussion of plagiarism is still taboo and actively suppressed by image-conscious and endowment-weary academic institutions and media. It is an uphill struggle but plagiarism.org has taken the first resolute step.

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Sam Vaknin is the author of Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain - How the West Lost the East. He is a columnist for Central Europe Review, United Press International (UPI) and eBookWeb and the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory, Suite101 and searcheurope.com.

Visit Sam's Web site at http://samvak.tripod.com

Boost Traffic to Your Web Site with Fresh Content

On the web, most SEO experts will tell you that content is king. However, the real key is fresh content. Article directories are a great source of content, but over time popular articles will be posted on hundreds or even thousands of web sites. How are you going to make your page stand out from the rest?

One way to distinguish repeated content is to wrap it with your own custom content (preferably both before and after the article). Another is to regularly seek out newer articles and replace the older articles with the newer ones. While this will entail some effort on your part, there are scripts available that can help with both finding articles and rotating them.

Writing your own content is probably the best way to guarantee that your content is original and not replicated on other web sites. It is also what search engines love. However, many people feel intimidated by a blank sheet of paper (or these days a blank word processor document). Nevertheless, there are some tricks to make the process less painful.

The topic you pick is critical. If it is something you are knowledgeable about writing it will be easier. If you have a passion for the topic this is even better. When you begin to write make sure the first copy you are writing is for yourself only. In other words, write a quick draft without worrying about the final copy or what others might think. Editing comes later. If you just write what comes to mind you should find that before long you will have plenty of content. This is when you can come back and edit to make it fit to publish. A key here is to think about what the target audience would find useful. One of the nice things about the web is that people only like to read screen-size chunks rather than long essays so we are only talking about 300-500 words!

If you want your content to lift your credibility or provide links back to your site then there are many article directories, such as FreshWebContent where you can publish your work. On the other hand, you may just want to put it on your own site. Whatever the case, after you have successfully published some content in the form of articles or web pages you should find that the process isn't that daunting and you will be able to easily churn out lots of fresh interesting content for both visitors and search engines.

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Greg Smithers is an SEO consultant for FreshWebContent - an excellent source of articles which you can add to your mix of fresh web-based content.

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