I Got Plagiarized, and How I Dealt With It


Yesterday, a pingpack on an article I wrote for Fractus Learning indicated that there were similarities between content of an article I wrote and a new post from a recent blogger. I could put a link to my article and the bloggers post but I've decided against it at this time, not to embroil him in any controversy or expand a negative footprint of this person but they basically had copied whole paragraphs from my original article along with headings and bullet points. Robert helped me dig a little deeper and found that this person has:
  • Their own youtube channel with one video
  • A flickr account with (ironically) all rights reserved
  • He's a third year student at the University of Southern Queensland in Australia.
  • He's planning to be a secondary Biology or Geography teacher
  • Most likely, he's a novice with regards to copyright issues in education
  • He obviously thinks copying and pasting is "OK"
Knowing this makes me dangerous for this person. For starters, the post which he plagiarized felt like a review for a university ICT class. Since I have taken screenshots of the original article, even if he deletes it, there will still be a digital record. If this was in fact for a university course, I could potentially report this activity to his administrators at the University of Southern Queensland and see what sort of disciplinary action plays out. Possibly expulsion for academic dishonesty.

Image Courtesy of CC


I could also link his blog, name and screenshots to my article and tag his name. If this post I am now writing goes viral (which I doubt), there will be a growing record. Suppose this person goes looking for a job and their employer finds this post. Will they forever be at risk of not getting a job because they made a mistake once and are now forever labeled a plagiarist? If I really wanted to be a jerk, I could leave comments on his flickr and youtube sites. I asked for some guidance from my COETAILS cohort and they provided this tender advice:




I Started by Writing a Kind Request
I started by leaving a comment on his post and also alerting my editor of this as Fractus Learning has a copyright "all rights reserved". The comments that I wrote were not approved so are not visible to readers. My editor wrote back that enforcing such issues are difficult.


The Final Word
This illustrates the reality of copyright and fair use practices with the internet today: they're impossible to enforce. This was a minor example too. What about the person who writes a biography of George Washington on Wikipedia which results in thousands of pirated copies for history students around the world? Because of what the blogger wrote, his post could be categorized under fair use as

"the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purpose"-Copyright Act

In the whole scheme of things, this is not on par with more reprehensible crimes such as murder. But this does make one wonder with the enormous contents being created on the internet, how much of it is remixed, original or purely duplicated. When students are young, the stakes of this infraction are small. But as they age, we expect a growing awareness of copyright issues through source citation. We may use fact checkers like Turnitin to compare student work with what is on the net, but we also have to make examples of people so students learn from their mistakes and model how to source authors.

I've decided not to reveal this to his university either as this may impede his ability to pursue an advanced degree, but I am holding screen shots of them as a hole card if needed. What I did do though, is put a link to this post as a pending comment on his blog. Perhaps he'll reply with something original to say.

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