Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Stealing from a Plagiarism Site

We are currently testing plagiarism detection software and were evaluating the results from one system when we discovered a strange link. Some blog at Windows Live had plagiarized one of our plagiarism test cases about the history of Döner, a Turkish fast food popular in Germany.

The site did give a source - is listed at the bottom as being a source. Of course, this is our portal, not the E-Learning unit and most certainly not the exact source. A large chunk and a smaller one are taken verbatim from our page without using those pesky "..." signs that just mean extra typing for the author, I suppose.

I wanted to send the "author" a take-down notice, as my texts may only be quoted or used as per copyleft, that is, that the derivative work also be under the same license and that a link to the license and the authors remain intact. But I have to sign up for Microsoft's "Windows Live" in order to contact the author!

I was just about to sign up in order to contact the author when I found a little link at the bottom of the page labeled "Legal". Following this I find a large page with a paragraph entitled Notices and Procedure for Making Claims of Copyright Infringement. This is interesting, there is even an E-Mail address given and a procedure for issuing take-down notices.

Okay, so this is a test for Microsoft. I wrote an email, detailing the amount of the plagiarism and the problem: I have permission from the original authors of this plagiarism to use this content - my plagiarizer doesn't. I will report on whether Microsoft bothers to answer, and if they do indeed get the page taken down.

I find it very troublesome that someone just uses the text they found without bothering to understand the context in which it was written. It seems we must not only educate our students on avoiding plagiarism, but also the general public. I am happy when people write - that's what blogs are for. But I do not understand that people find it okay to just copy other people's texts - and publish it on their blogs!

This makes it clear that the schools must act and teach about the proper use of content and good research practices, something I thought was self-evident, but apparently is not.

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