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Blog Scraping and Online Plagiarism

Jonathan Bailey of Plagiarism Today has an interesting post on Blogger taking the offensive against spam. Jonathan had noticed most spam blogs (“splogs”) originating with Blogger, but also noticed a precipitous drop in Blogger splogs over the past week. Splogs involve the issues of both plagiarism and copyright infringement.

Plagiarism is the act of presenting someone else’s work as your own. Plagiarism also includes the failure to give attribution when you combine someone else’s work with your own. Plagiarism is not illegal, just unethical. It will not get you thrown in jail, but it might get you fired or thrown out of school.

Copyright infringement is violating an owner’s exclusive right to reproduce or distribute and original work of authorship. Plagiarism is stealing ideas, copyright infringement is stealing one particular aesthetic presentation of an idea. Although copyright does not protect ideas and plagiarism does not forbid properly attributed verbatim copying, there are thefts that involve both plagiarism and copying.

One particularly nefarious type of theft, involving both plagiarism and copyright infringement, is blog scrapping. Blog scrapping involves a splog comprised entirely of content from other blogs. The splog sends a piece of software “the scraper bot” to find text in other blogs containing particularly keywords tied to the splog’s paid advertising. The scraper bot returns the text and places some or all of the text on the splog.

Since the scraper bot process is automatic, a company or even an individual can have many splogs with very little management or effort. Because such splogs republish verbatim content without attribution, they are not only committing unethical plagiarism, but are also committing illegal copyright infringement.

Splogs are earning money off of the backs of people creating the original content. Is your blog being scraped? Well Plagiarism Today has some interesting insight and tips regarding scraping that you can use to find out. One particularly useful tool is the uncommon uses feature of Feedburner. This feature lets you know who is using your blog content in hopes that you might help Feedburner put a stop to splogs.

Brett Trout

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