The Real Problem
A fan copies my work and claims it is their own. It really affects very few people unless there is a push of promotion behind it. And this has arrived in the form of a listing on the DMOZ Open Directory Project. This is perhaps the most significant directory at this time (Yahoo is a bit eclipsed at the moment) and this information is reflected onto so many additional directories around the world. For instance, Pali's website is featured on Google's directory at directory.google.com/Top/Computers/Internet/Searching/Help_and_Tutorials/
With this nudge, or rather shove of promotion, Mr Pali's website jumps into some decent recognition. Ironically, my Spire Project appears immediately below his on this directory.
One of the unique characteristics of this case is that Pali has the lingo of a serious researcher. His work on Quality Assessment includes references to four additional websites. Further, he has credentials that are reassuring. A cursory look at the website would only notice his Library Science degree is from an "open university" which may indicate distance education. That is hardly an indication for concern. And modestly speaking, his online document is well written.
Credentials, references, good information, listing on the Open Directory Project. If we do a link search on AlltheWeb, we find 130 other pages link to his online document. Surely this work will be referenced by students around the world who struggle with internet research.
But the work is not his own. This perception needs to be corrected. And the author is not really at a loss here. My first gross plagiarism case was swiftly solved with a detailed email message to the business that was hosting the disputed work. I explained the case, and the pages simply disappeared off the net.
Pali has received a similar letter and he may choose to retreat or reassert my ownership over the articles.
But that is just the first step. Secondly, I have sent messages to the primary directories that are indexing his document. I explained the case above, and I have every expectation that they will remove the link, reduce the promotion and help the disputed information sink back into anonymity.
I still have the ISP that I can harass (and threaten with going over their heads). I'll save for later. There is also the legal angle, which I will probably never reach for.
Internet information can be taken easily. But then so can print information. There is a small industry in South East Asia that photocopies a book then binds the photocopies together for convenience. Theft of ownership is not particular new, and should not really be terribly concerning for there are simple and effective ways to counter such work. I will shortly have either an apology, a return to anonymity for the page, or the removal of the page by Geocities India. I suppose I could rush off and hire a lawyer but it seems rather pointless when I can fix this myself with a few simple letters to the right people.
There is another lesson about Quality Assessment. And again, it should not overly concern us. Information is fabricated and misrepresented all the time in this world. And so it happens on the internet too. And like much scholarly plagiarism, and fabricated/biased medical research, sometimes we simply cannot determine the extent of the truth from a distance at the time of our choosing. We simply must wait for it to blow into headlines.
And even if it happens more frequently on the internet, here is the delightful secret: