Don't be Discouraged by Plagiarists

By stretch | Wednesday, March 9, 2016 at 3:28 a.m. UTC

Recently, a friend pointed out that an individual had taken one of my cheat sheets, superimposed his own logo and URL on it, and published it as his own work. This is certainly not the first time I've been plagiarized, nor will it be the last, I suspect. I called out the individual on Twitter, and I'm very gratefully for the many people who helped me compel him to remove the illegitimate content. Eventually.

I wanted to write a quick post sharing my thoughts on this incident for the benefit of everyone who has expressed interest in starting their own blog or web site. I've heard plenty of people comment over the years to the effect of, "Why bother starting a blog if someone's just going to harvest the RSS feed and re-publish it on their own site to make a few bucks?" Indeed, this has always been a concern among producers of both free and paid content.

I wish I could tell you that plagiarism isn't that big a deal, or that it won't happen to you. But the truth is plagiarism is a huge problem in our industry (and across the Internet in general), and if you produce public content you will inevitably have to deal with it.

If you're in the business of content creation (that is, if you charge people directly for your product) then there are obvious legal avenues through which you can take action. A sternly-worded cease-and-desist letter with a law firm's letterhead will be enough to deter most offenders. But if you're just an independent blogger making your content available for free, with no direct income to protect and no lawyer on retainer, your options are limited. Issuing a DCMA takedown request to the hosting provider is a popular option, but realistically this often results in the offending content simply being moved elsewhere.

Regarding plagiarism, it's important to realize three things about generating free content:

  1. You will probably be plagiarized. On a long enough time line, it's virtually guaranteed. Better to recognize and accept early on that it can happen, so you're not discouraged when and if it does occur.

  2. Plagiarism means your content is popular. I believe that only a very small portion of professionals in our industry would ever resort to plagiarism. If your content has managed to find its way to one of these few people, that means it's also reaching many, many others. And should those many other people also encounter the plagiarized content, most will be able to immediately discern between it and the original.

  3. Plagiarism means your content is good. As Charles Caleb Colton said, "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery." No one would claim your content as their own if it wasn't impressive. You should consider plagiarism as an indication that you're producing high caliber content, and strive to maintain that level of quality.

Ultimately, stellar content will overcome attempts at imitation because it tends to find a larger audience. If you're considering starting a blog or other project, don't be discouraged by the possibility of intellectual theft. Just work hard to create the best content you can, and you'll find that the professional community does a very good job of protecting original content.

About the Author

Jeremy Stretch is a network engineer living in the Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina area. He is known for his blog and cheat sheets here at Packet Life. You can reach him by email or follow him on Twitter.

Posted in Opinion

Comments


Dawn (guest)
March 9, 2016 at 4:12 a.m. UTC

Sad, but you had a great response.


Wael (guest)
March 9, 2016 at 10:10 a.m. UTC

Jermey, totally agree with you on this. By all means it's obvious how much value you always try to provide here and I think that your biggest asset against such attempts is the people that will recognize the orginal from the fake.


Simon (guest)
March 9, 2016 at 11:05 a.m. UTC

This a nice reponse to people stealing your content. I, personally, am grateful you spent time producing great content. If people appreciate it perhaps be best thing to do would be to post a like back you your site to look rather than rip to take or imply credit to themselves. Keep up the good work and sharing knowledge/experience. Thanks again S


Shane (guest)
March 9, 2016 at 4:03 p.m. UTC

That is a shame. Your cheat sheets are what brought me to your blog.Your blog is awesome.


Brian (guest)
March 10, 2016 at 8:58 a.m. UTC

You can have my cheat sheet and post it as yours if you want. http://i.imgur.com/bgngp82.jpg


Lee (guest)
March 11, 2016 at 3:49 a.m. UTC

Was just reading this on Twitter TL. Well written post.


Jon (guest)
March 15, 2016 at 10:17 a.m. UTC

Great post... Very sad but very true.

My Mrs runs a business making stuff and has just discovered that someone is copying her business ideas... She is quite upset so I pointed her at your article - as you say - Plagiarism means your content is good!


Anon1 (guest)
March 16, 2016 at 10:04 p.m. UTC

Your cheat sheets are so good that I use them to teach new hires! They make it simple to see the relationships of commands and devices. If Cisco would take a page from your book on information presentation. . . . .

Keep up the good work and thanks for all the good info!


Joe (guest)
March 17, 2016 at 6:58 a.m. UTC

Your blog is awesome! The world is full of cheaters .... as well as good sharing people like yourself. -Thankx from the island of Pacific-


Tony (guest)
March 17, 2016 at 2:13 p.m. UTC

Damn, that's messed up. My wife is a college professor, and she has dealt with few lecturers stealing her material too.


fmcnally
March 26, 2016 at 9:23 p.m. UTC

Your nobility in handling plagiarism (including this blog entry) is exceeded only by the efficacy of your Cheat Sheets!


David (guest)
April 1, 2016 at 6:40 p.m. UTC

To quote Charles Caleb Colton - Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.


apresskidougal (guest)
April 7, 2016 at 3:18 p.m. UTC

well i guess it speaks to how well put together your cheat sheets are that someone would go to the effort of stealing them. I have tried making my own and getting them to look that clean - not even close :) Keep up the good work


venkcut
April 10, 2016 at 3:31 a.m. UTC

we are with you, we know whose work originally it was even if we get to see it in another portal, trust google for it brings original web portal before those who copied your content, I couldn't have been a network engineer without packet life :D cheers


fletch
April 15, 2016 at 10:05 a.m. UTC

I guess we all do a bit of plagiarism now and then, its all a case of degrees, at least information should be recast or disguised with some fresh understanding or insight on the material.

That's how I learn, and I want to do a blog myself so I will be gathering information and then trying it express it my way.

The straight copying that is annoying.

Just joined, always liked Jeremy's cheat sheets!


dcasanares
May 13, 2016 at 7:44 a.m. UTC

Sad that someone cannot recognize your work as your and do their own.


networx88 (guest)
May 25, 2016 at 5:53 p.m. UTC

Great point & sadly all too true. I can say that your content is greatly appreciated by many across the country and the world. Thanks for all you do... My cube would not look the same without your cheat-sheets / posters lining the walls

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