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The theft of ideas and content

If you regularly read SQL Server or other technology blogs, you know that the blogs can be a wonderful way to stay connected. You can learn about the latest innovations in the technology, you can keep abreast of the recent services packs and vulnerabilities, you can even learn of techniques to improve performance. The benefits of reading blogs goes on and on. I’ve got a long list of SQL Server related blogs that I read almost daily.

Additionally blogs are a good way to keep up with others on more personal level. When you read somone’s blog, you get a sense of who they are and what they are like. You almost feel like you know them. And that can be a good thing.

Stealing another’s work

But there’s been a disappointing yet growing trend in SQL Server content on the web over the past few years – the outright theft of blog content.

Initially, the plagiarism was of a more traditional style. It was typically committed by people who wanted the accolades associated with writing really good content without the effort of actually having to write it. Maybe they didn’t have the knowledge or skills to write? Maybe they did have the knowledge and skills but not the time? Who knows? But for whatever the reason, they intentionally decided to steal someone else’s work and place their name on it.

Plagiarized content of this nature would usually show up on personal blog sites. Some of the more cavalier plagiaizers would actually submit the stolen content to sites like SQLServerCentral.com and receive payment for it, hoping that their ill-conceived acts would go unnoticed. I know Steve Jones regularly has to deal with this situation.

A more subtle theft

Recently, it seems that there another breed of plagiarism that has popped up on the Internet. This form of theft is much less obvious, much less overt.

It seems more and more sites are attempting to drive traffic to their own sites with content that is not their own. They do this under they guise of being content aggregators. They may even believe that they are offering the community a service by collecting the a bunch of disparate sources of information and presenting them in one unified place.

However, they are deceiving themselves and their readers. They are, in my humble opinion, stealing content for the explicit purpose of driving traffic to their site. Perhaps they do this for ad revenue? Perhaps for the sense of accomplishment in creating a site that has millions of hits? Whatever the reason, the ends do not justify the means.

A rose by any other name is still a rose

Many, if not most, of these so-called aggregators, do not give credit to the author, they do not link back to the original source of the information, and they are not up front about their techniques for acquiring the content.

When you take the work of another and use it without the authors consent, you are plagiarizing. It’s that’s simple.

The right way

There are, of course, many aggregators that syndicate content legally with the author’s permission and consent. SQLServerPedia.com is a great example of this. They ask authors to select and submit their works. They link back to the original works. And they give credit to the author. This is the right way of doing things.

So how does this affect me?

If you enjoy reading content that others have created and want to see that content continue to flow in the most convenient way possible, you can help. Notify authors with their content has been plagiarized. Even if you are unsure whether it was used without permission or not, let the author know. They will appreciate hearing from you.

If you are an author and you’ve noticed that your content is being used without your permission, you have rights. Brent Ozar (@BrentO on twitter) has some good information on his site about plagiarism and what to do about it.

I’m actually taking his advice now. Last week I discovered that several of my blog posts are being used without my consent. Take it from me, this is not a pat-on-the-back. It’s not a I-should-feel-flattered-that-someone-liked-my-stuff-enough-to-rip-it-off. No, it’s an annoyance.

What do you think? Are aggregators plagiarizing? Have you had issues with plagiarism? I’d like to hear your thoughts and experiences.



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