My first plagiarism

I’ve been plagiarized! Yes, I know. What happened is that Expactica, a website for expats…

Wait, I first have to explain to you what expats are, in case you need to have this explained to you. Expats are people that move to another country. But they are not emigrants. As the name implies, they frame their new position in terms of the original country; the name they give themselves is openly hostile to the new culture. Why would the Dutch put up with such people? Well, I don’t know. “Emigrants” are from all walks of life, and continuously get heaps of shit poured down their collars for not “integrating” fast enough. “Expats” on the other hand are actually hostile to the Netherlands, get nothing but praise, and are usually white Anglo-Saxon butt-corkers.

Oops! I almost suggested that racism comes into play here, though of course as everybody knows there is no racism in the Netherlands. Look at Geert Wilders — not directly, you’ll go blind. As once Andrew Rilstone so eloquently put in between his regular bouts of nut-job Christianism, where I can no longer find it, condemning religions is just a way of being a racist without going to jail for it. Muslims are brown people. You want to slag off brown people? Slag off Islam. But racism is a form of extremism, and if you claim that Dutch politician Wilders, the most vocal critic of Islam in the Netherlands, is an extremist, you go to jail. Ipso facto, there is no racism in the Netherlands.

So where were we? Ah yes, plagiarism. I co-blog at 24 Oranges, a site that provides news about the Netherlands in English. So does the excellent Dutchnews.nl, and so does Expatica.com. A moderator at the Expatica forums copied one of my articles wholesale (link to original, link to copy). That’s copyright infringement, that is. But I don’t care so much about that. Obviously the person who copied it liked my article enough to copy it, and to copy it verbatim at that. And it’s only free publicity for me, right? Wrong.

For some reason, my name did not appear in the copy. If you look closely though, you’ll see what appears to be an honest mistake. There is a source statement, but it accidentally links to a third party that has nothing to do with publishing the story. The Expatica moderator obviously wasn’t trying to get credit for something she had not written. She merely misattributed the story.

A friend said about plagiarism: “Why worry about this instance? You could be plagiarized a thousand times without ever finding out about it.” But I did find out about it, and this is my worry: that people who discover both stories (which is not hard, as accidentally Googling for a phrase unique to my story will show you both) may think that I am the plagiarist. It’s not so much that I must be known as the original author, but rather that I could do without a bad reputation. People don’t look further than the web; what evidence can I present that I am the original author? What happens if further websites plagiarize me: would that be only further evidence that I am a plagiarist? (“Look, he stole from more than one website.”)

So I wrote to Expactica, and asked them to put things right. Guys, I sort of wrote, please correct the source statement. And now we’re more than a week further, and no response. Not even a nyeh nyeh, we’re not going to do it. I know they got my message, because I used their online form (the only way to get into contact with them).

The next step would be to take legal action. First, an official DMCA like complaint, either to Expatica themselves or to their upstream host. Then, a lawsuit. And you know what? That’s just too much work, and a little bit in just too expensive. The courts in this country will only give you real damages, and not even that. So, a couple of hundreds euros and lots of lost time in, and all I would have gotten was lousy justice. So I won’t take further action, and just hope my reputation will remain unscathed. (I rather guess it will.)

What have we learned here:

  • Expatica.com may not be the most reliable of parties. Don’t buy their stuff! Boo! Hiss!
  • I can easily go off the main track for rants that have little to do with the matter at hand.
  • I have too much time on my hands.
  • Any or none of the above.

Donna Wentworth had an interesting opinion about plagiarism that may be more robust in these networked times than just “it’s bad.”

6 responses to “My first plagiarism”

  1. A few things, one is that I would remove the link to the copy. The search engines can not distinguish between good and bad linking so your linking to the post could cause their star to rise in the search engines increasing the likelihood that others will mistake you as the plagiarist.

    Second, filing a DMCA notice only takes a few moments and doesn’t cost a thing. I’ve got stock letters on my site that you are free to use if you need them.

    Given the search engine ramifications here, it might be worth your time.

    Still, no matter what you decide, best of luck with it!

  2. brankl says:

    Thanks for the tips, Jonathan.

    Re the linking: yes, they get a slight advantage, but not enough for me to worry about. What’s more, the search engines will now associate “expatica” with “plagiarism,” which is what I was looking for.

    As for a DMCA notice; those are only valid in the US. Also, Expatica can simply pretend not to hear me and wait for the problem to go away. I’d then have to go to court, and that’s simply not worth it for me.

    But it’s good to know that you have those forms, because I was looking for them via Google and could not find them.

  3. It will be interesting to see how much association, if any, expatia gets with the word plagiarism. In my past experience, it hasn’t been that much. Of course, you could easily just mention the name of the site and the name of the poster without linking to the page itself. That would continue the connection and not pass on any link credibility.

    I did a check and it appears the Expatia is hosted in the Netherlands. While the DMCA does not work there, the EU has its own version of the law, the EDEC. The requirements are similar though I am not certain if the Netherlands has enacted the law into their local code.

    Hope that this helps! Glad that my site was able to help!

  4. brankl says:

    A EU directive needs to be incorporated into local law within a certain period of time; if a country fails to meet the deadline, courts can use the text of the directive as the law.

    As for the effectiveness of the EDEC, it’s even scarier than the DMCA, as this article from The Register shows.

  5. Agreed that the EDEC is even scarrier than the DMCA in this regard. To summarize my concerns, anyone, not just the copyright holder can raise a concern and there is no need to swear under penalty of perjury or take any other steps. It’s just a “hi, this guy is ripping off stuff” letter.

    Do you know how long the delay is between when an EU directive becomes law and the courts can use the text? I ask because EU law is not my area of expertise and this is something that could be very useful.

    Thank you in advance!

  6. brankl says:

    “Do you know how long the delay is between when an EU directive becomes law and the courts can use the text?”

    I believe it’s half a year, but you’d have to look that up to be sure.

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