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Content, Writing and Copyright Forum

My site has been plaigarised by a textbook
Best way to deal with it? Get a lawyer first or try negotiating myself?

 7:12 am on May 27, 2012 (gmt 0)

I just found that a text book published by a pig academic publisher has copied a page from my site. Its interspersed with some other stuff, but over one and a half pages of the text book they reproduce the whole content of my page, word for word.

Any advice?



 7:47 am on May 27, 2012 (gmt 0)

Ask for royalties.

Point to the wayback machine dated cached copies to show it's been on the web for years.


 11:10 am on May 27, 2012 (gmt 0)

When you've taken g1smd's advice, there are a few websites that specialise in warnings for writers that you should send reports to if you don't get an immediate apology and payment. What you don't know at this stage is whether it's the author acting on his/her own, or the publishing company.


 5:51 pm on May 27, 2012 (gmt 0)

Unfortunately there's not much you can do. A lot web developers download whole sites and use them for templates. Pages like "privacy policy" and "terms of use undergo" a simple name replacement for company name and away they go. If someone wants a form dropdown listing all the countries in the world, do you think that they do the research and build one adding one country at a time?

Quite often a web developer can be operating under the instructions of the client, and they don't give a damn. How often do you hear "I found just what I mean on such and such a web page" so the developer saves the page, JavaScripts, images and all.

We found that one page had been pirated by a client's competitor, that provided quite an indepth explanation of the reasons for the topics existence and cited by Wikipedia as the #1 outside reference.

The pirate had performed a simple company name replacement and changed the header. When we contacted him his excuse was that he had to start somewhere. I have heard this excuse many times when catching up with thieves... they believe that stealing is the only way to get started.

The client was very keen for justice, but when you look at the situation from an outside perspective you can see suing can cost a small fortune that won't be recompensed. It's always the backyarders who are the offenders, and they are not worth suing.


 8:07 pm on May 27, 2012 (gmt 0)

Thanks, its not in wayback machine, but it is in a print version of the site - a book complete with ISBN no.

Probably the author I imagine. I really need to read the whole book and check if anything else has been copied - but it costs 100!

@Rosalind, that I will ask for details if they do not react positively.


 12:32 am on May 28, 2012 (gmt 0)

There's always the Columbo approach.

"Hey, professor, musta been a coupla years since we talked. I'm the author of pages such-and-such. I've misplaced the e-mails where we talked about permissions, and my bookkeeper is getting cranky. Can you re-send me what you've got?"


 11:13 pm on May 31, 2012 (gmt 0)

Get some solid proof showing that you are the original author of the content. Write a letter to them explaining that they are infringing on your intellectual property and that you demand that they cease immediately. Im not sure where you are from but a lot of countries have rules stipulating certain rules whether or not they realize that they are infringing on your rights.

An idea is to ask them what their opinion is on the matter. without mentioning compensation at first. Just to see if they are willing to admit the infringement.

Depending on their answer (or absence of such) you can either demand compensation yourself or let a lawyer take a look at the case.


 11:40 pm on May 31, 2012 (gmt 0)

You ( or your lawyers ) are likely to get a more business like response by contacting the publisher rather than the author..The publisher may well not be aware of the plagiarism, whereas the author they hired/ published, most certainly is..and the author may well choose to dissemble or to "hide" and not reply if approached directly..

Any compensation would normally be expected to come initially from the publisher, and later depending on your decision as to what actions to take, from the author..


 7:29 am on Jul 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

The publishers have acknowledged the plagiarism, but I have found another plagiarised passage from the book. They claim the book has sold very few copies. Not surprising given it costs $150.

I have an electronic copy of it. Can anyone recommend software to scan that against my original and find matches? Most of the anti-plaigarism software I can find either scans the net for copies, or compares a file against their database.

Will update on what happens as I am waiting for another email from them.


 9:44 am on Jul 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

Any diff/merge program should do it. Unfortunately the best one I ever had, DocuComp, dated from 1991 and only ran on Mac Classic. You could feed it two entire novels and it would spit out the passages that one had swiped from the other. (I had great fun with this feature in an e-book, though I realize "fun" is not your goal here.)

What platform are you on? I've currently got something called DiffMerge but it isn't nearly as nice, especially on the large scale which is what you want.

Can you do command-line stuff? I know someone using Linux who might have something useful.


 1:04 pm on Jul 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

IIRC you are running ubuntu ?
try "meld"..
sudo apt-get install meld

HTH :)

There are loads of others for all platforms ..non exhaustive ( but pretty good anyway ) list..



 3:15 pm on Jul 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

They claim the book has sold very few copies. Not surprising given it costs $150.

The fact that it's sold even one copy means you should be paid. Eithey you should be paid or the book should cease to exist.


 7:43 pm on Jul 15, 2012 (gmt 0)

I've had this situation twice over the years. In one case it was a local hotel publishing a guidebook that copied stuff lock stock and barrel. I contacted the hotel, they contacted the author who admitted what he had done and they removed the stuff from their website. The hotel representative in the meantime couldn't heap enough criticism on the work that they had copied and published. Given that she was so combative, it would have taken a court order to seize their inventory of printed materials.

In the other case it was the author of a book. The problem was not so much the printed material as the fact that in her infinite wisdom, the author decided that she also had the authority to give other people rights to republish our material that she had copied. So we shut all of those down, then while the lawyers were debating what to do, she got wind of it and pulled all the infringing material from her website.

In the end the lawyer said it would be worth trying to get an action against her publisher. But again, in the end I decided it wasn't worth going after the publisher with a lawyer.

I really need to read the whole book and check if anything else has been copied - but it costs 100!

I wouldn't do that. I would contact the publisher, identify the material you have found and tell them you need compensation for this material plus any other they have used. When they settle (royalty or lump sum) it will probably be a flat fee anyway, not per word. You would then request a copy for review before agreeing to anything.

Having been on the other end, publishing packaged software, my company made 100% sure that all rights in everything we used were cleared. Just one problem can get all your inventory seized (or a stop selling order - can't remember the legal term on that) and put you in a position where you lose the whole value of your inventory.

If you are in the USA, you have a very strong negotiating position here if you contact the publisher. If you can prove you own the material, they will be forced to settle with you or stop selling. The penalties for copyright infringement are very stiff, even if it is unintentional.


 2:26 pm on Jul 17, 2012 (gmt 0)

I think a lot of copyright issues differ a lot from one country to the other. Therefore, the best advice I can give you is to consult a lawyer specialised on online issues and/or intellectual property.

One example: A full page of my website was translated 1:1 for a daily paper in Austria without permission or even consultation. When I asked a lawywer about this, he said that because the paper gave the URL, there was nothing we could do. So unhappily, I didn't follow up on it. I guess I could have taken legal action in many other countries (at least respectable ones).


 7:31 am on Jul 18, 2012 (gmt 0)

I have got a copy of the book as PDF from the publisher.

My experience with Meld is that it does not work well if the the order has changed, but I will give it a try.

The book is an finance textbook written in English, so its mostly sold in the US and the UK. The publisher has UK and EU operations so those are the jurisdictions that matter. Fortunately, they are the ones I am familiar with.

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