SWTORstrategies.com offers lessons in lazy plagiarism

I realize that the internet is a wild and crazy place, populated by people who are perhaps a little unknowledgeable abut the basics of a civil society. So I was only a little surprised to run across a site that copied and pasted items directly from us and other sites – without permission. Now, this happens – someone thinks that pulling in an RSS feed entitles them to reskin it as their own. Most of the time, the audience for such sites is so small that it’s not even worth the trouble.

But there is an actual human running running swtorstrategies.com, and over the weekend I discovered 17 posts from clubjade.net – all written by me – copied and pasted on their site. To their credit, I contacted the webmaster and they removed or replaced the offending posts overnight. But there is still plenty of plagiarized content on the site.

Some of the posts did indeed link back to us, but not as a credit. A ‘via’ or ‘source’ link, as used by many blogs in these parts, does not mean this post is by [source] (Particularly when someone else – sQren – is the post’s ‘author’.) A via link means I discovered this information thanks to [source]. You take that information, write your own post, and as a courtesy link back to where you you found it.

(The only posts that contain proper credits do so because EUC and NJOE contacted the webmaster after he took their posts.)

Further study found posts pinched from TheForce.Net (original / plagiarized,) SF Signal (original / plagiarized,) and of course countless selections from StarWars.com. A few other examples I found last night and tweeted about have also vanished, so I encourage fansite folks to take a close look at the site and contact them if you find anything of yours.

At least some of the stuff on the site is semi-original – take a look at this post on gaming action figures, which sandwiches an (attributed!) ForceCast quote in-between text swiped from Kotaku. Or not… The middle part is actually swiped from Ask a Jedi.

Some of the site’s content – many of the gaming posts, of course – does look to be all-original. Which makes the decision to swipe all this other stuff just lazy. These are not the most extensive of posts they’re taking. No one really cares if you embed the same video or videos or use the same (attributed) quotes. We’re all covering much of the same news, so these things do happen. (Though, of course, a linkback is good manners.) All ‘sQren’ had to do was write their own text. Their own sentence, in many of these cases. A paragraph. Hell, they could do a bullet list instead of lifting 11 of my new release posts.

Is this a huge deal, these tiny posts? Maybe not. We all exist at the mercy of LFL, after all. But it’s not just about copying and pasting – it’s about having the decency to not take someone else’s work and pass it off as your own. And I’m not going to let that fly just ‘because it’s the internet.’ It doesn’t matter what the subject is: There’s no suitable excuse for plagiarism, particularly when it’s this pathetic.

30 Replies to “SWTORstrategies.com offers lessons in lazy plagiarism”

  1. FYI, I think the plagiarism only goes back maybe to January. But it’s totally random (in a curated sort of way.)

  2. I posted a link to this article on their Facebook (9,000 fans?!). It won’t do much good if their readers remain unaware that the material they are looking at was originally from somewhere else, and is used without permission.

  3. You know, I can’t figure out who would be reading this site and joining their massive facebook page… The site is poorly laid out, hard to read, practically brimming with spam and ads….

    Who are these people? It’s harder to navigate than the TFN forums….

  4. Mark: Fourth paragraph.

    Moza: Whoops. Fixed. I did Google for that bit, but I have to admit I don’t know a damn thing about the gaming/TOR corner of fandom, so it’s easy to miss the ‘real’ sites.

    Bryan: Beats me.

  5. Well said, Tracy. It’s really stupid that this happens, and equally annoying that there’s no legal ramification.

    BTW, the TFN story that was stolen can be found here: http://www.theforce.net/latestnews/story/The_Force_Unleashed_II_Demo_On_The_Way_134221.asp (Your “original” link is the same as your “plagiarized” link.)

    Thanks for taking the time to write this up. It’s probably just because I’m looking at the not-too-distant future when print is largely gone and we are the new “mainstream media,” but regardless, it really pisses me off.

  6. Eric: D’oh. I swear I remember fixing that. Thanks.

    It happens. It’s happened to us at work, and in one case the person was just totally and completely ignorant of why taking unattributed chunks of content was wrong. Where do they FIND these people?

  7. Wisdom of the Jedi is one of those automated RSS feed-scrapers. I’ve just knocked our feed down to summary. (Sorry.)

  8. It’s sad that sites like that have to ruin it for the rest of us. I love being able to read the full text of articles in my RSS reader of choice. I do, however, visit the actual site as well.

  9. Man, this is really kind of a drag. You like to think that everyone is more or less in it together where the fandom is concerned, but then someone comes along and does crap like this…

    Don’t know how hard you’re going to pursue it, but best of luck getting this cleared up the rest of the way, Dunc.

  10. Well, they took down our stuff. I just want folks to be aware… And I don’t know how much it’ll take to get the idea through to these folks.

    As for the scrapers… I’m not really that concerned, honestly. They generally don’t have big followings. Hell, the first time I ran across swtorstrategies a while back I thought it was just a scraper, too.

  11. Since many folks here are writing original content without pay from anyone, your best bet is to post: Creative Commons badges on your sites. Just a suggestion. At least you can have some quasi protective copyright even if Lucasfilm Limited doesn’t support us.

    I have asked them and received a “no” letter and they do know. I really do not think they understand the entire social media experience other than the few that consistently post or at least their lawyers do not get it.

  12. Ahh, Creative Commons. I was thinking you meant something else on Twitter (that was you, right?)

    I never bothered because I didn’t think we really had that much worth stealing! (We still really don’t, IMO, but shows what I know…) But that was before we had reviews and such, too.

  13. Well, if that isn’t despicable. Time to spread the word about these people any way I can.

    Thanks for pushing this, Dunc. I can’t stand things like this, and I’m glad someone’s fighting back.

  14. I hate to play the devil’s advocate here, but I fail to undertand the big fuzz.

    If someone re-tweets you, it’s totally cool. You properly even be proud. Twitter is a micro bloggin platform.

    If someone posts you content on a normal blog, we have to crusify him.

    I don’t really se any original content in the star wars blogSphere. 95% of all that is posted is ” hey check out this and that”.

    I have always seen this as a kind of suport to the creative people that creates starwars related content.

    If swtorstrategies repost this stuff, they are only showing eaven more suport if you ask me. Yes ofcourse, it’s lame not to put a source.

    After all swtorstrategy is a monster!

    Look how much traffic they got:

  15. Earl: Retweets credit the original poster in a way that makes it clear they are the original poster. Always. Otherwise it’s not a retweet.

    SWTORstrategies was not. SOMETIMES they credited CJ. But not always, and when they did it was in a manner that still made it look like it was their own words.

    Like I said, we all cover much of the same stuff. But there’s no need to take OUR EXACT WORDS to do so. Most of the stuff he took could easily have been rewritten in a few minutes, and there’s no reason not to. That’s where the laziness came in. (Not so much for, say, the NJOE review. If he had taken our reviews, I’d be a HELL of a lot angrier.)

    As that chart shows, I’m sure they’ll be fine without our stuff. Unless all their TOR content is stolen as well, of course. But I’ll leave that to those more familiar with that area of fandom.

  16. Earl: If you fail to see how someone copying your post word-for-word, regardless of the subject matter, without giving you credit for writing it….well, I simply suggest you grab a Dictionary and read up on plagiarism. And who cares how many viewers they have – people were reading stuff that wasn’t even theirs! It’s a dirty, pathetic thing to do, especially when it’s a small article and you can easily come up with your own words and write it yourself. And it’s even worse when it’s a review, which is totally original content. If someone tried pulling off this kind of plagiarism at any level in school, there would be no lack of consequences.

  17. Plagiarism of that kind is just plain unacceptable, period. Recently I found that someone had googled “free Percy Jackson fanart” and had used one of the results, a copyrighted piece of art by me, as a coloring book page. It was NOT flattering, and I can say that it took a lot of effort for said thief to see their actions as even slightly wrong. The problem is with this day and age of internet technology, people have a growing disregard for copyright laws. Just look at all the illegal music downloading.
    This copying of Club Jade’s post is a disgusting example of how people these days have no respect for the copyrights and the ownership of original content.

  18. Erika, illegal file sharing is very different and has more to do with the ludicrous restrictions, copy protection, and anti-piracy laws that have been established in futile efforts to prevent it. Some people steal because they don’t care, but a lot of people do it in protest because legislation like the DMCA is crushing our rights to fatten the pockets of industry executives.

    It’s still theft, but that doesn’t equate it with the kind of theft that plagiarism represents.

  19. I agree with points on both sides with Erika and Eric. With file sharing, the participants are gaining content without paying for it. In this case, they are gaining content without paying for it, and passing it off as their own.

    As Earl points out, this strategy does provide more visibility for the people who work on the content. That visibility is meaningless if the content is not properly attributed. After all, if I visit SWTORstrategies and read a well-constructed post without attributions, how do I know that Bryan Young or Dunc wrote it originally? Without attributions, I have no choice but to believe that “sQren” wrote it. I would have no reason to visit Big Shiny Robot or Club Jade because everything points to “sQren” being the final source for everything I need.

    If you have no problems with this, then you should have no problem with me posting an article from Smalltok Global Magazine — where Earl’s link re-directs — word for word on my blog without proper attribution. After all, there isn’t much original content in the tech blogosphere, right? Ninety-five percent of it is “hey, check out the new iPhone design” or similar bits, right? The more blogs that put it out, the more we support the community, right?

    Right in principle, wrong in execution. The new iPhone design may be good to spread around to support the industry, but your words and the way they were put together is your original content. If someone wants to say what you said about “Bizarre and Unusual Product Designs”, I would fully expect them to either quote you (with source links) or re-write the copy in their own words (preferably with a via credit).

    And, yes, I did paraphrase Earl above… just to cover my six and all that. ;-)

  20. Also had some SWTO content copy/pasted and passed off as sQren’s work on a blogspot site.

    Lame thing to do really. I wouldn’t care if it was reposted without permission as long as credit was given.

    Reported to google as webspam and copyright infringement.

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