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Stopping Plagiarism the Google Way

August 3, 2012
Posted at 11:50 pm

Yesterday, I got an e-mail from the talented and gracious evanslily, informing me that she'd found one of my stories plagiarized at She, I and the other authors whose works we'd discovered in ripped-off form, have been taking action and more-or-less got our works returned to us. That's not actually why I'm posting here.

I'm posting to mention a way to make it easy to detect this sort of thing in future.

The technique that's been suggested to me in the past, and seems to work, is for you to take just some random phrase from one of your stories, and Google it. Preferably you should either grab a sentence fragment that's out of context, or a particularly pernicious parcel of prose, one that uses a description which is (believed to be) relatively unique. Don't use any character names; those can very easily be changed (this is what our plagiarist did: she replaced all our characters with leads from "One Tree Hill"). For instance, just as an example, I am going to put the following, the stuff that's in brackets, into Google:

["remove any part of my clothing. But then one day, he'd bumped into his old flame"]

Note the quotation marks. If I just put

[remove any part of my clothing. But then one day, he'd bumped into his old flame]

then Google will find the most popular page that has a lot of these words. As it happens, the story itself is the 7th result. But if we put them in quotation marks, then Google searches for those exact words in that exact order, and we get, as our first result, our story--coincidentally by evanslily. Why yes, I did choose that quote on purpose, why do you ask? Some of the other results are simply mirrors of her work, but as our second result we get... Something on a Buffy the Vampire Slayer board? But with some other characters' names substituted for Lily's... Hold on a second!!

Don't worry, evanslily already put a stop to it, and the plagiarized snippets themselves have been struck from the mailing list's records. (Believe it or not, this is sheer coincidence; I just grabbed one of hers because she's the person who taught me this technique.) But this just proves that the technique works. Here's the further advance which evanslily mentioned to me, and which I am spreading the word on:

This lets you specify certain phrases that you want Googled and set up an automatic repeating search ON them. You don't even have to be a Google member: they will send the results to any e-mail address in the world. Now Google will protect your copyright FOR you, as long as you do a bit of gruntwork and provide words and phrases for them to try and find. This is where your own knowledge of your work becomes handy: if you give them something like, "Oh God oh God, I'm cumming I'm cumming", then you are not likely to get great results, because that could be in just about ANY story. Search instead for the stuff that could ONLY be in your story: "his divine ecstasy issued forth like jets of water from a fire hose" or something like that. (I just made that up. It's terrible. Please don't actually put it in a story.)

And hopefully, with the magic of Google, we can all protect our brands and our work a little more effectively. And all thanks to Lily Evans. Remember how she gave her life for Harry Potter's, making him immune to certain attacks? Now she's doing the same for the world of online erotica as a whole. Thanks, Lily! You're a saint!