Usually when I hear technical writers talking about plagiarism, they’re riffing on job candidates who’ve stolen items to include in their own portfolios. But, anyone with the duties of writer or editor in their daily workload should be considering intellectual property issues, specifically copyright infringement and plagiarism, on the content they publish. Whirler Brian Henderson posted a question on mountweazels on the email discussion list last week to find out whether technical writers encounter copyright and plagiarism issues and whether they use any devices to identify it. It’s important, so thanks to Brian for serving as the source of this week’s poll question.
IP is incredibly important to companies in our digital, knowledge overloaded society, and it’s why many in tech comm and other content fields end up signing NDAs and non-compete agreements. But how many in our field actively work on identifying plagiarism and copyright infringement. I’ll run a potential candidates work through copyscape to ensure that they didn’t plagiarize, but I admit to being unaware of the practice of fictitious entries. Wikipedia has a lengthy article on fictitious entries, otherwise known as copyright traps or mountweazels, which Brian linked to in the disucssion. It clarified the issue quite a bit, but also raised some questions, that we as a profession should be looking at. If your organization wants to use this practice, or others, as part of its IP management practices, who should be involved in it? What criteria do you use to set up fictitious entries? How many should you have in your published content? How do you ensure that people who legitimately cite your content as a source are not mistakenly citing fictitious entries?
Paul Pehrson also noted that content publishers are reluctant to open discuss how they develop copyright traps so as not to give away how they catch the folks who practice plagiarism like the rest of us practice typing speed. All in all, a very useful discussion, and worthy of considering adding to your content management toolbox. So help us open up the discussion by voting in the poll, and posting a comment about what you do (or don’t do) to protect the IP of the content you produce and who’s involved in working on creating and monitoring it.