There is a saying that imitation is the highest form of flattery. The simple fact that someone has taken the time to copy your work is at least some indication that what you’ve done is exemplary, worthy of being copied. But I’m sure the originator of that saying wouldn’t be smiling if I claimed the credit for creating it, and so such pithy clichés do little to soothe the damage done to the victim of a crime like plagiarism.
As with many companies that offer the same informative and opinionated blogs as we do here at Digitcom, I subscribe to a service called Copyscape, a simple yet useful tool that scans the Internet looking for possible plagiarism of any of Digitcom or TheTelecomblog.com’s web sites. Simply put, when you’re in the business of providing unique and informative content, you want to know that what you’re putting out there is distinctly your own, why else would people read your blog?
Copyscape operates much like a search engine, sending its little technological spiders out across the Internet searching for any possible matches to the original content. When it comes across a suspect phrase, paragraph, or worse yet, an entire article, it sends an email advising the user of the questionable content…and last week I received such an email.
While I usually receive at least one email a week (sometimes more), it’s usually nothing more than some devious web bot that has automatically scanned and reproduced our content. While episodes such as this are certainly annoying, as I need to take the time to email the malcontent leeches, asking them to remove the content immediately, this does strike me as the unfortunate current reality of online technology writing.
However, what really stings is when once reputable companies stoop to this sort of shady business practice, and so you can imagine my anger, frustration, and even confusion upon the receipt of one of my latest emails from Copyscape, which brought to my attention the fact that one of Digitcom’s competitors, TRC Networks, blatantly copied one of the unique content posts from TheTelecomblog.com. They took the entire post, word-for-word, reproducing the entire article verbatim on their own blog, without even so much as a hint of credit given to the original source.
This incident, sadly enough, comes on the heels of a similar episode with a Chicago based interconnect that stole one of my unique posts discussing the new Avaya IP Office Release 6 software—they too copied the entire post, word-for-word, and claimed it as their own. The funniest, or perhaps most disconcerting part, was that they actually forgot to remove one particular reference to Digitcom.ca. When I contacted the president of that company, whom I happen to know, the issue was quickly resolved to my satisfaction, and I had hoped that this latest case would have the same outcome.
It so happens that Digitcom shares a common supplier with TRCNetworks.com and so I reached out to that supplier and asked them to do me a favor—simply contact the company and ask them to remove the content. So, when our common supplier approached the Toronto based TRC Networks, they obliged and removed the article.
Case closed. Right?
It appears that this time around the offense is far greater, as TRC Networks, it turns out, didn’t just copy one of our blog posts, but, to my horror, apparently copied the main page of Digitcom’s website…verbatim, typos and all. While I will clearly admit that the content of our page is poor at best, as Digitcom’s site is in desperate need of the complete overhaul we have scheduled for this summer, this incident has really got my wondering, why did they do it?
Blatant copyright violations and fraudulent forgeries happen all the time. Travel almost anywhere abroad and you’ll quickly find that Rolex, Gucci, or Apple knockoffs (just to name a few) are readily available. In fact, just this past month several sightings of unreleased Apple iPhone prototypes have sprung up in Asia and Europe, leading Apple to suspect that some overseas leech has copied the iPhone tech—software, chips, casing—and simply reproduced the phone in its entirety and claimed it as its own.
However, even to the technologically uninitiated, it’s clear that the fraudulent iPhone is a knockoff, a counterfeit device made with stolen or illegally reproduced technology. Just try approaching the foreign firm with this evidence, though, and you’ll quickly find that they deny the entire thing. “It’s not true,” they claim, “We have no idea what you’re talking about!” They might even open the phone and show you the authentic Apple chip inside, but what does that prove? Absolutely nothing.
They’ll deny any wrongdoing of course, most people that break the law do, but we know the truth. They’ve stolen something that isn’t theirs, a creative and innovative product that was the result of someone else’s hard work, and packaged it as their own.
But even with the fact that counterfeiting, fraud, plagiarism, and copyright infringement scenarios like this are almost inescapable, it’s shocking, nonetheless, when it happens to you.
Ironically, prior to this incident I was only vaguely familiar with the company TRC Networks, but now, having experienced firsthand the damage that can happen when an individual or company decides to steal someone else’s ideas, company name, and content and claim it as their own, they are foremost in my thoughts. For you see, upon closer examination of the TRC Networks website, the word Digitcom actually still appears. It seems that they copied the content but forgot to change the links!
The damage, for me at least, is twofold: First, I have spent the last 19 years building Digitcom into one of Canada’s most respected interconnects, and just like Apple, Gucci, or Rolex, here at Digitcom we fight to protect our intellectual property. Second, to have a competitor not only steal our copyrighted material but also maintain undesired links back to our company is sure to give many customers the wrong message.
So, while I am confused about why someone would do this, especially a company in the same city, I am more concerned about defending our name and keeping it from being bastardized at the hands of a competitor.
While I have again implored our common supplier to come to our aid, it now looks like the supplier has made the request, but, TRC Networks has not obliged. Lamentably, it now seems that my only recourse is to fight this injustice through both the court of public opinion and the court of law. While I certainly regret being forced down this path, there are no other effective alternatives available, and so I am in the process of both appealing to the public to let TRC Networks know that their actions will not be tolerated and also preparing legal documents, which I intend to file this Friday.
With respect to the court of law, it seems that plagiarism is both a criminal and civil action and we are assessing the best path to take.
However, I will cease and desist all legal actions and discontinue my vocal and public awareness campaign if the following reasonable conditions are met: (1) TRC Networks removes the plagiarized content by 2PM Wednesday, and (2) publishes an apology to be posted on their home page which should remain there for no less than two weeks.
Is imitation the highest form of flattery? Quite the contrary, in fact, as plagiarism leaves the victim feeling violated and cheapened. Sure it isn’t easy coming up with original content and ideas, and there’s no question that it’s easier to steal than to create, but for anyone that actually creates their own content, it’s to all of our benefit if we defend it, fight for it, and stand up to those who wish to steal what we’ve worked so hard for. I found a great blog post titled: What Do You Do When Someone Steals Your Content
So the question remains, what should I do here? Am I justified in pursuing all legal courses of action available to me to put a stop to this? Should we pursue civil or criminal charges ?
What are your thoughts on my next steps?
More: If you read the comments below you will notice a comment from someone at TRC. It appears that they have fixed the problem.
Gabriel Kohut, toronto, avaya, ip office, TRCNETWORKS.COM, criminal charges, copyright, TRC networks Toronto, TRC networks Avaya