Plagiarism, the dark side of the web

posted 12 Jan 2012, 18:41 by Luciano Monteiro   [ updated 12 Jan 2012, 19:02 ]
I'm pleased to see that my recent article 'The Four-Step Approach to Translation Quality' has been praised by many colleagues worldwide. Since mid-May, when I posted it on my blog, it has been published in the prestigious ITI Bulletin and is soon to be published in the official journals of the Israeli and Czech Translators' Association, both with my previous consent.

However, having written a useful article for some colleagues has introduced me to a dark side of the web: plagiarism. Just before Christmas, six months after having first posted it, as I was searching for similar articles on translation quality, I found one which resembled mine a lot. When I clicked on the link, I saw my own article, ipsis literis, but without any reference to my name.

That was the website of a Ukrainian translation agency called Glebov. I immediately emailed that company and demanded that my article be removed. What I received was a lame apology: 'we were sure that there was link (sic) to your article, but quite probably it was removed by the administrator during the SEO optimisation of the web-site.' Ok, apology accepted, but now, will you please remove it? 'I can not simply remove the article, because it will damage the web-site.'

That was simply too much nonsense. They eventually said they might remove it after a few days, but were a bit sarcastic about it. I took a deep breath, and, you know, it's Christmas, let's just chill for a while. Who knows? Maybe they would take it away...

However, 20 days later, last night to be precise, I visited the same page and my article was still there, albeit now with my name — which, by the way, I had not asked for as I had made it clear that they did not have my consent to reproduce my article. It was then that I noticed many other unsigned articles on the same website and went about doing some detective work. I ended up finding out that I was not the only victim of plagiarism.

When I saw the title 'Is Machine Translation Making Experienced Patent Translators Redundant?', I knew I had seen that written elsewhere. And I was not wrong, as the article was originally written by Steve Vitek and is available here on his excellent 'Patent Translator' blog. Again, the article on Glebov's website was unsigned, as if it had magically landed there after having been written by an unnamed author.

By digging a little deeper, I was also able to find an excerpt of the highly praised book 'Telephone Interpreting: A Comprehensive Guide to the Profession', by Nataly Kelly. Posted on Glebov's website under the title 'The Emergency of Telephone Interpreting', it mentions neither Nataly nor her book. I've been in contact with Nataly in the past and I follow her on Twitter, so I know how meticulous she is when citing references for anything she writes, so she obviously didn't deserve to be a victim of such plagiarism.

But there was more, of course. Mathieu Guidere's article 'The Translation of Advertisements: from Adaptation to Localization', which has been cited in many books and papers, can be found with the same title, but with no reference whatsoever to the author.

I was beginning to feel tired, but I still managed to find another handful of plagiarised articles: 'You need to be an expert in a highly specialised field', 'Style in technical translation' and 'Technical Translation' have been unashamedly copied from the book 'Technical translation: usability strategies for translating technical documentation', by Jody Byrne.

And, speaking of excellent books, both 'Translation Industry Trends' and 'Comparison of Translator with other Professions' were copied from the extraordinary 'Translation as a Profession', by Roger Chriss. Needless to say, neither Jody's nor Roger's names can be found on the website.

It is clear now that the Ukrainian agency has been handpicking good articles from books and from the web to drive up their SEO potential and attract visitors. There's nothing wrong with that in principle, as long as the authors consent with their publication and appropriate acknowledgement is made, including, as applicable, a link to the original article. It's even better if only an excerpt is posted before the link, leading the reader to visit the original article and learn more about the author.

But no, the people at Glebov copied entire articles without giving proper credit, leading unaware readers to believe that the content was original and also trying to cheat search engines into rating the website more highly for content, hence attracting more visitors, hence more advertising, hence more money. It is just like copying a DVD and selling it in the black market. No, it's even worse: it's like copying a DVD and selling it after erasing the names of the people who made it. In short, it's dirty business.

Based on their unethical behaviour when it comes to plagiarism, I can just imagine what kind of translation services this agency is providing to their clients. I hope more and more translation professionals and translation buyers become aware of such facts and refrain from working with this company.

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Post-scriptum: You may have noticed that there are no links here to Glebov, simply because they don't deserve it. However, if you manage to make your way to their website and find more examples of plagiarised content, please let me know.