A Troll Stole My “troll”: A Story About Plagiarism
Trolls love to hide. In the past, these abhorrent creatures hid under bridges or in caves. These days, they hide in the deepest, darkest forests along the Internet highway.
Back in 2011, I wrote an article entitled “The Trolls of Norse Mythology” for the defunct content writing site, Helium.com. The article did fairly well there until the day I took it down. This came after the new owners of Helium announced its closure. For an additional four years after its deletion, the article stayed in a file on a flash drive, waiting for the right time to emerge from its hiding place and embrace the Internet, again.
That time came in mid-2017. Up to that point, I had written for Hubpages.com for nearly five years. In addition, I republished several articles based on gods and deities from North mythologies. To top things off, the movie Trolls became a box office hit and Thor – originally of North Mythology fame before Marvel made him a superhero – was about to the hit the silver screen, again. Public interest, it appeared, spiked for old Viking legends, including those lowly trolls.
Thus, I pulled out the article, did some minor edits (including changing its title), made a few updates and added pictures. Several hours into resurrecting the article, I hit the “publish” icon and gave it a new home (it was now a Hub, as the writers on the site –Hubbers -- tend to call their articles). Within an hour – despite going through the final pending process – it received a positive comment from a fellow Hubber (article in pending status can be seen by other Hubbers. Once published, it will be placed on search engines such as Google).
I somehow “plagiarized” an existing online article…that happened to be mine!
So far, so good. I expected an easy transition, possibly a chance for the article to be moved to a niche site where it could receive high viewership. However, when it comes to trolls, always expect the unexpected. Bringing back the mythological one hit a snag. Within hours after submitting the article, it went nowhere.
And, it was going to stay that way. The typical “published” emblem (an H in a solid black circle) didn’t replace the circular arrows symbol denoting its pending status. Instead, in green lettering, the word “duplicate” seared itself next to the Hub’s title.
“Duplicate” indicated the story was a copy of another article on the Internet. Or to be precise, I somehow “plagiarized” an existing online article…that happened to be mine! That was impossible, considering that I had deleted it several years prior to this new publication.
So what happened? A little sleuthing with the search engines revealed a lot. I concluded: A troll stole my article.
Definition of a Troll
My interpretation of an Internet troll may not fit the official definition. For those who frequent chat rooms, forums or any form of Internet discussion sites, they know about this annoying entity. A troll is a person who seeks to disrupt conversations or engage in arguments by purposely taking on the opposing side –whether they truly believe it or not. For others, a troll is someone who lurks, disrupts and insults other Internet users for nefarious reasons.
In truth, the definition can vary. For many, a plagiarist doesn’t seem to match the definition of a troll; however, in many respects, those who engage in the act of stealing other people’s property tend to be trolling (or lurking) the Internet to find material to steal. And, yes, that’s a nefarious act!
If one thinks that by using the verb trolling is an odd way to justify calling a plagiarist this term, keep this in mind: the term of Internet troll originated as an action word, not from the mythological beast. As Rationalwiki.org points out, “the term derives from the practice in fishing of dragging a baited hook or lure behind a moving boat (trolling).”
In addition to that, the word has come full circle, lately. While “troll” still names a person, it is being used as a verb, again. Thus, when one considers the word origin, the comparison between plagiarist and troll does fit. Both lurk and both disrupt, albeit the disruption comes from theft of property.
Tracking Down the Troll
A mythological troll’s domain can be under bridges, inside caves, or within a mountain. Wherever they can hide without any detection, a troll will call it home. The same coincides with the Internet trolls. Many have a place they call home, whether it’s a blog, a forum, or a particular website. The troll I was tracking down came from a place I became too familiar with.
Someone stole my intellectual property. And I wanted to find out who it was. I entered my original title for the article, as well as the first paragraph onto Google. The match came back and I wasn’t surprised to see it published at the site PitlaneMagazine.com.
My History with PitlaneMagazine.com
My Troll article wasn’t the first one this site stole. Back in late 2016, a red “c” within a red circle appeared next to three Hubs listed on my “Account” section. This indicated that somewhere in the wild world of the Internet somebody (or in this case, several people) lifted these articles and put them on their sites. Luckily, Hubpages.com administrators supplied links to the suspected sites, as well another link to file a complaint about these sites under DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act).
One article, “Teaching Math to Students with Autism”, was easy to report and fix. After I contacted the site (a site from Taiwan), I received notification that the article was deleted. Afterward, they sent a letter of apology and an update they gave the violator a life-time ban for “frequent acts of plagiarism.”
PitlaneMagazine on the other hand, stole the other two. Administrators at Hubpages didn’t have pertinent information on this site (if they did, it would’ve made the process of filing a DMCA on the site much easier than what it was). PitlaneMagazine.com, itself, didn’t offer any contact information for any editor, administrator or writers, either.
Things got worse as I perused the site. In total, I found 13 articles that bore my writing style
Months later, more articles were marked with the dreaded “c”. This time, seven articles got the marks. All of them had several things in common:
- Most were about the paranormal or mythology;
- they were previously published on Helium.com;
- nearly all of them had my name removed (in one case, they had my name, then removed it when I attempted to contact them);
- and they were published on the site AFTER the original ones were republished at Hubpage.com.
Most telling, the articles published at PitlaneMagazine.com were the versions originally published on Helium.com. This indicated that the troll was busy during the days before Helium.com went permanently offline.
Things got worse as I perused the site. In total, I found 13 articles that bore my writing style. My original ideas with all the research I put into them were now the property of an unimaginative troll who seemingly was getting away with it. Worst yet, I couldn’t republish these articles until this website was taken offline.
Others Got Trolled
I wasn’t the only one. Through continued, perusal, I recognized nearly every title and story coming from Helium. Most notably, those that came from their “Opinions” section. These particular articles had “Yes” or “No” accompanying them. They were often responses in form of two persuasive or opinionated essays to single headline.
In a few rare occasions, the articles bore the writer’s name. These, however, were rarities. To date, however, the identity of the other writers remain anonymous. One must wonder if any former Helium writers are aware that the troll at the site stole their articles.
The Fate of my “Copied” Articles
As for the stolen articles? The seven articles with circle “c” remain to this day on Hubpages.com. Despite the tedious task of finding a contact for the site, I eventually reached someone that hosted the site. Still –as of this writing -- PitLaneMagazine.com hasn’t removed the articles. However, there hasn’t been any new submission there since 2015, despite being registered for the new year (2018).
They Were Not the Exception
In the 10 years I’ve been writing on the Internet, plagiarism has been a real threat. At Helium, the forum sections contained comments from writers exposing various sites that stole articles from the content writing site.
PitlaneMagazine.com is not the exception in this matter. In fact, after the Troll article debacle, several other Hubs were stolen. A writer for one site grabbed several articles and posted it to a fledgling news site They didn’t ignore my demand to have the articles removed. As of this writing, the pages that once contained my stolen Hubs shows up as a 404 Error.
In another case, I successfully contacted a blogger that used an unsourced article of mine. He profusely apologized, stating that he usually made sure to source the material he used. He deleted the article from his blog.
In the most bizarre case, one UFO/paranormal news site plagiarized an article called “The Strange Tale of the Lost City of the Lizard People of Los Angeles” from another site that plagiarized my original hub.
One person made believed he was coy (or shall I say, a troll move) lifted my most popular article, “Debunking the Pyramids of Antarctica Myth”. I e-mailed the person and told him/her to remove it. The person removed the article, but kept the title. All he/she did was rewrite the entire article while keeping the photos, headlines, and subheads.
Then there’s the most egregious act of plagiarism to date. A blog interested in post-apocalyptic literature stole my short story “Cat in the Cradle”. Not only did he post it on his blog, he claimed he was the author! And to top it off, he wrote a bogus synopses, claiming how he came up with the story and that inspired him to “write” it. Even PitLaneMagazine.com wasn’t that dishonest.
Luckily, I contacted the host for the blog, who promptly removed the article. Now, in its place is a written notice stating the article is under review for possible violation.
And There’s the Honest Mistakes
While I can label most of those that plagiarized me as being trolls, some I couldn’t. A member of a forum for Canadian Army veteran copy-and-pasted “Debunking the Pyramids of Antarctica Myth”. This was unrelated to other time this article was stolen. The person responsible went through the trouble of adding a link to my Hub. Thus, he added some traffic for that particular hub.
In another case, a teacher-education student at a university used my article “Factors that Affect Student Learning” for a group project involving a slide presentation. She broke down the article, dissecting certain parts and placed them a slide that can be accessed by the Internet. I don’t think she deliberately stole the article to make her own; however, she used Prezi which is dubbed as a public presentation software that can be used through its site. The student-teacher most likely shared the slides through a cloud program and meant to be for students and instructors within the teacher education course. As a teacher myself, I can overlook this. No harm done, as far as I’m concerned.
What To Do with Troll Article
I don’t believe the troll hiding at PitlaneMagazine.com had benevolent thoughts. That would be very “un-troll-like”. This person wanted a compelling news site, but he/she was not willing and able to put the real work into it. And considering that the last date posted for an article there was back in 2015, that person must have come to the realization that a site full of stolen materials was not a viable moneymaker. Still, my articles are stuck on this particular site.
So, how was I going to remedy the situation with the Troll article? How was I going to take on the Internet Troll, in order to get my “troll” back? At this point, my best option is to file a complaint through DMCA against PitlaneMagazine.com.
In the meantime, the troll article stays on that site, and my original copy is back in hiding on my flash drive. Most likely, the article will be rewritten. These trolls don’t make things easy.
Update: The Plagiarists New Site
Recently, I received reports that the site Act for Libraries .Org had lifted several old articles from my Helium.com days. This particular site seemingly targeted the defunct site and stole several articles from other writers.
No names were attributed to the articles this site published.
As of this writing, I received another duplicate label for an article about guyot -- the flat-top mountain under the surface of the ocean. The article is in limbo unless Act for Library takes the initiative and removes the article. They've done it before when I contacted them about the other articles.
Update 2020: Pitlanemagazine is Gone
Recently, one of the sites that plagiarized my work for years was finally shut down. Pitlanemagazine, lifted thousands of articles from the defunct site, Helium.com. Most likely, this occurred at a time when writers (such as me) were scrambling to remove their articles from the site before its demise.
This particular site was notable for its timing; it waited several years before dumping all its stolen content on its site. They did this at a time when I was reintroducing many of my articles on Hubpage. This affected nearly 30 articles on Hubpage. However, Pitlanemagazine lifted many more, possibly twice that number.
The good news: Many of the articles that made it to Hubpages don't have the "duplicate" designation. In addition, some have been recognized for its quality and placed in one of several niche sites. In addition to this, former Helium articles that I postponed republishing, will now have that opportunity to find a new home at Hubpages.
The bad news: similar, existing sites such as WH-publication still operates and has many of my articles pertaining to education that once existed on Helium.In addition, many articles I've written in the past will need to be rewritten (with possible 90% changes to its format and wording) in order to avoid the same dilemma that these two sites created.
© 2018 Dean Traylor