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Research Commentary on the Spire Project

Plagiarism Therapy
By David Novak

For the second time, I have found someone who grossly plagiarizes my work on the Spire Project. This is actually not a big deal. It is still theft, when someone takes your work and claims it is their own, but I have learned now that the author has the upper hand in this fight, both legally and promotionally.

The Claim
Articles I wrote over four years ago re-emerge as an "online book by librarian Samdarshi Pali" located at

The similarities between my articles and his are too close for comfort.

"A patent discloses certain facts about a commercially important invention in exchange for certain rights to exploit the invention. This is a little simplistic, but explains why patents are factual, unique from other research resources, and a little vague in certain specifics. -

"A patent discloses certain facts about a commercially important invention in exchange for certain rights to exploit the invention. This is a little simplistic but explains why patents are factual, unique from other research resources, and a little vague in certain specifics." -

This happens for many if not all of the 16 articles Pali wrote. Each page appears to have one or two original paragraphs, but everything else was originally mine.

The Proof
The Internet Archive (, also called the wayback machine, confirms my original authorship of this information. The Internet Archive is a very public collection of old websites, published over the last few years. It is a kind of archive of past information. A trip to will show how four years ago I had already published this information, two years prior to Mr Pali.

The Problem
Quite frankly, Mr Pali likes my work. He liked is so much he thought to copy and invest what looks like 30 hours of his labour to transfer it from my webpage into a document format. He is a fan - and we like fans. He is also a thief because he has not mentioned anywhere on his page where the bulk of his material was crafted by someone else.

This is not an idle accident, for Mr Pali's resume indicates that he has a Bachelor of Library & Information Science from Indira Gandhi National Open University. And as any librarian can confirm, librarians know about copyright and plagiarism.

The first time I caught gross plagiarism was from another fan, who again liked my work so much that he crafted some very fine graphics to replace my own. Beautiful graphics - far better than mine. But then he proceeded to remove my name from the work.

For the last six years I have permitted people to post my work on their websites (provided it was unchanged of course). Consequently, my work appears on several university and library websites around the world, with my blessing. This is not occuring in this situation, for we have a dispute about who is the author.

The Real Problem
A fan copies my work and claims it is their own. It really affects very few people unless there is a push of promotion behind it. And this has arrived in the form of a listing on the DMOZ Open Directory Project. This is perhaps the most significant directory at this time (Yahoo is a bit eclipsed at the moment) and this information is reflected onto so many additional directories around the world. For instance, Pali's website is featured on Google's directory at

With this nudge, or rather shove of promotion, Mr Pali's website jumps into some decent recognition. Ironically, my Spire Project appears immediately below his on this directory.

Quality Assessment
One of the unique characteristics of this case is that Pali has the lingo of a serious researcher. His work on Quality Assessment includes references to four additional websites. Further, he has credentials that are reassuring. A cursory look at the website would only notice his Library Science degree is from an "open university" which may indicate distance education. That is hardly an indication for concern. And modestly speaking, his online document is well written.

Credentials, references, good information, listing on the Open Directory Project. If we do a link search on AlltheWeb, we find 130 other pages link to his online document. Surely this work will be referenced by students around the world who struggle with internet research.

The Solution
But the work is not his own. This perception needs to be corrected. And the author is not really at a loss here. My first gross plagiarism case was swiftly solved with a detailed email message to the business that was hosting the disputed work. I explained the case, and the pages simply disappeared off the net.

Pali has received a similar letter and he may choose to retreat or reassert my ownership over the articles.

But that is just the first step. Secondly, I have sent messages to the primary directories that are indexing his document. I explained the case above, and I have every expectation that they will remove the link, reduce the promotion and help the disputed information sink back into anonymity.

I still have the ISP that I can harass (and threaten with going over their heads). I'll save for later. There is also the legal angle, which I will probably never reach for.

Internet information can be taken easily. But then so can print information. There is a small industry in South East Asia that photocopies a book then binds the photocopies together for convenience. Theft of ownership is not particular new, and should not really be terribly concerning for there are simple and effective ways to counter such work. I will shortly have either an apology, a return to anonymity for the page, or the removal of the page by Geocities India. I suppose I could rush off and hire a lawyer but it seems rather pointless when I can fix this myself with a few simple letters to the right people.

There is another lesson about Quality Assessment. And again, it should not overly concern us. Information is fabricated and misrepresented all the time in this world. And so it happens on the internet too. And like much scholarly plagiarism, and fabricated/biased medical research, sometimes we simply cannot determine the extent of the truth from a distance at the time of our choosing. We simply must wait for it to blow into headlines.

And even if it happens more frequently on the internet, here is the delightful secret:

The author is empowered on the internet.

David Novak

* * *
David Novak, founder of the Spire Project, delivers seminars on Exceptional Internet Research around the world. I hope to see you one day. for details.

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