The “No Select Text” Script

Usually when someone talks about preventing plagiarism, they’re looking for a silver bullet that can magically prevent your content from being stolen while allowing it to be visible to the world.

Unfortunately, no such tool exists. However, that doesn’t stop many from claiming that it does and swearing that they’ve found the cure.

The first great example of this was the famous “No Right Click” script that supposedly protected images from all theft. The script, which did much more to annoy than protect, was quickly debunked as new technology came forward, like IE’s image toolbar, and simple workarounds were developed, like turning off javascript or simply saving the page. The result is that, these days, the NRC script is reserved only for the most amateur of sites.

But now, desperate Webmasters, especially those with a great deal of text content, have latched on to a (slightly) newer tool, the “No Select Text” script. The tool, which prevents users from selecting text on a page, thus blocking the ability to copy it, is less annoying and at least slightly more effective than its predecessor.

Despite that though, it’s still a dismal failure doomed for the garbage heap. If you need to know why, ponder these points…

The NST script can be defeated in many of the same ways as the NRC script. You can disable javascript, save the page to your computer, open up the HTML code or, in many cases, simply hit “CTRL+A” to select all of the text on the screen without using a mouse. If you don’t believe me, visit this test site and try these solutions out for yourself.

In the end, someone who is determined to copy your work will still be able to do so and doesn’t need a lot of knowledge to make it happen. I know for a fact I’m not the first to post these solutions.

Second, the NST script will block those who want to legitimately use your work. Even if you don’t allow any reproduction, fair use, a concept found in both U.S. and many other country’s copyright lawbooks, allows people to use small portions of your work for comment and criticism even without your permission. All that’s required is that the use be attributed, be only what is necessary for the article and not detract from the value of the original work.

Like it or not, fair use is a right you can not detract from and, even though no one is likely to file suit over use of the NST script, you are trampling on a right that’s fundamental to copyright law.

Finally, even though it won’t mess with your site navigation like the NRC script, it does limit your site’s functionality. People select text for a lot of reasons other than to copy. When reading a long passage, for example, many select text to remember their place.

In the end, the NST script is just another nuisance that protects nothing. The only way to be 100% certain that your work isn’t plagiarized is to lock it in a drawer and never let another human being look at it. If that’s not an acceptable solution, then you need to either be prepared to deal with plagiarism or learn to accept it.

Because, like it or not, there are no technological solutions to the problem, only deterrents. These scripts might stop the most amateurish or lazy of thieves, but it won’t stop the determined and if there’s one thing I’ve learned about the plagiarist, they’re a very dedicated bunch at times.

If you don’t believe me, look at my Copycat Hall of Shame.

[tags]Plagiarism, Content Theft, Javascript, Security[/tags]
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