Note: This post is part of an ongoing series, you can read the other posts here.
In 2008 the story of Plagiarism Today takes yet another twist and turn in its journey, this one a literal journey.
2008 would become the year of travel and travel I did, speaking at four different conferences on two different continents. For someone who had only barely traveled before, this felt like something akin to a small tour, speaking at events in Dallas, Washington DC, North Carolina and the Newcastle in the United Kingdom.
However, it was also a year of expansion in other ways, three major political plagiarism scandals drove more attention and traffic to the site than it had seen previously and there was even a nice mention of the site in the UK paper The Guardian and I made my first of several guest appearances on This Week in Law.
Combine that with steady growth in the consulting business, 2008 felt like a year where everything was on the rise. However, it wasn’t a year without challenges, including yet another hurricane and a server crash that nearly completely destroyed the site.
While not as much of a roller coaster as some other years, it was definitely one to remember.
Copyright and Plagiarism in 2008
First and foremost, 2008 was the year that plagiarism came to Presidential politics in a big way. As now-President Obama made his bid for this position the race rocked, or at least nudged, by three separate plagiarism scandals.
First came allegations that Obama had plagiarized in a stump speech. However, that scandal largely went nowhere, especially once it was revealed that the speech had been correctly cited other times it was given.
Next up was Obama’s opponent, John McCain, who was accused of plagiarizing from Wikipedia in a speech he gave. Those allegations also fell flat, largely due to weak evidence.
Then, less than two weeks later, Obama announced that he was bringing on Joe Biden as his Vice Presidential candidate. Biden, however, had his run for President in 1987 finished off by a plagiarism scandal that dealt with a speech he had given and allegations of plagiarism in his law school days. While Biden’s educational plagiarism certainly is problematic, both of the allegations were so dated by the time he ran in 2008 that they were largely non-issues.
Looking at copyright, the big story was an orphan works bill that was introduced early in the year. The legislation would have allowed individuals and companies to make use of orphan works, or works whose copyright holders can not be found, provided they made a diligent effort to locate them and compensated them if they came forward later.
The 2008 bill actually drew support from many rightsholders, including the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP), who had been critical of previous efforts. However, though the bill cleared the Senate unanimously, it died in the House of Representatives.
However, the story that went the hottest on Plagiarism Today at the time was PhotoBucket. At the time, it was the largest photo sharing site and it launched a printing services that allowed anyone buy prints and other goods based on uploaded images. For photographers, it meant that, if their work were uploaded illegally on the site, others could order prints and other goods based on it without their permission.
Despite petitions and other actions, Photobucket did not budge on the issue and continues to sell such prints today.
Most Popular Post
Given what I said above, it probably comes as no surprise that the most popular post from 2008 would be one of the plagiarism scandal posts. However, I’m still a bit surprised as to which one.
Over the past 90 days (the same metric as I used with the other years), it’s been the Biden plagiarism scandal post that’s been the most popular.
It’s worth noting that, with a different sampling period, it could have been one of the other two. These posts tend to generate a lot of traffic in short bursts as the stories get “picked up” by sites talking about Obama, McCain or Biden.
Behind the Scenes
The biggest and most memorable part of 2008 was, without a doubt, the traveling. Four separate conferences, including one in the UK, it was a huge year for me. My only regret is that I didn’t really spend a lot of time at any of the places I went to, including the UK.
Much of this was due to money. Both Crystal and I were struggling with our careers at the time and there simply wasn’t much available to overstay the travel assistance we got from the conference. A lot of it was also poor planning on our part. Never having really done the whole conference thing before, we didn’t anticipate really wanting to stay around after, but that was a mistake we vowed never to repeat.
Still, all four of the conferences were wonderful WordCamp Dallas was truly an amazing experience. The Specialized Information Publishers Association (SIPA) were equally gracious hosts on Washington DC. International Plagiarism Conference UK was my chance not jut to make some great new friends, but also meet old ones face to face including Dr. Deborah Weber-Wulff and Professor John Lesko.
And the world tour even ended back in Greensboro North Carolina for a truncated ConvergeSouth 2008, which was the first time I met Patrick O’Keefe face to face.
All in all, it was a whirlwind year and a reminder of just how tiring traveling and conferencing really is.
However, amidst all of the excitement, were two major trials that year. The first came in June as Plagiarism Today suffered an “epic fail“, a crash that nearly brought down the site for good.
I outlined what happened in the post above, but it’s suffice to say that the host I was on, VPSLink, suffered a complete failure of the storage array and their backups failed to restore the site after it was fixed.
I managed to take a reasonably up to date database backup combined with image backups from Skitch (which I still use in 2015) to relocate the site back on its previous host, MediaTemple. Still, days of comments were destroyed and several site features were broken. Worst of all, the site had been down for over 16 hours.
The other challenge was Hurricane Gustav. The hurricane hit Louisiana in August but largely left New Orleans unscathed. However, I had evacuated to the upstate and inadvertently put myself more in the path of the story. Where I was staying, with my in-laws, was much harder hit losing power and water. Coupled with street flooding and needing to help those in the upstate, it was nearly a week before we could get back.
In the end, I guess the word I would use to describe 2008 would be “exhausting”. Keeping the site alive, battling Photobucket, running from hurricanes, traveling the world and covering three Presidential plagiarism scandals was really just the beginning.
One interesting side note to all of this was the battle that look place over copyright infringement in the game Second Life. As part of it, https://kitmeredith.blogspot.com, a once-prominent player, called on Linden Labs, the company behind the game, to be transparent about their DMCA policy and responses.
Looking at the recommendations, it’s amazing how similar the plan she outlined is to transparency reports that would later be adopted by Google, Twitter and others.
All in all, it was a wonderful year. One with lots of travel, a few near-misses and a lot of excitement.
However, the excitement was just beginning.