Google can step up to police the Internet
Credit: JavrsmithGoogle has announced that they support the efforts to combat plagiarism. Content authors are disturbed by the unauthorized reuse of their material on other sites. This is dilutes the value of the material and allows others to potentially profit from such distribution. For some time, Google provided a mechanism for authors to notify the search company about instances of unauthorized distribution of licensed articles. Upon receipt of an informative form, the company investigates the situation and can impose restrictions on sites containing unlicensed material. Several web content hosts have had their Google ads restricted or eliminated due to plagiarism concerns. This action results in a substantial loss of revenue for the web host which usually results in the deletion of unauthorized content.
While Google should be applauded for their support of content authors, there remain many outstanding concerns with the issues of plagiarism. Unfortunately, many authors are never aware of instances of unauthorized use, or they learn of such use substantially after the article is copied. Some sites are given higher than deserved prominence due to the inclusion of copied content. As a result, the original author is often ranked lower than they should be on search engine results. Google does have the ability to basically stop all future instances of plagiarism and can do so at relatively low cost to the organization.
Google should impose the right of "First Contact" to content found by their search engine robot programs. "First Contact" would declare that an article is automatically the intellectual property of the author and web site which first publishes the material to the Internet. Future copies of the article would automatically be flagged as potential instances of plagiarism. Such copies could be ignored by the search engine software. This action by Google would support the work of the original author and remove the possibility of profit by plagiarists.
The declaration of "First Contact" rights would not result in significant changes to the Google search algorithm. The automated tools are already capable of detecting duplicate content, as verified by the Google search engine blog site. The improvement in the future would be that the first instance of the article would establish the content in the search engine index while subsequent encounters of the article would be ignored by the index. This is a small enhancement to current behavior which does filter content prior to inclusion in the Google index.
After "First Contact" publishing rights are imposed, there could be rare cases where the initial publisher is not automatically recognized. Instead, the quick publication by an unauthorized individual might supplant the original author. In such a case, the actual author would still have the right to notify Google of possible plagiarism issues through the existing report form. These reports would be much rarer than they are presently since the vast majority of unauthorized copying occurs some hours or days after the original article is published.
By adjusting their searching, and subsequent indexing of content, Google has the ability to render plagiarism completely ineffective. By removing the value of duplicate content from search engine rankings, it would be pointless for individuals to continue the practice. As an upside, Google would find that their index would be improved in quality due to the reduction of duplicate keyword terms in databases. Users of the Google search engine want better results which the "First Contact" principle addresses. It is certainly a case of mutual benefit. The original author of Internet content gets due recognition that their work is the authoritative source since it was the first published version of the article. Google gets a better index since duplicate keywords are reduced through the exclusion of subsequent article copies. Plagiarism is stopped, (or reduced), since there is a definite drop in the revenue possibilities from copied material.
Google also has the ability to extend the policing action associated with "First Contact". Those web sites which are consistently guilty of publishing duplicate articles can be identified easily. In extreme cases, such sites could have a general reduction in their significance to the Google index. This approach was implemented by Google during the Panda search engine update in 2011. Unfortunately, some of the page ranking penalties were applied to web sites that were not guilty of duplicating content. Many were penalized simply because they did not rank high enough despite the fact that they first published the articles involved.
With the importance of search engines in modern society, it should be incumbent on Google to protect the intellectual property of authors however such protection can be implemented. There is an implicit relationship between search engines and the authors that provide material to be included in search databases. This is mainly a symbiotic arrangement which benefits both Google and content authors. Google maintains a high quality index of Internet contents while authors get recognition for their creative efforts which can often translate into favorable rankings of the content in search engine results. In order to maintain and improve this relationship, Google has strived to provide features designed to reduce the incidence of duplicated content in the index. If the company extends this detection of duplicate articles to the principle of "First Contact" rights, (the principle that the first publication is most likely by the article's author), Google would be declaring a substantial boost in their support of content authors. The resultant quality of keywords in search databases and protection of authors would be improved. It would represent a significant improvement towards the reduction of plagiarism which is currently rampant on the Internet.
Google is a very large influence on the business and useability of the Internet. The sheer size of their search database makes them the current Internet power. With power often comes responsibility and Google has already recognized this fact. They have been diligent in protecting the validity of their search database contents which has generally helped content authors. By establishing the first instance of a published article to be recognized as the valid copy, Google would help advance confidence in both search engine results and in the creative process as well.