Member Rara Avis
February isn't quite over, but it looks like we'll hit close to two million unique visitors this month, to both the main site and the forums. January came in at about 1.5 million, March will likely fall between those two numbers. With that many people reading, it's really getting tough to get by with anything sneaky. Post or submit something you didn't write, and someone is gonna bust you. Probably multiple someones. The new software at the main site now includes a button to make reporting even easier, and you can bet our next forum software update will include something similar.
The first year the main site was alive, when these forums were still at netpoets.com and everyone knew everyone, I'll admit I had a tendency to over-react if I got an email from someone saying a poem had been stolen. I pulled first, and asked questions later. Somewhere along the line, though, I received a letter from a very rude young lady who claimed she had five of HER poems stolen and posted on the main site, all by different people. One of those five poems was by Poet deVine. Another was by me.
It suddenly occurred to me that not everyone tells the truth.
In another instance, I had an irate mother write me because someone had stolen her son's poem and submitted it to the main site. As proof, she gave me the circumstances behind the poem (it was for his father and the result of a specific incident in December of 2000), as well as a link to the poem at poetry dot com. More, she just KNEW her son wouldn't lie to her about a thing like that. What she didn't realize is that if you go to the Author's Page, where all of the poems by an author are listed, each poem includes the exact date the poem was submitted. And we had the poem up a full six months before the incident that so inspired her son.
With so many lies on both sides of the fence, it seems like it would be almost impossible to make any kind of a fair decision. Surprisingly, though, that's not usually the case.
In most instances, if someone steals someone else's work, it's because they saw it posted somewhere else on the Internet. All we have to do, then, is find it. And that turns out to be a bit time-consuming, but not at all difficult. Search Engines have become VERY useful tools.
If we can't find the poem, and the person making the complaint can't offer solid proof, the poem is NOT pulled. In most cases, we don't even tell the author they had been questioned. If we do find the poem, it may or may not be pulled from our site, depending on whether it's immediately obvious who the original author was. Too often, we find fifty copies of the poem scattered around the web, with fifty different names under it. Or we find it with a very famous name under it. If necessary, I can check dates embedded in the HTTP headers, though I won't ever consider those conclusive.
The greatest determinant, I think, is what happens when we start checking OTHER poems posted or submitted by the same author. Because we do check more than just the one being brought to trial. I have yet to find an author who writes nine original poems and then steals the tenth. Either all ten are original or all ten were stolen.
And when you find a pattern like that, the decisions really aren't all that tough.