Friday, 3 May 2013

Should Every Website Have A Mountweazel?


A ‘Mountweazel’ is a fake entry which is deliberately published in a reference work to detect copyright infringement. Ironically, ‘Mountweazel’ which is now associated with this real and used definition was itself originally a fabricated entry!

According to the 1975 edition of the New Columbia Encyclopaedia, Lillian Virginia Mountweazel was a fountain designer turned photographer who died in 1942 in an explosion while on assignment for a magazine.  Does that sound farfetched? It ought to, because the entire entry from the name Lillian to the detailed back story is completely fictitious. Editors included Lillian to protect their copyright knowing that if anyone were to include her in any of their work, they would have to have copied from the encyclopaedia. Dictionaries too have made use of this technique.

So, a cunning trick to identify content theft? Certainly, but does it have any use on websites? Unfortunately, online plagiarism is common and with many sites dedicated to similar or the same topics it can be hard to spot who copied who. If you include a Mountweazel on your website however, the culprit will soon be identified and there’ll be no denying it! What’s more, website owners do not even have to make the Mountweazel visible on the site itself, but instead they can hide it in the website code.