Recognizing Content Predators in the Web

24 February 2011
tiger - a predator
About 99 percent of the population join online contests for the cash. Sad to say, no site is 100 percent scam-free.Wherever you go, there will always be content predators waiting to get away with your work.

As their name suggests, content predators will prey upon your idea, if not your output. This sounds like a bad case of plagiarism and copyright infringement combined.

Anyone could be the guilty party. As you may well guess, predators cloak themselves in a variety of ways. Can you recognize their behavioral patterns online? Keep safe, and don't ever let your guard down. Below are some of the most notorious personality types trolling the World Wide Web:

The Template Seeker. Some pass off as employers when in fact they are service providers who have run dry of ideas. These individuals would hold a contest, wait for entries to come in, and never pick a winner. They leave you hanging with your work and will use your ideas or output as a benchmark for their own projects. The scenario is observable when you check out the highly competitive contest sites for designers, artists and animators. Everyone might cry "rip-off!" but at the end of the day, the winning entry is usually the submission that was able to integrate the most interesting "innovations" - or rather spin-offs.

The Systematic Opportunist. Some established businesses also follow the unethical practice of milking contest participants (figuratively speaking). You might be asked to create a customized sample to test your skills before you are allowed to join the contest. The screening process makes sense in that nobody wants to waste his time on crappy submissions. Things go bad when the company decides to use and commercialize your submission without your knowing. 

The Fee Collector. An obvious spin-off of this modus would be the collection of joining fees on top of the customized  qualifying sample. Content predators that organize online writing contests often scam writers this way. However, take note that you cannot say online contests are legit just because they do not charge any registration or joining fees. Your ideas and content are at stake. 

The Bargain Hunter. Other contest predators are just out there to get the cheapest bargains and the most freebies. So, yes, some of them are "legit" in that they will pick a winner and really award a prize -- but only after they have collected more than enough entries and ideas for their personal use. Here's what I found while visiting a forum frequented by the bad guys -- an excerpt of a really wicked testimonial:

How safe are you? What measures do you take to protect your submissions from online content predators? How can you tell the scammy contest sites from the good ones? Share what you know. Spread your story here.
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