A copyright trap acts like a fingerprint in that it is unique and is used to detect if a piece of work is plagiarized or used without proper citation or authorization from the original writer or composer. Copyright traps are often tricks used by publishers to easily determine if a work is being plagiarized or not.
Writers may add a peculiar reference or make use of an odd phrase in order for them to easily prove that another has plagiarized their work. This is also done by mapmakers who insert fictitious roads, streets, or towns in order to identify other maps that have copied theirs without having obtained authorization.
Also referred to as fictitious entries or Mountweazels, copyright traps are used by most forms of media in order to easily track any sort of unauthorized use of the work. Dictionaries have also been using copyright traps for a number of years by inserting a fictitious word. If the word appears in another dictionary, then the same piece of work is scrutinized more closely to ascertain if the dictionary did plagiarize.
Copyright traps do not only exist as fictitious information but may appear as an erroneous piece of data or as a unique phrase that is easily identifiable to the original authors. However, it becomes difficult for other credible forms of media to discern what is fictitious and what is not. It is possible that a copyright trap may be taken seriously by other credible media outlets, and are considered to be true and factual.