Plagiarism is the bane of every freelance writer, but many people who get into blogging initially aren’t writers and don’t actually understand plagiarism laws or why this is such a problem. Let me emphasize one thing before I go any further: Even if you don’t personally care that someone is stealing your work, plagiarism hurts us all.
It’s kinda like not yelling at your kid when they do something wrong just because it is so darn cute or funny. Yeah, junior looks hilarious covered in the chocolate pudding he used to write all over the wall, but if you don’t reprimand him now, it’ll turn into a slippery slope, and before you know it…well, your child becomes this.
Plagiarism isn’t in any way cute or funny, but some bloggers just let things slide or sweep problems under the rug. I’m begging you not to do this, as your fellow writer. It only gives the plagiarist the impression that it is OK to steal work from other people. Slippery. Slope.
If for no other reason, consider this: when there’s duplicate content online, it negatively impacts your search engine rankings, which means that your earning potential decreases. Every dollar the plagiarist makes is a dollar you could have been making yourself.
I’ve found that most people don’t do anything to stop plagiarists simply because they don’t know how to do so. Here are four tips you can use to combating this crime:
- Check your site regularly on Copyscape. While there are paid services on this site, it’s free to add your URL and do a quick scan of the Internet to see if anyone is stealing your work.
- Watermark your pictures. Unless you’re OK with other people using your picture, consider adding a watermark, either lightly in the background or at the corner of the picture. This probably deters 99% of people who would otherwise use your picture.
- Learn what is allowed. People aren’t allowed to steal your work, but they are allowed to quote you, as long as you are given credit. However, they aren’t allowed to use your work just because you don’t have a copyright notice listed at the bottom your post. Know the law.
- Don’t be afraid to contact hosts. When you notice that someone has plagiarized you, send them a letter to ask them to stop. If they ignore you, don’t be afraid to contact their post. By looking at their page source, you can find out who is providing their hosting, and contact that company directly to let them know that one of the sites they’re hosting is using copied content. Most hosts will require the website to remedy the situation to avoid being banned. Don’t just let it go. Remember, slippery slope.
In addition, I hope that it goes without saying that you should never plagiarize someone else’s work on your own blog. Use pictures that are uploaded with permission to be reused, and if you truly love someone’s text, contact them and offer to exchange guest posts or ask if you can repost something on your own website.
Also keep in mind that it is easy to make mistakes. If you see someone else posting your work, give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe your picture was uploaded somewhere incorrectly, making it look like you offered it for free use, or maybe they truly don’t understand that it is wrong to copy and paste someone else’s text. Ignorance of the law certainly doesn’t make you innocent, but be polite in your request for them to remove the content, rather than attacking.
In closing, I’d just like to leave you with a list of other blog posts dealing with this subject, since many of you out there have written much more in depth about plagiarism:
- The entire Plagiarism Today blog
- When is it OK to Post Someone Else’s Content by Deb Ng at The FWJ Network
- How to Check for Plagiarism by Allena Tapia, About.com’s Freelance Writing guide
- What Do You Do When Someone Steals Your Content? by Lorelle VanFossen at Lorelle on WordPress
- Should You Let Scrapers Link to Your Blog? by James Chartrand at Men with Pens
- Fair Use & Other Copyright Issues on the Web by Anne Wayman at About Freelance Writing
- What to do When Someone Steals Your Blog’s Content by Darren Rowse at Problogger
Allison Boyer is a writer for BWE’s blog and the owner/manager of After Graduation. All this slippery slope talk has inspired her to buy a Slip N Slide. She doesn’t have kids. It’s just for her.
Image credit: sxc.hu