A Word About Plagiarism

Picture 1Yes, we need to talk about it. Yes, many of you have heard this talk since the 6th grade, but it is worth revisiting. Plagiarism is serious and quite common, particularly on the web.

The OWL at Purdue University defines plagiarism as the uncredited use (both intentional and unintentional) of someone else’s words or ideas. Many writers and not all of them are newbies, include information in their articles, blog posts, etc., that originally appeared somewhere else without giving credit to the originator of the information.

Look at the first sentence in the paragraph above, see how I gave credit for the definition of plagiarism to Purdue University? It’s just that easy. It is also a necessary and essential part of being a responsible writer. When I was a journalism student, one of my professors would issue an automatic fail for an article if a writer failed to cite their sources. As far as credibility goes, the public will institute their own “fail” to writers who steal work from others.

It sounds harsh, but it is stealing. Someone else did all the work and you used it without their permission and without giving credit. It’s a sucky thing to do to another writer and you shouldn’t allow it to happen to you either.

There are websites and programs that will track where your work appears and when it comes across a lifted quote, paragraph or whole article, you’ll be notified.  When it does happen you have every right to contact the site admin, author, etc. and let them know your work has been used without permission and you’d like it taken down immediately. You can also try to be a nice person and offer to allow them to use your information for credit AND compensation.  If you do make an offer, be sure it doesn’t violate the policy of the publication in which your article first appeared.

If you ever have a question about whether you should cite a source, then you most likely need to cite the source. So be a responsible writer and give credit where credit is due!

Has your work ever been plagiarized? What did you do? Share!






5 responses
  1. chris radant Avatar

    I’m building a new website with a link to my blog. The blog host’s fine print indicates that it is a “Creative Commons” blog. In other words, it is an invitation to cut and paste your writing anywhere else. This is a well-known host for blogs.

    I want to know if using (and registering a copyright) the standard (c) info on each page will override the cc policy of anything posted on the site.

    Please divulge urls for sites or programs that do the sleuthing for writers. So many things are a rip-off, and I’ve had so many recycle ideas without permission…I can’t devote much time to being a word cop. I have writing to do!

    Thank you so much for all the info you disseminate.

  2. Ed Avatar

    Plagiarism is not only stealing, it is the mark of a lazy writer. For some reason, the barrier between stealing is lower for words than other digital content. We wouldn’t steal a Web design and slap our name on it for fear of being sued and facing social criticism. However, it is fine to “scrape” a blog’s content, place it on our own and not given credit – even when there is no fee.

    I hope such services as CopyScape flourish, as they make catch thieves much easier. We must also guard against the “publishers” I frequently see requesting someone to rewrite existing content.

  3. Kathryn Avatar

    Writers who do not aggressively defend their intellectual property are not just hurting themselves, they’re hurting all writers. Every time a writer lets slide an unauthorized appropriation of his or her work, it emboldens those who intentionally steal. It also draws more into the everyone-does-it fold, slowly eroding once clear-cut standards.

    This business of “re-writes” is a prime example. Those who would never consider doing a word-for-word lifting happily sign on to churning out these illegal derivatives. But a thief who steals car parts and reconfigures them in a chop shop is still a thief. Or, they fill up their blogs with material they particularly like, without attribution. They tell themselves it’s not plagiarism because they’re not claiming credit or making money off of it.

    There will always be dishonest people. The tragedy is how many otherwise-honest people help them, either by doing their dirty work for them, or by letting them get away with it when its done to them.

    Have I been plagiarized? Yes. Too often. And it wasn’t anything even originally available on the internet. It was from published books. Every month, I spend hours tracking down these offenses. The sad part is a good half of the offenders claim to be writers themselves.

  4. Dayle Avatar

    Several years ago, my work was plagiarized by a local newspaper editor, no less. Seeing this woman’s byline, on my work, was shocking at best. I was livid! I immediately contacted the publisher of the newspaper and said he must publish an apology, else I would file a claim against the editor and include him in the suit. To my surprise, he didn’t want to do that, and acted totally indifferent about the whole thing. But I persisted, and he finally gave in. It wasn’t enough, to be honest. I still felt violated in some way. To steal another person’s published work, and use is as your own, is robbery. Plain and simple.

    1. Terreece Clarke Avatar

      Wow! A newspaper editor? I’d still be raising hell on that one. I’d gone to the local TV news & to competing papers and local colleges sounding the alarm along the way but then again, I’m a bit of a nut LOL! Makes you wonder what else they are swiping.

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