Thursday, May 6, 2010

How NOT to Plagiarize

You think this would be a no-brainer but surprisingly, it isn't that clear cut for some people, including those who run celebrity sites. Over the last year, I've probably had a dozen or so such instances where I've found an article or blog post I've written posted in it's entirety somewhere else. Yesterday, I found 3. Yes, THREE. This is the most I've found in a day. One of them I believe was an honest ignorance of copyright law but the other two were those people who try to get free content for their site and hope they don't get caught. Usually a firm threat of reporting them to Google takes care of the problem.

I also listen to my writer friends when they have problems with people stealing their articles. One in particular comes to mind. Writer friend Michelle Devon (Michy) spoke on her forum about someone who had posted an article of hers and got ticked that Michy asked her to take the article down or link it properly. The person who stole the article stated something like "I'll think about taking it down," (as if she had any other legal choice) and then preceded to scold Michy for not wanting to "share" her work with the world in favor of a buck, as if Michy should feel shame for wanting to make money for her writing.  In addition, I've had an instance (and know of at least two other instances from writer friends) where a celebrity site has copied an article and thought we as authors should be flattered that a celebrity has recognized them.

But isn't that why we're all here? I mean, yeah, the recognition is great and I love it when someone says that an article I've written was fantastic, but it doesn't pay the bills. I spend most of my AC money on groceries. When someone copies my articles, it's like taking food out of my kids' mouths. Yes, I want to share my work with the world, but that can be done by providing links back to AC, not copying, and it won't deprive my pantry. Let's be serious. Would any of us be here if we weren't making money? I love it, yes, but if I wasn't making money from it, I wouldn't be here. Everyone's gotta make a living.

Here is what is considered plagiarizing and will get your butt in trouble:
  • Copying/pasting word for word - whether or not you attribute the author (or even compliment the author) it doesn't matter.  It's still plagiarism and takes money away from the author.  This was one of the ones I found yesterday.  I'm flattered that the people on that forum really liked my take of the latest NCIS: LA, but flattery doesn't pay the bills.
  • Using a "spin" software.  First of all, these softwares are crazy and if you use them, you're crazy.  It's so easy to spot an article that's been "spun".  For example, have you ever read an article that in one sense, you understand a bit about what it is saying but it has used all the wrong words?  Have you ever read an article that looks like it was written by someone just learning the English language?  More than likely, it is a "spin" from an article the "author" has stolen from somewhere like AC.  I found one of my Merlin articles posted like that on a site a few months ago.  Same copyright rules apply.  I called their hand, they took down the article.
  • Rewriting articles using the same theme and principle of the article.  This is essentially like copying.  If you can't come up with your own ideas and write in your own voice, then readers will know.  Unfortunately, this one is harder to prove but it will bite back in page views.  A bad rewrite of an original will never rank higher on Google than the original and therefore will fail in searches.  And trust me, if you have to resort to rewriting articles already written in order to have something to publish, then you're writing it bad.  A good writer can find their own topics.
How to PROPERLY do it:
  • Provide a link back to the original article.
  • Add your comments (good or bad) to where ever you may be posting, whether it is a blog, a forum post, whatever.  This draws attention to the article and lets your thoughts be heard without any chance of plagiarism.
  • Including the author's name is optional.  As long as there is a link back to the original article, all is well.  And this doesn't just go for AC.  This is true of ANY site.
  • If you want to share something from AC, there is a "Share" button at the bottom of the page (in the black bar) where the article is located.  Click on it and a box will come up that will allow you to post on most social networks with ease.  There is also HTML code there for easy posting on your site.  This will place the title, description, and link on your site easily... and legally.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent information and very important to know. Some writers truly don't know and are flattered when this happens, and it's okay to be flattered--but it's also okay to expect to be paid for your writing too!

    Thank you also for sharing a link. Keep writing on these excellent topics. You're doing a great service to content writers, not just AC writers!

    Love and stuff,