Thursday, July 21, 2011

Beat the Heat with a Little Plagiarism Perhaps?

It's 102 degrees in Washington, DC today and with the humidity index it's 115.

How many times do people just pick up information off the Web and republish it under their own names? It's happened to me and I saw today a perfect example of how it's done- except this person got called on it. And their immediate reaction was to deny it, even though the articles were almost identical.

It reminds me of a discussion I contributed to recently about whether or not picking up someone else's blog post - if it was attributed - was considered unprofessional. Although it is common practice, the comments were pretty straight forward. Don't do it. It makes you look bad.

If you can't come up with something that is at least a new take on an age old topic then don't write it. Blogging is a pain in the neck, and I can't tell you how tempting it is sometimes when you see something that's good by someone else to change it a little and make it yours. But that's plagiarism pure and simple

The original article was written by a U.S. News & World Report blogger. I'm not going to put names on this because I'm really writing about the topic rather than the people. The bottom line is someone in this little story took someone else's work and passed it off as their own. That makes all of them look bad except the original writer who pointed it out.

Here's the discussion - judge for yourself. The plagiarized blog post has already been take down so I copied the conversation for you. Interesting example of a gut reaction to deny and then a realization that a person who was trusted really did just take someone else's work.

The original writer - This article is copied from an article I wrote for US News and World Report, word for word. Are you really passing this off as your own - in a group that I moderate? This is the the article that I wrote. Word for word.

The blogger who posted the copied article - Our article came directly from a manager with a Fortune 500 Company. If you read both articles there are differences. We don't copy articles. She did an interview with our content writer and I know she didn't copy your article.

I have written articles myself on what is now a hot topic, that are now showing up all over the sites. I published a book in 1998 with an entire chapter on the subject.

Sorry if you want to take this off the site please feel free to do so. She included new info in point number 6. I think there are only so many ways you can reinvent the wheel and write from experience. The manager wrote this we just edited and helped with the title.

The original writer - Are you kidding me? Helped with the title? It's EXACTLY the same title. The content isn't rewritten - it is the same. You added one thing to post it in a group that has a string with 450+ comments to try to bring more traffic to your site. Before you write me back and try to justify your position, take a look, make a quick comparison. It is copied and then you had the nerve to come and post it in a group I moderate. Really?

Your manager didn't write it. You should start checking your content from your content farm through a checker for plagiarized work. This is copied. You should be giving credit to the original owner, not passing it off as your own content.

And yes, please take it off your site.

My take on this - In this situation, if I was the person who posted this article, I would never try to defend it - just apologize and take it down immediately. There's nothing to be gained from denying it especially when the two articles are almost identical.

A few minutes after I posted this the apology came. Kudos to the blogger for taking action quickly.

The blogger - I am so sorry. We had no clue this was copied. We are taking the article off our site and I will leave your group. This is a new site, we didn't expect anything like this to happen and we will make sure from here on out that this does not happen again. I have a feeling the manager read your article and didn't realize what she was doing was wrong b/c she does interviews all the time using Stars.

Also I just got off the phone with my editor and she told me she heavily edited the content of the article that she submitted. The manager and I talked weeks ago and she gave me all of those reasons she didn't hire people off the top of her head. I asked her could she write them in an article and she said yes.

I have two staff writers that freelance and they have either interviewed our contributors or sent them questions for the articles. And some of our contributors have submitted their own content. We don't copy. I am a published author and I would not want anyone doing this to me. I apologize and will leave your group. I posted to a few sites and I can't see a way to remove the posts but I will try to get them off of Linkedin. . .

In the end, the lesson learned is pretty straight forward. People plagarize other people's work and on the Internet I believe it's become a much more common practice than it once was. What people don't seem to understand is that everything on the Internet is copyrighted the moment it's published. So the same rules that applied to print work - apply online.

Will the copyrights be enforced? Probably not. But is it really worth it? In the end, the whole point of blogging is to add to the conversation, not copy someone else's. Yes we're all crazy busy and it's easy to take an idea, change some of the words, and represent it as your own.

I've been working a long time, and have seen most of the new and brilliant marketing approaches touted as new ideas before. The media marketers are using today may be different, but fresh ideas are hard to come by. This particular blog post was pretty generic and contained information that has probably been published in many different forms over time - repeating much of what has already been said.

What do other marketers think? Do you re-package others content and if you do how do you attribute it?


  1. I agree -- apologize and take it down, even if she thinks she's right in a situation like this. There is no way the "2nd" author can come out ahead, and she alienates an influential writer, and it goes viral...ugh, nightmare.

  2. Seriously, I've been writing a lot of unique content about Cape Coral FL and the content about the neighborhoods I write tends to be copied or slightly modified in other real estate blogs. It's a pain when you take hours to write something unique, and then somebody copies it in minutes.

  3. This is so interesting - I was recently in this position - someone took my work and then posted it to a LinkedIn group that I belonged to.

    I wrote directly to the person (never heard back), but didn't post to the group because I was concerned about looking petty - I'm not a famous reporter, or the owner of the group!

    Now I'm wondering if I should have been more assertive - I'm curious how other group members feel when they see this type of interchange between the two parties?

  4. The blogger was right to call the plagerism out, being firm about the request to remove it.