Warning, This Post May Be Stolen

By Maeve Maddox

A lot of writing sites link to posts on the DailyWritingTips site. We like that. Sometimes they run a brief quotation followed by a link to the rest of the article on our site. I see nothing wrong with that.

Sometimes, however, they post an entire article on their sites, followed by attribution and a link to DWT. Apparently they are acting in good faith, imagining that including attribution makes it all right to reproduce the entire post. It isn’t. That’s copyright violation.

This week I happened across a site that not only publishes our posts in their entirety, but does so without attribution: leestringer.net (not linked for obvious reasons). Some of my posts are attributed to “Sweet Jane.”

There is a “Go to Source” link that appears after a Twitter icon at the far bottom of the posts. Perhaps that’s intended as a defense in case of being called on it.

The way our material is integrated into the overall design of the poaching website, the site’s readers probably don’t even notice the buried “source” link. It took me a while to find it, and I was looking.

Naturally this experience got me thinking about plagiarism.

Plagiarism is theft. It’s from Latin plagiarius meaning “kidnapper” or “plunderer.”

Inexperienced writers sometimes commit plagiarism unintentionally by paraphrasing badly, misquoting, or failing to attribute a quotation to its source.

Unscrupulous writers do it intentionally, in order to profit from the work of others.

Anyone who writes, or makes use of the writing of others, needs to become informed about copyright and fair use.

An excellent discussion of copyright infringement is Brad Templeton’s 10 Big Myths about copyright explained.

An academic take on plagiarism useful to students can be found on the University of Wisconsin-Platteville library site.

Click here to get access to 800+ interactive grammar exercises!


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30 Responses to “Warning, This Post May Be Stolen”

  • Cayleigh

    I checked out the blog you provided and what stuck me as funny (though this situation in general isn’t funny) was that they did such a terrible job at copying and pasting that they included the free E-book link your site provides. I had to comment on that since it did make me chuckle. People who do this just make me wonder what else is stolen on the internet.

    Thank you for posting the myth of copyright site. Very informative and hopefully the poster decides to take a peek.

  • Cat Woods

    Ach, can they fail Internet 101 and get kicked out of writing forever? I hate the idea of people snitching words and hope it ceases post haste.

  • Eric C

    Maeve, or Daniel, can you write more about this and how you resolved this issue? it seems important.

  • Daeng Bo

    My blog gets quoted fairly often by people linking to it, but there are also several “aggregators” which re-post my articles in their entirety and without attribution … except for a general link to my blog’s home page in the sidebar. These kinds of sites do not allow comment and have no contact information, of course, meaning that the owners don’t receive any complaints.

    What’s the motivation behind this? Search engine optimization. Quality material is posted to an otherwise awful site to raise its ranking and make the outgoing paid-for links appear to be of higher quality. There’s also advertising income, but that’s probably quite small compared to the SEO income generated by this plagiarism.

    I don’t mind others taking up to 30-40% of my content, providing some added opinions, and linking back to me. That’s what makes the Internet great. Give me credit, though, and leave something for the reader to look at on my site.

  • Jon

    The funniest thing?

    This post is also included in that other website, so I assume it’s an automated process, with no manual checks before it’s all published.

    @Eric I’d say that the question of how this is “resolved” is still open…

  • Chase March

    I’ve seen this time and time again. I have read several blog posts about content being stolen. This is crazy. People need to wake up and realize that this is wrong.

    I point people to this blog from my Twitter account at times because I enjoy your content. Keep up the good work!

  • Michael C. Cordell

    Quite reprehensible to steal another’s writing. The plagiarist really seems to feel like he/she can get away with it, though, because as Jon noted, even this post was stolen in its entirety. However, I don’t think it’s completely a bot that’s doing it, though, since the web address to it (unlinked above) was apparently manually edited in order to put the name of the website and its link in place of what Daniel wrote (unless it’s a really clever bot)!

    Regardless, it should make all of us think before posting anything on the web. If it’s on the ‘net, assume it’s going to be stolen by someone!

  • Daniele

    You’re right, Maeve. I write a lot on the web and I see continuously plagiarism of my texts. Even web agencies copy my articles… the same agencies that offers copywriting services…

    Often it’s sufficient to write them, asking to delete the article. Other times you have to “menace” them to call a lawyer…

    PS: hope my english is good 🙂

  • Ellen

    Some experienced writers plagiarize out of sheer laziness (and a stunning lack of integrity). I was appalled when I found that someone at my company had posted plagiarized material on our web site, but I had to fight to get it removed. No one else seemed to share my dismay (until word reached our corporate counsel).

  • eran

    I have seen a lot of auto-bloggers (automated blogs that are for SEO purpose only) that steal content. I see it in a lot of comment spam and trackback spam. The blogs are usually hosted over seas and its hard to register a complaint with the site, the domain or even the host.

  • jennifer blanchard

    while i understand why you’re upset, may i make a suggestion? instead of spending time/energy/blog post space berating the other site for stealing your content, take inspiration from top 100 blogger, Leo Babauta, and consider the “uncopyright” (you can read about it here: http://zenhabits.net/2008/01/open-source-blogging-feel-free-to-steal-my-content/). it may not be the perfect option, but it’s a much more positive way to look at the blogosphere and it does put your content in front of many, many more people. just an idea!

  • Kate

    Not only was this post stolen by the suspect, but they actually added the link to themselves that was rightfully omitted from this post! How disgraceful.

  • Rod

    shame on them there should be a law regulation to allow you and Daniel to sue them directly, It’s seems that cons,plagiarism and other web crimes will remain outlaw for a while

  • lena

    I have often faced situations when someone used my posts without giving credits, asking permission or anything like that. In most cases people do not even have an idea they violate copyrights. As soon as I confronted them they removed the copied content from their site. However once I had a really unique interaction with someone who not only copied my post entirely signing it with his own name but also insulted me in the craziest waya when I pointed that out. Some people have indeed no shame.

  • Daquan Wright

    I believe Google will penalize websites that duplicate content…best to get it removed or your website might also get in trouble (hence your website has the same content as another).

    You don’t want your website blacklisted I presume, talk to them or their host about getting your hard earned content removed. Google won’t have pity on you if they catch sites duplicating content.

  • Rebecca Ryals Russell

    I suppose this is to be expected, as wrong as it is, with the explosion of information at one’s fingertips. Hopefully regulations will be instituted to control such wanton theft.

  • Connie Oswald Stofko

    First, how does one discover that his or her original content is finding its way onto someone else’s Web site? I’d like to know if this is happening to me!

    Also, I too am interested in how you folks resolve this issue. At the very least, you probably want the pilfered copy deleted from the offending Web site. Beyond that, you need to decide if you want to seek some sort of monetary restitution, or other penalty.

    Good luck!

  • Daeng Bo

    I use FairShare. It notifies me when it finds material. There are a few false positives now and then (especially when I’m quoting something at length for comment), but the service is pretty good overall and painless to admin.

  • Robyn Broyles

    Maeve, you would probably enjoy another blog I read called Plagiarism Today. (And possibly vice versa: the author of PT might be interested in this story.)

  • Peter

    Plagiarism is theft.

    Rubbish. Theft involves taking something from you that you have legitimate claim to…what do you believe is being stolen in this instance?

    Recommended reading: http://mises.org/books/against.pdf

  • Daquan Wright

    It’s good to take note that nothing is safe on the web….but go troll another blog Peter. There is a big difference between INSPIRATION and blatant TAKING of content that was written by someone, period.

    Copying can make a student fail an English class and if it’s a professional work you can get sued, please take that crap else where.

  • Peter

    There is a big difference between INSPIRATION and blatant TAKING of content that was written by someone, period.

    Never said otherwise…but “a difference” doesn’t make it “theft”. You didn’t bother to answer my question about what you think is being stolen; instead apparently having an attack of apoplexy at anyone daring to question your opinions…well…

  • Daquan Wright

    I don’t have to answer that, this isn’t my blog. lol

    You’re trolling, that’s why I called you on it. The owner of this blog probably figures you aren’t worth his time. =P

  • Peter

    I don’t have to answer that

    If you want to try to argue the point, rather than just being obnoxious, rude, and insulting, you do; and otherwise why are you sticking your nose in?

    (Maybe time for a DWT posting on the meaning of the word “troll”, so Daquan can learn to use it correctly…)

  • Daquan Wright

    Sure, whatever medicine you need to keep yourself going bub.

  • Maeve

    Daquan and Peter:
    Come on, guys. Make nice.

    “What is taken when a work is plagiarized?”

    Reputation: Person A writes an essay and Person B publishes it under someone else’s name.

    Earnings: Person A writes an article for one market that could be sold again to another market, but Person B beats him to it, selling said article to someone else under his own name.

    Those are just two possibilities. Besides, it’s dishonest. Why be deliberately dishonest?

    Peter, if you are the Peter who often comments, your opinions often offer valid insights on the topic under discussion. Perhaps you’d like to write a guest submission in which you explore your view that plagiarism is not theft. It would make interesting reading.

  • Peter

    Reputation; Earnings

    Yes, but…your “reputation” is just “what other people think of you” – you certainly have no legitimate claim over other people’s thoughts; therefore “reputation” is not something that can be stolen from you (whether through plagiarism or, e.g., defamation/slander/libel). Similarly for (potential) earnings – it’s other people’s willingness to pay for your services; but you have no claim on that, otherwise it would “theft” when Pizza Hut opens a store in a town where Dominos already has a presence…

    Dishonest, sure; you can say plagiarists are scumbags, but there’s a big difference between being a scumbag who everyone wants to avoid and being a criminal who should be prosecuted.

  • Jon

    It would be ‘theft’ if Pizza Hut opened a store in a town where Dominos already had a presence if they took a Dominos menu, and stuck “Pizza Hut” stickesr over the Dominos logo and phone number.

    If plagiarism isn’t that big a deal, I’m going to start photocopying the Harry Potter novels and selling them with my name on them. I know that’s more clearly a commercial activity than say, writing articles but I’m fairly sure that Maeve doesn’t write these things just because she loves us all – there’s a commercial intent behind it somewhere… No offence intended, Maeve 🙂

  • Peter

    It would be ‘theft’ if Pizza Hut opened a store in a town where Dominos already had a presence if they took a Dominos menu, and stuck “Pizza Hut” stickesr over the Dominos logo and phone number.

    Perhaps if the menu — the actual paper and plastic — belonged to Dominos, it’d be theft of that menu. But if they owned the menu (having bought it from Dominos, or recovered it from their trash or something), it wouldn’t be — though I can’t imagine why they’d ever think patching over the competitor’s menu could help their business. Printing up their own menu that looked the same as the Dominos one, except for the colour scheme, logos and phone numbers, wouldn’t be theft.

    If plagiarism isn’t that big a deal, I’m going to start photocopying the Harry Potter novels and selling them with my name on them.

    I didn’t say it “isn’t that big a deal”; I didn’t say it isn’t despicable, even. I don’t like drug dealers, either, but what they do isn’t criminal in any legitimate sense.

    there’s a commercial intent behind it somewhere…

    There’s a commercial intent behind every business that starts up. Nevertheless, about 80% of new businesses fail. Tough. When you start a business, you don’t get to have men with guns force people to buy stuff from you against their will — you can’t have your own thugs, and you shouldn’t be able to use thugs who carry badges and papers and call themselves “police” or “government” or whatever (though, all too often, you can).

  • Jon

    I guess we’re just going to have to agree to disagree on this one. The fundamental difference of opinion over the concept of ‘intellectual property’ and ‘copyright’ is insurmountable, and drifting way off topic.

    Peter, I wish you every success, and hope that you never have problems with competitors passing off your work as their own to try and make a profit.

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