I recently found one of my most popular articles was plagiarised by an individual who thought that changing some of the words in my original work would make my article his. Unfortunately for him, it didn’t work as you will see in the two examples below. But before I get to the case in point, I wanted to point you to a website that has been set up to explain and help people understand what plagiarism really is. Most people don’t really understand that copying or borrowing another persons written works without their consent is in fact illegal.
From the website Plagiarism.org and I quote….
What is Plagiarism 
Many people think of plagiarism as copying another’s work or borrowing someone else’s original ideas. But terms like “copying” and “borrowing” can disguise the seriousness of the offense:
According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, to “plagiarise” means
- to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own
- to use (another’s production) without crediting the source
- to commit literary theft
- to present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source
In other words, plagiarism is an act of fraud. It involves both stealing someone else’s work and lying about it afterward.
But can words and ideas really be stolen?
According to U.S. law, the answer is yes. The expression of original ideas is considered intellectual property and is protected by copyright laws, just like original inventions. Almost all forms of expression fall under copyright protection as long as they are recorded in some way (such as a book or a computer file).
All of the following are considered plagiarism:
- turning in someone else’s work as your own
- copying words or ideas from someone else without giving credit
- failing to put a quotation in quotation marks
- giving incorrect information about the source of a quotation
- changing words but copying the sentence structure of a source without giving credit
- copying so many words or ideas from a source that it makes up the majority of your work, whether you give credit or not (see our section on “fair use” rules)
Most cases of plagiarism can be avoided, however, by citing sources. Simply acknowledging that certain material has been borrowed and providing your audience with the information necessary to find that source is usually enough to prevent plagiarism. See our section on citation for more information on how to cite sources properly.
For all of our members and readers who are interested in learning more about Plagiarism and how to avoid it, visit their website for a load of valuable information including: Quoting, Citing, Paraphrasing, Bibliography and Footnotes. I would urge all IPA members to visit this site and learn what you can and cannot do when writing your articles for publication on our websites.
Looking For Websites That Paid Writers
A few years ago while trying to find other sites that our members could join to earn money with their photos and articles I discovered a few sites for authors that were quite interesting. You see I wanted to test a few of these sites to see if our IPA members could actually earn money publishing on some of these new digital publications.
In 2006 I started this exploration and found an interesting site called eHow. On eHow you had to write articles that were in a How To format. Interesting concept, so I thought I would give it a try.
In the first month I was lucky and had earned over $1400 by publishing some of my How-To articles there. One of them won a thousand dollars in a contest they were running at that time, and another took $75 for a contest of the week. As I continued to write my little How-To articles my revenue grew and each month through an advertising revenue share program they offered, I would earn another $30-$50, not bad since most of the articles were quite short and all of them listed steps the readers would take to do the project I detailed. One was how to keep your Aquarium healthy, others dealt with everything from fixing things around the home to saving money when you shop. In those early days, we didn’t use YouTube much, so eHow was a great place to find solutions.
I soon found out that their popularity voting mechanism was seriously flawed and other writers could give your articles a thumbs down which would then work against your articles ratings and popularity. I soon left eHow, $1400 richer and now sought other sites.
Hubpages and My Costco Article
I continued to search for other writer sites and discovered Hubpages.
“HubPages has become one of the 50 most visited US sites on the Internet. In December 2010, it received around 42 million visits and over 90 million page views” according to Wikipeadia. Which according to the site, were across over 1 million Hubs published by more than 200,000 published users.”
I found this site very interesting and easy to use. I decided to write an article about saving money at Costco and understanding their price codes. It was an article I thought would have a good shot at receiving reads. Now in its fourth full year it has reached over 550,000 reads, a number I never in my wildest imagination would have thought would happen and now I have discovered, it has become the most popular article on how to save money at Costco on the internet. If you do a simple Google search with any terms like Save Money At Costco, you will see my article will come up on the top of the list.
When I first wrote this article I gave it a title I thought was compelling, but as you will read, Hubpages showed me a better way to make its popularity Skyrocket. The original articles title was, Secret Codes Will Save Y0u Money At Costco. Over the next couple of years I would go in and update the article, adding more information to keep it current. I was pleased with the reads the article received which averaged around 1600 each week. I thought that was quite good considering many of the other articles I had previously written only received a few hundred reads each week.
About 18 months ago, Hubpages sent me my weekly report that contained information on a new feature they offered that would help you select the most SEO (search engine optimized) title, one that would tap into the most popular search terms. Their suggestion was to add the word PRICE after Secret. So I changed the title of this article to Secret Price Codes Will Save You Money At Costco.
Now adding that one word, based on their stats of searches people made ended up creating a gold mine for me. My reads went from and average of 1600 per week to a high of over 20,000 per week. Who could have believed that the title of an article could make such a dramatic change in popularity. I decided to write an article on our Member Support Blog to explain this phenom to our member and readers. I would suggest you read this article it illustrates how you can get more reads on your articles and is worth the time to learn how the process works.
My Article Ranks As The Most Popular Article Of Its Kind
Unscrupulous Individuals Can Steal Your Work, If You Let Them
The real reason for this article was to illustrate how some unscrupulous individuals might attempt to steal your work and claim it as theirs. If you are not diligent and find them and warn them of their illegal activity, your rights under current U.S. copyright laws can be lost.
I found the easiest way for me to locate illegal use of my work is to do a simple Google Search using the title of the article or at times a sentence in the article or even key words. Yesterday I searched for the title and started to click on each one to see if they simply quoted from my article, gave me the proper authors credits and linked to my Hubpages article. I am glad to say that most did and this is why this article has become popular. The more inbound links to an article the more relevant the search engines find it. And that means a higher position on their search results page. As you can see from a search of this articles title, there are many sites linking to it.
As I went through each one, I once again found a blatant attempt to copy my article with not so subtle changes, that become clear from the title which shouts out plagiarism when you read it. As we have seen from my title of my article Secret Codes Will Save Y0u Money At Costco one can clearly see the copycat version Magic Formula Cost Requirements Will Save You Dollars At Costco
It is of course an obvious attempt to plagiarize my hard work by changing some of the words to hide the fact that it is not this authors original work.
Here are two screen shots that show my article and his below mine. I think you can see that the illegal copy of my article is a feeble attempt by the so-called author to change some of the words and in his case, he has not done a very good job at it. From my article we talk about the Return Policy at Costco, in his he describes it as their “Come Back coverage”. You can also see his attempt to change the title of the article and one I simply love…I describe my early years buying merchandise at Costco for resale on eBay and that I was an eBay Power Seller. In his copy, he was an Amazon Power Seller, unfortunately Amazon has no such distinction.
Click on the images below to go to the original documents, although the copied one will be removed soon. Unfortunately I can’t copy the text and would have to actually pay to download it so I have taken some additional screen shots for now as proof of this copyright violation.
My Original Copyrighted Version
Who Is Doc Stoc and Doc Store?
I found my copied article twice on Doc Stoc a website that accepts and sells articles for republication on websites. It is similar to a photo, video or music stock agency that sells limited rights to publish other authors works. Doc Store is the sales section of their site and Doc Stoc is the website for authors who will upload their articles. As you can see many articles are sold at low-cost to other sites that are hungry for content. Apparently they cannot keep up with the tremendous amount of plagiarized content and from their claims that they are The Premier Marketplace to Buy and Sell Professional Documents, you can see how some documents may fall through the cracks as mine has more than once.
Docstoc has a lot of information on copyright infringement, copyright law and remedies. They also have a number of links to other sites that will help you understand the law, your rights and your ability to sue a copyright infringer. Click here to go to their FAQ’s page, which everyone should read.
From there FAQ’s “An author of a work gets copyright protection automatically when he, she or they create a work and “fix” or record it. Registration with the Copyright Office is not a prerequisite, but it can give a copyright owner additional protection. A copyright owner can only get statutory damages and attorneys? fees and costs for infringement of a registered copyright. A U.S. author must also register before filing a copyright lawsuit.”
Copyright registration today is a lot easier then ever before and if you want to copyright a number of articles, photos or videos you can present them as a collection of works and register all of them at one time. This saves you money on the copyright filing fees and the time it takes to file each item individually. Once you have filed with the copyright office you can sue for use of your works and receive proper compensation.
DocStoc Removed The Article
As you can see by completing their form and providing proof of my claim, they have removed the offending article from their site. I would urge you to do a Google search from time to time to try to find your most popular articles of images on the net to see if they have been stolen by others. This may be harder to do on a photo, but I have found those that steal photos aren’t smart enough to change the original photos title so a simple image search using that title can in fact find those images.
What To Do If You Are A Victim
My advise to anyone that finds their works used without prior consent should immediately send a Cease and Desist Warning to the offending site or individual. This is the same for photographs, videos, music or written works, all covered under the U.S. Copyright Laws. Protection may also be available in other countries by virtue of a bilateral agreement between the United States and other countries or under specific provision of a country’s national laws. Further information on copyrights and a great FAQ is located here.
If the website is a legitimate one, they will remove the offending material and send you an apology. If not you have a number of legal options available depending on where you reside. Finding your hard work on another site with some thief’s name as the author is a very hard thing to deal with, but today and the speed at which scammer’s and thieves can steal not only your work, but your money, is increasing at warp speed.
As soon as you find a way to stop them, a hundred more scams show up. Now that the Pandora’s Box has been opened it is our duty and our job to attempt to protect our valuable works.
I hope that this article will help you understand your rights as an author. It should also clear up any thoughts you may have if you try to use and claim someone else’s hard work as yours. Respect their work as you would hope others will respect you work.
Note: IPA continues to encourage all of our members to Do The Work, because we understand the value in doing so. After all, we Learn by Doing and as we learn we can find many opportunities as I have to Earn By Doing. Remember, Cheaters Never Prosper.
In the interest of disseminating this information as widely as possible, plagiarism.org grants all reprint and usage requests without the need to obtain any further permission as long as the URL of the original article/information is cited