It is very easy to now write and be published online, even if you are halfway around the world. But it is much, much easier to have your content ripped off by unscrupulous parasites, who don’t want to put in the hours to create good content.
Some steal in parts, sometimes half-heartedly paraphrasing (to cover their tracks), sometimes using direct copy-and-pasting to take bits and pieces of a few articles to ‘produce’ their own piece. When you do this without crediting the original writer, this is called plagiarism.
In other mediums, say design products, videos, and animation clips, the end product – be it a template, a theme, an image (or sometimes the whole website) – may be copied in full and sometimes commercialized for personal benefit.
This is copyright infringement – you can see clear signs of a copyright infringement case being handled when you see a Youtube video removed from the page by the owner.
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Plagiarism In The Digital Realm
When you plagiarize something, you have taken credit for something someone else did. The damage isn’t as bad as when copyright infringement has occurred. Picture this, you write materials for a blog.
Readership may be low for your site because it’s new. But that’s fine… until someone takes your materials to submit to another, larger blog, and receives payment for it.
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From this point on, two things will happen. You may be accused of stealing from the larger, more popular blog, or the larger blog will be assumed guilty of publishing stolen materials. This is the reason why plagiarism checks are essential when receiving guest post submissions.
The plagiarist is the one who gets away with it (and the money); at most, his or her article will be taken off the site and they can continue running this scam under a new name or identity.
But I Got The Idea First
But what if the same idea occurs to two people at the same time, and gets published online around the same period? Do we still call it plagiarism? Definitely not. However, the ideas could be the same, but the approach to describe them cannot be. If it is similar, then someone has done the dirty job of plagiarism.
You can, however, avoid this by crediting the source of your materials. If you quote a whole paragraph from somewhere else – a blog, a press release, a news report, etc, then provide the source in your text as well as a link to the original site. This will serve as a reference point to the readers and will provide context to your materials.
Plus, in the event that what is being quoted is not true or has been a rumor, at least readers can fall back on the link source to find out more about the issue.
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For online media such as a Youtube video, the product of a designer’s handiwork, a photograph or even a music clip, these are products that are protected by copyright law.
For these things, if it is explicitly mentioned that its rights are reserved for the use of these items, you have to get permission or pay a royalty to the creator to use these materials.
Putting "No copyright infringement intended" in the description does not protect you from the hands of the law if the creator decides to get the authorities to punish you or make you remove the materials from your site, channel or blog.
You can however look for materials with Creative Commons licenses which allow you to use these materials with certain restrictions but mostly without having to pay a cent for it. They are more interested in how you treat the material and how you credit the creator.
Then, there is this third party of criminals who blatantly steal the content of your site, removing all marks of ownership or authorship. Content stealers have become active these days, and they have plenty of workarounds to circumvent plagiarism tools.
When Darren Stevens posted 30 inspiring Japanese web designs in his blog, little did he realized that his work will get ripped off in its entirety by another blog.
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You may not be able to stop someone from stealing, yet you must know how to pursue a case against those who violate copyright laws. That’s exactly what Darren did and he made sure that the violator faced the wrath of the advertisers and the host. The site was pulled down, and all advertisements removed from the site.
There is however no stopping the culprit from trying again with new content, or on another site.
By comparison, the penalty for plagiarism is not harsh, but that doesn’t give you a reason to do it. The best examples of plagiarism, we can sadly report, can be found in universities where the pressure to publish research papers can be overwhelming.
The advancement of technology, allowing many journals to be published online without much protection made it a lot easier to copy materials.
Simply Google ‘Plagiarism’ and ‘University’ to find tons of cases where students, lecturers, and even professors have committed plagiarism in their studies or careers at some point in their life. Some of the students were suspended, or given a lower grade, but rarely were the students expelled.
As for the lecturers and professors, it’s not strange to find their careers and reputation unscathed especially since their universities’ reputation is on the line as well.
The same can’t be said of plagiarism in journalism whereby a columnist, journalist or reporter may face a count of plagiarism or another and lose their jobs for it.
At least, there is still some form of integrity and a need to be original when it comes to publishing news and news features.
On one hand, where it seems that content makers are at the receiving end of this bad deal, at the same time, content makers sometimes commit the same digital crimes they want protection from.
It’s this ‘everybody is doing it’ take on the issue that causes these content-ripping instances to be prevalent.
What about you: Where do you stand on plagiarism and copyright infringement? Is it fine so long as no one gets hurt or have you been a victim of a rip-off before?