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On a Book Bender

Plagiarism: We’re Still Doing It

Originally, I wrote a post about plagiarism when it came to copying and pasting event and meme information. It was a good post. But I am not going to share that post with you. The reason I am not sharing that post with you is that my business website was plagiarized. And while this is not going to be a post that points fingers and reveals whodunit, I do feel that it gives me the perfect opportunity to talk about what plagiarism is, why it can be easy to do unintentionally, and how you can protect yourself.

Plagiarism is more than copying someone’s words. Plagiarism is more than taking someone’s words and changing a few of them. Plagiarism involves the theft of someone else’s ideas and/or words and passing them off as your own.

I see a lot of copying and pasting of event and meme information. (Especially now during the 2013 challenge season.) Kelly and I attempted to cut down on people copying information from the Bout of Books website and pasting it on their blogs without crediting our blog by drafting an official blurb. However, people would take our official blurb, copy it to their site, and not indicate that it was written by someone else. We eventually added “-from the Bout of Books team” to the end of our blurb to ensure we got the credit for our words. I have also seen my Top Off Tuesday blurb on someone else’s site without attributing the words to me.

It is very frustrating to see your words on someone else’s site and not receive credit for them.

As book bloggers, we put a lot of time and effort into creating our blogs, our memes, and our events. Seeing our time and effort being capitalized on by someone else is upsetting. We feel violated. As a business owner, seeing my carefully crafted pitch plagiarized took my outrage and violation even further because the person stood to profit financially from my work and pull potential clients away from me. My pitch was not copied word for word. Rather, words were switched around  and sentences were re-written using the same grammatical structures and the same general meaning, but with different words. This is still plagiarism.

To very quickly demonstrate what I’m talking about, I have taken a line from Kelly’s Beautiful Demons review (with her full permission of what I’m about to do) and rephrased it.

Kelly’s sentence: I’ve never been a huge fan of storylines that have the main character putting aside all her convictions to join the popular crowd but I think it worked in this case.

My sentence: Stories that have main characters who drop their morals to be a part of the popular crowd don’t usually work for me, but it worked for this book.

(You get the idea, right? Even by changing a few things, I’m still copying Kelly’s ideas.)

It is also possible to properly paraphrase someone and still plagiarize. How? If you paraphrase, it means you are using someone else’s ideas. Paraphrasing is, in effect, taking someone else’s words and ideas and putting them into your own words. If you do not properly credit these ideas, it is plagiarism. Passing off someone else’s ideas as your own is plagiarism, too.

However, in an atmosphere like the book blogging community, where there are so many people, it is possible to independently think of the same meme. Or event. That is different. It is important, then, to do research if you think of a meme/event/idea. Has someone already started something similar? If it’s similar, how is yours different? Is it different enough to stand on its own? (Example: There are a couple series catch up challenges out there.)

You might be surprised to learn that we can be very easily influenced. The human brain is an amazing thing. We may read a review, write our own, and without trying, copy phrases from the review. Or, we talk to our friends about a book and internalize something they said and reproduce it in our review. Spending time with other people can lead to picking up words or phrases they use. My boyfriend is responsible for my use of the word “awesome.” Kelly is responsible for “Oh my glob!” (I’m not implying using these words is plagiarism–it’s just how the brain functions, and in some cases mimicking words or phrases is how we establish social or emotional connections with people. Phrases like “TBR” are unique to the book community, and using this acronym is a way to establish your membership within the community and create solidarity with other members.)

So how can you protect yourself? The truth of the matter is that plagiarists will plagiarize your content regardless of copyright. (In the US, most copyright is implied already; that is, our blogs are protected under copyright whether we seek out additional copyright protection or not.) My business website was copyrighted and it was still plagiarized. There are sites out there to catch people who copy/paste your information, but this is not enough. It was by pure chance that I happened upon my plagiarized content. It’s entirely possible that had I not been on Twitter, seen the link, and felt like clicking through, I still wouldn’t know. Who knows how much plagiarism actually exists without us being aware of it?

I really recommend having something like StatCounter on your site. Built in stats like WP’s or Blogger’s only show how much activity you’re receiving, not necessarily who is doing what on your site. Although I avoided using StatCounter (or similar trackers) for a long time–I hate when my own activity is tracked–I now see the value in it. It allows me to see when my site in being used in a “weird” way and that gives me the ability to be more aware and vigilant about my content.

But, honestly? Plagiarists are gonna plagiarize. That’s what they do. If you copy and paste something, attribute it to the source ALWAYS, no matter what it is. If you want to use someone’s idea, ask permission first (I’ve done this with the Goodreads Stats section of CR and the Who Am I Stalking? feature). Make sure you know that copyright won’t stop people who intentionally plagiarize. Know how to respond to the situation in case you are plagiarized. For me, I took screenshots (of both the offending site and my own for reference), emailed the person, pointed out the plagiarism, and laid out what I would do if the plagiarized content wasn’t removed within the specified amount of time (i.e., report to the website host, go public). Deal with it quickly, quietly, and professionally first. Save the big guns (i.e., going public) for a last resort. Here’s the thing: going public needs to serve a greater purpose than mere revenge. Revenge is nice (and don’t think I am happy staying silent–I’m not) but sometimes we have to rise above our instinct that says, “You must be RUINED for what you have done to me”. Just because I can doesn’t mean I should.

In the end, we need to be vigilant and conscious of how we use other people’s words and ideas. Plagiarism is a sticky sort of issue, where there are a lot of gray areas or places where there is no clear-cut answer. The intent (or lack thereof) to plagiarize does not change the end result. Being plagiarized has made me hyperaware of how use words and ideas. It’s important to be aware of how our ideas develop and how they may appear to others. In this case, it’s always better to err on the side of caution and attribute.

For more information about plagiarism, consider visiting a site like Plagiarism.org.

ETA: For the record, I don’t think using event/meme information from the host is bad. I think using the event/meme information from the host and not crediting the host is bad.

About the author: Amanda, noun: 1. Creator of On a Book Bender and Bout of Books. 2. Editor at The Path of Least Revision. 3. Lover of language and books. 4. Drinker of wine, coffee, and vodka. 5. Idea wrangler and wielder of words.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Damn, that sucks about you’re stuff being plagiarized. This is why I really don’t like reading reviews of books that I know that I’m going to review. I don’t want their words and ideas infiltrating my subconscious. There has been a few times where I’ve said something in my reviews, and then a month or two later someone I know read mine, said the same thing in theirs. It annoys me, but I usually don’t say anything. Well, a couple of times I’ve said something about saying the same thing, but that’s it.

    • Kelly and I have the power of twin brains, so we can read a book and write similar reviews without ever looking at the other’s review. I mean, it happens. But…yeah. I have a strict “no reading anyone’s review” during and after reading a book.

  • Sarah (sa101)

    Amanda, I don’t know where to start, but this post is brilliant.
    It’s also challenging. I mean… copying things like meme text from the host? I never would have thought of it till you pointed it out but it’s true.

    I also love your point about parroting ideas/words we’ve heard without even realizing they’re not our own. It is so SO easy go do, and… Well, I think what you’re doing is making people AWARE. I’m Sure this is done frequently subconsciously but by talking about it, it’s harder to do.

    As for this: “Revenge is nice (and don’t think I am happy staying silent–I’m not) but sometimes we have to rise above our instinct that says, “You must be RUINED for what you have done to me”. Just because I can doesn’t mean I should.”

    Ugh. I feel you. It applies to a lot of things and it’s hard not to feel a little bitter, but you’re the bigger person for it, and it’s a good reflection on YOU.
    And I totally want to ask you about statcounter, now, but that’s for another convo!

    • When it was about meme/event information, I originally had this post called insidious plagiarism. Is copy/pasting that information really BAD? Eh. On the grand scale of plagiarism, probably not. But it still IS plagiarism.

      I mean, people are so concerned with always giving credit with pictures. Why aren’t we giving words the same courtesy?

  • So sorry to hear that you were plagiarised! That’s absolutely horrible that people are taking your words and passing it off as their own. It also makes me wonder whether I’ve ever been plagiarised because even if we can’t see, it doesn’t mean it isn’t there!

    My two cents on plagiarism is that yes it’s horrible especially when you’ve put effort into it but when you’re talking about meme/event I don’t see it as plagiarising. I’ve seen people copy and paste information about my events onto their own blogs and it honestly doesn’t seem that big of a deal because

    a) we don’t expect them to write their own post about a event ( if they do, thats an added bonus, it means they actually read the post instead of wanting the extra giveaway entries or something) and

    b) it’s my event their promoting and if they they need to steal my words to promote my event than so be it!

    I guess it’s another story if they make it off that it’s THEIR event or meme and they’re not just taking part in it but if they’re just promoting my event or meme, I honestly wouldn’t mind.

    Also with the idea of paraphrasing. I’ve seen reviews by different people on Goodreads of the same book and all their reviews seem paraphrased but I really don’t think they’ve all copied each other. You do get the rare case of someone who wants to write a review for a book yet can’t find the words to describe their feelings so they paraphrase your idea but sometimes, it just happens to be you guys have a similar vocabulary and a similar taste in books!

    Maybe I’m just being naive but I honestly believe that people who plagiarise MOST of the time, don’t have bad intentions at heart. Most people who plagiarise aren’t looking for profit, they’re just looking to express themselves in a way they can’t. And MOST of the time, they’re plagiarising for the benefit of other people.

    The Story Siren only plagiarised because she wanted to write helpful posts for the rest of the blogging community. It doesn’t make it right but people who plagiarise definitely do not deserve to be shunned and stoned by the rest of the community.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that if someone plagiarised me, I wouldn’t be too hard on them. If it really bothered me I might send them an email and quietly sort out the problem and then forgive and forget but that’s it really.

    Great discussion post, really thought provoking. I pretty much just rambled on (tehehe) but yeah! There are always going to be plagiarisers so it’s how we deal with them that really matters. :)

    <3

    Badass Bookie xx

    • I don’t agree with you on this. You’re saying that it’s okay to plagiarize if someone doesn’t make money off of it? About a year ago, one of my favorite authors found that her book — a book she had spent months writing — was being offered up at Smashwords for free. The person who had taken it had changed the names of the main characters and nothing else. This person was not making any money off of what she was doing but THOSE WORDS AND THAT IDEA WEREN’T HERS.

      How can you say that is okay?

      Stealing is stealing. Sometimes we may have the same basic ideas but execution is never going to be the same. To take something practically word for word and pass it off as your own is wrong. Period.

      My 9 year old niece knows it’s not okay to use someone else’s words. As adults, this shouldn’t be something that is even on the table.

      • I’m definitely not saying plagiarising is okay! :) It’s terrible to be plagiarised and *to* plagiarise* is definitely not something that is encouraged by anyone! :)

        What I’m trying to say is that we all know plagiarising is wrong. Like you said, even your 9 year old niece knows it’s not okay to use someone else’s words but does that stop people from plagiarising? No.

        Like Amanda said in the post “plagiarisers are gonna plagiarisers”. It’s how we deal with them that matters! :)

        xx

        • I think I misunderstood where you were coming from. I see what you’re saying but I also think that there’s a point where you can’t give someone the benefit of the doubt anymore. Regardless of why they’re doing it, as adults, we know it’s wrong. We’re taught that in school over and over and over again.

          I think that Amanda took the right tactic here by pointing out what we can do to be aware and reminding us that we need to realize that it can happen to anyone.

          • I kinda missed the point of the post and went on my own ramble about plagiarism!

            I think Amanda’s written a great post and by using her own experience to help prevent it happening to others and also teach others how to deal with plagiarisers professionally that’s seriously fantastic!

            I’m just sick of seeing plagiarisers being publicly stoned over the internet. What they did was wrong but no one deserves to be shamed all over the internet which is why I agree with Amanda’s method of quietly working the problem out! :)

            xx

    • First off, by copying my ideas, my plagiarist stood to gain paying clients from them. Since my business is the only way I’m making my money, I am VERY ANGRY about this. The person is stealing MY BUSINESS. And best of all, the plagiarist has plagiarized and been caught before. (And no, this is not the Story Siren and this entire post has NOTHING to do with her or what she did.)

      Secondly, intentions are not the issue here. Intentions don’t change the end result. The end result was that my business site was plagiarized. I felt–and still feel–violated. If people don’t intend to do it in the first place? Sure. They might be horrified by what they’ve done and remove the content quickly. Fine. But it does not and cannot change how the victim of plagiarism felt.

      but when you’re talking about meme/event I don’t see it as plagiarising

      I don’t expect my event goers to write their own stuff. I *do* expect them to quote and credit me when they use my words. THAT is the issue here. If it’s not yours, credit the source. If you copy and paste without citing the source, it is, by definition, plagiarism–whether you see it that way or not.

      • Amanda, I definitely not saying you shouldn’t be angry that someone stole your ideas and used them to make profit. It’s okay to feel victimised and violated because you were!

        I’m definitely not standing up for plagiarisers or anything but I thought maybe if I talked about intentions and mistakes, it would make you feel less violated? It always helps me move on from something if I understood why they did it. I guess it’s not in my place to speak for your plagiariser but I just wanted to put that out there! :)

        I guess I completely missed the point of your discussion post and twisted it around but nevertheless good post.

        Food for thought! :)

  • Definitely a sticky wicket! It’s such a violation when people plagiarize — even if they do it and don’t really think about it (probably like those who copied your ToT blurb). But, as a writer and reviewer, you’ve GOT to think about what you’re doing. Give credit where credit is due. If someone said something in a way that you think is perfect, cite them.

    I run into this problem all the time with my students. It’s just so easy to copy and paste these days — why not add a citation or give credit, too? That’s just as easy!

    And I agree about “Plagiarists are gonna plagiarize”. Definitely worth saying something to the plagiarist and not a horrible thing if you feel the need to fussing a bit publicly (though we have to be so careful with that kind of response) but definitely not worth ruining your own reputation by going off the deep end about it. Be the mature, adult person, when at all possible.

    • But, as a writer and reviewer, you’ve GOT to think about what you’re doing.

      THIS. Mary, this is exactly it. I don’t understand how we can be so concerned about properly crediting pictures–for example–and not take the same care with words.

  • Plagiarism (when intended) is such a hard thing to forgive because mostly it is so very personal. Whether you are writing something spectacular or even something less spectacular–they are your words, thoughts, and ideas that YOU want to share with the world. It is hard to accept when someone else shares those words, thoughts, and ideas as their own (also it is a tad bit lazy).

    Unintentional Plagiarism happens all the time and I am sure every single one of us has been guilty of it. There is no way to go back and read 500+ reviews of a book and make sure that you aren’t using similar phrasing, lines, or thoughts that someone else may have. Especially in an area where we sometimes use similar lingo and I am pretty sure none of us are the ones that made it up in the first place. So that plagiarism doesn’t bug me at all and I am pretty sure I am guilty of it (however unintentionally)

    Blog Names/Memes/Events—this is a sticky area. Unless someone has trademarked their blog name then it would be hard pressed to say they own it or the only one that can use it. It is bad form but still I guess nothing “illegal” about it. (I know you didn’t use this in your plagiarism examples–it just popped in my mind). Memes–this is where I think the most duplication occurs in the blogsphere and I have no idea where the line is drawn there. However, I think if someone is participating in a meme then they can copy the main information on the hosts page onto their page IF they are linking back with the graphic to the place they got the information. I guess I consider that giving credit and promotion of the meme. I don’t participate in many memes so I guess I have never even thought to ask the people who are doing it whether they mind me using the blurb about the meme so people know what I am doing. As far as events: I usually just copy the information about the event if I am writing a blog post to promote it. I always link back to the person and usually put “grabbed off their site” BUT if it isn’t my event I don’t want to put words into the planners mouths. I don’t want to promote their event with anything other than what they said their event would be and then how I would be participating. I think it would be bad form to say something about the event and then it not be entirely accurate.

    All that being said, I do think linking back to the site is necessary and good form. You are directing people back to the source and making sure the traffic goes where it should.

    • I know people are going to use event and meme information. I’m fine with that when they make it clear it’s copied/pasted and not theirs. Does that make sense? The issue isn’t copy/paste, it’s that people are using someone else’s words without crediting the source. I grab event information from people’s site, but I always put that information in blockquotes and say, “from so-and-so’s site.”

      There are two other series challenges out in the blogopshere right now (both called “series catch-up” incidentally). Do I think they were copied? No. I’m sure they came up with the idea on their own and “series catch-up” is a good name. It’s what Kelly and I were going to use before we came up with “All Series, All Summer.” It’s very, very difficult to come up with something new and original.

      I guess my point here is to just be careful about how we use words. Credit your source. If you’re starting a meme or challenge or blog, do your homework. Search to see what’s out there.

      • I totally agree! Doing your research is key before starting something :) It should always be the first step!

        Also about giving credit, I totally agree you should do it. I don’t think people intentionally (with events/memes) leave out that “grabbed from” area but I don’t think they think about it. I think sometimes that would require the event/meme organizer reaching out to them and gently reminding them to give credit (if the organizer felt infringed upon). I do agree credit and linkage back to the source should always be there. Whether it is implied by using the graphic and linking back through that is where I think people don’t always think that they need to do attributing after the words. I do the same with you on “grabbed from the planners site” but I know some people don’t even give it a second thought where the words are concerned.

        The challenges, I have seen many duplicated for 2013 but I am not sure that all the blogs cross each other (aka some are YA, some are Adult, some are Historical Fiction) so expect that happens all the time.

        I think this is a great discussion and at the very least will make people think.

        • I don’t think people intentionally do it, either. My point is really that we all need to be more careful about it. Everyone is super careful with crediting the source on pictures after the copyright drama. The same care should be given to words.

      • I was a bit terrified when I saw the mention of the series catch-up challenges out there since I did indeed start a series catch-up challenge and posted it in October. It was something I hadn’t seen around before and originally started it as something personal but decided to include other people in it if they wanted to participate as well.
        I actually did peek around before I started it because I wanted to make sure I wasn’t ripping off someone else’s idea. From the blogs that I followed and a google search trying a few variation of the name “series catch-up” etc, I didn’t see anything out there that someone had already done.
        I wasn’t sure if the series catch-up comment actually referred to me or not, but I was really afraid that I was being accused of ripping off the idea so I was relieved to see your comment. Sometimes it’s really hard to create an original meme and I know there’s another series challenge out there – probably more – but there a tons of blogs out there that I haven’t seen before and I’m sure people haven’t seen mine so of course I would say it’s coincidental.
        I also wanted to make sure that I wasn’t being accused of anything because I felt a bit like that comment was geared towards me.

        • No. I am absolutely NOT accusing you or anyone else of copying. I think it’s possible to legitimately come up with a challenge that’s similar in nature without copying someone. (I would never go public before notifying someone if I thought they were copying me.) It was just one thing I’ve noticed around the blogosphere, which is why I mentioned it. I mean, there has also been a few Friday memes geared toward meeting people. Like I said, it’s possible to independently think of the same idea. That’s not plagiarism and I would never accuse anyone of plagiarism for that.

          • Ok, phew! Thanks for clarifying. I was geniunely worried because I would never consciously copy someone else’s idea! I didn’t mean to accuse you of accusing me – I just got really worried because plagarism is a very serious offense and I would be mortified to be associated with it. Thanks for helping me clear that up :)

            • And I’m sorry for inducing the worry! It so wasn’t intended. I just mentioned the series challenges as an example of independently coming up with the same idea.

  • First, I just want to say how sorry I am that your business website was plagiarized, I know first hand how it feels to have work stolen and watch as someone else not only robs me of business, but actually stands to make a profit in doing so. Unacceptable.

    I think your comments on paraphrasing are so important as well. Somehow paraphrasing has become somewhat synonymous with originality and people no longer feel it necessary to give credit to where the idea came from, even if the words are their own. I remember in high school we were always taught that if we paraphrased from research material and put the thoughts in our own words, we STILL had to include a citation at the end of the paraphrased sentence and link it to a bibliography that appeared at the end of the paper. I’m not sure why that’s changed.

    As far as this goes:

    “The human brain is an amazing thing. We may read a review, write our own, and without trying, copy phrases from the review.”

    YES. This has happened to me numerous times. I’ll be thinking about the book, write a sentence in my review that makes me go “wow, I am BRILLIANT” only to realize a few minutes later that the words I just use to describe a character were actually the exact words the author used. Just kidding on that brilliant thing apparently ;-) Fail.

    What does it hurt to credit someone else? If you paraphrase or borrow from someone else – just give them credit. Easy:)

    • *hugs* I’m sorry that it’s happened to you, too. It’s awful and violating and rage-inducing.

      My professors at grad school talked a lot about plagiarism and what it is, so we had a very thorough introduction to it. I think the digital age has made it easier to do these things and not think about the consequences, especially in an atmosphere like the blogging community where it’s just a hobby and we’re excited about sharing things.

      If you listen to conversations, you’ll find that participants mimic (without thinking or trying) the sentence structure and phrases that other participants are using. That’s just… human nature. But I also think we need to be aware of this tendency. (For example, Kelly wrote “I’m so, SO glad I read it.” in her review today, and I almost went and commented, “I am so, SO glad you read this, too!” because I liked how the repeating phrase sounded.) It’s how we establish connections with each other.

      But yes. If it’s not yours, credit. It’s really that simple.

  • Wonderful post, and it happens especially with memes, and challenges. I am so sorry someone did that to your business site, and hope things work out. Thanks again for helping people understand what plagiarism is. This is one reason I do not read others reviews before I write my own.

    • Thanks, Kimba. I agree that not reading reviews before writing your own is a good policy. It’s something that I try to do as well.

  • This is an incredibly difficult topic for me. For years and years as a child musician I learned by copying – literally, I was supposed to listen to a tape of the piece I was supposed to learn and figure it out by ear exactly the way it had been done. I’ve been doing it for so long that I’ve internalized that process and had it expand to other modes of learning, to the point where I absolutely *know* that if I watch a TV show or movie I’m going to start sounding like the characters until I watch the next thing, or if I’m reading about a really snarky character in a book, suddenly I’m twice as snarky in real life. And because I know this about myself (and yet often do it without realizing it) I am absolutely TERRIFIED that I will accidentally plagiarize someone without knowing it. That’s essentially why I don’t read reviews before reading the book – I say it’s because I don’t want my opinion colored by somebody else’s, but that’s just a nice way of saying I don’t want to plagiarize.

    And then again, there’s a tiny part of me that remembers one of my teachers in high school saying (after reminding us a little snarkily that we were two days away from a huge project being due) “Of course, the ones who need to hear this aren’t listening. Those of you who *are* listening, are already growing ulcers over it, so I don’t know why I bother.” I’m paraphrasing of course, but the point was that if you’re worried about it, then you’re being more careful and you’re more likely to read a discussion post about plagiarizing and get yourself more worked up and worried about it.

    Good on you for pointing this out, it’s a topic that needs regular discussion.

    • For years and years as a child musician I learned by copying – literally, I was supposed to listen to a tape of the piece I was supposed to learn and figure it out by ear exactly the way it had been done.

      How else are you going to learn how to play if you don’t copy something? Isn’t that also how we learn to write? I don’t see this as bad in any way. (I mean, how do we learn how to blog? We watch people and try things they do. There’s a fine line between imitation and plagiarism.)

      I absolutely *know* that if I watch a TV show or movie I’m going to start sounding like the characters until I watch the next thing, or if I’m reading about a really snarky character in a book, suddenly I’m twice as snarky in real life.

      I do this, too. I’m always a bit snarkier after I’ve read a snarky character. It’s imitation, and it’s a natural part of being human. The tone I adopt in reviews often changes depending on the book I read–if I read a funny review, I’m more inclined to be humorous in my review; if I read a lyrical book, I’m more likely to be lyrical in my review. Unless you copy the words and pass them off as your own, it’s not plagiarism and I don’t think you have to worry about it. Does that make sense? Being aware of imitation is a good step. And, frankly, I think not reading reviews before reading the book is just a sound policy to have.

      I definitely agree that if you worry about plagiarizing, you’re not likely to do it. And I think you bring up a good point that it’s something we should be constantly talking about–not just when it happens to someone.

      • Oh I know that there’s a distinction between copying and passing it off as yours and unintentional imitation. I’m just one of these people that tends to over-think things and worry about everything, so I’m afraid that my brain is going to be a douchebag, provide me with exact words from something I read somewhere and pretend it came up with them itself. (And yes, I know I’m pretty much crazy. I’ve learned to live with it.)

        • I’m right there with you, Anne. I’m an over-thinker and worrier, too. We can unite and worry about things together.

          My brain is often a douchebag, but it rarely has to do with copying something. ;)

          • Yes, well… *isn’t quite sure what to say to that* All the things I can think of your brain doing aren’t exactly douchebaggery. Just a little dirty.

  • Crap on toast, Amanda. This news is no bueno. I am very sorry that your thoughts were stolen, and from your freakin business material, no less. Intentional plagiarism enrages me. I can’t begin to grasp the douchebaggery behind it. However, it’s the unintentional plagiarism that scares the crap out of me. I know I’ve done and might do it again if I’m not paying attention. I learned my lesson during my first 6 months of blogging that I should definitely not read a review before I write my own. For someone who struggles to get out thoughts, that combination can turn out ugly.

    I agree that we should constantly talk about this topic, too. Creating dialogue around this type of thing helps people gain knowledge.

    • Yes! Many people just don’t think about what they’re doing (or don’t realize what it might look like to other people) and posts like these should hopefully help shed light on the situation.

  • That sucks your business website got ripped off. :-( Something like that seems intentional. I’m wondering if it’s possible for memes to get plagiarized with out intent? I have an author blog that sometimes pretends to be a book blog and I might not even think to credit the wording of a meme to the original blog. But now I know, so thank you for opening my eyes with this post.

    • I don’t think meme or event information is meant to be plagiarized at all. I think we just do it because that’s what makes the most sense, and we don’t bother to think about how it appears to other people. I’ll be honest and say that it wasn’t until I started seeing event information that I wrote show up on other blogs without credit/attribution that I actually started paying attention to how we use that kind of information. I call it insidious plagiarism (and that’s what the original post was actually about)–insidious plagiarism doesn’t really seem harmful to anyone, but… it’s still a form of plagiarism and where does it stop?

  • I’m so sorry about your business website being plagiarized, it’s such a horrible thing to do! I hope everything goes well if you’re planning on taking action. Sometimes it’s kind of hard to tell whether the plagiarized things was something that was done on purpose or by accident. Like you said, sometimes our brains just take what people say and paraphrase it into our own words! Thanks for posting this discussion post, Amanda.

    • Thanks, Leanne. The plagiarism actually took place a couple months ago and I believe it’s all taken care of now. :)

  • I’m so freaking guilty of copying the event or meme host’s words explaining the events I participate in. Thanks for the easy fix of just attributing it to the site. I wrongfully assumed people would know they belonged to the host & weren’t my words. Keeping me on my toes ;D

  • I love this post. You bring up such important points, and particularly about paraphrasing. Everyone who has ever written a research paper knows that you can paraphrase, but you still have to credit your source. Just because you’re not using quotation marks and copying word for word doesn’t mean you can ignore the source, and it also doesn’t mean you can just throw the source on a reference list. Similarly, just linking back to a blog and copying their meme language doesn’t cut it. Quote, blog name, hyperlink. Let’s all try to ingrain that in our brains (myself included).

    I also think that your point about how easily manipulated the brain can be is one that deserves extra highlighting. It is because of this phenomenon that we often give plagiarizers a pass or feel timid in bringing suspected plagiarism to the attention of those stealing from us. Intentional or not, we should feel bold enough to say, “Hey, could you NOT do that? Thanks.” It doesn’t have to be nasty, but it needs to be said nonetheless. Easier said than done, however.

    I’m really sorry to hear about your site. I hope you didn’t lose any clients!

    • I think there’s a definite “this is my hobby” vibe with blogging (and with good reason), and I would guess we just don’t pay as much attention to those types of things because of it. But we should.

      You’re right–we should feel okay with saying something. I know I’ve passed over meme and event copy/paste and simply not said anything because I don’t want to make waves.

      Thanks, Logan. I don’t think the other site had been up for more than a week when I caught it, so there probably wasn’t much possibility of losing clients, but still. =/

  • I can’t believe your business blog was plagiarized! That’s crazy, but I’m glad it’s all straightened out now.

    I don’t really think about plagiarism too much, though I have searched certain phrases of some of my reviews once in a while to see if they pop up somewhere.

    I do totally agree with not breaking out the pitchforks and fire when you find someone has plagiarized your work … I mean, it’s so much better to deal with things privately rather than publicly criticize and humiliate someone.

    Great post, Amanda!

    • I don’t think that anyone really thinks about plagiarism unless it happens to them or there’s a situation that forces them to think about it. I know I certainly wasn’t really thinking about it (in relation to my business, anyway) until it happened to me.

      It’s actually really tough to stay silent and deal with it quietly because our first instinct is to just be like, “I AM SO ANGRY, HOW COULD YOU DO THIS TO ME?!” But I don’t think it solves anything. And as vindictive as this sounds, I still have the option of going public at some point down the road if I need to. It’s still a weapon. It’s kind of comforting because it gives me power (which the plagiarism itself took away). Even though I have no intentions of going public, it’s…there.

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