What is Plagiarism and How Do You Avoid it?

Definition of ‘Plagarism” from Etymology Online:

plagiarism (n.)

“the purloining or wrongful appropriation of another’s ideas, writing, artistic designs, etc., and giving them forth as one’s own,” 1620s, from -ism + plagiary (n.) “plagiarist, literary thief” (c. 1600), from Latin plagiarius “kidnapper, seducer, plunderer, one who kidnaps the child or slave of another,” used by Martial in the sense of “literary thief,” from plagiare “to kidnap,” plagium “kidnapping,” from plaga “snare, hunting net” (also “open expanse, territory”), which is perhaps from PIE *plag- (on notion of “something extended”), variant form of root *plak- (1) “to be flat.” De Vaan tentatively compares Greek plagia “sides, flanks,” Old High German flah “flat,” Old Saxon flaka “sole of the foot.” (Accessed 19/1/2021)

https://www.etymonline.com/word/plagiarism

green-frog-swimming-in-green-pond -with-butterfly-on-head
Image by Frank Winkler from Pixabay

Starting an article on plagiarism with a copied definition from another website may be an unusual way to start an article, but there is a reason for it. This quote is within quote marks or inverted commas, it is attributed and referenced correctly. The copying of another’s work or plagiarism seems to be growing more common. It seems that where there are websites, there are people willing to create tools to copy them. It can happen to blog posts, e-books and pictures too.

Examples of Plagiarism

I came across this topic while attending an online business group as a guest. I arrived, was deposited into a Zoom breakout room and was asked a question. A business had had a former client set up their own business in the same field which involved renovating properties. The original business had a gallery as a form of testimonials of the work that they had done. The former client had chosen to copy all the photos from the original website which seemed to indicate that they had done the work. It is illegal to copy another’s work, but also dishonest. Those photographs are a means of persuading potential customers to hire them as a renovator. What if their skills are not up to par? The original owner had tried to get them to take it down but had so far been ignored.

I have also known blog owners who have found their blog posts on someone else’s website and mailing list owners finding their content copied across onto other mailing lists. If you post content regularly, then it is worth checking regularly that no one else is taking it and passing it off as their own.

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer nor trained in any form of law. If you are thinking of taking action against someone who has stolen your intellectual property, then please consult a legal professional.

Why do We Need to Add Fresh Content Regularly?

Business websites add content to their websites for several reasons: to

Show testimonials and pictures from satisfied clients

Raise their business blog in the search engines, so they update content regularly

Communicate with their customers and indicate that they are a live business.

They may also update promotions and offers to their customers.

If there is duplicate content on the internet and Big G finds it, then it can do one of two things: it may determine which is the older content and penalise the newer website or it might penalise both.

Consequences of Plagiarism

Consequences of plagiarism can include a loss of reputation among peers, a legal challenge and even a lawsuit for damages. Copyright laws differ in the countries of the world, so the actions a plagiariser faces may depend on the country where the original creator lives.

Intellectual Property

In the UK intellectual property such as a story, book, drawings or photographs are automatically covered by copyright. You do not need to do anything further to protect them and you can take legal action against anyone who steals them. It is wise to put a copyright protection signature on your intellectual works, particularly photographs. You can add a watermark while editing if needed. It is possible to read an overview on intellectual property. Make sure that you use images that you have permission to use or are Creative Commons on your website.

Protecting Your Words and Images

If you become aware that someone is using your intellectual property, then you can send a ‘cease and desist’ letter as a first resort. You can ask legal advice before sending it. There are examples available on the internet. You will need to send it to the owner of the blog. Some people advise to send an invoice for the use of the property. Your aim is to get them to take it down. If that doesn’t work, then get legal advice. Quite often, a legal letter from a solicitor is enough to get the content removed. You could contact their hosting platform if you get no answer from the person, themselves.

Writers’ Code of Conduct

Writers also need to protect ourselves from allegations of plagiarism. Following a code of conduct will help to protect you.

Top Tips

Use a range of sources so that you can find evidence for your writing and back up the facts

Never just copy a chunk of writing or cut and paste

You CAN describe what other people have said and talk about the relevance to what you are writing about

Quoting what is said (using quote marks and an attribution to the author, usually with a date) is an acceptable way to use other people’s work

If you are not sure how to reference correctly, ask the person you are writing for as there is usually a guide

Keep notes on your sources. This enables you to prove that you used them. Helpful when putting a bibliography together too or to help add footnotes or appendices

Businesses, what is the best way to protect your intellectual property and have you ever had to warn someone off? Leave comments below.

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