When I learned how to use computers five years ago, it quite literally opened a whole new world for me. In a moment’s flash, I could be in contact not only with websites, but with people not only here in America, but the UK, France, China, the whole planet! When I finally got my own computer a little over a year ago, I was able to connect to a vast variety of writing websites, such as Associated Content, Helium, Gather, Ciao and so forth. I’ve always been more of a fiction writer, but found I had a good way with words that allowed me to write non-fiction articles as well and have been doing so ever since.
The unfortunate news however, is that when one is a writer, either fiction or non-fiction and one puts their written work for all the world to see on a website, there is the danger that one’s work will be “lifted” that is, copied, which of course is plagiarism. For some reason, people seem to think since written work (or photographic images as well) is on a website, one can use it for themselves and pass it as their own. What these “cheaters” don’t realize is not only is this downright plagiarism, but it’s an infringement to copyright laws.
Plagiarism is nothing new and has been around for quite a long time. In the past this was usually limited to the academic world where the prime culprits who would plagiarize would be students using someone else’s written work and passing it as their own for research or term papers. There are basically two types of plagiarism: the first, is someone using the text of any work and merely changing a few words here and there, yet still basically the same written piece as the original work. The second is outright copying of a written piece word for word without any changes at all. It’s usually the second type of plagiarism that is more prevalent especially on websites.
Now it’s one thing if one writes quotes from an original source, and/or paraphrases ideas from another source and using footnotes to indicate the original source of the quote or the idea, since one is at least acknowledging where that quote or idea came from. It’s another thing to lift quotes or ideas and not give the original source, then that is plagiarism.
I happen to belong to a number of review sites, such as Ciao, and comparedby.us and unfortunately there has been a rapid rise of plagiarizers making reviews of products, movies, electronics and so forth and passing the review as their own work. This has led to drastic changes now on these sites. When I first joined up with Ciao for instance, the rate of pay for an extended review, that is over 125 words was $1.00 per review. When you think of it, a 125-plus worded review really isn’t all that long. What resulted was very inferior reviews that gave readers no true sense of the item they were reviewing, and worse, all too many were making reviews, with 100 percent copied work from other sites. When Ciao caught on to this fact, they lowered the rate of pay to only .25¢ per review. Finally, perhaps to discourage cheaters and plagiarizers, Ciao completely abandoned rates of pay outright and would only pay a percentage for page views of reviews, the same concept as here at Associated Content for Performance Payment. Rather than discouraging plagiarizers it only backfired, and there seems to be more cheaters than ever.
Now how does one exactly tell if work has been plagiarized, and what can one do to find out if one’s own work has been lifted and copied somewhere else? There are a few methods one can test for this. The method I use most often is a fairly easy one. All one has to do is highlight at least one full sentence or two of any written piece from the first paragraph, copy it, then paste it into a search such as Google. Don’t trust the title, as the title will most likely be changed. This is how I find out if the reviews I’m reading at a place such as Ciao has been copied. If the piece has been copied from another source, one will get a results page from the search. This works as well for one’s own written work to find out if it’s been lifted as well. In this case if your own work has been used elsewhere, you’ll come up with not only your own legitimate and original written piece, but who has used it elsewhere. At Ciao, for instance, not only are honest members finding scores of copied, plagiarized work from external sources, but dishonest members are copying from other members!
The second method in finding out if any written piece has been copied, is what is know as plagiarism checkers. Just do a Google search and type in plagiarism checkers and you’ll literally be bombarded with a whole listing, from places to join up so one can routinely check for copied work to even getting software. Now most of these checkers are actually designed for the student to analyze their research/term paper to make sure their written piece is plagiarize-free, but these sites are helpful too for any writer who wants to make sure their own work hasn’t been used elsewhere. In this case however, instead of copying one or two sentences of the first paragraph, one uploads the entire written piece on the site and it will “analyze” to see if it’s been copied elsewhere. I give a listing of some of the better known sites for these plagiarism checkers.
Plagiarism is a nasty business to put it mildly, especially if you do indeed find out your written work that you may have spent hours on has been stolen from you, and yes it is stealing; one feels violated. Plagiarism is not only outright stealing but an infringement of copyrights. Whenever a person creates anything creative whether art, photographic images, screenplays, music and all other written work, by law it is protected by copyright law for the original creator. Also, there may be a double copyright on the original piece, meaning that not only is it under copyright of the originator, but if it is published, even on a website such as Associated Content, and presented as exclusive, then it is also copyrighted by that website as well. Yet, unfortunately, the plagiarizers will continue to exist and copy material wherever written work is presented on the internet, not only on article and review sites, such as Associated Content or Ciao, but on-line newspapers and magazines, and even blogs.
What happens to a person who is caught plagiarizing? If the plagiarizer is caught copying work and passing it as his own on any king of writing site, the person’s account and membership to that site is terminated. Unfortunately, this is sort of a mere slap on the wrist approach, since often the cheaters will come back, as they have done at Ciao, and sign up as a “new” user. Copyright infringement on published material, however, such as books is more punishable, and the originator of the work can sue the plagiarizer.
Plagiarism is never going to go away, people will still continue to copy other’s work and pass it off as their own, but at least one has the tools and methods to find out if one’s hard work has been used elsewhere by the methods I’ve described. If you do happen to find copied work on a writing or review site, report it to the website itself, such as Ciao! Don’t let the person think he or she can get away with being a downright cheater! Since I myself have so much written work out there in cyber-land, I’m constantly checking my own work to see if it has been used illegally by someone else…you should do the same.
Paid Plagiarism Checkers (not free)
Check For Plagiarism