Online Plagiarism

For writers and editors both, plagiarism is a scourge.

  1. Writers who create fresh, compelling online text might find their text copied and used on another site without their permission, acknowledgement, nor payment.
  2. Editors might find that writers have copied and pasted online source material but failed to note their sources.

In the first case, it’s theft or infringement. (For more about terminology, see A Quick Word on the Word “Theft.” ) In the second, it’s either theft, sloppiness, or ignorance; whatever the case, it is not the mark of a pro. Copying is not the highest form of flattery. Thousands of words about copyright, infringement, sharing, asking, the moral argument against infringement, the business argument against infringement, the shame argument, livelihoods, starving artists, wannabees, and disgraced academics and public figures outed for their plagiarism could follow but many other writers and courts have commented on this: suffice to say, do NOT steal words or stand by meekly while words are stolen.

What to Do

For writers checking to see if their carefully crafted text has been stolen—and for editors needing to check if a manuscript contains copied online text—the first method is to copy sections of text into a Google search and check to see if the same wording is found. Ray Litvak of Writing Web Words Inc. explains these and additional steps in How to Detect and Stop Online Plagiarism.

For visuals, it gets trickier to search for and identify plagiarism; Plagiarism Today points to an example in The Nick Simmons Plagiarism Scandal.

And for writers who take seriously their own original content and documenting any sources, look for a future blog about preemptively flagging sources and issues. Your editor and publisher will thank you; you will shine among the many writers. You will even thank yourself. 😉


© Laura Edlund 2010