Someone stole your content? Blogging Plagiarism

Sue Waters is someone I respect and follow, on her blog and on Twitter.

So I am mighty interested in her recent post on her advice if you find someone has been stealing content from your own blog – “How Do You Feel When Someone Copies and Pastes Your Post?

Here are a few choice extracts that mean something to me, in my everyday role and blogging activity, but I strongly recommend you read her original article on the link above;

“Firstly if a blogger doesn’t include a Creative Commons license it means every thing that is written on their blog or website is automatically copyright.  Direct copying  of large sections or their complete article is only allowed with permission from that blogger.”

I’ve been a victim of this at times; once or twice it has helped and been beneficial to me, on one occasion it got me into a whole heap of trouble!

“It’s not fine to copy an entire post written by another person, even if they use a Creative commons license, and even if you have attributed them as the original source, unless they have given you permission.”

Again, this has happened to posts of mine; sometimes attributed to me (thank you) and sometimes a plain rip-off word for word (even the same spelling mistakes were visible!!).

“It’s generally a new person that gets caught out copy/pasting content because they aren’t aware that it isn’t appropriate. Your best approach is to contact them privately, by email if possible,  to request them to remove your content and explain the reasons why.  Remember they are new and they didn’t realise.”

Not always, but quite often the “rip-off”, for want of a better phrase, isn’t intended as malicious or underhand, but I agree with Sue that a politely worded email of phone call asking either for the copied text to be properly attributed or removed will work.

Isn’t this just basic ‘Netiqutte’?

One way I have ‘copyrighted’ my content is to use the services of Tracer, from Tynt (see my “What’s being copied from your website” post from July 2009).

“Tracer tracks when users copy content from your web site and automatically adds a link back to the original page when your content is pasted. So, why do you need Tracer?”

Read more:

And this is who it looks when you paste the copied text into the text editor in WordPress;

The text is pasted with the accompanying ‘Source/Read more’ link, and part of the Tracer system allows you to set what kind of Creative Commons License you want applied to your work. The person copying the work from you can easily remove this text but, again, it’s considered bad form, but doesn’t detract from the fact that the license remains.

When you think about copyright of text you find on the website think about the copyright about the printed word (books, novels, textbook, etc) … it’s the same.

  • Hi David,

    I’m glad you (and Sue Waters – making sure I cite you both in my response!) brought this up, as I will often make use of other blog posts in my own blogging, but always careful to:

    1 clearly state where it is from
    2 use colour and indent to make it stand out
    3 put quotation marks around ti
    4 give plenty of links back to the blogger and their site
    5 use trackbacks (although they never seem to work) for typepad (perhaps I need to look at tracer!?

    Yes, there does seem to be a netiquette at work here, that content in the blogosphere should be circulated and passed around. Understandably, authors would not wish to see their work passed off, but most would appreciate the ‘quote’ and the wider circulation of their writing.

    I recently blogged about my own experience of ‘re-blogging’ – a feature on typepad that allows you to simply re-blog content from other typepad blogs in your own… I was rather disappointed that typepad didn’t do any of the indenting etc I mention above, as the final product looked to me (as an academic currently marking resit essays) as potential for plagiarism!

    Also, a friend of mine blogged about copyright in twitter/tweets:

    Edwards, L (2010) We are not amused? Jokes, twitter and copyright
    PanGloss Blog, 22 Jul 2010; last accessed 17 aug 2010

    Note the OTT referencing here?! Doesn’t look so attractive…

    Anyway, I now quote Lilian, although don’t have the fancy abilities to add colour or identations in this comment:

    “Copyright exists only in works which are “original literary works”. But case law has set a very low bar on such protection. A “literary” work has been held to include a long list of extremely unexciting written-down “things”, eg, exam papers, football coupon forms, and a large number of meaningless five letter words used as codes. Looking at rather short literary works, it is generally acknowledged, eg, that some particularly pithy headlines might well engage copyright, though slogans are more contested, and usually protected by trade mark. There is the famous Exxon case, Exxon Corp. v. Exxon Insurance Consultants International Ltd [1982] Ch. 119, in which the English court held one word was too short to be a literary work. But 140 characters is somewhat longer…”

    Either way, there may be implied licence for re-use (RT (retweeting) in particular) associated with the use of twitter, likewise by the user of another typepad blog allowing the re-blogging functionality to be switched on.

    Bit of a long comment – I should really blog about this myself!

  • Thanks for the excellent post. Everyone needs to be generous with their credits and links. This post is a good reminder of best practices.


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