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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Plagiarism Explained

The ad read:
"Seeking a writer to create 12 business start-up how-to articles. Articles target couples thinking of starting a business together, explaining everything from picking the right business to marketing and more. Articles should be approx. 3 pages in length."

I applied. The response came. It read:
"These projects pay $6 per page (approx. 420 words / page). As a guestimate, I may need 20 pages from you, but let me confirm this with the others first. In most cases, you'd need to Google to find source articles/posts to blend & rewrite to 60% original. Then you would add a few sentences you think will give the piece more quality thinking / a good flow."

I responded:
"While the payment is quite low and I wouldn't normally work for such rates, that's not the larger issue here. Revising someone else's work to "60% original" does not sit well. It's unethical at best and certainly rings of plagiarism. There's no mention of citing the sources, which is a big no-no, and according to the AP Stylebook, writers can use only a small portion of another's work, with attribution, without being guilty of stealing another writer's work."

The next response read:
"...nothing I do is plagiarized. If merely copying someone else's work was my goal, I wouldn't need to pay anyone else to get involved. I'm afraid you don't know the entire process, only the set up that I was asking you to handle. There's quite extensive work that I do to edit and improve what's you would have given to me. If you had re-worked it to the extent I asked, I then would have had something fairly unique with which to do my own deep embellishes and improvements. Nothing I consider a finished piece could ever be claimed by anyone else. I pay people to put enormous amounts of time into it, and I make in-depth quality changes and revisions myself."

It's still plagiarism.

And "enormous amounts of time"? For six bucks a page?

Right.

Does no one understand that if it's not yours to begin with, it's plagiarized?

18 comments:

Krista said...

My question is this: if the guy puts so much work into the articles after they are received by the writer, why doesn't he just do them himself? Either that, or pay a writer to write a 100% original article. Anything other than 100% is plagiarism.

Devon Ellington said...

He's trying to justify illegal acts. Sooner or later, it will bite him in the butt. And then he'll try to blame the writer he hired for crap pay.

NEXT!

Wendy said...

Isn't that a black hat technique? I think they call it scraping or something like that. It sounds like it is, anyway. Those guys will ride the fence and don't worry about getting caught.

Poetic Shutterbug said...

This is blatant plagiarism. I can't believe people get away with these acts. I've been a victim and it is extremely frustrating.

Paula said...

Here's a thought. Next time anyone runs into such a blatant plagiarism scheme, share the "job ad" with other writers, some of whom may choose to apply for the "position" only to express their outrage, too. And maybe report them to their ISP.

Maybe they'll catch on. If not, one day they will be found out and they won't know who to blame (surely they would never blame themselves).

On a similar note, a long-time professional freelancer I know recently discovered that a place she had applied to had plagiarized one of her blog posts on their site. She wasn't good enough to hire (due to her rates, no doubt), but was good enough for them to Google her byline and plagiarize her work. Yes, she's taking them to task, and the client she wrote the blog for has joined the fight.

Natalia Maldonado said...

This is so frustrating. Not only is it plagiarism like you described, but it also shows a complete disregard for the value of a writer's work, both for the one they're plagiarizing from and the one they're trying to pay $6 a page to write "original" content.

I think you handled it very well, very eloquently. I'm guessing your email is the closest he'll ever get to interacting with a real professional writer.

Eileen said...

After having one client blatantly rip off web copy from all his competitors and trying to pass it off as his own for me to rewrite, I now include the following clause in all my contracts:

"I am not responsible for the accuracy, authenticity, or intellectual property rights of client-supplied material."

In other words, if client gets busted, it ain't my fault. In the situation described above, I did call the client's ISP and let them know his work was plagiarized.

Katharine Swan said...

Interesting. I've heard the same exact excuse before from these guys. "But I make changes after you deliver the articles for me, so it's even less than such-and-such percent someone else's work." If you are just going to make changes that are that substantial anyway, why not save yourself the $6 per page and do it all yourself?

Oh yeah, that's right. Because you're not really making changes. Got it.

hugh.c.mcbride said...

If you had re-worked it to the extent I asked, I then would have had something fairly unique with which to do my own deep embellishes and improvements.

"The Deep Embellishments" would be a great name for a band. The group could perform songs that are 60 percent original -- Strawberry Fields for a Really Long Time, Stairway to a Place That's Better Than Purgatory, Blowin' in a Stiff Breeze ...

Chantal said...

Oh. My. God. This is one of the reasons I never even started responding to random ads like this.

Lori said...

Hugh, thanks for the laugh! That's great!

Krista, I suspect it's due to the "extensive" work she was asking me to do. Right. Her own "deep embellishes" aside, she's still stealing someone else's stuff. And what sucks is she isn't even worried about it.

Next is right, Devon. We don't play games - we provide ORIGINAL work.

Wendy, I hope so.

Poetic Shutterbug, can you tell your story? I'd love to hear your experience.

I hope she nails them, Paula. Really, really hard.

Natalia, I only hope she got a LOT of emails like that from other professional writers. I warned her - she can't say she didn't know.

Sad that we need those clauses, isn't it, Eileen? I swear, it's getting tougher to be a writer.

Katharine, you're so right. She's not making any changes. Lazy people who would steal from others wouldn't lift a finger beyond paying slave wages for someone else to shoulder the blame. Wow, what a winning business model, huh?

Chantal, it's one of the reasons I stopped. People like that are shameful.

Lori said...

Note the word "create" in the original ad. There's no creating here - well, other than creating a legal firestorm.

It should have read "Seeking writer to basically swipe copy from the Internet, mix it around, and pretend it's original."

That's truth in advertising.

Poetic Shutterbug said...

Hi Lori, I'll try and make it short. I was writing a blog months ago over at today.com which I no longer have. I had seen the copyscape logo on many blogs so I decided to go check out the website. I typed in my blog url and to my utter disbelief and disgust, found that three other blogs had scraped all of my content including my photos, text and links onto their blogs for a number of months. Had I not checked copyscape, I never would have known.

I panicked and immediately tried to contact them but there was no information on their blogs. I then went to today.com, since they actually owned the blog posts because they were paying me at the time and asked them for help. They did absolutely nothing. So, I googled did some research and found that the owners of the domain name were actually in Russia. I contacted godaddy which held the domain and reported them. I then found an online "cease and desist" order and emailed it to the blog owners. Of course I heard nothing. I was disillusioned and bordering on not even writing any longer.

I then decided to let everyone know so I posted about the plagiarism along with names, dates and detailed info on the plagiarizes on my blog. What happened next was ridiculous. I then checked the plagiarizers blogs the next day only to find that my posting, naming them was scraped onto their blogs as well. I then realized that this was some sort of automatic program they were using and there was nothing I could do. I left today.com and my two blogs because I could not bare the thought of seeing all of my work on other blogs.

Long story short, that was in April. I just the other day checked on the plagiarizers blogs and found they have all been deleted. Thank God.

I haven't yet found anyone copying from my active blog and hope I never do. It's very frustrating when you work so hard on your blogs only to be ripped off. It's even worse than someone coming into your home and burglarizing you because plagiarizers steal your spirit as well.

Paul said...

Disgraceful thieving is all this is. Lori, (and others) how about posting the job ad so we can all apply... with a message that their ad is being sent to the host with words along the lines of 'law suit', 'fraud' etc in the subject bar. The more guerrilla-inclined types might simply flood the poster with time-wasting guff that makes them think twice about posting such rubbish. Methinks simply leaving them to it is no longer enough.

Amie said...

I wonder if his "embellishes and improvements" include making up words like "embellishes."

Wendy said...

Remember, "you don't know the entire process." There seems to be a lot of work on their part to come up with original pieces.

1. Pay writers dirt cheap to rework articles (or maybe don't pay them at all). Don't tell the writer it's plagiarism-what they don't know, won't hurt them.

2.Take completed article and see if the search engines are indexing it; to make sure it's not duplicate content. Wouldn't want to be slapped by the Search engines.

3. If article clears, throw in affiliate links or ads. Then publish them on the site. If not, make your own changes.

So you see how much work they have to put in to get it done. LOL. The sad part is, these articles are less likely to get detected as plagiarism and also harder to prove that they plagiarized. This one knows what their doing with the 60% original pieces they want. If they do get caught and slapped by Google; what does it matter? They probably have numerous other sites waiting in the wings.

Lori said...

Poetic Shutterbug, that's just one gawd-awful experience. I'm sorry. I'm glad you left it behind. Thank you for sharing it.

What strikes me is the inability of anyone up the food chain to do anything. Do you think that was intentional or was it simply that there was no evidence of an actual person to go after?

What's hysterical is they printed their own names!! LOL Maybe that was the reason they were shut down. In the end, I'd love to think that their stealing your post outing them was an indirect "admission" that nailed them. They may not have realized it, but they may have passed along that information to someone who could do something about it. Wouldn't THAT be karmic?

Lori said...

Paul, my thoughts exactly. While you want to let them know en masse the jig is up, there's no way of doing it that won't land you in either legal hot water (spam laws) or waste your billable hours and possibly cause rebound spamming, so to speak. I spoke my mind like a professional and let her last note go unanswered. She didn't convince me (or herself) and she knows it.

Amie, I suppose instead of plagiarism, this woman would have us writing "reformulated material." Or worse - "pre-owned creativity."

Wendy, that's probably the entire business model! LOL What irks me, though, is as you said in your first point - don't tell the writers it's plagiarism. There are some in our ranks who don't get that. And that's how this kind of practice proliferates.

If you're a writer, you MUST know about plagiarism and all its ugly forms. If not, you have no business hanging out your shingle.

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