Plagiarism – Find It, Stop It, Try to Prevent It and How to Use Someone’s Work Without Infringing


There are at least two ways plagiarism takes place:  Plagiarism is stealing someone else’s intellectual property – text, images, logos, audio, video, and others.  Either someone steals your work, or you steal theirs.

Yes – you may have stolen theirs, and might not even realize it.  If anyone else has ever contributed to your website or blog or any other online presence, then you should always double check to be sure they have not stolen it from elsewhere.  Because even if its their fault, it will be YOU who has published the work, and therefore you will be the plagiarizer.

Plagiarism is illegal.  It is a violation of copyright, for both text and images.  You can understand more about how copyright works, and when you need to be mindful of possible violations hereHere is additional information from the US Copyright Office.

Further, when material is duplicated online, search engines (mostly Google) may choose to penalize all the sites where the duplicated material is found!

The advice here is for making sure no one else has infringed on your copyright, and being sure you haven’t infringed on theirs.

How to Find Out if Work Has Been Plagiarized

There are two “directions” to take in checking for plagiarism:

1.  You want to try to figure out if someone else has stolen your work.

2.  You want to be sure that anything on your own website, blog or other online presence that was added by someone else hasn’t been plagiarized.

There are number of websites where you can do this.  A good overview of the process can be found here at Plagiarism Today: How to Find Plagiarism  In order to check text, you’ll come up with short snippets that represent your writing (not titles – snippets) then a search will see if that snippet has been duplicated elsewhere.

How to Stop Plagiarism

The first thing to know is that you may not be able to stop it, but you can certainly try.  If you discover that material posted to your own website or blog has been plagiarized, then obviously, you just remove it.  If your webmaster or a guest poster was the culprit, then notify them, fire them, and/or don’t use them again.

As long as you remove the material from the web, you are under no obligation to notify the creator that you had mistakenly infringed on his or her copyright.  Even if they discover later that it used to reside on your site and contact you, you will be able to tell them you discovered it first. You’ll even have the emails you wrote to the person who gave it to you to show that you proactively removed it.  That’s all they can ask for.

But if you find that someone else has stolen your work, you will need to try yourself to get them to remove it.  That means you’ll need to contact them and ask for it to be removed.  You don’t have to ask nicely.  In fact, you should do so firmly, using a deadline, and stay after them until they remove your work from their web presence.

You have a couple of options:  ask them to remove your work, or offer to sell it to them. But be sure that if they pay you for the material, that it’s not going to impact you negatively with search engines or in terms of your expertise. (Read more.)

Here are some sample letters for requesting they remove your work from their website.

Here is some additional information on dealing with content theft (The Business Blogger’s Guide to Dealing with Content Theft.)

How to Try to Prevent Someone From Stealing Your Work

Please notice that the subtitle says “Try to”.  It is impossible to guarantee that you can protect your work once it’s published publicly – but it’s smart to try.

First, you should know that the very fact that you published it first is what gives you the copyright. It does not have to be formally registered anywhere and you do not have to pay to make that copyright legal.

However, if you find later that someone has violated your copyright, if it’s important to you and a moneymaker for you, you may want to go ahead and register it in case you end up in court. Here is more information from the US Copyright Office.

Be sure everything you do shows a copyright somewhere – at the end of each article or at the bottom of your webpage.  Here’s a good format to use:

©  [year]  Your name or your company name.
All rights reserved.

It’s easy to make the © sign:  just type (c) and most wordprocessors will convert it to the symbol.  If they don’t, you can hold down the ALT key, then using your number keypad, type 0169.   (ALT-0169)  Then there is always a character map.

If you publish an image you’ve designed or a photo you’ve taken, you can drop a watermark on it.  Instructions for doing so can be found here

Obviously, these approaches won’t make someone’s computer self-destruct if they steal your work, but they are steps in the right direction.

How to Use Someone Else’s Material on Your Own Website or Blog

Just because someone holds a copyright doesn’t mean we don’t want to feature their work.  There are some ways you can do it legally and fairly.

1.  Ask their permission.  Here’s more about how to go about doing so.

2.  Mention their name and link to their work. Example: “Jane Advocate discusses this point on her blog saying “don’t take my word for it, see how this works.”  Because you have quoted her directly, you need to cite her name and create a link. The quote you use should be no longer than a sentence of two – an excerpt from the totality of what she has written.

3.  If it’s an image, make a very tiny version of it (no more than 100x100px for a photo, or 20x20px for a graphic) – then link to the original with an explanation of what they will see.  Make sure the photographer or artist is cited, too.

Misspellings for Search:  plagerism, plagarism, plagearism

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