Plagiarism. How should we react?

These Book Blogging 101 posts should be used as a guide. Every situation is different. 

In the wake of the Plagiarism scandals that are rocking our world (Don’t think so, Google blogging and plagiarism — and check it. Most of the links are from book bloggers). I was even one of the blogs plagiarized. In all the cases each person handled things differently. I was very surprised with the reactions from the GenPop on each case.

Some handled it internally and no one heard word about it, except the two parties involved, like in my case. All that was necessary was a very heated email exchange back and forth. Some cases were handled very publicly and some were handled publicly but with information withheld to protect parties involved. Each case had different reactions and outcomes. The general reactions that I heard from people hearing about the scandals:


    1. They are angry with the plagiarist because they stole
    2. They are angry with the plagiarist because they didn’t apologize correctly, or they reacted “wrong”
    3. There need to be harsher consequences for people that steal
    4. They didn’t understand exactly what the plagiarist “stole” and didn’t think it was wrong
    5. The victims of the plagiarism are chasing drama with their posts, they should have handled it internally
    6. Some of the plagiarist are minors and feel they are being bullied

This makes me wonder. I understand the anger towards the plagiarist. They stole. They are wrong. Wrong-doers make people angry. It is why we invented words like, Justice, Vengeance and…lynch mobs. But, I focused on the reactions of other bloggers. In all cases the content was taken down eventually. There might have been some lip back and forth, but in the end the desire event was achieved. The content removed.  So, I thought, what is a proper reaction a plagiarist should make when accused and found guilty by evidence? Here are my thoughts.

bendStep 1. Own it.
You have been busted, your bits and parts are flapping in the wind and there is egg all over your face. Why are you denying you did anything wrong? Everyone is innocent in jail right? Well, you are not in jail, you have serious reputation recovery to handle.  You shouldn’t own it after you sent two “deny deny” emails. You should own it at the beginning. The best thing to do would be to come clean with the person you plagiarized, remove the content IMMEDIATELY and then hold your breath.

apologizeStep 2. Most apologies accepted.
Now, word has probably spread. The person you plagiarized most likely discussed it with their buddies, those buddies might have discussed with one loudmouth. A few bloggers are probably in the know about the situation. It’s time to apologize. First and foremost you should apologize to the person or people that you stole from. If those people go public, you should issue a public apology on your blog. Direct, don’t give excuses, don’t state that “you didn’t know” all of this will look terrible. Just own it and apologize for it. What I did was wrong. I apologize. It will not happen again. Prioritize the people that you hurt and apologize to them. Better get that right too…nothing like apologizing to the wrong people and feeling that backlash.

time-outStep 3. Reevaluate.
Maybe it is not the time to just handle business as usual. Use the time for reflection and revamping. Maybe take a few days off. Rethink your branding etc. I’m not saying  “hide”, but it might be a good time to spring clean. You have to reflect on what made you plagiarize in the first place. Are you low on time? Are you low on ideas? Are you desperate to succeed? Take a break and find out what prompted this, you might come out better in the end. You don’t have to quit. Use this as a learning experience, you might find yourself respected again, sooner then you think.

nosecond

Step 4. Don’t do it again.
Don’t even be tempted. If even a hint of it lingers around you the masses will be frothing at the mouth to take you down. So, if you are ever tempted, it might be the time to say good-bye.

Parajunkee, Urban Fantasy, Blogger Tips

Now on the opposite spectrum. What to do if you have been plagiarized? The first knee jerk reaction is to TELL THE WORLD. Bring them down. But, this can have some adverse effects. The victim gets victimized again if the post seems to “bully” the accused. It is your word against them. You write a tell-all post and suddenly the accused turns out to be a twelve year old, and your a thirty-something…how does that look? You look like a dick, no matter how many time the person copy and pasted your work.

emailStep 1. Make contact on the down-low.
Your first step is not to jump on twitter and start DMing all your buddies. You can’t control them…the first thing they will do is go to the site. Some will comment. You need to make contact with all your ducks in a row. Cite your sources, your evidence and send it all over. You’ve been busted. Take your stuff down. They have 24 hours to remove the offending content, they are infringing on your copyright. If they do not remove the content you will contact their hosting company.

Making contact usually results in a apology or the content removed quickly. That is your goal. Nothing more. You want your content removed. The end. Once they do this, the matter should be closed and you can go about life.

Unless of course this isn’t your goal. Did you have other motives? Did you want to see them tried by the public? Humiliated? Ruined? Then if that is your goal, you can of course take it further and move on to the next steps. But, if they have removed the content…isn’t that enough? Do what feels right.

DMCAStep 2. Contact their Host
If they have not removed the content, it is now time to contact their host. If they are self-hosted, you would contact their hosting company, like Blue Host or GoDaddy. This might take longer, but it does work. Do your research. Look into their host’s TOS and in the email that you report the site, quote their own terms. Then give them examples of this person’s copyright infringement. The hosting site will take action if it thinks you have a good case. They will terminate hosting for the site. Of course, the site can always try and get hosting from another company, but this is a huge pain.

If they are not self-hosted, if they use platforms like Blogger you can usually shut-down their whole blog very easily by reporting them to Google, who is very strict with their TOS. Every CMS platform has strict rules against copyright and DMCA laws. This is a good way to stop any malicious plagiarism.

supportStep 3. Advertising Blitz
They have advertisers? Contact the advertisers.
Notify their advertisers that they are supporting a plagiarist who refuses to remove the offending content. Advertisers will usually give a pass if they accused pulls the content down…but if they don’t remove the content and you can cite examples the story is very different.

 

courtStep 4. Public Outcry
It has been a week. You’ve contacted their host. You’ve contacted them. No word. No apology. The stolen content is still live. It’s time to go social. This is when you write your PSA announcement. You highlight your proof, you state your case. You let the public decide. You provide links to their site. Who cares about giving them page views? Let them revel in that sort of exposure. It will be over very quickly.

 

retainerStep 5. Hire a Lawyer
This is the most extreme, but if nothing has worked above and you still wish your content taken down, you would have to go to a lawyer and start legal proceedings.

 

 

 

What do you think? Are these good reactions? How would you, or how have you reacted to these situations?

Parajunkee, Urban Fantasy, Blogger Tips

Reader Question of the Week:

“I’m scared that I might plagiarize by accident. I know this is a STUPID question. But it does happen right? Unconsicous copyright? I saw one of the plagiarist posts and it looked like it was a lot of just very similar phrases. And I read other people’s reviews. Sometimes I see common phrases and then maybe use it. I’m scared this is plagiarism and what if someone sees that and call me a plagiarizer? I  don’t want to read reviews of books now that I have for review in case I do it. How do I know?”

I do believe that there is no such thing as unintentionally plagiarism. To plagiarize you have to copy phrases and thought processes. It has to be an obvious similarity. A few similar phrases shouldn’t land you in any trouble. Hopefully. No one can copyright terms like “the characters are awesome” only the thought like, “In XXX book the characters are awesome because of their intelligence and wit.”

I worked up a Dos & Don’ts chart on what will get you in trouble for copyright. As long as you stay away from stuff like this, you should be fine.

copyright

Common Misconceptions about copyright that can get you in trouble.

  1. Don’t ever copy and paste anything. Obviously that is copyright infringement. Unless you are posting a quote from a piece with the source cited. Then you have to follow proper guidelines when quoting and citing.
  2. Do not ever post an image you are not sure is available for use.
  3. Do not ever post an excerpt without permission. Fair Use usually constitutes a few sentences, never a whole chapter.
  4. Screen shots. Did you know even screen shots can get you in trouble? Taking screen shots of whole posts and posting about them, or linking to them can get you in trouble under DMCA laws. Just like you can’t take screen shots of movies and post them, the same applies to blog posts. Under fair use again you have the right to post only a few sentences.
  5. Song lyrics are  considered Fair Use but…you can’t post song lyrics unless you are reviewing THE SONG or doing a parody. Including lyrics in your book, or review of a book as a thought is considered copyright infringement.
  6. Comments count. Holy bugs! Did you know that if a reader posts copyrighted material in your comments you can be held liable. Yup. You are the admin, you have to control the content on your site. There was a rash of this happening last year. Someone was posting whole paragraphs of other people’s reviews in comments. No one could figure out why they were doing this. My pessimistic brain thought…maybe they are trying to get the blogger in trouble. Why else?
  7. Owning a graphics program and doing it “for free” doesn’t make you less liable then designers that charge. If you are doing a design for a friend and “lift” images off the web and then just place text on top of it…still copyright infringement. I see this all the time. Those funny gifs of shots from movies (which is copyrighted material) with just stupid phrases put over it. This is not fair use. Just because you are doing it for fun or free, doesn’t make it right. I just made a lot of people unhappy on this.
  8. Ponied up cash for an image? Bought a deviant digital artwork? Paid a designer to make a pretty header? It is still not yours to do what you want with. You need EXPRESS permission from the artist/designer/photographer to use that image in any way other then what it was intended for. I actually had a client that bought a photograph. An actual physical photograph. Scanned it in and sent it to me to “design” into her header. I told her I wouldn’t do it and lost the client. But, who do you think would be responsible when that photographer saw my design? Me. Yes, she paid for the photograph, but the image was intended as artwork to hang on your wall, not redistribution. Even stock images that you purchase from stock web sites have restrictions of use. Prints up to a certain number, not for large format printing etc. That is why when you purchase themes and blog designs, they usually have a user and developer charge. Developer charges are much more, because they relinquish rights and allow you to do what you want to the framework.

Parajunkee, Urban Fantasy, Blogger Tips

Book Blogging News:

There have been numerous cries of plagiarism this week, and consequently a 1 year after post by victims of plagiarism, fashion blogger, Beautifully Invisible.  Beautifully Invisible was plagiarized by prominent young adult blogger, The Story Siren who still operates “as usual” to this day. It seems that is all that has been on topic this week and funny how it’s starting up about the same time as it did last year. Cabin fever leads to more plagiarism after long winters stuck inside? Or bloggers learning there is very little consequences as they see their “mentor” suffering hardly any ill effects?  {source}

 

Parajunkee, Urban Fantasy, Blogger Tips

Happy Thursday. Talk Less. Read More. Blog with Integrity.

[divider top=”1″]
Ask A QuestionHave a question? Fill out the form by clicking on the button to the left. This will go into a spreadsheet to be looked over at a later date and hopefully answered on this blog. This is completely anonymous, you do not have to leave your real name. Urls will not be included in your question unless it pertains to the question.