Bloggers Behaving Badly: Plagiarism Edition

Posted 30 December, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in blogging, musings

 

2014 seems to have been a banner year for celebrities and authors behaving badly. But there’s not a whole lot that we as bloggers and consumers can do about that except for perhaps abstaining from purchasing their books and availing ourselves of their particular brand of entertainment. We can also be vocal on social media and spread awareness, which is important, but the actions of others is always ultimately beyond our control. 

 
What we can control as bloggers is what we do. Lately I’ve been seeing a rash of complaints from various bloggers about being plagiarized by other bloggers. This, to me, is one of the seven deadly sins of blogging. (Don’t ask me about the other six, I haven’t invented them yet.)  
 
The book blogging community is a relatively small one. The book blogging community outside of YA bloggers is smaller yet. Most of us do this out of a love of literature and reading, the monetary rewards that we reap from our blogs are minimal at best. So it boggles the mind why one blogger would steal content from another. I’m not talking about reblogging or using content with permission. I’m not talking about using ideas from other bloggers, such as interesting takes on year end lists or discussion posts. I’m talking about subversively taking content from a blog and hoping to pass it off as your own work. 
 
Whether it’s a sentence or an entire review, plagiarism is plagiarism and quite frankly it saddens me to see such things happening in our community. If you don’t enjoy writing your blog enough to generate your own content, then perhaps you should turn your energies to another enterprise that is better suited to your interests and talents. Perhaps you shouldn’t be blogging. 
 
Another ill-effect of plagiarism on the whole of the book blogging community is to undermine our power and give further reason for the ‘establishment’ (see: publishers) not to take us seriously as a voice. I know it’s a variation on an old theme of mine – but if we want to be taken seriously it is imperative that we act like we want to be taken seriously as a community. (I know, this is coming from the girl that publishes weird erotica reviews on her blog, but still…) 
 
So what do I do if I’ve been plagiarized?** 
I’ve never (to the best of my knowledge) been plagiarized and I’m no expert in copyright law. But Allison at The Book Wheel has had the unfortunate experience of having 30 – 40 posts stolen from her and she has provided me with a few practical things that you can do in the event that this happens to you.

  • Email the blogger in question. Sternly worded emails can be very effective. By sternly worded I mean stern not insane. Calling names probably won’t get you anywhere, you should be firm but polite. The plagiarism probably isn’t a mistake, but sometimes when called out personally, people will take down or change the language in their posts. Ciska at Ciska’s Book Chest reminds us that when sending the email, no matter what the response is, to remember that you are in the right.
  • Contact Google. Google is not cool with plagiarism. Contact them and they will remove the site from their search engine. No one wants their SEO affected that way.
  • Contact the authors/publishers of any book involved. Name names here. This can be an especially harmful action against people who rely heavily on ARCs/galleys. Inform the publisher that the blogger is not publishing their own review.
  • Contact the plagiarizing blogger’s host, if relevant. Wordpress definitely has a clause within its user agreement that prohibits plagiarism of any kind. Other hosts are likely to have similar clauses. This could result in having the entire account suspended.
  • Contact a digital content lawyer. Obviously this is going to depend on how badly you were ripped off on whether you want to go this route (along with your own finances and how much it really matters to you) but there are experts in the field that will tell you whether you have a case and if you want to pursue it. I’m withholding my own ‘legal thoughts’ on this subject because I am far from an expert. 
So, what about you, Reader? Have you ever had content stolen? What have you done about it? Any further advice here? (Also, Happy New Year if you’re over the International Date Line!) 
 
 
 
 
 
**I am not providing legal advice here, nor should this be substituted as such.

April @ The Steadfast Reader

49 Comments/ :

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  • I cannot believe that bloggers so blatantly steal each other’s content, especially because most of us are completely willing to let you excerpt things. It’s a nightmare and I feel for anyone who has been victim to such horrible behavior by one of their own.

    • It’s really disgusting. We’re supposed to be a community that builds one another up, not one that rips off content from other bloggers or professional sources to make ourselves look ‘smarter’ and more well read.

      I mean Jesus. All it takes is a hyperlink and a citation. It’s not that hard.

  • I hate that this is coming up again. Why are people so lazy? Do they have no command of the English language? Are they unable to construct coherent thoughts? Do stringing together two cohesive paragraphs boggle their tiny, tiny brains? I just do not get it.

    • Meeee either. Why have a blog at all? Get a Tumblr and reblog that shit if you don’t want to come up with your own thoughts.

  • This makes me sick to my stomach. This community is small and SMART. We will figure it out, you will be caught, and you will look like a lazy jerk (at best).

    I haven’t had content stolen…that I know of. Hmm, that’d be a good bloggiesta post: How to know if you’ve been ripped off! 😀

    • AGREED Jennifer. I don’t want people to live in fear – I mean, writing academic papers I’ve caught myself writing a sentence and then I go back to my source and realize that the excellent wording has become stuck in my brain (so I revise). I GET that happens sometimes and for the most part I’ll give the benefit of the doubt. But when it comes to light that it’s happening on a blog in MULTIPLE posts and sometimes includes entire paragraphs. I can’t even begin to express my outrage.

      And yes! Bloggiesta post!

  • I haven’t noticed any obvious plagiarism or copyright infringement of my written content, but I did find one of my pictures on another blog. I let it go, but only because the blogger provided attribution, a link to my site, and wasn’t getting paid to provide the content (and the rest of the content appeared to be original). It wasn’t a great photograph anyway! I’m surprised they wanted to use it. I like the idea of being open about sharing content, but attribution is key. Preferably, they’d also ask permission.

    I think lots of students are probably using my posts for term papers, though. I see a very noticeable jump in my stats for all of my Wuthering Heights posts (and other posts on classics) around the first week of December. Yeah, that would be finals. I assume it’s all without attribution. I just can’t imagine a teacher or professor accepting “A.M.B., The Misfortune of Knowing” in a footnote!

    • PS. All that being said, I also use images that I didn’t create (specifically cover art), but I have a good argument for fair use and would fight it.

      • I too use images that I didn’t create (and while I source most of them, I don’t source the book covers). Agreed that fair use is a great argument for that. It also cracks me up (in a weird way) that students may be using your posts as term papers… I’d love to see you cited. You’re better than Wikipedia. 😀

        • Thanks, April! I would shocked if anyone challenged my use of their cover art. It’s free advertising for them! I’m very careful with all other images, though. I try to create my own when I can (despite my limited artistic ability!).

  • Isi

    Great post, April!

    I can’t understand several things about bloggers plagiarizing other bloggers, being ourself adults as we are. But we all know that it happens, so I’m very glad you put these suggestions in order to do something if you discover you have been plagiarized.
    I know of some cases of plagiarism, but I have never been myself plagiarized as far as I know, and I think that it’s important to the bloggers to make it public so we can support them by disliking and stop following those badly behavioured blogs, and don’t visit them again.

    • Suzy

      I’m not a blogger but have been reading about the recent plagiarism. What I can’t understand is why the bloggers don’t call this person out and let authors and publishers see they are a phony. People tweet about it in code without mention of the person. That person had no regard for their fellow bloggers, so why be discreet about their identity? Dishonest and selfish people don’t deserve to be protected.

      • Welllll Suzy. I did make it public after much thought and talking to good blogger friends about it personally. The reason (anyone I think) is hesitant to expose plagiarizing bloggers (especially bloggers of stature with publicists, publishers, authors, and with HUGE followings) is the inevitable backlash. People want to kill the messenger – even where there is incontrovertible proof. I experienced a little of that publicly, but I think it was worth it.

        The blogger in question (whose identity you can find on my Twitter feed – I’d put it here, but I have no desire to further throw gas on the fire) was much beloved in the community, but once it came to light that her plagiarism was not a one time thing, but egregious – and she was attempting to start a business taking money from and working with authors, I felt I had the duty to make the information and proof public. I’m not the blogging police – nor do I want to be – but a business promoting authors, to me, is completely incompatible with someone who has plagiarized on the scale that this blogger did.

    • Agreed. Obviously. 😉

  • readersrespite

    Too important NOT to talk about!

  • When I was still running Closed the Cover I had reviews and other posts stolen and plagiarized. Ironically, for the first one, it was the author of the book that brought it to my attention b/c the person also shared my review on GoodReads and he recognized my words. I reported it to GoodReads, reported it to the publisher and NetGalley (since that is where the book came from) then e-mailed the person telling them how I found out, what I did, and what I would do if it continued. I never got a reply but the post was removed.

  • Anita LeBeau

    Reading this post brings on so many emotions for me. The small circle of bloggers is somewhat true, there are a ton of blogs, and book review sites. Why bother having a blog without being authentic about it? What’s the point? I appreciate your suggestions for actions to take. To my knowledge I’ve never been plagiarized, I mean who wants to copy me..ha ha! I’d feel so violated. Good post, even if it’s an ugly topic.

    • Thanks, Anita. I agree it’s something of a heartbreaking topic. …I also feel the same way about people wanting to steal content from me. Sometimes I revel in my mediocrity. 😀

  • I’ve never had this problem that I know of, but I do know someone who went through it recently. It turned out to be a big ugly mess but she handled it with class and followed much of the advice you listed here.

    Thanks for the information- I hope I never have to use it but I’m less trusting now than I was before.

  • Tanya M

    Ugh, I hate this happened to Allison. Why have a blog if you aren’t willng to write your own content? Isn’t that the purpose of blogging? I know she’s totally awesome but it does not take much to give a link where credit is due. Thanks for sharing these tips. Hope I never need them but you just never know till it happens.

    • Crazy, isn’t it? I would NOT want to piss off Allison by taking her content. She can be like a pitbull. (I mean that in the best sense. 😉 )

  • So strange. I deal with plagiarism all the time as a composition professor, but I have a hard time figuring out why a blogger would do it.

    • While I still think it’s nasty to do in the academic setting (even for students), it at least makes a little more sense… I guess. 🙂

      • Oh I still think it’s nasty, and I fail their behinds immediately for the whole class. But they are doing it because of a grade, what’s a blogger doing it for?

  • Very, very sad, especially when I know the people involved. I’m just glad I don’t do reviews anymore.

  • So I don’t know how people will take this, but in one of my classes in college, the professor told us that once we post anything online, it’s technically copyrighted to us. I don’t know if people who have been plagiarized have copyrights on their blogs, but sometimes just seeing the word scares people out of doing it.

    After someone stole a lot of ideas and style pieces from me, I put a My Free Copyright button on my blog. The blogger in question ended up stopping and then deleted the blog.

    • I’m honestly totally unsure of how online copyright actually works, I have a copyright button on my blog as well and for sure that can’t hurt. I’d urge everyone to do it.

      • I flip and flop about putting a copyright button on my blog mostly because i don’t fully understand copyright. But from what I understand, all the ones I’ve looked at adhere to American copyright law. I don’t know how that works for a Canadian blogging from Scotland.

        • I *think* the Creative Commons copyright that I use is international, but don’t quote me on that or consider me your attorney. 😉

  • Irene McKenna

    Good post! I honestly can’t believe this is happening. Book blogging is an amateur enterprise, a true labor of love. Aside from the egregious ethical issues here, if you don’t want to write your own material, what’s the freaking point?

    • It’s an absolutely ridiculous situation. I know it’s cyclical and happens every few years – but I still think that it’s important to talk about.

  • Great post!

  • I had content stolen and another blogger alerted me to that fact, as I wasn’t the only one plagiarized. The blog in question simply took posts and posted them on their own blog. I went through Google after receiving no response from the blogger and the blog was taken down. So frustrating!

  • Nishita

    I feel like I am so out of the loop. What is this recent plagiarism incident?

  • So today, after noticing that stuff of mine is being taken again, I’ve decided to bring this up on my blog. Don’t worry… I’ll redirect people to this post too. Thanks so much for all of the help. I’m so annoyed, but I’m so glad to see that there are so many people out there who feel the same way.

  • Thank you for writing this awesome post and the advice/tips you are sharing. I hope I will never them 🙂

  • Plagarism at the best of times is a total cop out, but to do so in blogging boggles my mind. I mean, don’t we all do this because it is something we love? As far as I know I’ve never been plagiarized, but i it does happen to me, you’ll hear about it loud and clear. Great (and important) post April.