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.