How to Know if You Have Committed Plagiarism

By: | April 5, 2016 | Tags: , , , |

Protect your #writing from plagiarismWould you do anything for your readers?

After all, they showed trust in you by giving you their Email address.

My guest author’s article begins with a true story of a blogger who received [gasp] death threats from her followers who believed she had betrayed their trust.

They were outraged by the belief that she had plagiarized the information she was passing on to them.

We welcome Kathleen Aherne to explain how you can know if you have committed plagiarism as well as copyright infringement.

A Blogger’s Guide.  All You Need to Know About Copyright and Plagiarism

What did this fitness website owner do to receive death threats?

Ashy Bines, a popular fitness guru from the Gold Coast, allegedly stole ten recipes and one photo from other bloggers to add to her “Clean Eating Diet Plan”. She sold this plan under her own name.

This is plagiarism. According to a Sydney Morning Herald report (April 2015), Bines claimed that the plagiarism was an innocent mistake.

After the incident was made public, Bines received death threats and ugly hate messages, websites sprang up condemning her actions. This stressful, potentially business-destroying reaction did not come from the offended recipe bloggers but from her (not so nice) followers who felt their trust had been betrayed.

Copyright and Plagiarism as it Relates to the Blogger

As a blogger, would you steal someone else’s ideas, pictures or written words? I hear the chorus respond, “Of course not”. Yet it occurs more than you may think. It is called plagiarism or breach of copyright.

Defining Copyright and Plagiarism

Let’s define these words to get it straight. Copyright and Plagiarism. These are general definitions.

Different countries and states may have some legal variations.

Copyright – a person’s legal right to their works, physical or intellectual.

Plagiarism – Plagiarism is taking someone else’s work or ideas and misrepresenting them as your own.

Copyright is not limited to published works. As a creator of writings, artwork, photos, plans, intellectual processes, you automatically own the Copyright. You do not have to apply for Copyright. Generally, the Copyright is valid for the life of the owner + 50 years.

The owner of the original work may grant permission for others to use their material under a license agreement, or they may even transfer the Copyright to another person.

Transfer of Copyright can be required when doing a guest post for another person. You give them the Copyright to your work. Meaning that you can no longer use that material you created, you have given away or sold that right.

Primarily, for bloggers, the reason is that search engines do not like duplicate content, it devalues the material.

Plagiarism Examples

Photos and Graphics on the Internet

Photos and graphics are ever so easy to steal on the Internet. So easy it makes one think that it must be OK. It is not alright to steal these images. I have a link below where you can check the origin of photos.

I was in the process of buying a graphic from a photo agency when I saw the same image on another website, I recall being so tempted to take a free copy and save my dollars. Thankfully I resisted this temptation. But it is a big temptation, you know others do it and they are so easy to take.

Always check the permission or license before downloading photos or graphics, some free download sites have traps, intended or otherwise, so read the fine print. Google Images look as if they are free to take; they are not unless the owner expressly gives permission.

The Internet Business Opportunity

I recently read about this, it is Copyright Bounty Hunting.

Catching illegal music and video downloaders is old news. A grisly end for one bounty hunter was reported here “The agent of a firm trying to uncover violators of copyright law – a copyright bounty hunter – was shot three times in the head.” (Source The Phuket News)

The newer Bounty Hunter Internet Business has websites firmly in its sight.

My post here is getting way too long, so I have made you a PDF packed with more practical Copyright information, including information on the seemingly deliberate ‘trap’ that caught a blogger, who ended up paying $7,500 for her mistake. (The PDF is at the end of the post.)

How Safe are Our Blogs and Websites?

Most of us are smart enough to put a Copyright sign on website pages and watermarks or names on images. A Copyright sign or statement does not stop stealing, but it is a reminder for the honest people out there that they cannot help themselves to your material.

There are some grey areas regarding Copyright including ‘fair use’. ‘Fair use’ is allowing for commentary or news stories using short quotes that acknowledge the source.

Plagiarism also has some grey edges.

Hasn’t it Already Been Said Before?

There would be few subjects in the world that have not already been written about. One of my husband’s tutors explained that what has not been written, is this subject written from your perspective.

Inventions and ideas nearly always come from a spark ignited from someone else’s idea. The result will look nothing like the original spark. This is not plagiarism.

Alternatively, a person may steal an idea and change a few details but essentially end up with the same concept. They then use it as if it is their own or even make a claim that it is their own. This is plagiarism. This is stealing.

Nathalie Lussier, a respected Blogger/Entrepreneur has a post on how she was caught out as a plagiarizer; she explains what a shock and how embarrassing it was. She graciously gives tips on how to deal with a situation like this and importantly, how to avoid them.

What is the Big Deal, Who Does it Hurt?

We work very hard to develop content that adds value to whatever our subject may be. It does hurt us personally to find someone else using our content. It also hurts search engine optimization if someone else is publishing our material, or very close to the same words or ideas.

The outcome of being caught may depend on who catches you. If it is the Bounty Hunter, the first you will know is an email from a lawyer. On the other hand, you may get away with plagiarism.

But you will not get away with your integrity intact. Your readers will soon see through you; they will eventually see your lack of authenticity.

Writing Posts

When writing posts, a short quote from more knowledgeable people can give authority to what you are saying. The very important thing to do is to always acknowledge your source and/or leave a link.

The exception to this is adding a link when quoting from large newspapers. Unless you have permission, they will block the link. I attempted to get permission to link to the plagiarism story about Ashy Bines. They flatly refused the link.

I have seen bloggers copy whole recipes from one site to their own, they leave a link acknowledging the original site. This is not a good idea, even if the owner gives permission. It creates duplicate content that devalues both pages. Photos, copied with permission is not a Copyright or SEO issue.

But there is another question about using someone else’s photos. Are they original?

Another blogger is $750 poorer after doing a promotion for someone, she used their image to do the promotion. (Apparently, the other blogger was not the Copyright holder of the image.) A bounty hunter found it, and our blogger found that ignorance is no defense.

More and more those who accept guest posts, use their own images not the author’s, just because it is safer.

We want to keep the blogging lifestyle sweet. We don’t want to put ourselves under the type of stress the fitness site owner created by being slack with content sources. We certainly do not want to be paying fines that drain our bank accounts either.

Being aware of these issues, the quality of our writing and our confidence in writing will benefit both our readers and ourselves.

Summing up – there are two main issues here.

1. How Copyright and plagiarism can impact your website/business when the unscrupulous come stealing your material.

2. How you need to take care and be discerning when using material that does not originate with you. Avoid the bounty hunters, knowing that ignorance is not a defense.

Have you ever had an issue with plagiarism or Copyright?

Has this post encouraged you to be more careful where you source your information and graphics?

Author Bio

Kathleen blogs at The Blogger’s Lifestyle where she writes about blogging and issues that have an impact on that lifestyle. Her 100 % free PDF for you has over 6 pages packed with more vital copyright tips and sources for advice. Choose from 78 Copyright banners to display. Case studies and free tools to help avoid the traps that are costing bloggers $1000’s are also available.

Admin Blogger’s Commentary:

Kathleen wrote an important post about plagiarism and Copyrights. Let me know what you thought of the post in the comment section. Will you get a Copyright warning? I look forward to your views.

Readers, please share so other bloggers can know if they are guilty of plagiarism, so they can avoid the fate of the Gold Coast blogger described at the beginning of Kathleen’s article.

Then, show Kathleen some blog love and visit her blog

Readers, MostlyBlogging is looking for guest authors. Here are the criteria.

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    • Janice Wald

      I haven’t either John, but I know of people who have. Thanks for writing.

  1. Janice Wald

    I know of a guest author who had to pay a fine since her guest author used a picture for her post she didn’t have permission to use. She had to pay hundreds of dollars. She was told that often people have to pay thousands of dollars in fines. Kathleen discussed that situation in her article.

  2. samba siva


    will it be copyright, if I used an image in a blog and giving the blog credits.

    • Kathleen

      If I can add a little here. That would be a copyright violation, if you do not know who owns the copyright and what sort of copyright it is. Giving credit to the blog really does not help. My PDF has a lot of helps on this.

      If you were making a short quote from that blog and gave the blog credit as the source of the quote, that is OK. But you can’t do that with an image without knowing the origin of it.

      Your question is a good one as in the past a lot of us thought that was alright. Even some big blogs would use any image they wanted and wrote a disclaimer that if they offended the owner of the image they just had to ask and it would be removed. Copyright laws don’t work like that and Lawyers will demand damages for their client.

    • Janice Wald

      Hi Samba,
      I am glad Kathleen wrote to answer your question. She is the expert in this area. Thanks for writing to ask.

  3. Carolann

    I make sure to purchase all the images I don’t take myself. I also make sure to use reputable sites to get them from. It’s an important topic for us bloggers for sure!

    • Kathleen

      Carolann, thank you for adding your helpful comment on images, very good advice, and practice. You are right it is a very important topic for bloggers.

    • Janice Wald

      Hi Carolann,
      Thank you for writing. I agree with you and Kathleen. Plagiarism is an important topic. People, in their innocence, feel they are doing nothing illegal, but ignorance is no excuse under the law, and they are told to pay fines. Scary!

  4. Kellie

    Thank you, This answered so many of my questions. So i do have a question though. My blog is about reviewing other ideas. I always give credit to the blog I got the info from, being a recipe or a DIY, Can I post a partial recipe?

    • Kathleen

      A good question Kelly. Reviewing things is not a problem, you are giving your view and experience of e.g. on a product or a book etc. You can use a short quote giving the blog credit. I will go down to your next question.

    • Janice Wald

      Hi Kellie,
      Great to hear from you. I am SO excited about what you wrote me on Twitter. Congratulations! Keep going!
      I have to think if you give attribution, no one can say you stole an idea.

  5. Kellie

    Oh and what if I give credit the the blog, but changed the recipe to fit my needs. Can I then post the full recipe, the new and improved one?

    • Kathleen

      Kellie, you can make a short quote and give credit for the quote. Recipes are tricky, like who owns a recipe?
      I would never copy a recipe from another blogger. Make up your own recipe, write the instructions and method in your words. When we make our own recipe it is nearly always made from an inspiration that we got from another recipe.

      Look at it logically – If I stole an apple and gave great credit to the apple grower – The grower probably would then ask me to pay him damages for the stolen apple.

      Get your inspiration anywhere but publish what is your own. You can refer your readers to another recipe that you like but you can’t take it. If this has created more questions in your mind please get back with them.

      • Kellie

        Kathleen. Thanks for your article and advice. I didn’t realize you wrote this until today when I read the email about the Pinterest Game. Thanks so much. This is something that has concerned me, with the theme of my blog and all. It helped clear things up. You and Janice do such great work together. Thanks.

    • Janice Wald

      Hi Kellie,
      Kathleen is the expert here, but again I have to think that if you credited the original source, you are covered. Thanks for writing to ask. I went to the Pinterest Game A on your site tonight. Thanks for hosting.

      • Kellie

        Thanks for your advice and help. I agree with you and Kathleen. I didn’t realize Kathleen wrote the article on your site until today when she wrote me. You both are doing such great work. Thanks. And thanks for using my site today.

  6. Sandy KS

    I use photos from Pixabay for photos. Unless I take my own. I take a ton of photos to use in my blogs.

    • Kathleen

      Hi Sandy, taking your own photos is such a great idea. Pixabay is a good site and the quality of photos quite good also. These images come under Creative Commons CCO which is the freest of licences. As you will see in my PDF other Creative Commons Licences are not so free.

      Even on Pixabay you need to be careful if the photo has faces of people, the test is if the photo is enlarged could the person be identified. Another problem can come if you can see product advertising in the background or on tee shirts etc.This is more of a problem if you make revenue from the photo.

      The difference between Pixabay free images and buying an image from photo stock sites is that when you buy a photo, there will be no product advertising seen. If there are recognizable people in the photo the photographer would have supplied a Model Release, meaning that the person gave almost unconditional use of their image. If you check under Pixabay’s Terms you will see they do not guarantee the use of these photos.

      When you pay for a photo you are really paying for the licence to use it.

      If a photo is categorised as editorial as in a news story, then a model release is not usually needed.

      I trust that information has helped, keep up your photography.

    • Janice Wald

      Hi Sandy,
      When I first started blogging, I wrote a post recommending Pixabay as a great source for photos. Some of my guest authors use them, but they always give Pixabay credit.
      I take my own photos and use them for my blog posts. After reading “horror stories” like some of the ones described here in the comments, I don’t want to take any chances.
      Thanks for writing. Great to see you.

  7. Tracy Campbell

    Super post. That’s why I like to use my own art. Then I’m safe…I think. LOL 🙂

    • Kathleen

      Tracey, you are on a good thing by using your own art. It is such an advantage for a blogger who can use their own art forms in their posts.

      Make sure that you have some sort of copyright mark on them so that others know you own the copyright and they are not free to take. My PDF shows different ways to make Copyright signs. I took a look at your blog and love your art and I see your copyright on them 🙂

      • Janice Wald

        Hi Kathleen,
        I have never watermarked my photos. I always write my blog name on my graphics. It is hard to find time to learn something new. I feel typing my name on my graphics is better than not having my name on my graphics at all. I do realize a watermark would be the ideal.

    • Janice Wald

      Hi Tracey,
      Great idea to use your own art. After reading some of these “horror stories” described here in the comments, I will be especially sure to use my own photos. Thanks for writing. Nice to see you.

  8. dgkaye

    Great information here Kathleen and Janice. I posted awhile ago about an incident I ran into with copyright issue about an image I reblogged that went with the post I was reblogging

    I’ve also done a lot of research on the new infringement scam going around, particularly with Getty images. They have robots searching millions of images that have been downloaded, supposedly illegally, but many harmlessly done and under wrong assumptions.

    For example, we may find a photo that says it’s free to use with no attribution, and find out by these DMCA letters that the photo wasn’t free, it was stolen by the source we got it from. It’s a jungle out here as we don’t know who or what to trust.

    Once these people find you, they never leave you alone. I spent painstaking weeks going over every single blog I’d used photos in to make sure everything was safe, and took off anything questionable. Those robots go back in time, and did you know if you unknowingly use a photo that you realized wasn’t actually free, and got rid of it, they still come after you? Even if it was long removed. I know because I’m going through this again.

    If anyone wants to learn more about this you should google up DMCA letter from Getty images, They are extorting money from writers and bloggers, demanding money, hoping for quick cash settlements by instilling fear if you don’t pay. I am once again caught in this web for a photo that was long removed, and was listed as free to use. Then they send you a screen shot of the image used on your website. Only the image they show has a watermark, and the image I used had none.

    It’s a scary business, and there are hundreds of people on forums who have experienced this.

    • Janice Wald

      Hi Debby,
      Thank you for describing your situation to everyone. Actually, in the comment box I wrote in, I was referring to your story! So awful what you have had to go through. Thanks for coming and letting everyone know what horrors can occur if we are not careful enough. Great to see you, Debby.

  9. Kathleen

    I am shocked to hear that you are still going through all this terrible stress. I Googled what you suggested and it is indeed scary. I have some work to do checking some of my earlier images 🙁

    Even though Pixabay seems like a great site using CCO licences, like I pointed out to a reader above, if you read their terms they can’t guarantee all photos.

    I have read other ‘free sites’ and they have a Disclaimer, more or less saying they have done their best but they don’t take responsibility if it goes wrong.

    In my PDF I have shared a way, even on the big stock photo sites to only pay $1 or $2 for photos. Seeing the pain you are going through I think I will leave the free sites alone.

    Thank you for reinforcing the seriousness and urgency for bloggers to take notice.

    • Janice Wald

      Hi Marina,
      Great to see you. Thanks for checking in with us on Tuesday. I am glad you found the post valuable.

  10. Lori

    Good information! This happened to me several years ago with Getty images. I was sent an email with funny sayings and images of polar bears. I have no idea where the email came from – it was one of those forwarded and forwarded ones. I used one of the polar bear images on my mortgage website (this was before I was blogging). A year or so later my mortgage broker got a letter that they had to pay $7500 for the photo, even if it was taken down immediately. I had to take drastic measures to get it resolved. That was a big lesson learned for me. I like using the free images from certain sites, but after reading this I will look closer at the terms of use. Thanks, once again, Janice, for such an informative post!

    • Kathleen

      Thank you for reading the post, Lori. What an awful experience that must have been, and I can only imagine the stress. Since I wrote this post I have been learning more and more about this messy business. I know what a wonderful sense of humor you have and I am sure that helped you deal with the stress.

      Thanks for sharing your experience which adds value to this conversation.

    • Janice Wald

      Oh Lori,
      I am so sorry to hear what you have had to go through. $7,500 is such an exorbitant fine. It sounds like a scam. People get tricked into using photos with no ill will at all, and then get slapped with astronomical fines. It’s just wrong. I will be doubly sure to use my own photos after this.

  11. Melinda Mitchell

    Uh oh, I’m sweating, BBFFJ. I haven’t always used my own images!!
    AND, I don’t have mine watermarked!
    Looks like I have lots of homework to catch up on!

    • Kathleen

      Hi Melinda, I had to delete a few images today that were questionable. I am putting some more of them through the test site to see what their origin is. My PDF has lots of helps in it. It also describes how to make a copyright sign to put on photos.

      Don’t stress too much just take it a little at a time and check your image origins.

    • Janice Wald

      Hi BBFFM,
      How is being a new grandma going? I don’t have my photos watermarked either, but I do use all my own photos. Thanks for writing. It must be a busy time for you.

  12. Debbie

    In my younger” blogging days, I frequently used images “borrowed” from Google. I didn’t know better (yes, I know that is not a real excuse), but as soon as I learned, not only the consequences, but just that it was not allowed, I went back and scrubbed up my old photos and these days I use only my own or from a free no license required source like Pixabay. Excellent information though. Wish I’d had it seven years ago when I started blogging. As for plagiarism, I always knew that was wrong, so never went there.

    Thanks Kathleen!

  13. Nicole

    What a wonderful post!! After reading the post and comments I am amazed at how many people have had issues with this. I think many bloggers don’t understand what it really means to copyright other people’s images, especially newbie bloggers. When they purchase them from a site they think that they are 100% OK to use them, even I was unaware of how particular even purchased images rules can be. I can definitely say I will not be using any free images at all anymore thats for sure!! Sharing with my followers, I’m sure they can all learn something from this post. Thanks so much for sharing on Inspire Me Monday. I hope you have a wonderful week.

  14. Waheed Hussain

    Dear I want to get dofollow backlinks for my site, is there any way to get those?

    • Janice Wald

      Hi Waheed,
      Thank you for writing. I did not write the article. I have contacted the author and asked her to respond to you.

    • Kathleen - Bloggers Lifestyle

      Hello Waheed,
      I have just written a post on dofollow and nofollow links. Your question would take a long answer and it is a little off topic for this copyright thread.

      Can I suggest you take a look at my post, although it is not basically on how to get nofollow links. You could read that and leave me a question. I am going to go and read your post on images.

  15. Michele

    This whole process scares the dickens out of a blogger – at least for me. Makes me just want to stop blogging all together. I mean especially if it is just a hobby. Appreciate all the work you both did on this for readers to know.

    • Janice Wald

      Hi Michele,
      Thank you for commenting on my guest author’s post. As scary as being sued sounds, I love blogging to much to quit. Instead, I try to take precautions. For example, I almost always use my own photos. When I don’t, I use Pixabay since there are no restrictions to worry about.
      Also, I have a disclaimer on my blog that my stuff is mine. Did you read the comments? The expert who commented said it wasn’t even necessary, but I think it shows my intent. It was my pleasure to publish the post to try to help people.

  16. Prosanta Mondal

    Great Article About Plagiarism,
    Well i really appreciate your effort of explaining all the aspects of Plagiarism, thank you very for your Great Post.

    • Janice Wald

      Thanks for writing. Where did you find this rather old article? I’m glad you enjoyed.

    • Janice Wald

      Our pleasure, Prosanta. I’m excited you found me on Google. What search words did you type in that helped you find me, may I ask?

  17. Pingback: Protecting Your WordPress Site Without Using a Plugin - Security Ninja PRO
    • Janice Wald

      You could Google. Then put the content you think is yours into a plagiarism checker.
      I heard you can complain to the server that they are posting stolen content.

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