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.
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.
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?
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 KathleenAherne.com.
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