Do you know what counts as incremental plagiarism?
If you are a blogger or other type of writer, you should know what incremental plagiarism is in order to avoid committing it.
Incremental plagiarism is a crime.
This post will answer the question, “What is incremental plagiarism.”
By the time you’re done reading, you’ll know the serious repercussions of incremental plagiarism, the incremental plagiarism definition, and how you can avoid committing incremental plagiarism.
As a writing teacher, I teach forms of plagiarism. As writers, my students need to be familiar with incremental plagiarism and global plagiarism. After reading this post, you will be familiar with these writing taboos as well.
Are you ready to learn how to avoid incremental plagiarism?
What is Incremental Plagiarism?
This guide to incremental plagiarism is about ethical considerations.
To what degree is your writing original? If you can’t honestly answer, “100%,” you may be guilty of incremental plagiarism.
Incremental plagiarism is a concern of writers in all genres. For instance, in the last decade, courts have cracked down on incremental plagiarism in the area of song writing when musicians claimed their lyrics were plagiarized.
Also, there is a fine line between inspiration and theft.
For instance, a reader virtually copied my blogger tricks post, using the same tips in the same order as I did. When I called him on it and asked him to link to me, he refused and said he only used my ideas. I feel he was guilty of incremental plagiarism, and I treated him coldly going forward.
What would you have done if you caught someone plagiarizing your work? Since he changed some wording slightly, I didn’t feel I could report him.
Where would you report someone guilty of incremental plagiarism?
I heard somewhere you tell the internet provider he is using the internet to steal. I heard this second-hand so I’m not sure of the accuracy. As I wrote, I never reported anyone, but I sure was tempted.
Incremental Plagiarism Definition
Incremental plagiarism is plagiarism that occurs in increments. In other words, most of the writing is original, but there are spots that are lifted from another piece of content or other pieces of content without being properly quoted.
For instance, if you make a speech and include quotes without giving proper attribution, you are guilty of incremental plagiarism. “Attribution” means attributing the quote to the original source. This is needed to avoid charges of incremental plagiarism.
Ethics in Public Speaking
Updated Information February 2021:
Although this article is mainly devoted to giving information about incremental plagiarism in text, incremental plagiarism in speeches is just as serious. One of the examples discusses questionable ethics in Public Speaking that went all the way up to the world of politics.
People still discuss Milli Vanilli lip-syncing to other people’s singing. This fraudulent behavior might be in the music realm and not related to songwriting, but this unethical behavior ruined their brand perception.
Their careers were ruined. You don’t want your career ruined as well due to unethical behavior in the public eye.
People say, “There is no such thing as bad publicity.” I beg to differ as the Milli Vanilli example shows.
Content Credibility and Incremental Plagiarism: How to Avoid the Serious Consequences
In this day and age, everybody has their own website, blog, or vlog but there’s a high chance that the content you see on those sites is not the website owner’s original content.
How can this be a guaranteed fact? Because nobody thinks for themselves anymore. To be fair, there actually are sites out there with purely original content, but for the most part, a lot of the content on various sites have been plagiarized.
The term “plagiarized” is used very loosely here. That’s not saying that website owners are going around stealing word for word content from other sites, per se. But there are lots of websites looking to other websites for information and “rearranging” the words to make it their own. It’s also pretty common to see ideas plagiarized as well.
Maybe this “almost/kind of” plagiarizing could be called “light plagiarizing?”
Can you get sued for plagiarism?
The thing to understand about plagiarizing content is that although it’s not a true criminal act, it can be viewed as one if the content you use infringes on an author or writer’s copyright, intellectual property rights, or their trademark. When this happens, an author could sue a plagiarizer in a court of law for copyright violations.
But let’s be honest here… A lot of writers may have great ideas in their heads and may need just a little help getting their start in the intro or just need a little help in their conclusion… If they get inspiration from other sites on how to best utilize their words and word placement, would that still be considered as plagiarizing?
So what’s considered plagiarizing and what’s not?
It seems as though this particular word, “plagiarism,” is very complex in its boundaries and lines that can’t be crossed. Fortunately, as technology has advanced, so has software programs that help you avoid this type of word theft. But it’s also important to note that plagiarism isn’t always deliberate either. Plagiarism is a deliberate act of stealing some else’s content and crediting it as your own.
There is so much information out there that you could be writing on a particular topic and the verbiage you use could be flagged as a stolen piece.
The truth of the matter is that it’s just so easy to be accused of plagiarism, even if it wasn’t your intent. But in knowing how easy it is to be accused of this, you want to make sure you protect yourself with business insurance. This applies to you whether you’re a freelance writer or if you have a writing business. There are sites that will help you create a policy customized for you.
Ultimately, the goal is to not have to use your policy but it’s a safety net to have in case you need it. If you indeed enjoy writing but want to protect yourself from getting sued for potentially plagiarizing someone else’s work, there are a few things you can do to ensure your work is your own and you give credit where credit is due.
How to Maintain Content Credibility and Avoid Plagiarism
Credit and Source Any Type of Numerical/Statistical Data You Present
Unless you have a statistical computing machine down in your basement or if you’re just that knowledgeable on world news, there’s no way you’re going to know how many millions or billions of people use social media or how many car accidents happened in Nebraska in 2016.
To protect yourself with statistical data in your content, you want to make sure you always credit where you obtained that information. Not doing so will cause your readers to ask how you came up with that number. So, to save yourself the embarrassment, include the link to the site where you found the information… It’s just less stressful.
Note Where Your Ideas Come From
Sometimes you need help coming up with topics or content ideas from time to time, and that’s okay. But it’s important to note that if you’re looking up ideas that are very niche-specific, you can still use that topic but throughout your article or blog post, you’ll want to notate where a particular statement came from and reference the site where you obtained the information.
It’s pretty common to need help coming up with blog topics or ideas but one of the best ways to clear your head and generate content ideas is to simply write regularly. This is a common technique that will help you to become a better writer.
Give Credit to Source Images
One of the best ways to grab the attention of your readers is to include photos in your content. The only thing about it is that you have to make sure that you’re not violating any copyright laws. According to copyrightlaws.com, it’s always best to assume that any online content is protected by copyright.
With that frame of mind, you can then investigate the copyright status to ensure whether you can use that picture or not.
Famous Examples of Incremental Plagiarism
In 2018, Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke were ordered to pay five million dollars in damages when they were accused of plagiarizing the lyrics to the song “Happy” (Source).
In July of 2016 when former U.S. President Donald Trump was running for president, his wife gave a speech eerily familiar. It turned out former First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama had given a remarkably similar speech. The two speeches weren’t identical. When questioned, Mrs. Trump implied the woman who helped her write her speech committed incremental plagiarism.
In 2007, singer-songwriter Avril Lavigne found herself at the receiving end of a lawsuit. She was accused of incremental plagiarism when she wrote the song “Girlfriend.” She was accused of plagiarizing the lyrics to the song “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend.”
Other Forms of Plagiarism
Photographer Chris Hau was almost sued. As with the case of incremental plagiarism, Hau did not intend to plagiarize and was not aware he did.
As a professional photographer, Hau finds himself at the end of an extensive chain of command. If any of the people in the chain before him commits a violation, Hau gets blamed. You can find his account of the situation here.
What is Patchwork Plagiarism?
Patchwork Plagiarism occurs when a writer copies from a group of writers. He or she then uses the writing but does not give source credit.
November 2020 Update 1
If you ever need resources on the topic of Incremental Plagiarism, consider using Twitter.
Using the search bar, type #WomenWriters. On Wednesdays, writers find each other with the hashtag #WomenWriterWednesday or #WWW.
Bloggers find each other on Wednesday also. Use the hashtag #WWWBlogs.
If you feel you need support, go to Twitter and find people you can use as resources using these instructions.
November Update 2
I am currently composing a post on title builders. In the article, I advise writers to Google their headline. This is so they can outshine their online competition for readership.
However, you still need an original headline. You can have more tips than your competition, but don’t copy their headline. We are in a gray area. Incremental plagiarism, no matter how small, is taboo.
October Update 1
Interest in the topic of Incremental Plagiarism is high as evidenced by the number of people that linked to this post since publication. So far, seven websites have linked to this article.
October Update 2
Teachers at the school where I work are up in arms about incremental plagiarism committed by students.
As a matter of fact, there is a push to purchase Turn it In which checks for plagiarism. Although the service costs eight thousand dollars, according to sources, teachers want to make the purchase. According to one eighth grade teacher, “Students don’t even know what plagiarism is.”
If students don’t know what plagiarism is, they certainly don’t know what incremental plagiarism is.
Incremental Plagiarism: FAQ
What is Global Plagiarism?
Global plagiarism is when you take an entire work and pass it off as your own without citing source credit. This is in contrast to incremental plagiarism when you sporadically steal excerpts of someone’s text without proper source credit.
Final Thoughts: Credit and Source Speakers of Direct Quotes
If you’re quoting something word for word from a source or a person, ALWAYS credit the source of the quote and speaker. Also, ALWAYS use quotations… It’s just that plain and simple. Not giving credit to the speaker or citing the source when using word-for-word quotes can definitely be looked at as deliberate plagiarism.
Related: To see more examples of word-for-word citations, see these quotes people use as their Facebook status.
Readers, please share so writers know what incremental plagiarism is, the consequences for lifting other people’s writing without proper citations, and how to avoid committing incremental plagiarism.
I look forward to hearing your experiences in the comments section. Have you ever been accused of incremental plagiarism? Has anyone ever stolen your writing without permission?
Author: Wahab Ullah Amjad
This post was made possible by the support of our readers.