The Plagiarism Explosion On The Internet: How To Protect Your Work

Yesterday evening, Gawker wrote about how internet meme listing site BuzzFeed and it's enormous amount of lifted content. Not only were the photos and descriptions 100% copied from lesser sites, overarching themes and ideas were, too. Worst of all, most of the articles stem from Senior Editor, Matt Stopera, who has been hailed for his lightening speed ability to churn out wildly popular posts.

Gawker writes, “A key part of that code is copying and pasting chunks of text into lists without attribution. For example Stopera's '13 Things You Probably Didn't Know About the Movie ‘Clueless' is comprised almost solely of sentences copied from the IMDB trivia page for Clueless, with no sign that they are anything but his own words.”

While most readers, writers, and journalists would shout from the top of their lungs “PLAGIARISM!!!” the article points out that Gawker too has been called out for lifting content. But more importantly, it questions whether this is just the name of the game on this weird thing called the internet, or whether we should bash, kick, and stone any site that doesn't properly credit work.

“Stopera's lifting is the result of an extreme aggregation logic that approaches words as just another form of content, to be remixed and copied without worrying about their source. The whole internet is trending in this direction: The top story on Reddit on any given day is likely to be some image scanned from a newspaper, a quote misattributed to Ghandi, or a Youtube video of a '90s cartoon.”

He continues on, “But the practice does reflect something that's bugged me for a while… The explosion of people happily sharing images and text completely void of context. There's a stupid disinterest in the story behind whatever shiny internet thing has gone viral now, as if knowing more would ruin the mysterious viralness of the thing.”

Of course, the copying and pasting curse has hit the fashion blogosphere hard. With sites like Tumblr and Pinterest, and the actions of reblogging, repinning, reuploading, etc., the “source” of any given image or text is completely lost. From street style photos to images of models backstage, to even polyvores and outfit posts, many bloggers are killing the original credit.

Do you believe someone might be copying your content? Here our some tips on protecting yourself, listed on Digital Inspiration

1. First attempt to find a sentence in your content that has a unique pairing of words. Search for the sentence enclosed in quotes on Google Blog Search.

2. If you found a copy of your blog article on another site first send  an email to the blog owner requesting that your content be removed or add a comment to the post.

3. If the blogger refuses to comply or claims that you are the one stealing content, get in touch with the web hosting company by running a WhoIs lookup on the web domain name to find the domain registrar and the name of the web hosting company.

4. Visit the hosting company website for contact information where you can formally send a complaint with proof that Google spiders discovered your site first, your Google Page Rank, your Alexa Ranking and traffic details, and any other information you may think will prove your case.

5. If that doesn't work, you can request Google, Yahoo and other search engines to remove the copied content if the site violates copyright laws. You can do this by filing a DMCA complaint.

6. And if THAT doesn't work, you can notify the other website's advertisers that this site is using your content to monetize. Most likely they will pull the ads.

As a result of the article, BuzzFeed has added more sources to their site, but when will the madness of copying and pasting end? Or will it ever end? Is this just how the Internet works?

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9 Responses

  1. [email protected]

    This is an excellent post and good advice, but as you say, with sites like Tumbler and Pinterest and so many others, I don’t know how anyone would even have the time to search out plagiarized content. Sadly, it seems like a losing battle.

  2. Sabina

    THANK YOU for posting this. I am a journalist by day as well as a blogger on my own time, and the constant bombardment I see of parasitic websites monetizing by regurgitating others’ articles is shameless, tacky and just plain wrong.

    Just recently my personal fashion illustration blog, which isn’t especially widely read, had an entire post, complete with photos, scooped up and pasted on another site. The only “credit” was a link to me at the bottom, but since the whole post was re-posted there was no reason to link back to me and as far as I know, no one has, so it’s not like their re-posting promoted me in any way. I tried to email the website to complain but naturally there was no contact information. It was just another splog.

    Surely there’s something the blogging community can do about this. I like your idea of contacting the web hosting company. It certainly can’t hurt.

  3. Cate

    I think this is an important issue to be talking about. It’s my biggest problem with using tumblr. It is SO hard to find sources for images after they’ve made it around the site 3 or 4 times. I think for the average user, they think it’s okay because they aren’t profiting, but there are a lot of sites who ARE profiting from lifted content, and provisions need to be made to stop that practice.

    PS:There are two typos in the FIRST SENTENCE of this article. Not fun.

  4. Amber

    This has happened to me more than once – three times I have found my ENTIRE post on some blog – only they have no way to contact them, or a comment box. Insanely frustrating – and violating.

  5. Alice

    This drives me mad with sites like Pinterest, as much as I try to only repin things that have a proper credit I just don’t have time to check absolutely everything. I do weekly inspiration posts on my blog and a lot of my images for it come from Pinterest. Although I try and link back (googling key words/searching through google images/trying to find other blogs that link back) after ten minutes on an image I just give up, there is only so much you can do. Great article.

  6. Cookie At Envynde

    That is despicable!!! Envynde goes to great lengths to link back, site information and give credit where it’s due and it’s a shame to see that others like this guy are tarnishing the blogger’s community like this. Yes there are times when we say “You know what… this article is something our readers would enjoy and it’s so well written I have nothing to add.” But I’ll be damned if we don’t mention the author 3+ times before we share the post.

    This does seem like a losing battle at times but what it comes down to is integrity – dishonest practices might get you noticed but eventually they will also be what breaks you.

  7. Elena

    100% agree! This is very frustrating! I started adding watermarks on my fashion illustrations and will continue adding it on my photos as well.
    Great article, thank you for sharing!

  8. Jay

    Love the advice. It’s so hard these days to keep up with who original content is from because of sites like that. It also continues to give the other people the correct credit!