Just a couple weeks ago, a client contacted me and asked me to write a health-related article for her. She even provided a sample of one that was similar to what she wanted. It was from a fairly well-followed blog, so I was absolutely shocked when, upon researching the information, I discovered that a large portion of the content was plagiarized. I mean word for word paragraphs taken from reputable websites like WebMD and Mayo Clinic without giving any credit whatsoever to their rightful owners.
I instantly thought, “Wow! How on earth did this blogger get away with stealing all of this content and calling it her own? And how can she sleep at night knowing that she stole other people’s words?” Unfortunately, it happens more often than I ever realized as I’ve found a lot of online content that has been 100% plagiarized (people have even taken whole articles of mine and published them as their own).
Not only does this present moral and ethical issues, but it can also put your business at risk, which is why you need to be aware of this all-too-common issue and do what you can to protect yourself and your company. This starts with knowing exactly what plagiarism is and how it can potentially hurt you and your business.
What Constitutes Plagiarism and How It Can Hurt You and Your Business
To better understand plagiarism, I checked with one of the most trusted academic agencies in the nation: Harvard University. On their website, they provide a ton of information about plagiarism, what it is, the exceptions, and much, much more. While most of it is geared toward academic writing, the main thing to remember is that stealing anyone else’s work (whether word-for-word or even just their ideas) without giving proper credit is plagiarism. And it can get you in trouble.
According to The Law Dictionary, plagiarism comes with many consequences. Personally, it can ruin your credibility as well as your reputation. And if your plagiarized content is copyrighted, you may just find yourself in civil court defending a lawsuit that could potentially cost you a lot of money—and clients.
In one particular article, Online Classes highlights several cases of plagiarism involving everyone from historians to musicians to even Barack Obama, President of the United States (in a speech he delivered while running for office). This shows that no one is immune from committing this offense, whether intentional or not. So, what can you do to protect both yourself and your own business?
How to Protect You and Your Business from Plagiarism
For starters, you can write your own stuff from the knowledge that you have in your head. By forming your own ideas and using your own words, you can be assured that your content is 100 percent your own. If you’re not a good writer or simply don’t have the time to craft your own content, don’t worry because there are still things you can do to protect yourself and your business while having your content written for you.
One option is to only work with reputable writers. This requires that you take the time to research the person or company you want to do business with. For instance, you may want to go online and look for reviews from past clients to see if any of them mention plagiarism or any other questionable behaviors.
You can also do a Google search with the writer’s name and plagiarism after it and see if anything comes up. A word of caution if you choose this route: If results appear, make sure you read them before jumping to the conclusion that your potential writer is a content-stealing thief. For example, when you Google my name (Christina DeBusk) and plagiarism, you get a list of results not because I plagiarize, but because I have written about this topic before and because the word is listed in the job posts that I’ve worked on in the past.
One final way to help you determine whether your hired content is plagiarism-free is to use plagiarism-detecting websites or software. Some of the ones my clients have used include Copyscape and Grammarly, but there are several to choose from online. Most require that you pay a small fee, but it is much less than you’d pay in legal fees and court ordered settlements if you don’t check it and violate someone else’s copyright.
Have you ever had an issue with plagiarism? I’d love to hear about it if you have, so feel free to share it below!
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