5 Things to do When Plagiarists Strike

by PR Coach on August 13, 2012

plagiarists are a problem

Plagiarism by journalists Lehrer, Zakaria just tip of problem

If professional journalists are doing it, is it any wonder plagiarism is rampant on the Internet? If you’ve had your hard-earned content stolen, here are five ways to deal with it effectively.

This post came about through a conversation with my colleague Brad Phillips aka @MrMediaTraining. Brad wrote a post about his content being stolen and used on several other websites. I responded with a comment and tips on how to respond based on my experience with plagiarists. He suggested I reshare the comment in a post, so here it is.

Recent headlines really do tell the story of plagiarism including several high-profile and popular journalists – The New Yorker‘s Jonah Lehrer and Fareed Zakaria at CNN/TIME:

CNN and TIME Suspend Journalist After Admission of Plagiarism

Lehrer Leaves New Yorker After Making Up Quotes

Lehrer was caught plagiarizing and re-purposing his own content for articles in The New Yorker and Wired. Zakaria blatantly copied other’s content for a TIME article on gun control. He was suspended from TIME and his CNN material removed pending further review.

Fareed Zakaria

These are just two stories in a long list of high-profile plagiarizing. Imagine what goes on under the radar as many bloggers big and small have found, including yours truly.

My blog content has been stolen on numerous occasions. All or some of it was copied into posts or used on web pages.

I believe fiercely in copyright for writers and content creators. Here are some of the excuses I’ve received:

  • “This was done by an intern without my knowledge” (my content stolen and used on a PR agency web page; and how would they get access to your website?)
  • “I thought it was a list anyone could use.” (list of tips for ways IR pros are using social media; content used by a veteran financial PR/IR pro)
  • other excuses “You mean we have to link to you?” “If it’s on the internet it’s free.” “Yeah I guess if you insist.”

In each of eight cases, I didn’t beliee a single excuse. Each was a business person using my content for personal gain or their own reputation enhancement.

Five Tips to Get Your Plagiarized Content Removed

I’ve been successful in getting my content removed in every case. You need monitor to protect yourself. Here’s what to do:

  1. First, take a screenshot of the offending page for proof, including masthead, as offenders will sometimes remove it and claim ignorance.
  2. Contact the offender by email with one warning and make it clear that if not removed within 48 hours you will send a copy to: their web hosting company, their professional association, Better Business Bureau, local Chamber of Commerce or trade association, DMCA (Digital Millenium Content Act), etc advising of the infringement. Plagiarism Today has useful templates, tools and advice.
  3. Set up Google and other alerts for your name, Twitter handle, website name and url, etc and monitor regularly. You should do this anyhow.
  4. Use a tool like Copyscape, DMCA or Plagium to check your most popular posts or material occasionally. Both are excellent and free though Copyscape and DMCA have free usage limits and paid plans available.
  5. If you get no response, or retraction, call them out as Brad did and then be proactive in carrying out on your warning. Surprising how fast cooperation happens when you start following through.

Hope this helps if you get victimized. Got other suggestions for protecting your content and responding to plagiarism? It’s as easy as commenting below.

Our PR Library is easy too with tips for PR writing, content marketing and 32 other topics.

Author: Jeff Domansky

Photo credits: CNN, poptech, jobadge via Flickr