Five Reasons it’s Wrong to Steal Other People’s Content

There are really more than five reasons that it’s wrong to steal other’s people’s content but I wanted to touch on the topic of copyright infringement again. This week’s fab five Friday is more of a frustration five Friday since I had content stolen from my blog again this week. Are there people who really don’t know that it’s wrong to steal writing from others and use it as their own on their blog? Do people not know that you have to cite your sources when you use material from something that they used from someone else?

I contacted the person who took my content and asked them to remove it from their website. It took a bit of work to get him to do it but he did comply. His email to me said “My web site is something that I spend a few minutes a day stocking with relevant information.” I can’t even believe that someone though its OK to take hours of someone else’s work to spend minutes putting it on their blog to impress their clients. It’s wrong on so many levels.

Basic rules:

You can’t repost content from someone else’s blog without their permission. Period.

It’s unethical to take other’s people’s writing and pass it off as yours. Period.

If you read something and use the ideas for your content, cite your sources. Period.

Just this week, someone copied Paul Biedermann’s entire bio on Pinterest word for word using the same spacing with special characters. Clearly a cut and paste job from someone who is saying they work in design, marketing and social media. Stealing someone’s entire bio is not right. I know that Paul worked very hard to create the right message and word choice. I was going to share the images here but Paul has updated his information. When someone steals your content it diminishes your message and how will people know that yours was the original?

Another example from Pinterest. One of my very first boards I created was called Blogtastic and I use it to save blogs. I made the word up and apparently people liked it. One day someone was pinning ALL the items from my board and taking the my titles as well. She was systematically copying all the work I had done on Pinterest in about a year and a half. While Pinterest is about repinning and sharing, it’s supposed to be an inspiration for others not to copy all of it. Your boards and bio should reflect you and what you like, not what you stole from someone else. So, I searched for blogtastic boards in Pinterest and this is what I found: http://pinterest.com/search/boards/?q=blogtastic

Pinterest has copyright and trademark information on their website. “Pinterest respects the intellectual property rights of others and expects its users to do the same. It is Pinterest’s policy, in appropriate circumstances and at its discretion, to disable and/or terminate the accounts of users who repeatedly infringe or are repeatedly charged with infringing the copyrights or other intellectual property rights of others.”

Be original. Stealing other’s bios, content, words, ideas, photographs, or artwork is wrong. It’s not yours and as interesting as you think it is or as much as you may like it, it’s wrong. Period.

Here are a few sources with more information on writing, copyright laws and plagiarism.

1. Plagarism.org 

WHAT IS PLAGIARISM?

“Many people think of plagiarism as copying another’s work or borrowing someone else’s original ideas. But terms like “copying” and “borrowing” can disguise the seriousness of the offense:

ACCORDING TO THE MERRIAM-WEBSTER ONLINE DICTIONARY, TO “PLAGIARIZE” MEANS

  • to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own
  • to use (another’s production) without crediting the source
  • to commit literary theft
  • to present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source

In other words, plagiarism is an act of fraud. It involves both stealing someone else’s work and lying about it afterward.”

2. Copyright.gov  

“Copyright, a form of intellectual property law, protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture.”

3. Just Because it’s Not Illegal Doesn’t Mean it’s Right by Sara Hawkins

4. “I’m Mad as Hell and I’m not Gonna Take This Anymore!” A Tale of Copyright Infringement

5.  How to file a DMCA Takedown Notice by Sara Hawkins

Have you had your content taken from your blog or somewhere else? What did you do about it?

Featured image courtesy of  Crimson Devices via Creative Commons.

Article by Peg Fitzpatrick

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Peg

Writer & Social media strategist
Co-author of The Art and Science of Social Media: Power Tips for Power Users with Guy Kawasaki. Social media is my passion. And my job. I'm here sharing my professional experience working day to day in the trenches of social media, marketing, and blogging. I work with global brands and leaders in the social media sphere every day. I've spearheaded successful social-media campaigns for Motorola, Audi, Google, and Virgin as well as having been a brand ambassador for Kimpton Hotels. I work with the best brands and make them even better! I'll share tips and tricks, provide positive inspiration and answer social media questions through the content that I create and curate. What sets me apart? I'm an innovative idea girl that follows through and gets the job done. Social media is my career, not just a hobby.

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Comments

  1. wordwhacker says

    College professors deal with plagiarism all the time. People steal words because they’re lazy, generally, and because they think no one will notice. If you can get kicked out of college for it, maybe people who do it should also lose their jobs. Yes, I’m harsh. But I’m a writer. Words are what I do.

    • says

      @wordwhacker I can’t even imagine how many students cut and paste content as this point. Remember going to the library, taking notes, citing sources on index cards and TYPING the whole paper out on a typewriter? Granted people used to steal content then as well but, wow,  it’s just way too easy now.

    • saving4someday says

      @wordwhacker getting caught for plagiarism within academia has significant consequences. Personally, I think if these same people were caught infringing copyright the consequences wouldn’t be as harsh which is a bit backward thinking.However, in academia, especially, claiming that you wrote something when in fact someone else did is more like perpetrating a fraud. With copyright infringement, on the other hand, we know who wrote it and it’s difficult to create any level of expertise when we know the work was created by someone else. Plagiarism is more destructive to the reputation of the school/program because they’re holding people out to have a certain level of knowledge or expertise. Sure, there are stiff consequences in academia if one is to be liable (or even allege to be liable) for copyright infringement. But, plagiarism is still the big dog.
       
      On the web, we have to rely on copyright because that’s where the power is for us. And whether or not there is attribution, we don’t have to play the plagiarism game because the DMCA is very sweeping and strong.
       
      In the end, though, you’d think that people would just do their own work and not spend so much time figuring out how to do the wrong thing.

  2. boxofnuts says

    Peg – so sorry you’ve had to deal with this so many times; just this week alone! I can’t begin to imagine. Hopefully your message gets seen by many, and more importantly, by those who NEED to see it.

  3. collectivess says

    I agree with you 99.99%, Peg. As for the “blogtastic” word. I think several of us might say we “created” it, as a lot of us add “tastic” to the end of a recognized word to make it something new. I’ve uses blogtastic for a long time. 
     
    As the for rest? When does it stop. When do people realize that if they put the time into creating something unique and new they will stand out from the crowd. Copying and pasting relegates them to one amidst the larger herd of wrongdoers.

  4. says

    Thanks for highlighting this issue again, Peggy.
     
    And what’s really amazing is how many of these thieves suggest they are doing you a favor by spreading your content! Um… NO! A close relative to this is when people exclaim “think of the exposure!” as they moonwalk backwards and away from paying for your talent and hard work — if the exposure is important to me, I will think of it and present it to them, thank you very much.
     
    It is up to all of us to expose this for what it is when it happens, just as you have been doing. If we stay silent, we are enabling this behavior and accomplices in perpetuating these illegal behaviors.

    • saving4someday says

      @PaulBiedermann not sure what’s up with those who take content and think they’re doing you a favor. Copyright law is very clear that the copyright holder has the exclusive right to decide how their work is distributed. It’s the basis of why the music and movie industries has been so tenacious with their pursuit of “unauthorized use”.

  5. DSAldridge says

    I’ll remember not to share any of your links on social sites. Honestly, you don’t own a word just because you use it. Do you think you are the only person in the world who could think of the word “blogtastic?” I’m following a legal dispute now where someone trademarked the words “urban homestead” and “urban homesteading.” It’s ludicrous. They did not make up those words. Facebook is suing people for creating sites with the name “face”  and “book” into them and has applied for ownership of those two words…WTF? I’m sick of people thinking they own words that are not all that unusual. Oh, and btw, it is generally acceptable to use up to 100 words of a post as a blurb with a link back to the original post. It may not be “technically” legal, but no one has been sued over it yet. But I’ll remember not to do that with your posts, and since I have no time to contact every blog I promote to do a blurb and link back … well, you get the idea.
     
    I do agree about people scraping entire profiles and sites and even articles for use on their own sites and blogs. A lot of people still think everything online is public domain. We have to educate them. Of course there are thieves who are just thieves, but there is nothing we can do about that. I personally don’t have time to track down and berate every single plagiarist who uses my work. I’m too busy working.

    • saving4someday says

      @DSAldridge
       I’m not sure who determined it is “generally acceptable to use up to 100 words of a post as a blurb with a link back to the original post”. In fact, that could be copyright infringement, if the work is a copyrightable work. There are many court cases where the infringement involved less than 100 words.
       
      Respecting the legal rights of those who create copyrightable works is actually very important, and that’s why there are copyright laws. While there are some exceptions, for the most post respecting the legal rights of content creators is important to keeping new and useful information flowing.
       
      And while plagiarism is not illegal, calling people for passing off your work as their own is often more egregious because unlike copyright infringement where there is often attribution, with plagiarism someone’s passing off your hard work as their own.
       
      As for trademarks, they’re actually more complicated because lawmakers have put a very high value on branding and unique identifiers. But, in fact, trademark does arise simply from use so someone can assert, at minimum, common law trademark rights for a word if it meet the other qualifications of gaining common law trademark rights.

  6. says

    As @onejillian mentioned on G+, I’ve had my content stolen. But I dont mean copied from my blog and pasted someplace else without attribution. I mean the points, and the structure of the blog post was stolen, and re-worded to avoid copyscape’s detection or any similar content-checking technique. 
     
    Not only that, but it was by a blogger(s) who we all know and are pretty highly regarded in these blogospheres. 
     
    I even confronted one of them and he said “well…I guess I can see the resemblance…bla bla bla”  but he denied any wrong doing. 
     
    Complex issue for sure. I decided not to care. Much easier that way.
     
    Oh, and also…since I started putting F bombs and shits in my content, it’s getting copied lot less :-)

    • says

      @dino_dogan  @onejillian I had that happen to me when I was really new as well and didn’t say anything because it was a few “bigger bloggers” with more followers etc. With more numbers on my own side, I feel I can say something.
       
      I haven’t decided not to care but I see your point in that since it seems like trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube.
       
      I’ll consider adding some F bombs. :D

  7. Louise_Myers says

    I’m often railing about people thinking it’s OK to download and use images! And yes, I’ve heard the argument about exposure – “I knew it was OK since you had your URL on it.” Hm, OK…
     
    Trying to help spread the word along with ya.

  8. says

    I’m with you on everything except for “blogtastic”. A lot of people use it and have for a loooong time. If people can’t be creative enough to come up with their own shit, they need to find another hobby or profession that doesn’t include content creation. It pisses me off every time I hear someone has been ripped off by a plagiarist.

  9. says

    I also just was emailed this resource that might benefit you, @PegFitzpatrick http://www.websearchsocial.com/plagiarism-interview-jonathan-bailey?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=plagiarism-interview-jonathan-bailey&utm_source=WebSearchSocial&utm_campaign=b19726d780-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email

  10. says

    It is unfortunate that this keeps happening. I sympathize with the frustration. I know I have shared with the tribe my own issues with stolen content.  
     
    I’ve started worrying about creative commons on Flickr. I wonder how many people know that their public photos have a CC license. That is why I always link back, but I also realize that any of those people could come back and accuse me of stealing their property as CC is not a legal contract of any sort. What if they suddenly change their mind, but you have already downloaded the photo. Then that photo has been saved and downloaded and placed someplace else… on and on.
     
    Copyright law online is very difficult to enforce. That is why I often stroll through the DMCA take down archive to see what is happening.

    • says

      @susansilver It’s a very complicated topic. And I have wondered the same about photos from Flickr. Sometime there are photos that say “owner has disabled downloading of this photo,” what if you had downloaded it prior to them deciding that?

  11. ShawnUpchurch says

    Peggy, 
     
    I trust this finds you well. 
    This topic is not as cut and dry as we all  hoped it would be, from our experience.  As per fair use guidelines in the copyright act, if a short excerpt is included in a post with citation and hyperlink to the entire article, it is considered fair use.  
     
    Let’s reference Copyright Law of the United States of America and Related Laws Contained in Title 17 of the United States Code.  The following has been take directly “as is” from http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap1.html#107.  
     
    107 . Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use
     
    Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include— 
     
    (1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
     
    (2) the nature of the copyrighted work;
     
    (3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
     
    (4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.
     
    The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors.
     
    Peggy, how does this shape your views?  If proper attributes are given with the original link, we tend to view it as a compliment.  We have learned it is technically possible stop automatic syndication, but not a manual copy and re-paste unless we spend time identifying and pursuing.  
     
    Open to your thoughts.
     
    Best Regards
    @ShawnUpchurch

    • saving4someday says

      @ShawnUpchurch    I’m not sure where in the US Copyright Act Section 107 (Fair Use) you read this:  ” … As per fair use guidelines in the copyright act, if a short excerpt is included in a post with citation and hyperlink to the entire article, it is considered fair use.”, but your statement that this is true “as per fair use” is incorrect.
       
      Fair Use DOES NOT require attribution nor does it say anything about “a short excerpt” or a hyperlink. Fair Use is for very specific purposes and in some instances may permit a significant portion of a work to be reproduced while in other circumstances reproduction of even a small portion of a work not be covered by Fair Use. 
       
      Just because attribution or a link back is provided does not mean using “a short excerpt” is covered by Fair Use. There is no rule as to how much someone can take and have it covered by Fair Use. That may have been the case many years ago but that is not how the law is interpreted now. Since Fair Use is a defense to copyright infringement, it is up to a court to determine what exactly is appropriate “amount and substantiality” with regard to the work in question. 
       
      I think we really need to remove the notion that giving a link back or attribution or taking only “a short excerpt” or “a small amount” of a copyrighted work makes it Fair Use.

      • ShawnUpchurch says

        @saving4someday  @ShawnUpchurch It is agreed that there is no fixed amount of content allowed or disallowed. The basis of what experience has taught us resides in this paragraph.  
         
        “Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.”
         
        If someone is re-purposing content for commercial purposes, to make money, then it is considered an infringement.  Again, my comments are rooted from experiences.
         
        It appears we agree this may not be popular, but I’m not sure we agree how the law is interpreted at this time.  Regardless, I look forward to sharing and learning with you.

        • saving4someday says

          @ShawnUpchurch I have to disagree with this statement in your comment, “If someone is re-purposing content for commercial purposes, to make money, then it is considered an infringement.”
           
          While the general belief that having a commercial purpose, or “making money” might make something an infringement that’s not necessarily true. Infringement occurs when there is an unauthorized distribution of a copyrighted work, regardless of whether there is a commercial purpose.
           
          For Fair Use, whether the person/organization is using it for commercial purposes is but one factor. Major commercial news organizations use copyrighted content without repercussion because the need for news reporting may trump certain instances of copyright and thus be covered under Fair Use. However, not all news reporting will, per se, be Fair Use.
           
          In addition, Copyright is alive and well in education as not all “… teaching, scholarship or research …” are sufficiently Fair Use as defined by the law.
           
          May people’s experiences and understanding of what Fair Use is may come from situations where parties are not in a position to sue and challenge a Fair Use defense. In fact, Fair Use can only be determined by a court and, unfortunately, there aren’t many “good cases” when it comes to internet content usage. Hence, we’re left with a great deal of anecdotal information rather than law. And even the law can be contradictory as the various federal courts and circuits often do not agree.
           
          To give you some idea of how rare Fair Use cases are, between 1978 and 2005 only 215 cases made substantial use of Section 107. Compare that to data showing an average of 2,000 copyright cases filed per year during the same period. In addition, there have been very few Section 107 cases before the Supreme Court (the last major one being Campbell in 1994) and even the opinions from the Supreme Court have been interpreted differently by several courts.
           
          So while the “commercial use” factor may, for many be the defining factor, it is but one of 4. And when it comes to how much, the courts agree there must be a “substantial” amount of copyrighted work used, however there are no settled explanations of what “substantial” means.
           
          Unfortunately, all of this leave online content creators without strong support if they were to challenge a claim of Fair Use. Coupled with the potential for costly litigation, something the average blogger just can’t afford, many just throw their hands up and walk away rather than continuously deal with what quickly becomes a very contentious exchange between a copyright holder and an infringer.

        • ShawnUpchurch says

          @saving4someday It continues to appear we are more aligned than not. In fact, it a looks like we’ve take a very long path to agree on the practical applications of copyright enforcement.  
           
          As I’ve reflected on the Fair Use case precedent and your closing statement, “Unfortunately, all of this leave online content creators without strong support if they were to challenge a claim of Fair Use. Coupled with the potential for costly litigation, something the average blogger just can’t afford, many just throw their hands up and walk away rather than continuously deal with what quickly becomes a very contentious exchange between a copyright holder and an infringer.,” my comfort increases with our firm’s position; re-use of our content is a compliment, as long as “proper attribute” and the original link exists, and complimenting party is not attempting to receive commercial gain (from our content).
           
          If anyone figures out a more practical way to deal with copyright enforcement, the please share.

        • anitahovey says

          @ShawnUpchurch  I’m curious about your position. I’m no legal mind for sure, but if you accept advertising on your blog, or it is a mechanism for increasing sales, isn’t the simple act of using someone else’s content to fill your blog, attributed or not, “for the purpose of commercial gain?” 
           
          I’m with Peggy, I think you should have permission before you reuse someone’s articles. Perhaps the author doesn’t want to be associated with your blog or company.

        • anitahovey says

          @ShawnUpchurch  I’m curious about your position. I’m no legal mind for sure, but if you accept advertising on your blog, or it is a mechanism for increasing sales, isn’t the simple act of using someone else’s content to fill your blog, attributed or not, “for the purpose of commercial gain?” 
           
          I’m with Peggy, I think you should have permission before you reuse someone’s articles. Perhaps the author doesn’t want to be associated with your blog or company.

  12. says

    What a lot of people who steal don’t realize is that most of us are ecstatic when contacted about using our material on their site. It adds to our exposure and we get more readers/followers (hopefully) from their site and it usually helps increase their numbers as well! After all, if you write and ask if you can use something from my site, you’re guaranteed that I am going to tell all my readers about it and tell them to check out your site.Great article.

  13. anitahovey says

    What’s really scary is that we only see a small portion of it… we happen on it or there’s an accidental pingback link left in. Makes me wonder if my own stuff is floating around out there and I don’t even know.

    • says

      @anitahovey I know — who knows? It’s not like I spent time looking but have found quite a few instances of this. It seems like a growing issue as people want to have blogs and keep content flowing but don’t have the resources or skills to do it. It’s wrong but they’re justifying it to themselves based on the comments from the last three people that I caught doing this with my content.

  14. reneedobbs says

    Have I ever had content taken from my blog? Yes, yes, yes. Food blogs seem to get hit hard with people stealing content. Apparently people think recipes and food photos are an exception. It is beyond frustrating. It’s so bad there are food blogger copyright infringement groups on both facebook and Google+. Worst of all is the retaliation when someone files a DMCA notice. The thief gets pissed, reports the originator’s blog, and then an honest blogger has to fight to get their blog cleared.

    • saving4someday says

      reneedobbs The DMCA retaliation is horrible, and, honestly, a violation of the DMCA itself. But what can be done when someone will take the time to file a false counter-notice and you don’t have the time to purse the legal remedies? I know food/craft bloggers take a big hit with people taking content because of the lack of copyright on some aspects of their work. Nonetheless, it can become a full-time job to pursue the copyright violators and that’s not what you want to spend your time doing.

    • says

      reneedobbs That’s really frustrating Renee! I don’t spend time looking for stolen content but it does pop up so frequently, it’s really shocking.
      People without ideas need to realize that stealing someone else’s recipe, photos of their food or their writing is just wrong.

  15. saving4someday says

    toddlohenry the purpose of using the original work is to give enough to entice the reader to go to that work. Consider the length of the work when taking an introduction. If it’s only 300 words, 100 words may be too much. For a 1200-word piece, 100 may work well.

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