Plagiarism and Its Pitfalls
It’s interesting when, for the first time, you realize that your work has just been plagiarized.
A lot of people have a vague idea of what plagiarism is. Some think it has something to do with copying what isn’t originally yours, which is part of the word’s definition. But to be more accurate, YourDictionary defines plagiarism as “The act of appropriating the literary composition of another author, or excerpts, ideas, or passages therefrom, and passing the material off as one's own creation.” A simpler definition from Macloo: “Copying some text and using it without indicating that it was copied or where it was copied from.”
But hey, didn’t I just “copy” the definitions above? Does that make me guilty of plagiarism? Nope. That’s because I made sure to indicate where I got the definition. In other words, I gave credit to wherever I copied the ideas.
A lot of people commit plagiarism without even knowing it. For instance, if I copied the definitions above without quoting or indicating where I got them from, I am pretty much guilty of it. And last night, someone did exactly that to my work.
A blogger posted a press release, which I wrote, on his blog. It would have been great, except that he deleted my byline which I typed right after the write-up. Whatever I’ve written is now up for everyone to see on his blog, published under his name, without any credit to me whatsoever.
I wrote the press release for a friend as a favor. Perhaps I put too much faith in my friend to make sure my work doesn’t get published as a write-up purchased from some ghostwriter who lives in the woods. It would have been prudent for my friend to at least check that my byline remains with my write-up at all times. Unfortunately, these human safeguards were a big fail.
What surprised me more was how the blogger blatantly deleted my name before publishing the write-up. I’ve been dealing with bloggers for a long time. Bloggers, for some reason, have a good grasp of plagiarism. They know that publishing a guest post without giving due credit is a big no-no. That’s why I was shocked that a supposedly professional blogger deleted my byline before publishing my work.
To make sure you don’t commit plagiarism unknowingly, here are a few suggestions:
- Don’t recycle original ideas. There might be someone you know who has a unique way of getting something done, and you want to do what he does because his idea is simply brilliant. But as his idea comes to fruition courtesy of you, has it ever occurred to you that the idea was not really yours and that you never asked permission to use it? Yes, even non-written ideas can be plagiarized. Stick to your own ideas – I’m sure you have the brain cells to come up with your own.
- Always mention your sources. Even if you never meant to pass off someone else’s words as your own, not mentioning the fact that they’re not yours in the first place already makes you unwittingly guilty of plagiarism. Always quote your sources. It’s all about giving credit, whether it’s just a phrase, a sentence, a paragraph – or, in my case, a 715-word writeup – that is involved.
- Read about plagiarism. Yes, it helps. The more you know about what it really is, the more you avoid the pitfalls. After all, ignorance of the law does not exempt you from it.
Plagiarism is ugly. Sometimes, people don’t even know they’ve committed it. I learned that when it comes to publishing someone else’s written word, disclosure really matters. One thing’s for sure: I now understand why so many authors and artists are so willing to file a lawsuit when their work gets unduly “copied.”
As for the guilty party’s response, read it here.