Plagiarism (VS Fair Use): What Bloggers Need to Know

Last Updated on: September 11th, 2017

Plagiarism (VS Fair Use): What Bloggers Need to Know When Creating Content

Why is plagiarism so bad?

Many people copy others, in both real life, and online.

They wear the same clothes. They buy the same things. It is natural to want to have the same item as another person. That is why companies make items in bulk. That is why clothing manufacturers make the same shirt, dress, or pair of pants in the same color and in different sizes.

Copying others in this manner is not a crime. (It might be deemed as a fashion crime in some pretentious circles, but it’s not against the law!)

However, when it comes to online content, copying others is a serious crime.

This type of copying is called PLAGIARISM, and it is a violation of copyright law.

There are solutions to avoiding plagiarism and its consequences and penalties, and today we are going to look at these solutions.

We are also going to answer the following questions:

What is plagiarism?

What is fair use?


What should you do if your content has been plagiarized?

How can bloggers and freelancers avoid plagiarism and its penalties?

How can bloggers create content for their blogs that rivals the content of their competitors?

How can bloggers create content that is similar to their competitors and ranks well?

By the end of this article, you will have all the answers and be able to create unique content that will not be considered to be plagiarized.

Plagiarism VS. Fair Use

What is Plagiarism?

Plagiarism has several definitions.

It occurs when you copy someone else’s words and pass them off as your own.

It occurs when you cite someone’s words and don’t give the owner proper credit or attribution.

Plagiarism is against the law and is a serious offense. There are also several types of plagiarism, which will discuss momentarily.

Plagiarism is only stealing if you don’t give credit to the original source OR if what you are sharing does not fall under the rules for fair use.

What is Fair Use?

Fair use, on the other hand, according to copyright law, allows you to use someone’s words and ideas freely, without permission from the copyright owner.

Fair use, according to this article, is “a copyright principle based on the belief that the public is entitled to freely use portions of copyrighted materials for purposes of commentary and criticism.”

At this point, I want to point out to you that EVEN THOUGH I COPIED THIS SENTENCE, I didn’t try to pass it off as my own. Instead, I provided a link to the article (the source) where I found it.

If I didn’t, I would have been guilty of plagiarism.

The Different Types of Plagiarism

Let’s expand our definition of plagiarism and look at the different types of plagiarism that can occur.

Plagiarism can be referred to as a wrongful appropriation of work produced by someone else. This is a kind of academic or professional stealing of a specific author’s, writer’s, or blogger’s thoughts, phrases, research, language, ideas and expressions, and publishing them as your very own.

If you do this, you are basically stealing from someone and pretending to be the owner that piece of work or content. If you don’t provide any kind of attribution to the real owner or the source, then you are guilty of committing a crime. This crime is deemed as immoral and is also punishable by law. (We will look at these consequences and penalties shortly.)

Now that this concept of copying is clear to you, it is important that you be enlightened about the different kinds of plagiarisms that there are. This will help you classify the different types of plagiarism that exist and it will also help you from committing plagiarism yourself. Even though you might not intend to plagiarize your content, you might do it without realizing it.

There are quite a few types of plagiarism that you must be aware of to avoid committing any of them. These include accidental, direct, mosaic, and self-plagiarism.

Accidental 

This is the most common and innocent kind of plagiarism. This specific kind of plagiarism is generally characterized by people tending to forget to cite the sources altogether or misquoting them within their content. This kind of plagiarism may also include paraphrasing the sources without their consent or giving them the due credit for the same.

According to this article, accidental plagiarism can occur if any of these things were to happen:

  • you forget to identify where you found the information
  • you do not pay attention to where your material(s) came from when paraphrasing (put other writers’ ideas into your own words)
  • you use the exact words of another person without quotation marks even though you’ve said where the information came from
  • you don’t record where the information came from when you take notes.

Direct 

Direct Plagiarism is the process of copying the work of an author and using it word for word, without any kind of modification and/or proper credits or citation. This is without a doubt the most commonly practiced type of plagiarism in the world today and also the most punishable.

Mosaic

Another kind of plagiarism that is often noticed is mosaic plagiarism. It occurs when someone uses another creator’s sentence but alters it slightly, perhaps by replacing a few words with synonyms, and then does not use quotations or give the creator proper credit or attribution.

This type of plagiarism is common among students as well as bloggers, and can be avoided simply by writing the ideas in your own words OR linking to the source of your ideas.

Institutionalized (relevant to bloggers and freelancers)

Often, bloggers do not have time to create content on a continual basis. They instead outsource their work to a ghostwriter.

In an article titled The Great Plagiarism Debate it has been said that “Ghostwriting is regarded as an institutionalized plagiarism and is form (sic) of business transaction where there is an exchange of text for money without attribution of a ghost as a creator.”

The term institutionalized plagiarism was coined by Brian Martin in 1994. According to him, “When a politician, famous sports figure, business executive, or movie star gives a speech or writes a book or newspaper column, frequently the actual writing is done by someone else.”

This is not news, and so ghostwriting is a perfectly acceptable practice. Many people (myself included) have written original content for others. These people claim it as their own. They are allowed to do this because that is what they pay the ghostwriter for!

This is the only type of plagiarism that is acceptable and legal to do.

Self-Plagiarism (relevant to bloggers and authors)

A lot of people are not aware of this but using your own work which you produced and used in the past is also considered as plagiarism. This process is referred to as self-plagiarism and is very much a punishable offense. However, this type of plagiarism does not really apply to bloggers. It generally applies to authors who have had works published by a publishing company.


Many bloggers actually repurpose their own content in different ways. Some even turn their blog posts into e-books! This is perfectly acceptable!

this is a picture of a virtual thief, perhaps someone guilty of plagiarism

Consequences and Penalties You Might Face if You Steal

Plagiarism is a punishable offense and committing it might bring your way a number of consequences that might not only be troubling but may also have a legal aspect to them.

Here are some of the consequences that you might face if you use plagiarized content. These consequences are the reason why you must avoid committing such a crime.

A Destroyed Reputation

The first and foremost consequence of using plagiarized content is the destruction of your well-built academic or professional reputation. Whether you are a student using another student’s or expert’s work or are a professional utilizing another professional’s hard work, under both circumstances the results are detrimental to your reputation. Students can have their grades seriously affected as a result of this, and they might even be suspended or expelled from school. Professionals might lose their projects (and perhaps even their jobs, depending on what their job is).

If you are a freelancer, word will eventually get around that you are not good at your job, and that you use copied content. This will surely destroy your reputation, and cause others to NOT hire you.

Monetary Penalties

If you are a plagiarist, you could be sued by the original owner of the work. In this case, you are facing a monetary punishment or repercussion. You could be also be fined.

Journalists, bloggers, freelancers and authors today need to be particularly careful when they are writing.

Legal Consequences and Repercussions

The legal consequences brought upon by plagiarism can be excruciatingly serious. Not only can one be sued on the grounds of using plagiarized content but it can also be considered as an advanced level of criminal offense, leading to some real jail time (in addition to monetary fines).

According to the article 6 Consequences of Plagiarism, “The legal repercussions of plagiarism can be quite serious. Copyright laws are absolute. One cannot use another person’s material without citation and reference. An author has the right to sue a plagiarist. Some plagiarism may also be deemed a criminal offense, possibly leading to a prison sentence. Those who write for a living, such as journalists or authors, are particularly susceptible to plagiarism issues. Those who write frequently must be ever-vigilant not to err. Writers are well-aware of copyright laws and ways to avoid plagiarism. As a professional writer, to plagiarize is a serious ethical and perhaps legal issue.”

Although plagiarism and copyright infringement are not the same things, what most people do not know is that both of these activities are punishable offenses in the eye of law.

The laws for copyright infringement are much stricter and highly punishable; plagiarism has a whole different set of legal rules that make it a crime. Punishments might vary in accordance to the seriousness of the plagiarized crime and the extent and level of plagiarism.

Avoid practicing plagiarism to skip the chances of coming face to face with these uncomfortable consequences.

this is another picture of a virtual thief, perhaps someone guilty of plagiarism

What Should You Do if Your Content Has Been Plagiarized

According to Wikipedia’s page about copyright infringement, “Copyright infringement disputes are usually resolved through direct negotiation, a notice and take down process, or litigation in civil court.”

Therefore, if you learn that your content has been plagiarized, you should follow the 6 steps outlined in Responding to Plagiarism.

I’ve taken a screenshot of these 6 steps and have included it here for your convenience.

6-steps-to-follow-when-responding-to-plagiarism

If you are unsure of what to write when you initially contact the plagiarist, you can read about Andy Crestodina’s experience and see what he did when he found out someone plagiarized his content. He includes the letters of correspondence for your convenience. (You can use this as a sample of what to write.)

How Bloggers and Freelancers Can Avoid Plagiarism and Its Penalties When Writing Blog Content

1: Write unique content.

The best and most trusted way of avoiding plagiarism is by creating 100% unique content.

Even if the ideas you have are not unique, the way in which you convey them to your readers should be. They should be written in your own words, not someone else’s.

2: Credit the Source, Use Quotations, and Stop Worrying About Passing Link Juice

If you DO use someone else’s words or ideas, then give them credit by EITHER mentioning the name of the original source OR linking to it. Or both!

Put direct quotes in quotations and say who said it. When you’re quoting something, DO NOT change ANY of the words… even if the quote contains grammatical errors or typos. In these cases, simply insert brackets around the word SIC into the quotation… like I did earlier when I said:

In an article titled The Great Plagiarism Debate it has been said that “Ghostwriting is regarded as an institutionalized plagiarism and is form (sic) of business transaction where there is an exchange of text for money without attribution of a ghost as a creator.”

Here, you can see that it should say “plagiarism is a form…” and so, being the awesome editor that I am, I inserted (sic) into this to show that this was their tiny mistake, not mine.

So… if you’re borrowing an idea, mention the source and/or link to the source, even if it contains a small error!

Remember that Google hates duplicated content and will punish you for it. Most bloggers know this!

If you want to rank higher in the search engines for certain keywords, it’s best that you link to the top sources you find while doing your research. It’s also a good idea to make your blog post longer and more informative than any other post out there.

Do not be concerned about “link juice” to other sites. Google will actually reward you for your external links! (Bear in mind you can also edit the HTML of your post and make a link NOFOLLOW instead of DOFOLLOW simply by adding the rel=”nofollow” tag to the HTML of the link.)

3: Learn the Laws in Your Country Regarding Plagiarism

Copyscape offers some online plagiarism resources to help you learn more about plagiarism and the laws surrounding it. You can use these resources to investigate the laws in your own country.

4: Credit Visuals 

If you are using videos, images, etc., it’s important to ensure you have permission to use them in your post. Plagiarism 101 explains what is and is not allowed.

5: Use Plagiarism Tools to Check Your Content

This is particularly important when you are accepting a guest post from someone, or hiring someone else to do some content writing for you.

Many tools exist for you to use. Some are paid. Some are free. And some give you a free trial period.

The best free ones generally limit you to check 1000 words at a time and include:

Plagiarism checker by Small SEO Tools

Plagiarisma 

Copyscape

Quetext

Grammarly Plagiarism Checker

How Can You Prevent Others from Plagiarizing Your Content?

You can take a few preventative measures to stop others from plagiarizing your content.

These include:

  • placing a copyright symbol on each of your blog posts — you can use (c) or ©
  • write the date beside the copyright symbol (you can simply write the month and the year OR just the year — it’s up to you)
  • placing a warning banner (perhaps a Copyscape one) on your website

Remember, anything you create that is original is considered intellectual property.

Learn more about copyright here and about what it protects.

Parting Words 

Now that you are aware of the different kinds of plagiarism there are it should be easier for you move forward with your future projects in a more effective manner, without committing it.

Avoid plagiarism, and avoid being punished.

***

Note that the images of the masked guy that are used in this blog post were created by designer freedoom. I modified one image. And I provided proper attribution to the creator by linking to the designer’s portfolio, as per the usage requirements of FreeDigitalPhotos.net!

20 Blog Post Must-Haves ebookDid you pick up your free gift yet? Get 20 Blog Post Must-Haves NOW!

14 thoughts on “Plagiarism (VS Fair Use): What Bloggers Need to Know

  1. says

    Your reply is more practical and helpful. I hope it will be helpful for too many people that are searching for this topic. Great post!
    Can’t wait to follow and learn.

  2. Hi Lorraine,

    Excellent guide.

    I’ve found some bloggers have genuinely no idea they are plagiarizing. Completely ignorant, their intent is in the right place but their knowledge is lacking… which is where your post comes in. When folks so right versus wrong, or legal versus illegal, most do the right thing. To avoid stiff penalties and to keep their online rep clean.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Ryan

    • says

      Ryan, you’re right. Most people assume it is okay to simply “copy” others without providing credit!

      I always say GIVE CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE.

      This is a great motto to live by, and it will ALWAYS protect you from being labeled a plagiarist!

  3. Phoenicia says

    Great post!

    I was taught about plagiarism whilst studying for my degree many years ago. From then on I made reference to quotes and facts used in my projects and dissertation.

    • says

      Phoenicia, I have never copied anything with providing proper attribution.

      I have caught others doing it, though, on Facebook.

      I gave them hell for it. And informed the rightful owner about it.

      Seriously, some people don’t realize how important it is to just say where they found something! Geez!

  4. Lorraine, I salute you for taking the time to write this blog. (Or did you have a ghost writer?) 🙂

    I have seen blatant theft of words in many of the jobs i have worked over the years and when I approached my colleagues for their infractions they often said “oh, but we don’t expect to make any money out of this…” and think in that case it was okay. When we teach a college level course or a coaching workshop, it would be so easy to copy and paste and say in essence “look at how clever your teacher is” when in fact, we are being intellectually lazy.

    Thanks again for your battle against word theft!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge