How to Avoid Plagiarism Online

CopiesPlagiarism is a serious problem for content creators online. It happens on social networks, blogs, and even traditional static websites. There is so much content online that people seem to believe they can rip someone’s writing off, put their name on it, and no one would notice. In many cases, that’s true. It’s one of the reasons that content ripping has become such a profitable industry.

There are more than a few sites out there I’ve dealt with that essentially copied and pasted every article I wrote and put them on their site, attributed to a made-up author’s name. It wasn’t until I took action by submitting claims on Google and sending DMCA notices to the site owners that the violations stopped. Even still, it continues to be a problem despite the legal world finally beginning to catch up and understand that digital content is just as enforceable as physical goods.

Herein lies the problem. You can work your fingers to the bone creating content only to have it ripped off, or you can take some steps to better detect and put a stop to content theft.

In this article, we’ll go over some areas where plagiarism is prevalent and steps you can take to combat it.

Images on Social Media

Coming up with clever photographs, art, and witty memes is great, but how often do your creations end up being shared (without attribution) on someone else’s stream? Often, that other person’s version of your creation receives all the attention and praise without anyone finding out that you were its creator. All the effort you put into something is then reduced to you appearing as though you copied the person who copied you. It happens all the time, but it doesn’t have to.

One preventative measure you can take is to add a watermark to photos and videos. It doesn’t have to be much. A simple name, brand, Twitter URL, or domain name placed in a corner of the image just large enough to be read will work wonders. Unless the plagiarist takes the time to edit your name out of the image, it’ll remain something you can maintain credit for.

You can also put yourself or something identifiable in the image itself. For example, if all of your images have a GI Joe action figure in them somewhere, it’s harder for someone to claim you took it from them when you have established a theme. Many folks slip their domain name in the background somewhere, cleverly disguised among the colors and shapes within.

Blog Posts

Blogs get ripped off all the time. Unfortunately, it’s harder to enforce your written content than an image. You can, however, set up some warning tools and submit immediate takedown requests to Google in addition to sending the site owner DMCA notices. Ultimately, legal action can be taken against offenders and many lawsuits have been won by content creators over this type of theft.

Google Alerts is a great tool for the job. Just set up an alert for your article title and/or specific elements that only exist in your work and it’ll let you know when something pops up that meets the criteria.

You can also put your content in a tool specifically designed to search for duplicates such as the one provided over at Reprint Writers. Just copy and paste your article body into the tool and it’ll search for matches for you. If a match is found, then you’ll know you’re either the victim of a plagiarist or a ghost writer attempting to pass you something that already exists elsewhere. Remember, part of good plagiarism etiquette is making sure that you’re not publishing other people’s work as well. Ghost writers aren’t all on the up and up, and you might end up with someone else’s work on your site if you take submissions on faith alone.

How do you avoid plagiarism online? Leave a comment below and let us know your favorite methods and/or tools.

Image: bettyx1138

Article Written by

Ryan Matthew Pierson has worked as a broadcaster, writer, and producer for media outlets ranging from local radio stations to internationally syndicated programs. His experience includes every aspect of media production. He has over a decade of experience in terrestrial radio, Internet multimedia, and commercial video production.