Have you ever written an article or developed the wording for a website only to find that someone has stolen your words and claimed them as their own? This is known as plagiarism and Black’s Law Dictionary defines it as “The act of appropriating the literary composition of another, or parts or passages of his writings, or the ideas or language of the same, and passing them off as the product of one’s own mind.”
It’s very easy to plagiarize. All you need to do is copy someone else’s words from the Internet, paste them into your document and claim them as your own. That’s what a paralegal “friend” of mine did to me. Surprisingly, I found the article by doing a search on Twitter. I was searching for “virtual paralegal” when I discovered a tweet complimenting “her” article. Curious to read it, I clicked on the link and couldn’t believe my eyes. It was MY article! She had changed the name of my article, deleted my name and added her name as the author and changed a few words at the beginning of the article, leaving the remaining article exactly as I had written it. After I recovered from the shock, I sent her an email and a cease and desist letter demanding that she remove the article everywhere she had posted it. She complied and within a short time she had removed every trace of the article.
During another copyright infringement search, this time on LinkedIn, I was shocked to see the exact words from my website in another paralegal’s profile. I went to her website and discovered that she also stole most of the words from my website and put them on hers. The amazing thing is that she also included my area of law and services, when she had no experience in intellectual property. That day I sent her a cease and desist letter. After receiving it, she quickly removed all the wording she stole from my website.
There are several online tools available which make it easy to quickly see if someone has stolen your work. While some are free, some charge a fee. Copyscape will search for websites that are using your website content and will give you a list. Its basic service is free, but it will return only ten results. Its paid service is unlimited and costs five cents per search. You can also use Copyscape to check on the offending websites on the list to see who else they are infringing. In the case of the paralegal who stole the words from my website, when I checked her website on Copyscape, there were three other websites she stole words from besides mine. I contacted each of them and let them know their website content had been plagiarized by her.
Another site to use for a plagiarism check is Plagium . It offers free, unlimited service and is similar to Copyscape. It uses Yahoo so it will give you different hits than Copyscape which uses Google..
As I previously mentioned, you can also check LinkedIn by searching people in your line of work and skimming through their profiles. Perhaps some wording will look familiar to you, like it did with me. And be sure to include Twitter in your searches as well.
To see if someone is using your words in an RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed, you will want to use FairShare, which is free. It is used for the detection of frequently updated works such as blogs and news headlines.
Don’t forget to do a Google search by selecting a very unique phrase from your article or website – and putting it in quotes. If you have any hits, look at the results carefully to see if you have been plagiarized.
Another suggestion is to sign up with Google Alert to have it check for your name, the name of your business or a unique phrase from your website or article. You will be sent an e-mail from Google Alert whenever your requested wording appears on the Internet. You can then check to see if anyone is plagiarizing your work.
In this article, Melodee K. Currier shows you many simple ways to empower yourself so you won’t become a victim of plagiarism. Stay tuned for Part Two of this article