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B*tch stole my content! Plagiarism: How to Deal with a Thief

A couple weeks ago, an email notification from blogging bud B (of Beautifully Invisible) flashed across my iPhone. Excited to see what she might be contacting me about, I tapped the notification,  and then I saw this:

Oh, great, I think. Just what I need to deal with right now. I open up the email and find (in true B fashion), a succinct and very well-written note about an accidental discovery B made—a book review blogger (of all bloggers) had most assuredly lifted gratuitous amounts of our content, plus a post from Fajr of Stylish Thought, and reworked them into “original” posts on her blog.

This post captures my half of the story of how B, Fajr, and I worked together to stop a plagiarist dead in her tracks. I’ll also share tips and resources that you will need should you find yourself in the same unfortunate situation.

Be sure to read B’s post, I Think We’ve Been Plagiarized… Sort of: The Story of the Content Thief, to find out:

  • Why applications that measure and analyze blog traffic are vital—and why you should be looking at more than just how many visits you are getting.
  • What data you need to pay attention to when analyzing site traffic.
  • How to build a “case” against a plagiarist.

And on with the story…

This post looks familiar. Uh, maybe ’cause it’s MINE!

Irate and clicking like crazy, I, too landed upon B’s discovery and saw a tab at the top of the blog entitled “Building a Better Blog” (sound familiar?) that was formatted almost identically to my page. Then I saw my post, Klout—What it is and Why it Matters, which I painstakingly wrote and published in March 2011, reworked with synchronous similarities and published on that other blog in October 2011, with absolutely no attribution of any kind. Not a link, not a name, not an “inspired by,” nothing. Oh no she didn’t, I thought. She just messed with the wrong blogger.


A quick review of my blog analytics corroborated B’s findings. We both saw the same September 23, 2011 initial interaction date, and exits through links on my Build a Better Blog page to B’s blog. So, as a group, B, Fajr, and I decided to stand together and take action, and we got a resolution we are mostly happy with.

First, a little plagiarism 101. And, please note I am not an attorney, and this is not legal advice. If you have questions about plagiarism, copyright laws, etc., be sure to consult a qualified legal professional.

Plagiarism—it’s more than just copying.

We all learned in primary school that you can’t copy anyone’s writing and pass it off as your own. We’ve all done papers and reports in which we (probably begrudgingly) created a works cited page or used footnotes to cite references we paraphrased, and quotation marks to indicate a direct, word-for-word statement. We all know verbatim copying without attribution is illegal and unacceptable, and that blog scrapers are clearly committing copyright infringement.

If you look at the screens above and compare them to my Klout post, you can see they are not identical. But the subheadings, layout, and even parts of the copy are so similar to my post, there is no doubt this is not a coincidental similarity. Which brings me to my point: plagiarism doesn’t pertain only to verbatim regurgitation of another’s writing. According to Wikipedia,

“Plagiarism is defined in dictionaries as the “wrongful appropriation,” “close imitation,” or “purloining and publication” of another author’s “language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions,” and the representation of them as one’s own original work…”

Notice that definition doesn’t apply only to scraping or verbatim reproduction of content. If you “closely imitate” the work of another, changing a few words here and there—as the blogger did with content from B, Fajr, and me—you are still guilty of plagiarism. Hey, you know what’s funny? The very blogger who lifted our content offered a pretty good explanation of it in a post she dedicated to preaching about plagiarism. Couldn’t have written it better myself, so I’m quoting her, though I can’t offer linked attribution—I’ll tell you why below. Keep reading.

“Plagiarism is wrong. No matter how you look at it.

There is no excuse… ‘I didn’t know…. I didn’t mean to… I did it subconsciously.’ No, you didn’t. You did know and you did mean to.

Plagiarism isn’t just copying and pasting word for word and passing it off as your own. It can be taking someones work and changing around the sentence structure, getting out your thesaurus and changing a few words here and there… basically taking the central idea tweaking it and passing it off as your own work.”

Oh, the irony.

How we fought a plagiarist—and won.

After conferring with each other, B, Fajr, and I decided to begin by contacting the blogger to let her know that she was guilty of copyright infringement, and that we had IP address analytics to support our claim. We sent her an email on January 20, 2012, and asked for attribution on the content she purloined, and we let her know that not responding would force us to share our findings on our blogs and all our social networks, and that we would initiate takedown proceedings with DMCA.com.

She immediately added the attributions, but after she responded with this, it really inflamed us:

“In all honestly, I have never been to your blog or any of the blogs mentioned in this email until tonight when I cross referenced the posts that you had listed. I rarely if ever read blogs beyond the book blog community. But I could not agree more with your assessments of the posts. And I am sorry to say that I have no viable explanation. I even searched my web history to see if perhaps I had read the posts and had recalled them as I was writing my own.”

No viable explanation. I have never been to your blog. Right. We were surprised by her nonchalance and even more enraged by her lies since our analytics showed she’d been on both B’s blog and mine as recently as January 19, 2012. We decided collectively that simple attribution would no longer suffice and that we didn’t want to be linked with her blog in any manner. B crafted another email that demanded that she delete the posts in question from her blog and all her social networks, and that she rename her “Building a Better Blog” page.

She wrote back. This is an excerpt of her response:

Her contradictory statements and the fact that she did finally delete the posts and rename the page told us that our assumptions about her guilt were accurate. Because we obtained the resolution we sought (or 99% of it), and the plagiarized content now only exists in screen captures we took, we have chosen not to “out” her, lest we open ourselves up to libel. Although we did successfully retrieve our content, it is extremely frustrating knowing she continues to represent herself as an “honest” writer who would never, ever plagiarize.

Oh well. All I can say is I’m thinking she probably learned her lesson. I hope.

UPDATE: April 23,2012 The blogger we did not mention here was exposed by the Young Adult book blogging community. Sarah of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, sums it all up in her post, which includes an reprint of the blogger’s “apology.”

UPDATE: April 24,2012 B of Beautifully Invisible responds to the plagiarist’s “clarification” in her post A Tale of Plagiarism Continued: Clarification of The Story Siren’s Clarification.

What should you do if you discover plagiarism?

After your blood pressure comes down, here are some pointers on what to do next:

  1. If you notice another blogger’s content somewhere else, contact the blogger to let him or her know about the plagiarized content. Chances are they are not the only one whose content is being stolen. When bloggers come together independently with strong evidence, you have a greater case and more power to get the resolution you seek.
  2. Take screen captures of the plagiarized content so you have an image/proof for future reference and use.
  3. If there is an email address provided on the site, contact the plagiarist. You should probably send a cease-and-desist letter to start.
  4. If there is no contact info, the next step is to contact the host of the blog.
  5. If the stolen content has been scraped there is usually no contact information available. I suggest you register with DMCA.com and initiate takedown proceedings.

Hopefully one of the methods above will nip the issue in the bud. Read more about what to do when all else fails.

Copyright/Anti-Plagiarism Tools and Resources

  • DMCA.com helps to enforce the Digital Millennium Copyright Act by fighting copyright infringement and conducting takedowns of stolen content. You can also get a DMCA badge for your blog.
  • Plagiarism.org defines plagiarism and provides resources for education, prevention, and more.
  • Plagiarism Today has some fantastic resources for dealing with plagiarism online—I’ve linked to several pages in the list above, but should you want more info, be sure to check the site out, especially the Stop Internet Plagiarism section.
  • Read my post, Copyright and Image Use—What You Need to Know to better understand copyright law and  intellectual property protection.
  • Read The Uncomfortable Facts About Plagiarism—great info about this topic in an easy-to-understand article.
  • Prevent content scraping—learn more and take action:

 

Remember kids, the truth always prevails—even when people think they’re getting away with something, their IP address and pingbacks will reveal the truth every single time. Stand up for your rights and your content!

PS: “B*tch stole my content!” was inspired by the E! Fashion Police segment, B*tch Stole My Look!

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193 Comments

  1. May 3, 2012 at 2:44 pm — Reply

    Copy/pasting others' content/thoughts is #plagiarism. Stop doing it! RT @gritandglamour B*tch stole my content! http://t.co/smO17vjs

  2. May 8, 2012 at 1:41 am — Reply

    A4 @BeautifullyInv & I were recently victims of #plagiarism—by a BOOK blogger! Read how we handled it: http://t.co/P56k04yF #blogtrends

  3. May 8, 2012 at 1:41 am — Reply

    A4 @BeautifullyInv & I were recently victims of #plagiarism—by a BOOK blogger! Read how we handled it: http://t.co/P56k04yF #blogtrends

  4. May 8, 2012 at 1:41 am — Reply

    A4 @BeautifullyInv & I were recently victims of #plagiarism—by a BOOK blogger! Read how we handled it: http://t.co/P56k04yF #blogtrends

  5. May 8, 2012 at 1:41 am — Reply

    A4 @BeautifullyInv & I were recently victims of #plagiarism—by a BOOK blogger! Read how we handled it: http://t.co/P56k04yF #blogtrends

  6. May 8, 2012 at 1:42 am — Reply

    A4 @BeautifullyInv & I were recently victims of #plagiarism—by a BOOK blogger! Read how we handled it: http://t.co/P56k04yF #blogtrends

  7. May 8, 2012 at 1:44 am — Reply

    A4 @BeautifullyInv & I were recently victims of #plagiarism—by a BOOK blogger! Read how we handled it: http://t.co/P56k04yF #blogtrends

  8. May 8, 2012 at 1:44 am — Reply

    A4 @BeautifullyInv & I were recently victims of #plagiarism—by a BOOK blogger! Read how we handled it: http://t.co/P56k04yF #blogtrends

  9. May 22, 2012 at 8:58 am — Reply

    […] didn’t know what the fuck she was doing when she stole Beautifully Invisible and Grit and Glamour. […]

  10. May 24, 2012 at 1:52 am — Reply

    […] If you need G&G’s original and her clarification thos are here: http://www.gritandglamour.com/2012/01/31/bitch-stole-my-content-plagiarism/ […]

  11. May 30, 2012 at 7:27 pm — Reply

    […] blogger (I must admit– I didn’t know her) was accused of plagiarism by another blogger.  Wow!  When I think of plagiarism, I usually think of books, music, and school reports.  I […]

  12. June 6, 2012 at 10:47 am — Reply

    Thanks again to all of you for your comments and support!

  13. June 6, 2012 at 2:15 pm — Reply

    B*tch stole my content! Plagiarism: How to Deal with a Thief http://t.co/tAuazuVF via @gritandglamour

  14. June 14, 2012 at 11:43 am — Reply

    I am so glad I found your post on this. Another blogger visited my blog, left a comment (proof she was there, in fact, was a frequent visitor)she read my post, saw the method, read my ‘how-to’, saw a little phrase I ‘coined’. One month later she had set up another whole blog using the exact imitation of my post, even using my ‘coined’ phrase. Her ‘plagiarism’ of my post has now extended into a book deal. It has not been published yet but she is showing the cover of the book and everyone is ooohh and aaahhh and congratulating her. I am LIVID!!!! I contacted the publisher(since she is under contract with them) about my concerns and they basically sited they were not in copyright infringement and that the little phrase I ‘coined’ (it’s really only 2 words but is the premise and whole concept of the post and idea I had posted) was not included in copyright. Stating that copyright does not protect names, title,slogans or “””short phrases”””!
    So in all my research I came across your blog and discovered the definition of plagiarism. This EXACTLY the definition of what happened to me!!
    I have not contacted her about this. I just wanted to get to the truth on my rights without starting a blog land cat fight.
    We were all visitors to each others blogs occasionally, so it is hard to jump in and start something that will spread like wildfire (from her end I’m sure, I’m not one for big confrontations). She is well know and EVERYONE just swoons over her and I feel I am setting myself up for being black balled by the other bloggers. I feel they will see her side and not mine. When I discovered what she had done it just let the wind out of my sail and I stopped blogging as much. I found I was VERY selective on what I showed or demonstrated on my blog from then on.
    As it now stands, the other bloggers say she is genius and think she is the originator of the idea……EVEN THO some of these same bloggers had read and commented on MY post. What is WRONG with these people??
    Anyway I am thankful for the generous info you have shared here. You have given me the plagiarism route to use since I can’t seem to claim copyright infringement! I have just been sick to death over all of this. It is scary confronting people and publishing companies not knowing if all I am going to do is make a fool out of myself……..

    • June 27, 2012 at 8:48 pm — Reply

      Hi Belinda…so sorry to hear you’ve been victimized by another blogger! It IS scary confronting others, but if you do it professionally, with facts and evidence to back up your claim, you usually prevail. Definitely don’t let it slide. Good luck!

    • August 27, 2012 at 1:25 pm — Reply

      That’s horrible! The world of blogging is scary!
      I wish you luck and love. Be strong. Can you get any screenshots or dates or anything? Don’t ask me, because I’m horrible at that type of stuff, but most in the blogging community are super darling. Are you in the book blogging community?
      Anyway, be strong!
      Kim @ Snuggle’s latest post: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott CardMy Profile

  15. July 25, 2012 at 11:10 am — Reply

    I have had this happen to me MANY times, except it was images taken, not content. Some will go as far as to photoshop the images. People who are brazen enough to change someone else`s work really believe they will never get caught. Shaming them makes them martyrs. It seems like this was the case. Sorry this happened to you! Stay strong!
    Element of Chic’s latest post: Lady in Black Digital Watercolor and a Little AdviceMy Profile

    • August 8, 2012 at 8:37 pm — Reply

      Thanks Elaine…sucks when it happens for sure. Thankfully it’s all blown over now, and some good actually did come of it.

      I appreciate your comment!

  16. July 25, 2012 at 1:23 pm — Reply

    Love this resource for content theft and how to deal with plagiarism. I'm sure I'm not the only one who's had… http://t.co/KYB4elSd

  17. August 27, 2012 at 1:21 pm — Reply

    This is really horrible. I can’t believe that I ever did respect her. I just used her help, (only about, two weeks ago, I think?) for my own blog, when I came back to find it deleted. Not being in the know quite yet, I had no idea what was happening, but now I feel so guilty when all of those page views should have gone to you fashion bloggers. Sorry, I’m kind of illiterate right now, but I’m super shocked. I saw that she ran into some trouble, I think, but I didn’t expect it to be that.

    Anyway, I believe that her site has really gone down, and neither is she getting much of her respect, since she didn’t even apologize for her actions. Soo sorry that this happened to you. But hey, I’m a new follower and I’m sure many book people are following you now. I love books AND fashion!

    Don’t know if you’ll read this, but:
    Loves, loves, and more loves~
    Do well!

    • August 28, 2012 at 6:03 pm — Reply

      Hi Kim, thanks much for you comment and support! I read EVERY comment on G&G, and do my best to respond to as many as I can.

      Not to be nasty, but it would be nice if karma paid her a visit soon (in the form of lower visits/endorsements/and popularity). If you say her light has faded a bit, well, perhaps karma is paying that visit!

      I love books and fashion too. So I hope our paths will cross again soon.

  18. March 21, 2013 at 1:29 pm — Reply

    Hi,

    I know there is a lot of female in here and i don’t know if i am suppose to be here anyway, i found your website from my serps and thought i should give in my two cents. Okay, if you want to publish your content online. Here is something you need to be considered about. There is a lot of lo self people out there to steal your content and i know it makes you very mad but anything you put online will get attention and people may try to steal it and you can’t do anything about it specially to those third world countries. There are billions of internet users out in the virtual world. I say that you just let it go and let the Google algorithm handles it. Don’t waste your time writing to content plagiarist. Trust me, they will not last long. I’m speaking of my own experience. Every day my content get stolen from various bloggers, webmaster and internet marketers wanna bees. I guess it makes me more happier that they found my article to be that good specially from some one like me that speak so so English haha I don’t know how many times your content get stolen but i’m running out of energy and i want Google to work hard on this cases. Thanks for sharing this article and i hope no body steal your content again :)
    Alex Shaikh’s latest post: Tips For Writing Affiliate Marketing In Order To Make Money OnlineMy Profile

  19. August 24, 2013 at 3:54 am — Reply

    I actually know who you’re talking about. For the same reason, she took my content too. It was basically the next week after I published my article on how to create a better media kit… and not just her, my content gets stolen regularly – photos, articles, ideas… Even someone stole my photo of me (!!!) and uploaded as their Instagram profile photo. On another occasion, I got a few Twitter followers who had my face on thier profile photos… Weird? Yes. But to be honest, after a few attempts and fights over my own content I got tired, I don;t bother anymore. It’s just to painful and you never know if you succeed or not. It’s frustrating but what can you do? I wouldn’t have to left to blog if I were fighting over each piece.

    But you ladies did very well!! Respect.
    Maria @CrashingRed’s latest post: Fab Friday – Top 5 foundations for mature skinMy Profile

    • August 27, 2013 at 11:05 am — Reply

      Thank you! Yeah, it’s no fun trying to fight the liars and thieves. You just have to try and do what you can to prevent it and then go on.

  20. May 31, 2014 at 12:36 am — Reply

    […] You are quite possibly a luddite if you haven’t heard about The Story Siren issue going on. Cuddlebuggery released the news with Smart Bitches spreading it with a post about an accusation of plagiarism on Kristi’s part of a few fashion blogs, Beautifully Invisible and Grit and Glamour. […]

  21. November 18, 2014 at 12:38 pm — Reply

    […] 31, 2012 —192 Comments A couple weeks ago, an email notification from blogging bud B (of Beautifully Invisible) flashed […]

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