What is Plagiarism?

Plain and simple, plagiarism is when someone copies a piece of work from another artist and distributes it, either free or for a charge, without the original author’s consent or knowledge.

Before the internet, plagiarism was much simpler. Usually people who plagiarized a work were relegated to small publishing houses or fan-made “zines.” With the internet, we have entered a “golden age” of plagiarism, where sites can steal content, post it on their site to a wide audience, and collect valuable views and site hits without the original author ever knowing about it. Sites like Ebaum are notorious for stealing images and videos from other sources and then slapping a watermark on it with their site name. Strangely, because of how fast and easily available content is on the web, some plagiarists don’t even consider what they’re doing wrong or illegal.

In a notorious case, the website Cooks Source stole a web article from writer Monica Gaudio, and when she complained to the site, their editor responded by saying, “but honestly Monica, the web is considered ‘public domain’ and you should be happy we just didn’t ‘lift’ your whole article and put someone else’s name on it.” Of course, the web isn’t considered public domain, and bloggers own the rights to any original work they publish.

It’s not just smaller writers that are victims. The humor website Cracked.com constantly has to send “cease and desist” requests to sites stealing their articles, and the only way they know about another site stealing their work is when someone reports the theft on their forum. Their theft thread has over 600 posts, which gives you an idea of how often the articles that they pay people to write are stolen.

Just because you put something on the internet for free doesn’t mean that other people are free to steal it and take credit for your work. This is also the case if someone is plagiarizing an eBook that you’re selling. You own it and have rights as the author or publisher.