In the digital content world, the worse thing you can do is plagiarize someone else’s work.
Not only are you stealing someone’s intellectual property and using it for your own gain, but you’re risking your site’s standings with Google and even legal action.
Just say “NO,” people!
But not all plagiarism is the work of evil content copiers twisting their mustaches and laughing maniacally in their super villain hideouts.
In fact, you could unintentionally be stealing digital content from others and not even realize it.
Luckily for us, The Visual Communication Guy mapped how you can figure out if you’re guilty of this most heinous crime in a killer infographic.
Not only can you easily find out if you committed plagiarism or not but he’ll also let you know just how much of a horrible person you are (in terms of digital content creation, that is. I'm sure you're a lovely person in all other respects).
Here’s some of the biggest takeaways from this infotastic piece of digital content:
50 Shades of Plagiarism
Many of you might be surprised to find that there is quite a spectrum when it comes to plagiarism.
Yes, we all know you can’t copy and paste all or parts of other people’s work and claim it as your own. If not, I assume you’re some sort of sociopath and beyond the help of this blog. Please seek immediate counseling.
But you might be somewhat surprised that the following also fall under the plagiarism umbrella, to varying degrees:
- Basing your piece off the ideas of others without citing or crediting them.
- Misinterpreting the original author’s content to support your argument.
- Incorrectly citing the source.
- Not verifying the validity and legitimacy of your sources.
- Using the style or organization of another’s work without proper credit.
You might think these are minor plagiarism “mistakes,” but it’s a slippery slope.
It’s like littering. There is no trash can in sight, so what harm will it really do to drop that wrapper on the ground? It’s not like you’re dumping toxic chemicals in the pond baby panda bears drink out of, right?
Well, if everyone thought that way, our planet would be even more of a mess than it already is. Likewise, if everyone just shrugged off the seriousness of properly crediting and citing their digital content sources, the Internet would be filled with (even more) junky, poorly researched content.
What You Can Do
If you’re not part of the solution, then you’re part of the problem.
Don’t go over to the Dark Side of digital content creation. Make sure you’re doing the following:
Check Your Self (Preferably Before You Wreck Yourself)
Start at the top of the “Did I Plagiarize?” chart and work your way down. If you answered “Yes” to all of those seven questions, then you’re solid.
If not, it’s back to the drawing board.
Find Reliable Sources
The Internet is one of mankind’s greatest inventions when it comes to communication and information. It’s literally only eclipsed by speech and written language. But as the barriers to information sharing and creation are obliterated, the ability to commit and likelihood of plagiarism have dramatically increased.
You might be an unknowing participant in this chain of digital content pillaging, but that’s on you to stop, Chief. For example:
- Don’t use Wikipedia as a Source: Wikipedia is awesome and delivers tons of legitimate information to the masses, but that doesn’t mean you can take it all at face value. Check out the original sources that the articles cite and use those instead. Not only will you be doing the right thing; you’ll have a better understanding of the original author’s content, intent and purpose.
- No More Web 2.0: User created content on large sites like Squidoo, WikiHow, HubPages and other web 2.0 platforms should be trusted even less than Wikipedia as sources. If the pages reference their original content, then go to the source to make sure your information is correct. If they don’t attribute any sources, then they are not credible and should be ignored.
- Google Chunks of Content: Take a line or two of content from a source and put it in Google. If it shows up elsewhere and those pages don’t cite your source as the original, then you have an issue on your hands.
Plagiarism Just Isn’t Cool
If you’re a normal, law-abiding person like most of us, you wouldn’t walk into a business and just start stealing their stuff. So, why would you think it’s OK to steal digital content or intellectual property?
Not only are you hurting the original creators, but you’re risking a lot yourself.
At the very least, Google and the other search engines don’t rank duplicate content very well and you risk losing your rankings and possibly even being de-indexed. On the more severe spectrum you could be guilty of a crime or in violation of civil laws, leaving yourself open to serious legal issues. Copyright law isn't the easiest topic to understand, but if you plan on getting heavily into content creation (such as publishing your own books), it's definitely worth educating yourself on the basics.
Look, we’re all for being inspired by other people’s ideas. We don’t live in an information vacuum and many of the greatest ideas in the history of mankind built upon the information around them.
In fact, my wonderful editor, Melissa, found the article and infographic for this post originally. She got some ideas about a post and then passed them on to me. I took the original content, her direction and my own thoughts and came up original content that applies to our subject matter. [Editor's note: Awwww, thanks. =) ]
We’ve talked about content curation frequently on this blog. It’s perfectly legit… as long as you credit the original source(s) correctly and thoroughly. There are plenty of ways to create great content without infringing upon the rights of others.
What have been your experiences with plagiarism? After reading this post and checking out the infographic, did you discover you might have committed some shade of plagiarism unknowingly? Leave us your questions and we'll do our best to answer them!