Recently, a woman emailed me asking if they could write for Evolving Beauty magazine. So, I asked her for some article samples. All the article links she sent, which sounded like they were written by different people, didn’t have clear bylines. Except one. And that article had a byline that was easily missed and was not the same name of the woman who emailed me. The woman who was passing this article off as her own. The woman who was committing online plagiarism.
Believing in giving people the benefit of the doubt, I decided to email her and ask why the name on the article was different than hers, thinking it was a pen name. She never replied. Having other editors steal my ideas and whole articles early in my career, I decided to do something about it: I contacted the online magazine direct. No surprise, they never heard of her.
Taking it a step further, here are some ways you can check for plagiarism and especially how you can minimise online plagiarism by protecting your work:
Checking Online Plagiarism by using Google Search
Enter a phrase from one of your articles or posts in google. It will find pages that have that exact phrase or ones that are similar to it. If someone has done a ‘copy and paste’ online plagiarism job of your work, you’ll be sure to find it. Or you’ll find a badly paraphrased (i.e. a cheap knockoff) version of your article. Make note of the dates as well. Most online plagiarism, either a carbon copy or a badly paraphrased one, usually happens days after you post something. And you can prove from the dates that you published it first.
Stop Online Plagiarism with Clear Bylines
Whether it’s a contributor or a guest blogger, make sure to put a byline either at the beginning or at the end of the article. And make sure it stands out from the rest of the text and hyperlink it to a contributor’s or guest blogger’s online portfolio or blog (if they have one), any place that has their contact details. That’s what I suggested to the online magazine when I contacted them about that woman who was passing one of their writer’s work as her own. And they did it. While some do commit online plagiarism by copying and pasting the text and sticking it on their site, the woman who emailed me didn’t. She just sent links, passing them off as hers, which was easy since they had no bylines. So, make sure to put bylines on everything you post. I know, I know, it’s a pain and something that I now need to do, too.
Stop Online Plagiarism by using WhoIs
If you found a site that’s used your copy verbatim, you will need to contact them. Although most sites won’t put up contact details, you can find out the name of the registrant and who is hosting the site by using WhoIs or typing in the web address in google. (Just in case you type in evolvingbeauty.co.uk, John McInerney is my silent business partner!) Then, you can contact the host provider and let them know that someone has pinched your work. Or if you are lucky, they might have not ticked that privacy box when they bought the domain name so you could get their direct contact details.
Stop Online Plagiarism by Copyrighting Your Work
All your articles or posts are copyrighted from the minute you present it as visible work. However, check out the UK’s Intellectual Property Office and read through the reasons why you should copyright your work. Make sure you can prove any online plagiarism by keeping drafts, emails, or any evidence you have.
Stop Online Plagiarism by Reporting It
If you see someone’s work being plagiarised, let the right people know! I did. It’s the only way we are going to protect each other’s sites from further online plagiarism.
By: Christina Caicedo, email@example.com