As someone who loves content, blogging and generally reading about what’s going on online, I was unfortunate enough to find some very disturbing content through my social network. I was reading an article, apparently written by this person, and while reading it, I had a thought – I had read this before.
A simple Google search confirmed my thought. The entire article had been simply cut and pasted, and published without any record of the original author. I was appalled – surely this goes against the entire purpose of content marketing?
Content marketing, which I’ve spoken about before and no doubt will again, is centred around the idea of publishing written or visual pieces that are original work, designed to promote the writer as an expert in his or her field, of having a valid contribution to make to a topic or a new perspective. That’s a really brief summary, but you get the idea. Plagiarism, while morally abhorrent, flies in the face of that – promoting yourself as an expert through someone else’s words is not only a bald faced lie, but ridiculous! It simply demonstrates that you don’t have a firm grasp on the concept of the topic, and doesn’t pitch you in the right light to either your peers or your customers.
There are a few instances where sampling from other people is absolutely accepted – for instance, you cannot have an image of everything that’s ever existed, and sourcing images is completely valid. If you use someone else’s image, make sure that you reference where it came from by linking the image to the original page, or by putting a link at the bottom of the image saying where the image was found, and the photographer if you can find it. By doing this, you protect yourself from legal ramifications under section 42 of the Copyright Act 1968.
Similarly with text, it’s absolutely OK to quote someone, as long as the quote is presented as that. Use quotation marks, a different font style or something to signify that this content is a quote. Then ensure that you put a link to the original post where the quote is from, reference the writer and maybe even throw them a compliment – something along the lines of “I couldn’t have said it better myself, so here’s a quote from Mark Schaefer” for instance.
There are of course ramifications to plagiarism. Aside from looking like a bit of an idiot to anyone who recognises the work, at the very least you might get an angry email from someone who has read the content and realised what you’re doing (as I was tempted to do), or a snarky blog post about plagiarism (like this one here). At worst, the original poster of the content finds out and sues you for replicating their content, and bad mouths you all over town and you completely loose your credibility. We have seen this in a case in the good ol’ US-of-A, when companies like Agence France Presse (AFP) and Getty Images used Daniel Morel’s image of the Haiti earthquake without his permission or crediting him. He sued and was awarded 1.2million dollars in damages and the image was removed for all sites/publications etc.
Additionally, duplicated content is not something that Google appreciates, and if it happens too often they will infect penalise you, making you invisible in search results. This again, completely defeats the purpose of writing interesting and engaging content in the first place, as one popular purpose is to make your company and brand searchable and visible to the masses.
At the end of the day, you should have enough faith in your own knowledge of your subject matter before you start writing a blog. If done right, blogging and content marketing can be a great way to really engage your customers, boost Google search results, your reputation in your industry and your value to your customers and suppliers. However, if all you do is copy what someone else is doing, duplicating their opinions and ideas, then the only person looking a fool is you.
Have you seen some outrageous breaches of copywrite law? Or have you ever been plagiarised yourself? How did you handle it? I would love you to share your story over on my Facebook page or Tweet me @emdesignsau
**Special thanks to Chevelle McFarlane for her assistance with this article. Chevelle is a passionate copywrite advocate who was nearly as gobsmacked as I was when she heard this story.