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If You’ve Been Plagiarized

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This week we are discussing the ugly fact that there is theft in our industry.  Wedding professionals are stealing intellectual property from one another.  Intellectual property is the expression of original ideas.  Today, we’ll address what to do if you’ve been plagiarized against.

According to plagiarism.org, all of the following are considered plagiarism:

  • turning in someone else’s work as your own
  • copying words or ideas from someone else without giving credit
  • failing to put a quotation in quotation marks
  • giving incorrect information about the source of a quotation
  • changing words but copying the sentence structure of a source without giving credit
  • copying so many words or ideas from a source that it makes up the majority of your work, whether you give credit or not

What do you do if you’ve Been Plagiarized?

First, let me preface this by say that we (Sage Wedding Pros) are not lawyers.  If you find yourself being plagiarized by another professional, you should consider speaking with a lawyer before taking action.  It depends on the severity of the plagiarism, what has been stolen, and how you have protected yourself.  The following are steps that I take when someone has copied me.  These steps relate to my content found on someone else’s website.

  1. Remain calm
    Naturally, you’ll be upset.  In order for you to be the most effective, you must remain calm.
  2. Take screen shots of the infringing website and your website.
    You’ll want proof of what’s happening.  This may only be for your purpose.  But, if this escalates, you’ll want a trail that shows infringement.
  3. Contact the perpetrator
    I would recommend emailing them so that you have proof of communication.  And, I would recommend sending them a cease and desist letter.  E-how has a good step-by-step approach on writing this letter (includes legal jargon.)  If you have this happen frequently you will want to have a lawyer help you draw up a standard letter.  It’s sad, by I know several photographers who have a cease and desist form letter, ready to go at a moment’s notice.  LegalZoom also has a letter you can purchase and tweak for $14.  I like to include the screen shots of mine and the other website.
  4. Give a deadline and wait for action
    Your letter should have a deadline for when you want this to be taken down.  (Mine usually says “immediately” or “within 24 hours”.)  Your cease and desist letter will typically scare the pants off of them.  The fines for infringement can be anywhere from $500-$150,000.  If you don’t get a response within the time frame you should consider reporting them.
  5. Invoke your DCMA rights
    I had to see what Liene Stevens of Think Splendid had to say about plagiarism.  I know she has dealt with this on numerous occasions and she is an expert in online communication.  According to Liene, the Digital Millenium Copyright Act of 1998 (DCMA) gives people the right to contact the perpetrator’s website host and ask them to take down the website.  So if the copier doesn’t respond to your cease and desist, you can contact Go Daddy about the infringement, show your proof, your cease and desist letter, and ask them to take down the website for violation and misconduct.  Liene also referred to this post from The Blog Herald explaining more about DCMA.
  6. Get a lawyer involved
    Rarely does this lead to a lawsuit in the small business world, but it can.  (I say “rarely” because infringement happens a lot.  And, correction typically happens before it leads to court.)  This would depend on whether the thief wants to convince the world that it was his or her content first.  Again, this is rare, but can happen.  If the copier doesn’t budge, you may have to take it to court.  Please talk to a lawyer before even considering this.  It’s expensive, time-consuming, and draining.

Plagiarism.org has some great tips on the whos, hows, whats of plagiarism if you’d like to get more information.  If you have this happen to you often, you may consider referencing to plagiarism.org on your website.  Letting the reader/copier know that you are vigilant, is a good step towards prevention. Also, make sure to read the comments from the last few days of posts.  Our readers have had some excellent recommendations!

I want to know from you, readers: what have you done when this has happened to you?

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February 10, 2010 - 8:39 am

saundra, event engineer - I had a blog post completely copied, word for word, and posted on a newspaper website. The plagiarizer even signed her name as though she wrote it herself. (She was a common public blogger that would have her work posted online, she did NOT work for the newspaper).

Upon further investigation, apparently she did this with a lot of her posts. I never got a chance to contact the newspaper myself, instead my posse of 2-3 people contacted them before I could. Subsequently, her entire wedding blog has been taken down from the site.

For me when I found out, i wasn’t angry, I felt like I “arrived”. I wrote something super personal but fun, and a lot of people liked it. Of course you have to steam roll the thief, but otherwise it was flattering.

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