Get Our Blueprint for Creating
and Selling Online Courses

How to Launch Your Course and Enroll
Your First (Or Next!) 5, 50, or even 500 Paying Students... FAST!

The next webinar is on

Click here to get the details.

Ask the Readers: Dealing with Apparent Plagiarism?

questions-cardBut it doesn’t mean we’re happy about it.

This is a bit of a challenging Ask the Readers post – and the input we get from you on it will likely influence our policies down the road – so please read, consider, and let us know what you think!

It was recently brought to our attention that a post we ran in the past bore a strong resemblance to one elsewhere on the net. We will call the post that we published Post X and the post it resembled Post Y.

Now, we approached the guest author who supplied us with Post X, and asked for an explanation about what was going on, and why there was this level of similarity.

The guest poster explained that Post Y had been a source of inspiration and reference for Post X – and that no theft or plagiarism had been intended.

We believe that the guest poster did not intend to steal the content, that there was no malice involved – but it is still an unacceptable thing to have happen.

This is the first time we’ve run into this situation, and have added a disclaimer to the post in question – but that’s not enough – something needs to be done one way or another.

That’s what this month’s ask the readers post is all about.

What should we do?

We could remove the post entirely.

We could leave it up, with the disclaimer linking to the original, earlier post.

We could leave it up without the disclaimer.

It got us on the team thinking about what measures we can take to prevent this type of thing from happening in the future – perhaps using a service such as Copyscape to check work that comes in to us.

What are your thoughts on the matter?

Let us know in the comments – we will listen to everything you say – and update you when a decision has been made.

About Megan Dougherty

Megan Dougherty is an alumnus of Mirasee and is passionate about online education, small business and making a difference in the world. You can find out what she's up to and how side-hustles will take over the world at PayingforLife.com. Follow her on Twitter at @MeganTwoCents.

126 comments

  1. Joanna Moore says:

    I have a diploma in music business, wherein I studied copyright law, but my graduate degree was in English, so I did a lot of research, citing, and writing. The earliest English classes in college usually hammer in the idea that plagiarism is wrong, and they explain what it is. I took that seriously. I was a top student, and my work was plagiarized more than once by other students. Each time, I pushed until the plagiarizer was withdrawn from the class per university guidelines that our dean was afraid to enforce. Frankly, they should have been kicked out of the program because that is what happens in the career force. Plagiarism is a very serious offense. It reveals the offender’s lack of integrity, but steals the humanity, thoughts, and words of the target.

    Now, my blog is plagiarized pretty much daily. Yes daily. I see my words ALL the time on Facebook pages and memes that are related to my topic. Plagiarizers copy me word for word, then put their own logos on it to push their blogs. They also take the memes I create to advertise my blog, and edit out my website address. Or worse, they add their own instead. It’s stunning how little character or morals people have. We all know this isn’t a decent thing to do, right?

    The kicker? My blog topic is dealing with narcissists. Narcissists are known for taking credit for other people’s work and playing victim when they get caught doing something wrong, which is pretty much what happens. There is one woman who regularly takes words from my ads or my blog then puts her name on them. When I report to Facebook, she claims I am “attacking” her and sends me emails telling me I am making her life difficult. No, violating others is what makes her life rough!

    I know that if you don’t protect your copyrighted work, you lose your rights, so I enforce my rights EVERY time. I spend time creating books and blogs to tell my story and make a few dollars a month for my family. I do not do it so someone can take credit for my work and make a living of off what I do! No matter how naive the plagiarizer is, it’s essential that the offending work is removed before it gets shared around and eclipses the original.

  2. Katharine ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    There’s plagiarism. and then there’s piracy.

    I’ve had my work and my NAME, as author, stolen. Someone pretending to be me got paid to post one of my magazine articles on blog site. Amazing brashness. (The perpetrator likely didn’t mean to do anything wrong, right?)
    Happily, my editor was able to convince the blog owner to take my work down.

    Anytime a reader can identify a post as copied, just by reading it, it’s copied. Glad you took it down, but sorry you rewarded the thief.

  3. Rose Johnston says:

    An earlier poster stated ” … Or when a writer adapts (say a short story) and makes it into a T.V. screen play, this is considered a new work–as long as the source for the screen play is identified in the credits. … ”

    Why wouldn’t adapting the short story into a screenplay be considered a derivative work? See http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ14.pdf

  4. Barbara Ingrassia says:

    I apologize for coming in so late on this, but I want to add that this illustrates so vividly the importance of instruction in “Information Literacy” for our Digital Age. While copyright law in the U.S. has existed since the 1790s, it’s the ease of searching/copying/pasting/sending today that has made copyright suddenly “more relevant.” There are so many myths about copyright and plagiarism that even those who should know better can fall victim to the myths. Yes, this was a case of plagiarism…and most likely copyright infringement. I work with students, faculty, business people, marketers, web site designers, etc. to debunk the myths and help them avoid such ethical/legal/financial “surprises.” Barb Ingrassia

  5. Megan says:

    Hi Everyone,

    I want to thank you for your detailed, thorough and incredibly insightful comments on this post and on this issue.

    Based on your feedback, we have taken down the post in question, and the author will be writing something new to fill that space.

    The author did reach out to me saying that they had read all of your comments, and learned a huge amount, and apologized.

    We are also reaching out to the original author explaining what happened, and the action we’re taking.

    And – we now have a copyscape account. 😉

    Thank you all again – it is a privilege to work with and for you!

    Best,

    Megan

    1. Derek says:

      I would love that post to be about this experience and what she has learned from it. That could make for a very interesting read.

    2. Myrrhcy says:

      This is very disturbing!

      The writer gets rewarded for plagiarzing by being asked to submit another article? What?! Where’s the respect for the law?

      As Anne so eloquently stated:

      “The original article was not merely “inspiration.” She thought she could get away with copying another’s work. She got caught. By no means should you offer her another chance to guest post, as some have suggested.”

      The below is from the author’s website “About Us” page. I believe in the “benefit of the doubt” but this is just too much.

      “After graduating with a double Degree in Law and Business (majoring in Advertising and Promotions Management) from the University of Technology Sydney, [she] took a 180 degree turn, giving up a predetermined career in law to pursue what she loves most – writing, speaking, creating things from scratch and weaving them into a reality.”

      1. What, are you struggling with the notion of a “predetermined career in law”? Or think someone with a degree in Law understands Intellectual Property Law as you understand it (keeping in mind slight differences in the laws of other countries, even if they offer similar protections under various treaties). Or do you think anyone calling herself a “writer” and claiming to love “creating things from scratch” could’ve done a better job of writing wholly original material?

        I’m not sure any of those are fair assumptions, although being asked to write another guest post seems an odd sort of restitution. I’ve read both posts and I’ve seen much more obvious and egregious examples of plagiarism defended on the web by people with just as much reason to “know better.” And given the complexities and costs involved in taking people to court over it, I think everyone should be given some benefit of the doubt. Even second chances.

        I’m actually more disturbed by Firepole keeping this up, using it to generate traffic and discussion. Not to generate traffic to the original post, which is the one that arguably deserves the traffic. I think we are seeing one of the reasons why, under law, only the copyright owner can initiate an action against a violator. THIS is like trying someone in the media before they get their day in court.

  6. CJ says:

    Just easy to take it off, be done with it and move on. Things are too busy in business to waste time & energy on something easily solved. And, I would be cautious ever taking from that author again unless they can prove it is original. Truly wish you all the very best.

  7. Like others I was able to find both posts with a Google search. I also noticed the plagiarizing blogger’s “apology” at the end. She clearly has absolutely NO idea what it means to be a writer. I’m shocked. Just shocked.

    She lifted entire sentences from the other post. Copied the headings, in some cases word for word.

    No, it would NOT have been enough to “acknowledge” the original author’s work! A true writer does not copy word for word! For that matter, a true writer’s work would not in any way resemble another’s work, even if they are writing on the exact same topic.

    Would some of the concepts be the same? Certainly. But it would be so very clear that one writer was writing from their own experience and expertise, and the other from theirs.

    Again, I’m appalled that this guest blogger doesn’t even understand the rudimentary aspects of writing an original post, and what is, and isn’t, plagiarism.

    She plagiarized. If she doesn’t understand that she plagiarized, then she has no business writing.

    The original article was not merely “inspiration.” She thought she could get away with copying another’s work. She got caught.

    By no means should you offer her another chance to guest post, as some have suggested.

  8. Kelsey says:

    I say remove the post.

    Rewarding laziness and bad online behavior reflects badly upon us all, both for current subscribers and potential subscribers. It’s too bad we have to police others in this way, but if we expect fair treatment for our own posts/blogs, it is incumbent upon us to treat others fairly.

  9. Steve Cooepr says:

    A few observations:
    There are legal implications for the copycat and Firepole, whether the original author pursues action or not. It’s still illegal to use someone else’s work and call it your own.
    Ethically speaking, you should reject the work if you cannot trust its originality, and if you don’t, once you learn the truth, acknowledge the error and retract the piece.
    The second author has the right, as do all of us, to react or respond to anyone’s words and ideas, so long as the original receives proper attribution. Otherwise, why not just post a link, Retweet, or share the original.
    Gauging the number of responses, including my own, it appears that many writers are here sharing advice and not in the book file adding to another chapter. Gotta go now.

  10. Ruthy says:

    It just occurred to me that this had become a very good exercise of the subject mater:
    There are over 100 comments here, and basically all of them suggest to remove the post, yet each and every comment has it’s own style and character.
    Same idea – numerous ways to express it…
    Nice 🙂

  11. Judyth Mermelstein says:

    Unfortunately I haven’t time to compare the articles but I do have some thoughts:
    1) Legally, nobody can copyright an idea–only the fixed written expression thereof. Except in cases of direct copying or very close paraphrasing, it’s very hard to know whether the second writer copied from the first or just had similar ideas.
    2) As mentioned above, there is an awful lot of cheap “PLR” material in circulation, thanks to the IM rackets, and most who buy it take the “you can do anything you want with it” licence literally. They are not technically plagiarizing unless they pass the material off as their own original work, but some don’t understand that distinction.
    3) Copyscape is really not the answer. Take a look at sites like Freelancer.com and see how many people are asking for articles to be “spun” ten different ways so as to pass Copyscape. Look also at the availability of software whose algorithms substitute synonyms automatically.
    4) If there is “nothing new under the sun,” there is nonetheless originality in the means of expression. A text on a “hot” topic, written in the usual cliches, may be *technically* original to its author and sound like the usual waffle to everyone else. An original text adds a new perspective even to common subjects.
    5) A recurrent issue in journalism these days is “self-plagiarism”–meaning the writer fobs off a previous article on a new publication with little or no change to the material. In that field, the ethics used to be clear: rewriting your own material is fine; quoting or paraphrasing other people’s words is fine *with attribution*; anything else had bloody well better be your own original work. But quite a few people currently or recently employed as journalists havebeen unclear on the concept over the past few years (dare I mention Margaret Wente?), sometimes not just self-plagiarizing but ripping off whole paragraphs from other writers’ work found on the Web.

    If *they* don’t get it, it seems overly optimistic to expect Joe-the-wouldbe-Internet-marketer to understand why what they’re doing is wrong. It’s really up to the editors and publishers to set policy and be on the lookout for offenders. A contract or letter of agreement in which the writer guarantees his/her work is original is Step One. An eagle eye for things that look familiar on first reading is Step Two. Step Three is an admission that the item was published in error and has been removed for cause.

    Aside from that, it’s a good idea to try to educate people on the ethical side of writing. Even the best of us can slip into using hackneyed phrases for stale ideas but we’re supposed to catch ourselves at it and rewrite; no editor has time to do a Web search on every sentence of every submission, but spot-checking has become a necessity, especially when the writer is an amateur or a lazy sod.

  12. Shannon Lagasse says:

    I’m going to agree with all the people who said take it down. It’s not cool to plagiarize.

    If you’re inspired by an article and using quotes from it, you have to include a link to that article and reference it. For instance, when I’m writing a blog post inspired by a sentence I read in a book, I start it out like this, “I was reading this great book called ___________ by ________ and came across this quote, ‘Quote’, pg. #.” And then I elaborate on my thoughts about that quote and what I’ve learned in reference to that quote and how the reader can start putting those ideas into action. But I always reference the quote.

    Sometimes I come up with article ideas that I think are totally new and revolutionary, then I realize that someone else has already had the idea. I didn’t read their stuff first, I didn’t copy their work, I just had an idea and wrote. But if it strongly resembles their work, then I’ll change mine.

    It’s difficult today to come up with a new thought. Almost everything has already been said by someone somewhere. We may not even be aware that we’re copying someone else’s thought. But, as you mentioned, the article in question was “inspired” by another. That’s intentional.

  13. Gail Timms says:

    I think your reputation would be top priority thus deleting the article and sending an explanation to your source as well . Whereas if you left it up there with a disclaimer it could give the wrong interpretation as well as dropping your high standards that are very much one of your core values o f Ethics and integrity.
    Thanks for the tip of using Copyscape to check future articles
    What do your mastermind group advise?
    Cheers!!
    Have an awesome successful week ahead!
    Gail

  14. Matt E says:

    I think you guys have already gotten a lot of good advice to consider, but I’ll add my two cents.

    As a writer and photographer, I’m always bugged by that oft-used apology, “I didn’t intend to plagiarize.” Well, fine, but you did plagiarize. Intention doesn’t exempt you from consequences. If you run a red light but didn’t intend to, do you think the police would let you off with out a ticket?

    As for what to do, I have to ask, would you guys run a post that consisted solely of “spun content?” For clarity’s sake, I’m referring to an article/post that’s been run through software that replaces words with synonyms to create several “unique” versions ostensibly for SEO. If the answer is yes, then remove the disclaimer and go on. If the answer is no, and I do hope it is, then remove the post altogether.

  15. Tracey - Life Changing Year says:

    I’ve had some time to come back and compare the two articles this afternoon and I think you should definitely remove the post from your site. They are outrageously similar and this is a clear case of an article being rewritten. It’s so similar that this shouldn’t even be a discussion. Print them out and highlight the parts that are obviously similar and you’ll see that there’s not that much to differentiate the two!

  16. Sharon - Kay says:

    Lots of good suggestions: Take down the post, notify/apologize to the real author, lay down clear guidelines with severe consequences are among my favorites. Copyscape as a matter of course, definitely.

    Beyond that, I’m a bit harsher than most:

    I do not see this as a fuzzy area, and I don’t buy the “gee, I didn’t mean to plagiarize” line. You (the guest poster) took someone else’s ideas, structure, and headings. All you did was jigger a couple of words here and there. That isn’t writing; it’s a light edit. If that’s all you’ve got in you, just link to the post that inspired you. Someday when you have your own ideas or have done your own research, write it up. From scratch. Sheesh.

    Firepole Marketing is about building an honest relationship between online business people and their community. This guest poster is not yet clear on the concept.

    1. Love, love, love your comment. I’m also not inclined to go so easy on this person. I won’t call them a writer, because if they were they would know how to put their own thoughts together and they would know that plagiarism is a serious offense.

      I’m surprised at all the people here that think the blogger should be given another chance to submit a guest post. Are you serious? What don’t they get about this? The person copied someone else’s work and purposely passed it off as their own. Which tells me that: they. can’t. write.

      I agree with you…sheesh!

  17. Dori says:

    A quick entry for “disclaimer” brought up the offensive post, and the link to the original work.

    If I were the writer/plagiarizer of this work, I would want you to take it down! The original post was SO MUCH better, in so many ways, and I found myself questioning every blog post on her site now – how much of what she has written is hers and how much is “inspired” by others? That’s the real danger of doing something like this – not have a single guest post removed, but having someone (or many someones) find out about it and begin to question you in their mind.

    I understand what it is like to try to do your own thing – but she had to have had that post open or printed out in front of her to write the post she submitted to you. That’s pretty clear cut case, and it would be in everyone’s best interest to take it down, and then improve your own processes to match who you are/are becoming in the marketplace.

  18. Allen Resha says:

    You are talking about a post from a Big Blog. This isn’t something to ask about. Pull the post. Took me 10secs with Google to find. I am sure the owner already knows.

  19. Marie says:

    My comment is not directly about the FPM guest post, but plagiarism is a good topic to discuss here, as it is HUGE on the Internet and we should all know how to handle it if it comes up. Many blogs have had material plagiarized, even copyright-marked pieces from DMCA-protected pages. Some of us find out about material lifted from our blogs, some don’t. Usually a dedicated reader notices the similarity and contacts the blogger.

    A couple of years ago I was looking at a blog that had recently “liked” our FB page and posted on our wall. I thought some material on the new blog sounded too familiar. Then I looked at the “about us” page and did a double take when I read the very unique bio–as in no one else has this exact history–of one of our blogging team members–word for word except for the name. A further search of the blog revealed some entire pages copied from our blog. The blog host required the blogger to remove the material (leaving a lot of gaps in that website). If that had not worked, we would have gone farther.

    I have also been the victim of plagiarism of large portions of text and custom illustrations from my printed book that appeared in another printed book a couple of years later. Major publishing houses have legal departments to deal with this, but for independent publishers and bloggers, it can be very expensive and time-consuming to pursue legal action.

    One good guide for dealing with blog plagiarism that I know of is Darren Rowse’s post at http://www.problogger.net/archives/2004/12/21/what-to-do-when-someone-steals-your-blogs-content-blog-plagiarism/.

  20. Em Maxwell says:

    Wow. Lots of confusion about plagiarism. Just because you didn’t mean it, doesn’t mean it’s not plagiarism. It is. This person basically copied someone’s work and didn’t credit them for it. I also find it amazing that you haven’t contacted the person whose original work it was, and asked them what they want you to do. The work, after all, belongs to them. The fact that you are even considering doing something else gives me a not very good impression of you–if you’ve left up the post, it’s because you want to, not because it’s a learning opportunity for others. A post about the post would be acceptable.

  21. Kurt Herbel says:

    I don’t think there is a more slippery slope than this kind of ethical fudging. It sounds to me that you know what happened was wrong. When it’s wrong: TAKE IT DOWN! You don’t want the legal hassle and you don’t want your reputation stained. If you’re leaning towards what’s safe: TAKE IT DOWN.

  22. Peter DeHaan says:

    I’m a magazine publisher (print and online) and this issue is a huge concern of mine.

    As a publisher, if this situation happened to me with a guest post I received, I’d remove the post in question from my site. I don’t see anything to be gained by leaving it up, and I do see a lot of downside, including harm to my brand, lost credibility with my readers, and possible legal action against me for posting it.

    You can try to address this in your submission guidelines, but in my experience, most people don’t read them. So that leaves with addressing things after the fact.

    It’s a tough issue to deal with, and I think its only going to get worse.

  23. Gary Korisko ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I may come off as a hardass, here… and that’s ok.

    FPM is Danny’s business… not a hobby. And he has a number of employees who earn a living helping him run the business.

    I’m also really doubtful that I (or anyone else) could sit down and type a post subhead by subhead matching an existing post and deep down really think that’s 100% ok.

    I’m not saying this person intentionally did something bad necessarily – but certainly there had to be a level of willfulness to the process. I’ve always said that if something feels *kind of* wrong, it’s probably wrong and you shouldn’t do it. In law, ignorance is not an acceptable excuse… and law could very well enter into this situation.

    I’d take the post down for sure. No doubt.

    As far as Copyscape goes, I only know what I hear. If I were in this situation and my own research/study showed me it was a reliable and affordable solution, I’d probably use it.

    Best of luck with this, guys.

  24. Frank Daley says:

    Megan and Danny,
    To reply to the specific question:
    Megan and Danny:
    Re: specific inciden.
    1) Delete the offending post and explain why to the readers.
    2) NO 1 plus a comment by the original writer (and maybe the plagiarist too)
    3) Be even more explicit in your guidelines with a link to whichever above method you decide on (or other)
    4. Use the incident as a teaching tool. Parse the offending and then post the analysis and give chapter and verse reasons why it was wrong to do.
    Would be helpful to other would-be guest bloggers.

    Re the greater problem..more to come!

  25. Ellie says:

    To me, Firepole has always been a stood for producing quality work and original thinking. Spinning articles, even accidentally, has no place. (Spinning articles is a practice of changing just enough text so that Google doesn’t recognize 2 articles as duplicate content.)

    This post seems way outside the quality guidelines for your own site, and more importantly, for what your teachings recommend.

    It’s unfair to the rest of your community to keep that post up, and keep generating credibility and traffic for that author. (And thanks for not mentioning them by name, and getting them a bunch of publicity via even via bad PR!)

    I’d suggest using this as a training moment (as you so brilliantly are) for your community and for the author. **And offer the author of the ORIGINAL post a guest-posting opportunity!! They’re obviously a smart thinker**

    I appreciate that you’re not being unkind to your guest-poster, but it seems like you might be being a little too generous!

  26. Brenda Keck says:

    It seems that several issues are at stake:
    1. Your credibility with your readers
    2. The questionable content sent to you now on your website
    3. The right thing to do for the original author

    It seems to me that the best response is the most direct! Obviously, the similarity between the two posts is way too much to ignore (or you would have). If the person who sent you the guest post is owning responsibility for their mistake – give them the opportunity to ‘come clean’ publically. Maybe even use it as an opportunity to share how we can unintentionally cross the line here – and give some guidelines on how to avoid that! Give them the chance to apologize to the original author and give credit back to them. While embarrassing, it is the best way for them to restore their trustworthiness and yours too – AND keep the professional standards high for all of us.

    If they are NOT willing to accept responsibility, I don’t know that I would want to reward them by keeping their post on your site. Even if the line was crossed unintentionally, it was crossed. Ignoring that doesn’t seem fair to the original author and lowers the bar for what is acceptable.

    We look up to you in this industry! I hope you will lead the way in setting a standard of respecting each others’ work. None of us would want the credit for our material to be assigned to someone else.

    My 2 cents.

  27. Samantha Bright says:

    Hello Danny,
    The idea of plagiarism is a serious one. We live in a time that CDs and DVDs are copied, no one knows who wrote what and there are few cultural ethical standards that keep us in check. As a result, I feel that any amount of plagiarism should be dealt with strongly and strictly by the community, to show that this is not okay. This will prevent this from happening again and may stop someone from doing it for the first time. We need to regulate each other to stay ethical and act according to virtues…like in Asia, or otherwise people begin to do anything they need to to make money and received attention. Good question! I look forward to seeing the result. For me, I would take it off completely and write something about how this is unacceptable.

    Sincerely,
    Samantha Bright

  28. Mary Alice says:

    I’m in the news business—journalism. In journalism, we have to attribute EVERYTHING that is said in an article. If you don’t know the name of the person who said something in a meeting, you have to at least say, according to a meeting participant who is a Grant County resident, for example. If it’s in a news release, you say: according to a news release from ABC Corp.

    So I’m looking at this from a different perspective, but when I accept guest posts, better known as editorials, to my online news source, the authors are expected to give footnotes or links to the articles where they are quoting or paraphrasing what someone else said or wrote.

    Perhaps guest posts should have the same requirements. Such as: “According to so-and-so, who is a great inspiration to me, ‘Lorem ipsum etc.'”—within quotes or not.

  29. Allen Resha says:

    This situation is very easy to resolve. Take down the duplicate content. Will Google send you an email if you are about to be sandboxed? NO! Any blogger who uses duplicate text, headers, etc. is knowingly posting duplicate content. I think the use of Copyscape is probably the best resolve. The post should be removed immediately.

  30. Linda says:

    I think it was in extremely poor taste to post this. What you’ve done – intended or not – is hung this girl out to dry in public.

    It look me under 5 minutes to find the 2 articles you are referring to. Google disclaimer + this domain and WHAM – there it is.

    You contacted her. She said plagiarism was not intended. After that, it was up to you (as an editor) to decide if there’s plagiarism or not. That’s what editors do.

    If you were not sure, the person to ask would be the original author. If he felt plagiarized, the post comes down. Immediately. If he doesn’t, the post stays.

    The disclaimer is like saying hey, I don’t know if this is plagiarism, so I’m just going to cover my own butt here.

    Incidentally? If you check Copyscape, you’ll discover that the same article is posted on another site with credit to Danny Iny. Most likely scraping, sure – but all the more reason to use copyscape before you post guest posts, not after.

    This sounds harsh – sorry about that. I think it was handled poorly. Anything that has potential to smear a reader/contributor doesn’t have any place in professionalism.

    I think your “ask the readers” is an awesome feature (wish more blogs had it) but I don’t think this belonged here.

    1. Hey, Linda, I don’t agree. Once a blogger (or guest blogger) hits “publish,” it’s fair game for anyone to weigh in. Asking your readers for feedback, opinions, etc. is a brilliant strategy for increasing engagement and gathering market research, too. If the blogger in question didn’t do anything “wrong,” then s/he shouldn’t mind the extra eyes on her work. And, I appreciate the ideas and opportunty to learn from others’ opinions and experiences, too.

      1. Linda says:

        The editors already felt dicey about the article. Hence, the disclaimer. But instead of asking the original author if HE felt plagiarized, they asked the readers. This would never happen with a magazine or newspaper. Why should bloggers be less professional than any other content publisher? I don’t think the public finger pointing was very classy, given that emailing the original author for his opinion could have solved the whole issue.

          1. Linda says:

            Hi Holly – I was redoing my site (including that captcha!) but got sidetracked ’cause business got crazy busy. (The shoemaker’s kids have no shoes syndrome strikes again. lol.) I’ll pop over to yours!

          2. Tried to send you a note through your site, Linda, but after doing enough math problems to make my brain explode, I gave up. 🙂 Personally, I hate math CAPTCHA, but when it sticks its tongue out at me – even when I get them all right – and says, “STILL not gonna let you through the gate! Hahahah!” I give up. 😉 You know where to find me.

  31. Maggie Dennison says:

    Hi all,

    I would take the article down for a different reason than those mentioned here – and that is to protect your reputation.

    You don’t want anyone (including the owner of the original article) to say that your site has plagiarized copy on it. In the end it’s your site, and people won’t remember that it was a guest post. The plagiarized content will be linked in people’s minds with YOUR name – and you don’t want that to happen.

    Hope this helps,
    Maggie

  32. Felicity Fields says:

    What a tough dilemma! I like the suggestions about asking the author to re-write the post so that it is wholly theirs. Writing is very difficult work, and even the best of us sometimes fall onto the side of using too much inspiration from other people when we’re writing. That’s why it’s good to have an editor or someone call us out and say “hey, I think this could be a little less Blog Y inspiration and a little more you.”

  33. Lynn Silva says:

    1) I would encourage you to give the author of Post X the benefit of doubt. Perhaps a second chance at producing an original post.

    2) Given the fact that there is a question/controversy over this post…I would remove it. It puts an end…a solid resolution to the issue. It also shows respect for the author of Post Y.

    The end result:
    1) You put an end to the controversy so it’s not out there being hashed over.
    2) You showed professionalism and respect to both parties.

    All parties essentially ‘win.’
    The number one aspect of successful conflict resolution is when all parties benefit. So, in a nutshell, focus on a solution where all parties are pleased. : )

  34. Brenda Stone says:

    I will cast my vote to take it down. Given that someone from outside your organization has noticed it, there are likely others who will as well. Your reputation should be considered along with the moral of the thing. And as Tom said, consequences can be pretty hefty.

  35. Stellare says:

    It the post X is similar not only by one headline, but the rest as well, AND the author admits being inspired by post Y, I would take the post down.

    If you are convinced the author did not mean to copy and can be considered simply ignorant you can justify offering the author to rewrite the article in his/her own words.

    But, I would take down the post before anything.

  36. Tom Bentley ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Many compelling reasons to pull the post have been listed, but there is one for which ignoring the consequences can be problematic: the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The copyright holder can report copyright infringement to the site host, and the host, by law, is immediately compelled to take the infringing material down. There can be a redress later by the opposite party in the dispute, but in the meantime, the material will be removed (and this is your site hosting service removing the page, not you).

    I am not a lawyer, but I know this to be the case because I wrote all the copy for a client’s website, and he didn’t pay me the agreed amount for the work, and after seven months of requesting payment (without any response whatsoever from my client), I send a DMCA notice to his site’s host, and they removed the whole site from the web. That happened last week. A regrettable situation, and best avoided.

      1. Tom Bentley ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

        Tamara, I’m happy the DMCA information might be useful for you. It’s a drastic situation to have an entire website taken down, but I was sharply disappointed that my client wouldn’t even respond to my inquiries, over such a long period of time (including a certified letter returned unopened, after confirmation with the post office that it was his active box).

        And if my fiction might be interesting to you, I’m happier yet!

        1. When I initially stumbled over the plagarism, I also contacted the offenders, asked that they immediately remove the content from their sites, and contact me to let me know they had done so. They never even acknowledged receipt of my emails. I’m sure they were embarrassed.

          I just checked and one of the three has removed it from her site. The other two . . . I need to check on. It’s been 6 months so plenty of time to remove / rewrite or whatever.

  37. Wendie says:

    “Imitation is the greatest form of flattery.” – Charles Caleb Colton

    I think it’s important recognize that when you take on a leadership role you are going to inspire people with your ideas. That’s the whole idea, isn’t it? It’s polite social etiquette to give credit to the source of those ideas but not everyone is “old school” in that regard.

    “Ideas do not leave their source.” – A Course in Miracles

    I lean to the side of “there’s more where that came from.” People will be inspired by your words and ideas. They will share them with others to reinforce their own learning and understanding. And they will benefit from having invested in learning from you. But they will NOT be able to create in the same way you do. And that is your source of wealth and power.

    If the intent is clearly to pirate your content for personal gain AND you can prove it, you have a case. Seek legal measures. Otherwise, it’s just fodder for petty grievances and gossip which tends to have it’s own degree of “blow-back.”

    My three cents.

  38. Michael Kampff says:

    Interesting situation, and I’m sure there are many valuable comments above, but unfortunately can’t read them all, so I’ll just weigh in.

    If someone used another’s post for “inspiration”, used the same titles, very similar wording, etc, I would take it down without question. My impression of this situation is that Post X has not added value and has represented Post Y’s value as its own. I may even just remove all the wording on the post, and replace it with a note that the post was taken down because it was found to be inappropriately similar to other content, and provide a link to Post Y. There’s value in setting precedent, and this policy would make your position clear to future guest posters. And if Post Y is valuable to your audience, then the original author should be the one receiving the credit.

    Or, perhaps contact the author of Post Y, and ask what they would like to occur – that would be a good gesture. Maybe you could replace Post X with a repost of Post Y and link back to the real author. If their article is of value to this audience, that may be the win-win.

  39. Ashley says:

    If it’s “apparent plagiarism” as the headline states, it’s not OK, and to leave it posted on your site is to condone the action. You’re giving the writer a link, building authority for him/her based on someone else’s work. It’s not even OK for a writer to not know what plagiarism is. Copying, even if not word-for-word, is stealing, plain and simple.

    Inspiration is one thing, as there are few truly new ideas in the world. But taking an idea and making it original in presentation is completely different from the text being so similar that someone recognizes it and it merits this kind of questioning.

    Without knowing the post in question, it’s hard to say whether a simple link to the original post would suffice or if the guest post is really too similar to not recognize that it’s plagiarism. Have you discussed the issue with the original writer? That’s probably the next step.

  40. Miriam says:

    Hi Megan,
    I believe the post should be removed immediately. The poster should be referred to a course in proper paraphrasing and summarizing of material without copying/plagiarizing. In other words, his writing needs to be adjusted and the fact that he did it accidentally is not relevant. That being said, I think an apology note (which you probably did already) needs to be written to the original poster to acknowledge that you are upset that this happened, and to let them know that this will not happen again and steps are being taken to prevent it from occurring with future writers. It is likely the poster will be understanding and not hold any hard feelings when they realize how you are taking this so seriously. Of course, as many others have said above, mistakes do happen and we are all human. I know that I once used a photo that I didn’t realize was copyrighted in an article I wrote on a content site that I wrote for. I got an email from the head of the site saying that he is “locking” my article and I should in the meantime change the photo. I changed the photo and offered to write a letter apologizing to the original photographer (it seems she had asked me in my personal email to withdraw the photo and her email went into spam so I never got it. How embarrassing). But the heads of the site told me not to write an apology – that it was enough that I took off the photo. Anyway, that’s my opinion. Thanks for entrusting us with our opinions. Sorry for this long comment. 🙂

    1. Hey, Megan, I love this idea, too, of referring the offender to a class that addresses these issues! Great idea that comes closer to rectifying the situation. I’ve having a little trouble though believing this was an innocent mistake.

  41. Carthage says:

    It is a tricky situation but one which, if handled correctly, can be resolved amicably. I agree with Judith Bergthorson that you should contact the plagiarised party and ask them to nominate the course of action which they believe to be appropriate. An element of restorative justice will help to appease them.

    I would go one step further than that too. You have, inadvertently, already featured their content on your website. I think it would be a nice goodwill gesture to invite them to write a guest post for the site. That way they get proper recognition for their contribution to Firepole Marketing.

    I feel it’s important to believe that most people are genuine and I commend you for giving the guest poster the benefit of the doubt. They have, however, let you down. Maybe they could make ammends by doing a good deed on your behalf e.g. offer 1 hour of their service to a charity of your choice. This way a genuine mistake can be corrected in a way that benefits more than just those involved.

    That’s just my tuppence worth.

  42. Madeleine Kolb says:

    I agree that the post in question should be removed for the reasons stated in many of the comments above. I have trouble believing that a person could write something which has similar language and the same headings as another post and submit it as his or her own work without realizing that it was wrong. Which leads to me to another point: not only did this person do that but he or she also was not honest with the Firepole Marketing group.

  43. Having looked at the two articles in question (not hard to find: Google is your friend :), I’d pull the post.

    There is enough similarity and not enough originality to add value to the topic. It’s too bad because it’s a useful article. I would love to read it written and structured in a fresh way and with added insight over and above what was presented in the earlier post it was based on.

    If you choose allow the author to revise (or perhaps have someone else take a crack at the topic), I’d like to see the content freshened up to reflect what’s going on in 2013 vs. 2011 when the other article was written. Doing that is going to take some research and creative thinking.

  44. What I would do:
    Immediately contact the plagiarized person(s). Explain the situation, apologize on behalf of your business. Offer to acknowledge their contribution to the article on your site and ask them what action on your part would be satisfying to them.
    As for the person who plagiarized….you can’t do anything about another persons behaviour: you can only be responsible for your own.

  45. Terryn says:

    I subscribe to a wide range of newsletters and lately it seems that everyone seems to decide on a common topic, even across subject matter. Similarity of terms and concepts is fine, sometimes you’ll even see the same words coming from 2 writers you *know* didn’t see each others work. Since your writer copped to using the original as a template, that would seem to violate your guest writer requirements.

    Here’s my bottom line: Regardless of intent, guideline violations or even copyright law, this is YOUR blog. YOUR name is on it. If thinking about this makes your stomach turn and keeps you up at night, then it’s not in alignment with what you want to put out into the world, and it needs to be removed. If you could be okay with it given an attribution or a rewrite, then consider that. There is a difference between not agreeing with a guest writer’s content and not agreeing with their ethics. It’s not about what they’ve done or not done, it’s about what you are willing to be associated with and what you choose to do. That’s the only thing you have control over.

    And I love how you’ve turned this into an engagement opportunity for your readers. 🙂

  46. Carlos Coto says:

    Being a university professor, and not to give proper credit would be a disaster to my career…it is very easy to give credit to the source. This same thinking applies to blogging…
    I would take the post down, link to the original source, and include the post in the “What not to do guidelines for guest posting”…
    I have written for you guys in the past, and I made it an honor…I cuadrupled checked to see my writing and crediting to the sources before sending the guest post to you guys… If I took my time, so should everyone else that wants to guest post…
    When anyone guest posts he should strive to make it the BEST. It must be your best copy ever! If not, DON’T guest post.

  47. Megan, thank you so much for addressing this issue! I have not found my posts to be plagarized but I have found other content on my website to be plagarized and have been at a loss how to proceed. I initially contacted the therapists / coaches who had copied my language verbatim and asked them to remove it from their sites immediately. However, they each chose not to do so.

    I’m looking forward to what your readers above have to say about this practice and hoping to hear your solutions, too. I think this happens way too often.

      1. Yep, Frank. That’s my thinking, too. Scary, isn’t it? I know they are bound by professional ethics so I’m thinking about pursuing it with their professional associations – at least the one that stole paragraphs of writing. Not sure if I’m going to address the one that stole just a couple of sentences.

        Still, it really irks me!

  48. Andy Pedraza says:

    There is too little info to make an informed decision, to be honest. At what point does research cross the line into plagiarism? It would help if one had both posts to compare them. I guess I could ferret them out if I took the time, but I have other things to do besides scrubbing your blog for the post.

    I write, myself, and often do significant research on topics I want to write about before putting fingertips to keyboard (putting pen to paper sounds dated). I will confess that I write in expectation of being paid for it, or receive some other, measurable benefit, and that sometimes mean I write about topics I am not (yet) an expert in. Research is key for me to be able to write engaging material. That said, I have never “spun” content. I actually try to learn about a subject so I can provide value to my readers.

    I suspect that whomever your guest blogger as, he or she made little effort to do any of the above, and simply adapted material (stole it) and got caught. If it ere not as blatant as I am assuming it was, there would be no need for any concern on your part. Since there is concern, and you must certainly have agreed with it to some degree, then the path seems clear (if I were in your shoes). I would take the post down. I would probably also reference it in another blog post, with an apology, and a statement to the effect that you will do your est to prevent it in the future. Perhaps writing up clear guidelines that will be presented to your guest bloggers and which they have to sign or otherwise commit to? Just an idea.

    Best,

    Andy

  49. Dave Bross says:

    Pull the post immediately – Kathryn Goldman’s post above is an example of a copyright lawyer being very fair and allowing a lot of slack before compliance or lawsuit .
    The lawyer that comes after you may not be so gracious.

    Rewrite your requirements for guest posting – Make them so even a noob writer gets the point that anything even close to copying is not OK and that everything that comes in is going through Copyscape and Dustball.com or similar.
    Copyscape costs about 5 cents per check, Dustball is free and tends to pick up things swiped from the academic world.

    Good ideas to contact and apologize to the author of the work copied and give them a link from you to their purloined article.

    Your call on what to do with the offending writer.
    If they’re innocent they just got one hell of an education and may deserve mercy. If not so innocent say goodbye.

  50. I guess the best thing is to be more careful in the future but as a former English teacher I know how hard spotting plagiarism can be. Whenever I blog about other writers’ works I always name them and usually put in a link to their site. I may be only using one quotation from them but my readers can go and read the whole post. This gives that writer exposure and my readers are happy I’ve shared a great idea with them.
    Bottom line: stealing is stealing, no matter how you look at it.

  51. Plagiarism. This is a thorny and complex issue on multiple levels–and as a seme-retired college English instructor–I know it is a pervasive issue. This really requires more information and a “white paper” response. But in brief, we need to recognize that with the speed of information in today’s interet marketing and the ease of on-line publishing, this happens frequently. Most often, I feel this sharing of information is beneficial with little motive for malice or compensation. Most bloggers (I believe) will grant the use of their posts if you ask them and when they are recognized as the source. At the least, some reference or citation is needed where the re-blogger’s ideas came from–just like making a citation in a college paper for using another’s words (in quote or paraphrase) or using their IDEA as an inspiration for your idea. And in the publishing world, information is recycled all the time–re-written, reformatted, repackaged. This is not only common, it is rewaded with new copyright status–for example: when an author adapts an article from one industry to another industry using the same ideas and techniques and applying them to another situation or business. No problem. Or when a writer adapts (say a short story) and makes it into a T.V. screen play, this is considered a new work–as long as the source for the screen play is identified in the credits.

    That being said, and since I did not actually read the two blogs in question, I can’t say for sure if you are making too much out of nothing or trying to address a serious problem. But I think it would be safe a bet that if bloggers just gave some credit (if credit is due), the problem would go away.

  52. Cheryl Pickett says:

    I will also add my vote that plagiarism, intended or not, is unacceptable. As others have stated, clearly the writer has little idea of what is research and what is copying. It is unfortunate, but I am not surprised. You would be amazed (or maybe not) at the amount of information that is out there that says it’s okay to use if it’s in public whether it’s written material or images.

    I agree that if you feel the author had no bad intent, but was either misinformed or not as good a writer as they should be, a second chance would not be unreasonable.

    I would also remove the post in question from the post archives. However, what if you removed the writer’s name/bio/any indication of who wrote it, and moved it in whole or in part, to your writer’s guidelines as an example of what not to do with a link to the original post? If you’re going to expand your guidelines, put it all together into a downloadable document if you think that would get too long. I’ve been a freelance writer since 1999 and I can tell you that I would much rather have more info than less, even if I think I understand what the publication/blog wants.

    Again, no intent to shame the writer or anything like that, but you can sometimes explain until you are blue in the face and some people will not get it without an example and it sounds like you have a very clear one to use.

  53. To play Devil’s Advocate for a moment…

    The rates most bloggers are willing to pay for “content” doesn’t justify much originality or skill in writing.

    That said, I’d still rather walk over hot coals than to write or accept plagiarized posts.

  54. Amanda says:

    I didn’t read all the comments (boy there are a lot!), so forgive me if this has been said. But if it was MY content that was copied, I’d like a heads up. I’d probably contact the original author and see what their thoughts are. In my case, if there was a link back to my original piece that said ‘this was inspired by this post over here’ that pointed back to me, and it was clear that I was the inspiration, that would be enough for me and might drive some traffic my way. However, if that person is well established, they might be more concerned with maintaining their intellectual property and less about growing their audience, and thus would want you to remove it (which you would want to do to avoid a potential legal action).

    My 2 cents. 🙂

    Good luck, and tricky situation! In the future, perhaps (like others said) you ask for more sources, or ask what inspired the post. Further, maybe you could have editors for particular topics, who would be more likely to catch something like this, because they may have read the original article.

  55. Marsha Stopa says:

    No debate. Dump the post and the guest poster.

    Whether or not the writer had any malice or bad intent, allowing the post to remain published on your site, even with a disclaimer, is tacit acceptance of guest posts that lean toward “spinning” an article, not creating original content.

    Allowing it to remain could trigger a couple of nasty consequences for you:
    -A Google duplicate content slap
    -Reticence by other well-published writers to guest post for your site

    You may need to be more clear in your editorial guidelines than “it’s really good” to define what that means for your blog and what you expect from original content.

  56. I would take it down, and fire the writer. I have clear guidelines on my site under the heading Write For Healthicine? – and these guide lines include the following:
    I need posts that support and explore the concepts of healthicine.
    I need posts that are ‘new’.
    When you write a post, keep one rule in mind. If someone else has already written it, I’m not interested in it.
    and…
    If you are planning to ‘find some stuff’ or ‘research some content’ and prepare a summary for Healthicine.org – I’m not interested.
    tracy…

  57. This is why I no longer accept guest posts unless I know the writer very well. Unless I believe they’d rather walk over hot coals, as a point of pride, than plagiarize.

    Of course, I have very little sympathy for anyone who has ever advocated for the use of spun or PLR content. This is where it leads… the articles are usually hard (not impossible) to catch, using “plagiarism checkers.” But they are not original, as most astute readers know. And they flood the market, making it harder for those who write good, original content.

  58. Linda says:

    I think the smart thing to do is to take the advice of Kathryn Goldman. As a copyright attorney, she has the best perspective on the situation.

    I also agree with those who mentioned that the original author should be given the opportunity to weigh in. If the original author wants it taken down, there’s your absolute answer to that question. Some of my writer friends also send “cease and desist” letters if the plagiarist is uncooperative and won’t take it down, especially if they’ve been ripped off by the “copy, paste, change the byline to the plagiarist’s” method.

    Even if the original author doesn’t care whether you leave it up, I also agree that your reputation is at stake. Don’t leave it up. You’ll lose a lot of hard-won respect if you do.

    Lastly, I agree that you need to be clear as to what plagiarism is in your guest blog guidelines. It’s often difficult to see what’s original since all subject matter is somewhat repetitive. If you look at old-fashioned print magazines, you’ll see their editorial calendars have some months where the theme is the same year after year. Yet they manage to come up with a new twist, year after year. Bloggers need to learn how to do the same thing.

    I’m not familiar with Copyscape, but using software like that to vet posts is not a bad idea. It makes me sad that people are so willing to take shortcuts, rather than putting in the work to do their own work, but it’s today’s reality.

  59. Maureeb says:

    I would take it down. Even if you really believe no malice was intended, this shows an incredible lack of judgement on the part of yourguest poster. And, speaking as a former college prof, the best way to make people pay attention to you plagiarism/citation policy is to put real, unambiguous consequences in place for failure to comply.

    And for the future — I guess one question to consider us whether you want content that is just a rehashing of a single source. If that’s cool with you, you can put guidelines in place for how to attribute it. If not, you can always indicate that in you guest post guidelines (eg “we’re looking for original, well-researched content that incorporates your own experiences and the expertise of others. Any ideas or recommendations borrowed from a specific source should be attributed via (a link, a footnote, a source list, whatever).”

    You could also maybe ask people to submit a list of sources with their guest posts. Requiring writers to document their research sets some exoectations about quality right off the bat. Even if you don’t publish the list, you’ll have it. If you have concerns about originality, you can always check out the sources. And if someone is “inspired” by a article that doesn’t even appear on their source list…well, that answers some questions about intentionality.

  60. Honestly, I feel bad for the writer who unintentionally plagiarized. BUT his/her ignorance doesn’t make the plagiarism any less wrong.

    I agree with many of the commenters above. To prevent this situation in the future, include a brief description of what is considered plagiarism in your contributor guidelines. I don’t use Copyscape myself, but it’s worked well for several of my friends and would be another step toward making sure this doesn’t happen again.

    As for what to do with the article, I think the only ethical option is to take it down entirely. I would be totally candid with the author about why you’re doing so, and point out specific instances where their article crossed the line into plagiarism. I’d also consider reaching out to the author of the original article to apologize and let them know that you’ve removed the copy-cat post. I think any author would appreciate an honest and up-front apology in this situation, and it shows that you have a high level of integrity for you and your business.

  61. Kathryn Goldman ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I analyze this issue from another perspective, that of a copyright attorney. I represent a national sales training company. Their work is often copied, sometimes verbatim and sometimes with extremely close paraphrasing, by former employees or sales training attendees.

    The first step in resolving the problem is a request that the offending piece be rewritten so that it is no longer substantially similar to the original work. “Substantially similar” is the standard for copyright infringement. Substantially similar means that the heart and soul of the original work is taken. It is not a concrete measurement of words or phrases. If the sequence, structure and organization of the original work is taken even if the words are changed, that is infringement.

    A rewrite is successful if it presents a new or different interpretation of the original work. The new piece must be transformative which is then fair use of the original piece. Transformation is the key when using the work of others as inspiration.

    I believe the post should be taken down. The comments turned off and an opportunity for rewriting the post with transformative or wholly original content be given.

    I also agree with changing the guest post guidelines as suggested in the other comments.

      1. Kathryn Goldman ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

        New media and the internet certainly have presented challenges to copyright law. But keep in mind that “substantial similarity” pertains to the expression of the idea, not the idea itself. That’s one of the things that makes blogging hard — expressing ideas in a fresh, new and engaging way.

  62. Fayola says:

    I wonder, does the original author have a take on this situation? If they are fine with you leaving the post up with the disclaimer and link to their article, as you have already done, maybe that’s enough. If not, I would take it down.

  63. 1) Always run thru Copyscape.

    2) Take the post down, (with a redirect to a post to similar topic so you don’t have broken link)

    Here’s why: I don’t know you personally but we’ve met on the phone (Hey, anyone thinking about Danny’s “Pick My Brain” session, it’s WELL worth it) and I regularly read your blog.. and oh yeah, I’m an affiliate for your “Write Like Freddy.”

    Soooo, here’s the thing.. I get the sense that you are a man of exceptional integrity. As such, why would you have one piece of content that makes you uneasy? It’s a compromise in the higher standard that I believe you operate.

    darlene

  64. Ruthy says:

    I think the post should be removed.

    I’m in no place to judge the writer of that post, but I do think that regardless if the content of the post was copied intentionally or innocently, it can and will tarnish Firepole Marketing’s reputation of high integrity and sincerity.

  65. Joe Hentges says:

    I have read most of the comments above. Many good points. I think at this point that if you have a disclaimer on the article linking to the previous post, then you’ve made your point. The shame is on the guest post author, as it does not reflect well about him/her.
    I am not familiar with Copyscape but it sounds like something useful to have.

  66. peachfront says:

    The ethical thing to do is to remove the post that copied the other post, especially as the plagiarist has now admitted to it. I’m not sure what there is to debate about this? I’ve been copied a lot. There’s a clearcut line between inspiring someone and having them mug me. I would say that taking the complete design of the post, including the headings, from the original writer is pretty much theft. I would also not work with that person again. Is this really something that needs to be debated? If I’m asked before a piece is published and properly credited, it’s one thing, because I personally have lots of stuff out there that’s not for profit that I wouldn’t mind having republished with proper attribution TO ME not to some random copycat. But the other person shouldn’t be putting their name on it as the guest poster. You could indeed ask the creator if it’s OK to run their piece on your site. But the guy who stole the piece…that guy’s got to go, in my opinion. I don’t know how you accidentally copy another piece headings and all…so you now know that person’s ethics and you just can’t use them again.

  67. Mary Lahti says:

    There have already been a number of good ideas shared here so I don’t have much else to add other than I agree it’s best to remove it. It just makes sense at this point.

  68. Chris King says:

    Very enlightening comments. I like the idea of your getting in touch with the original author to find out what and how he/she thinks and feels. Possibly, give credit to him or her, include a disclaimer, or delete it. I get a lot of requests for others using my articles and I always give permission as long as they will credit me as the author. I agree with Bobbie’s comment!

  69. Dan Armishaw says:

    After having spent 20 years in academe, I have a couple of suggestions:

    For the future:

    Eliminate all ambiguity by adding a paragraph to your requirements for guest posting that states simply what constitutes original material and the consequences for plagiarism, which should be stern. Banishment.

    For this instance:

    I suggest deleting the post and refusing additional guest posts for at least a year from this author, who presumably has already derived significant benefit from the guest posting.

    Unfortunately, these incidents seem to occur with individuals we don’t want to sanction, but you have a responsibility to yourselves, your readers, your guest posters to protect the credibility of your site.

    Dan Armishaw

  70. Debbie Kane says:

    I agree with the majority of commenters here. In order to maintain your credibility you should remove the post and notify the original source of the content. Plagerism is plagerism unless the original blogger gave permission for reproduction of his/her content.

  71. arun says:

    Based on what you have described , it is a clear case of copying. It should be treated as such and removed. Not much to think about.

  72. Alex Newell says:

    Similar on a heading to heading basis – easy, delete it and blacklist the “author” and apologise to the original author and invite them to write for you!

    Alex

  73. Deborah Owen says:

    As a school library teacher, we struggle all the time with teaching kids how NOT to plagiarize, even by accident. In reading the comments from your other readers, above, I can only agree that in all fairness to the original author, you should take down the article. There are consequences for plagiarism, even if it is “accidental”. Just ask Doris Kearns Goodwin or Mike Barnacle, or any other number of famous authors/writers who didn’t keep good notes or leave enough time between reading someone else’s words and writing down their own. They paid a price, often by losing their job, or at least by losing credibility in the eyes of their audience.

    Besides leaving a space in time between reading and writing, the other option is to take good notes and then give credit to the original author for his/her thoughts and ideas. There is nothing wrong with this! In fact, I believe it lends credibility to the article writer by showing that they are well-read, and can synthesize ideas from a variety of other people.

    So, these are information skills that all students should be learning in school. Forgive my rant, but this is why I write a blog about education! 😉

  74. I agree with the steps Francesca outlined.
    Don’t be too hard on the guest author, give him option to write another version or an entirely new post. Everyone makes mistakes. Although I DO think that the guest blogger should show sufficient remorse….Even if he does not think it is a big deal, he needs to respect that you are upset by it.

    I like the idea of asking original author if you can use his article, this shows that you do think his content is valuable and you want to protect him as the author of some great ideas. (so great that others are copying him).

  75. Excellent advice here in the comments, I think. I don’t quite see how the author of the dubious post can be innocent… In any case, I’d introduce a clause in my acceptance letter which states that by submitting this post you warrant that it is all your own work and that you are the copyright owner.

  76. Susie says:

    Difficult to say whether to delete the post or not, as it’s in the past and blogging life is very much in the now; probably leave it. (Although you might want to remove it from the list of ‘old favourites’ that you tweet!)

    Moving forward, I think that you could expand your second point on ‘How to Write a Guest Post’. The guidelines state that the post mustn’t have been published elsewhere, perhaps add that it must be truly original work and not a re-hash of other work, the authors or otherwise.

    Once you’ve done that – forget about it.

    How many guest posts have you had? And how many times has this happened? If you are concerned over your business reputation, well, it was a Guest Post so that takes the responsibility out of your hands (in the eyes of the reader). Also, the impression I get of Firepole Marketing is that it’s built on genuine, honest practices. I don’t think that this issue is going to change that in the eyes of your subscribers.
    Of course that’s the great thing about having an audience based business, you can make the odd mistake (or someone else can make a mistake for you) and it doesn’t matter too much.
    Otherwise you’re going to go mad trying to check whether every guest post has it’s roots in something similar. (And of course it probably will ;-))

  77. Hi,
    I am also a writer and have several website. There is a definite difference among…

    Getting Inspired
    Quoting some sources
    Copying Word by Word – few sentences or paragraphs

    As far as I know, you have pretty decent length of articles or posts on your website. And you won’t consider it a problem, like present one, if you had found only few sentences copied.

    I believe that you should not accept this practice if guest poster says that it is original article.

    Or I won’t accept it myself unless the writer mentions it already. Then, it would be a burden on me or my team to edit and refine it.

    For Your Better Health & Greater Happiness!
    Now and Always!
    Dr. Vikrama Aditya Tomar

  78. Anthony says:

    Have you spoken to the author of post Y? They are the one who has been wronged, if at all. I would say that if you are worried about talking with the author of post Y then post x needs to be deleted straight away. If not then talk to them and see if they have a problem with post X, they may take the view ‘plagiarism is the highest form of flattery’ or they may want it taken down immediately but at least you will know. Good luck

  79. Lisa says:

    I’m with Jessica, Yvonne, and Andrea. Remove the post. The only thing you can’t copyright is a quote.

    I was a newspaper reporter for 12 years, and occasionally we had to rewrite a story originally published in another paper. If we had to rely on any of the original reporting’s accuracy, the byline read “staff and wire reports.” I also used to rewrite my own stories to sell to other publications. They were always complete rewrites. The same information was there, but the ledes, heads, structure – everything – was different. If I had time before deadline, I’d try to add another source or sources. Rewriting, particularly your own work, is hard, but as it presents a greater potential for plagiarism or copyright infringement, it takes more care and skill. To result of leaving the post up can only be a decline in your site’s reputation.

    1. Joyce says:

      I’m going to weigh in here with Lisa. I’d just like to add that you should speak to your attorney as well. There are legal issues involved and not just the author, but YOU guys could be liable should anyone push this issue. Take down the post while you’re debating all this. Play it safe. I, for one, don’t want to see Firepole go down under a massive legal fees.

  80. Sarah Arrow ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    There are some reasons, good ones for apparent plagiarism. PLR is one of them. People buy it, and don’t rewrite it, and they are licensed to use the content and claim authorship, and technically it’s not plagiarism, it’s just laziness.
    The second reason is blog puking as defined by the amazing Joey Strawn people do this all the time.
    I am currently devoting around 20 minutes of an upcoming webinar on how to avoid this, and how to actually riff of other content and not steal.
    Bloggers don’t actually think plagiarism is a crime or something to be avoided. I had a client (a social media expert who should know better) lift an article of mine from a joint Dropbox folder and publish it as her own work and then swore blind it was hers. People raved about the post and praised her to the hilt and she never apologised or corrected people’s perceptions. As far as she was concerned, it was in a joint folder she could take it and use it. Choose your partners and clients wisely.

    Also people buy pre-written copy for landing pages etc, again they are supposed to rewrite, but they don’t.

    Then we have the writers that write in cliches. “Social media is where your customers are” and “If you are not using social media to talk about your business someone else will”. And all the other related phrases…. When you use them you are not wholly differentiating your content enough to make a difference and it looks copied. I mean how many people can write an original piece about Star Trek, Social Media and Engage? Yes, yes that’s a challenge 🙂

    There is a huge amount of information on the web, but very few people teach how to write, how to quote and how to attribute and why.

    Education is the answer, along with a live volcano to toss in idiots who refuse to learn 😉

  81. ojas kamst says:

    I’d take it off, without hesitation. It isn’t a matter of ethics, nor bad intentions (we’re not in a courtroom yet), but it’s all about Firepole Marketing’s reputation. Take it off, let the person write another post to make it up to him/her, and set the example to future guest posters that this is not something you want to have to deal with.

  82. First I would notify the individual and explain that their post will be removed as it was not original material. Any further posts they may send will be subject to a thorough check using Copyscape.

    Next I would send a letter of apology to the original author of the post and explain the situation and ask if you could post their blog post instead of the copy.
    Finally apologize to your followers and restate your rules for submitting any guest posts to your site.

    We are human. We make mistakes. We have to be able to apologize for the error and move on. The important thing is that a lesson was learned not only for you but also for others who write and maintain blogs.

    1. I agree that the original author should be contacted and apologized to.

      I’ll also add that any writer worth their salt knows what original content is and isn’t. That someone would submit a plagiarized post to this site, as large as it is, boggles my mind.

      I remember a cousin of mine telling me I should protect my work by putting in an odd (but appropriate) word in every post, then Googling that word once in a while to make sure someone wasn’t stealing my material. I’ve never done it, but I found it a humorous suggestion (and possibly effective!)

      In any case, I agree with you Francesca, and all the others who said the post should be removed.

  83. Derek says:

    Using a service like Copyscape for guest posts seems like a sensible thing to do to protect yourself.

    If a post is inspired by someone else’s work then that should be referenced somewhere in the text and an appropriate link to the original included. That act alone should encourage authors to be creative as well as honest.

    To me, if it doesn’t build, expand, take a different perspective, or add something new – then it’s worthless and you shouldn’t post it.

    Word for word copying is just plain theft and shows a complete lack of respect for the original author.

    Form the information you disclose I think in this case, the post should be removed.

  84. Tom Bartling says:

    Since the author claims to have not intended to plagiarize, you could give him/her a chance to rewrite it properly (and point them to Jessica’s comment for guidance). If they don’t or you’re not happy with their rewrite, take it down.

    On a side note, it would be interesting to analyze the engagement you get from a “help us” type of post like this vs. a normal “give us your opinion” post vs. a normal “here’s a post, now comment please” post.

  85. Tracey - Life Changing Year says:

    I’m surprised you aren’t using Copyscape actually. It costs peanuts to use and would add only a minute or two to the time you take to publish a post. I run each paragraph through separately to be extra sure the material isn’t copied. And my blog is tiny with hardly any readers!

    I feel that perhaps you should remove the post if it’s similar right down to the headings. I think of guest posts as the writer’s way to show their expertise, not that they had to seek major inspiration elsewhere. If they didn’t know their topic well enough to write a guest post perhaps they should have chosen another topic.

  86. Andrea says:

    Something similar happened to me a couple of years ago… I accepted a brief guest post that was beautifully written and made a great point – and then a reader pointed out that it was a Seth Godin blog post copied word for word. I was so embarrassed!

    Personally, I chose to take down the post. There was no question in that case that the content was stolen, but I think even if it’s similar enough for someone to notice, that’s too similar. Now I only accept guest posts from bloggers I know personally and that limits the risk. I know it’s hard for a larger site to do that, but it’s working well for me.

    1. Sarah Arrow ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

      Gosh that’s happened to me too, not Seth Godin, but the author had copied the article from a national newspaper, including the heading and the photograph! We also took down the post, and all of her others.

      We Google random paragraphs of bloggers we don’t know. It seems to work for us, and my regular bloggers know not to even think about it… because if we catch them they will be fired, and their desk cleared before they could even blink.

  87. Yvonne Root says:

    What a dilemma, Megan,

    It seems to me that I remember something from high school or college about multiple sources being research and one source being plagiarism. I know it was said as a joke, but truth is reworded copying isn’t nice.

    Like others have stated, I don’t know the full details, but as presented I lean more toward your first option of removing the post.

    Copyscape seems like a good option for the future. Although I haven’t used it and don’t know how much time and attention it would require. I’ll be interested to see what you do decide.

  88. Jessica says:

    A lot of people struggle to paraphrase existing content and make it theirs. That skill is hard to develop and even harder to hone. I really appreciate the effort that goes into creating perfectly original content and I enjoy helping people improve theirs. But I don’t like it when people who aren’t strong writers get caught copying (or at least poorly paraphrasing) other authors and still get to maintain authorship – disclaimer or not.

    Here’s a tip for all your guest posters: A trick I discovered long ago that works quite well is to ignore all the content you’re using as “inspiration” when it’s time to sit down and write. This forces you to come up with your own words and phrasing to describe the topic and make your main points. It forces you to come up with something original. Try not to refer back to your sources during the writing process – just use them for fact-checking at the editing stage.

    When I edit other people’s business writing I often hear the authors lament that “I just can’t think of a better way to say it than the original author did”. Well – there isn’t always a better way, but there IS always /another/ way.

    You are probably right that the author didn’t intend to copy or plagiarize. But he or she needs to work on improving his or her writing skills.

    I say delete the post. Your guest posting guidelines specifically say that content must be “really good” and that your “standards are high”. And they should be. But content that closely resembles someone else’s original work is not “really good”, and the writing standard is low. Since the author did not meet your criteria, I believe the post should be removed.

    1. Michal says:

      My attitude toward toward the copyrights is very liberal. Kind of “do as you wish”. Using somene else’s content is not a theft. The original author didn’t lost his work, did he?
      Having said that, I don’t think it’s a copyright issue. As Jessica pointed out it’s about your standards and your integrity. Your criteria has not been met. I like the Tom Bartling’s proposal – give the plagiator a chance to redeem.

      1. Of course plagiarism is theft and a copyright issue. The original author loses some of the VALUE of his work simply by having it copied without his permission, EVEN IF he is properly cited; further, someone else claims it as theirs, which deprives him even of the recognition of authorship. It’s not just about this site’s “standards and integrity.” And the word is “plagiarist,” though I rather like “plagiator,” sounds like someone just flying through the Internet, scraping and claiming others’ works.

    2. Ita says:

      I just have to add that even if it *were* paraphrased well, the original source would still need to be referenced! Neglecting to do so is presenting another’s work as your own – plagiarism.

    3. Jody says:

      I AGREE..Anything that appears to close needs to be eliminated and the writer warned – since it wasn’t obvious that it was word for word. But, the writer probably knew they weren’t really creating original material…or maybe felt rushed. There are no short cuts. It is total “no” to even come close. Advice for writer is – yep -It is tempting but illegal and could get you arrested , sued or booted out. You can do it. You just have to put your mind to it, take the time and get excited about finding your own style – it will speak volumes more than you as a plagarizer.

    4. Sheryl says:

      I agree with Jessica. It doesn’t meet your standards. No matter the intentions in which it was written. Chalk it up to experience and lesson learned. Run posts through copyscape from now on. Keep up the good work!

  89. David Tong | Salevoke Marketing says:

    Hi Megan,

    Maybe adding a “What inspired you to write about this topic” or “Are there other authors that inspired you to write about this topic?” question during the guest post approval process can reduce such occurrences.

    Just a thought.

    Dave

    1. Megan says:

      That’s an interesting idea Dave! It’s not an issue that comes up frequently – but requesting more sources could be indicative – thanks!

      Megan

  90. John Gibb says:

    hi Megan

    In order for me to comment and give relevant feedback on the issue, I would need to know more information like…

    1. How well known is the author in his field or industry?

    2. What is identical or similar about the article, ideas or paragraphs?

    Hope you could share this information, and anything else that could help us draw some conclusions and decide on the situation…

    1. Megan says:

      Hi John,

      The articles are similar in wording, and content heading by heading. Both were guest posts by people in the industry – although how well known they are, I’m not sure of. That’s about what I can share – I hope its enough to get your opinion!

      Megan

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

[name="cbl_weekly_webinar_date"]
[name="cbl_weekly_webinar_date"]
[name="cbl_weekly_webinar_time"]
[name="cbl_weekly_webinar_time"]
[name="cbl_weekly_webinar_day"]
[name="cbl_weekly_webinar_day"]
[at]
[at]
[name="hs_context"]
[name="hs_context"]
[name="hs_context"]
[name="hs_context"]
[gravityform id="84" title="false" description="false" ajax="true"]
[gravityform id="80" title="false" description="false" ajax="true"]
[gravityform id="82" title="false" description="false" ajax="true"]
[gravityform id="81" title="false" description="false" ajax="true"]
[gravityform id="78" title="false" description="false" ajax="true"]
[gravityform id="24" title="false" description="false" ajax="true"]
[gravityform id="72" title="false" description="false" ajax="true"]
[gravityform id="71" title="false" description="false" ajax="true"]
[gravityform id="66" title="false" description="false" ajax="true"]
[gravityform id="64" title="false" description="false" ajax="true"]