This post is going to explore the threat of plagiarism faced by most writers, bloggers, content creators, and others. Since the world is online, and content has become a means to earn, copy-paste is more prevalent than authenticity.
I recently received a message from a reader about content that might have been copy-pasted from my blog and posted elsewhere. Since the information in question is in the public domain, I was not overly concerned.
I am eternally grateful to the lady who found the content and was happy to message me about the suspected infringement. I think that is the best and more awesome thing to happen. I love all my readers, but she is amazing for telling me.
Now, the truth is we all post content online with the knowledge that after a time, someone somewhere is going to find it interesting enough to copy-paste it. It happens. It is not okay, but it does. Instead of getting worried, scared, or angry. It is better to arm yourself with the tools to face this threat. Empower yourself with the means to protect your creative content.
So, I have two stories to share with you.
The first story is about an author who got their work plagiarized on a site called Inkitt by a second party. The plagiarism incident consisted of this second party taking the author’s work (novel), changing the title and the names of the characters, but keeping everything else similar down to the spelling and grammar. The second party got a couple of readers and comments complimenting them on the work. Of course, one of these readers happened to know the story belonged to someone else. And so, the author received a message on Instagram from a fan who wrote, ‘Someone tried to copy your book on inkitt’, included was the link to the copied work and the account of this second party. Now, after the initial shock, this author friend of mine started a search for what to do. The first and most direct thing she did was to contact inkitt.com and see if they can help. Inkitt.com wasted no time in dealing with the matter. They do not tolerate plagiarism, and the second party was penalized the moment the complaint was verified. The incident lasted less than twenty-four hours. The plagiarized story was taken down.
In this story, the author learned about the case of plagiarism because of a fan. This is the first line of defense an author has and should cultivate. If your work is good and authentic, and it engages your readers, your readers will be the first people to tell you if your content is published elsewhere without your consent.
Now, if it happens to you, and you find your creative content plagiarized online, you are empowered and there is no need to feel as though you can’t publish again.
- The first line of defense is to approach the site you found the content and make a simple request. Claim the work as yours, and ask that it be removed. A ‘cease and desist’ request. Five out of ten times, the person who has plagiarized will bring it down without reaching out to you and you won’t have to worry about it.
- If no response happens, discover the FAQs about the website. If the person who has plagiarized the work does not own the site. If the site is owned by an organization like Inkitt, you can reach out to the organization and ask them to pull the work down. They will do it if you can prove ownership of the work. If the site is owned privately, and the author has refused to respond, then move on to the third option.
- Search engines like Google offer tools like Content Removal if an incident of copyright infringement occurs. They slap a DCMA complaint on the site and the content is no longer crawled on the search engine. The burden of origination and verification is on the original author, but if you are confident and have the information needed, Google is quite efficient in removing copyright infringement articles and content. You will find the instructions on how to do this here. Bing also offers you the same tools. If you’re running a wordpress.com site, Automattic offers you the means to file a complaint of copyright infringement. This brings me to my second story.
The second story is about a Kenyan-based business name owner and an international organization that registered the same name as a trademark. In November 2022, the international organization used Automattic to file a complaint of copyright infringement on their trademark against the Kenyan-based business name owner. The complaint was written as follows:
A clear and detailed explanation of how the above content is in violation of the trademark in question, thus creating consumer confusion: We are contacting you on behalf of the French company “xxxxx”, whose head office is “xxxx, PARIS”. We have noticed (see below) that you are using the mark "XXXXXX” without the consent of the owner of the trademark and are therefore violating their intellectual property rights. By this letter, we request that you cease all disputed use of the trademark and/or take all appropriate measures to ensure that the infringing uses are removed. I have a good faith belief that use of the trademark as described above is an infringement of the rights granted under United States and/or foreign trademark law.: Yes I understand that a copy of this notice, including any contact information I provided above, will be forwarded to the blog owner.: Yes Signed on this date of (today's date, MM/DD/YYYY): 10/11/2022 Signature (your digital signature is legally binding): XXXXX
Obviously, the Kenyan-based business name owner started a frantic search for how to handle this complaint. Why was dealing with this complaint so important?
- The blog in question is over ten years old, with great traffic, and an enormous amount of content.
- The business name represented a physical business in Nairobi, Kenya.
- Kenya has signed these treaties that help international companies protect their copyright.
At first glance, there is the thought that this person making the complaint is located in another country, France to be exact, which is on another continent. How could they present this big a problem to a business in Kenya?
A second glance brought out all the weaknesses. The business name owner in Kenya may have started out not intending to infringe on the France-based organization. However, as time continued, the blog grew, and the physical business grew, it drew more attention. The legal standing of the business name owner in Kenya came into question.
Now, if the business name is not registered with the company’s registrar or trademark office in Kenya, they have no legal standing to fight the complaint. At the time of this complaint, they had no legal right to fight the complaint.
So, the right answer was to comply with the complaint. The blog is also under Automattic’s jurisdiction. If Automattic wanted to stop hosting the blog, then they would, of course after a conversation with both parties.
After painful deliberations, the Kenyan-based business name owner decided to approach KIPI with a different variation of their business name and complete the necessary registrations in order to stop this from happening again.
The reason I tell you this story now is that it is 2023 and our dear country has grown up. Intellectual Property is becoming more important. There are more court cases settling matters of trademark infringement, copyright infringement, and copyrights. The copyright office is making a larger effort to document and offer authors, creators, companies, musicians, artists, and artisans the means to claim their copyrights.
In this same case, it is getting easier for international companies to log copyright infringement cases against Kenyans.
Why? We start our websites on wordpress.com, make content for Youtube, and want to crawl our sites on Google. These sites have to comply with various copyright laws, and so should we.
So, I’ll end my blog post on copy-paste and authenticity on this note.
As you create your blog, website, social media account, start a business and write your novels, work on making your content authentic. Cite your sources where you need to, and most of all, don’t claim other people’s work as your own. It is also important to note that search engines penalize copy-pasted content. It is much harder to rank on the first page if you have simply taken information from someone’s site, and pasted it on your own.
Work on Authenticity
If you practice copy-paste, learn how to cite the original content. Know that it might cost you.
happy February 2023.