The Web 2.0 Internet - are we all guilty of online plagiarism?

April 13, 2012 |   3 minute read

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The Web 2.0 Internet - are we all guilty of online plagiarism?

This is the first post in the series "The Web 2.0 Internet World and The Guilt Of Plagiarism." 

Why the Internet makes people nervous about online plagiarism

In early Internet days the threat of plagiarism shook librarians to the core; but all of that is so long ago forgotten. Now the Internet-for-research cause is championed such that “intellectual property” battles seem the sole problem of recording studios and TV channels fighting big court warfare to shut down the likes of all who followed in the Napster trail. You’re familiar I’m sure.

Plagiarism is reproducing, borrowing, or copying more than 10% of any original document, idea, or set of words, that does not exist in the realm of public knowledge without permission or appropriate citation. Allow me to talk in first person to give you some examples.

Example of online plagiarism:

Copying my website pricing packages page and using it to create your SEO marketing package is plagiarism (because you’ve copied 100% of the page, you’ve used my words and my ideas).
You might be thinking, “but it’s not plagiarism because a website page is in the public domain – so it exists for all to see.” But you’d be wrong. The copyright emblem at the bottom of my website tells you all content that appears here is content created by our company.

How do you avoid Plagiarism online:

Our online writing workshops participants, and even my content marketing clients, often ask me – can I use other people’s content on my company blog?

  • Can I use other people’s photos? (e.g. you want to use your Snipping Tool to take a photo of someone else’s photo.)
  • Can I copy and paste someone else’s article?
  • Can I copy the words from someone else’s webpage?

As you can see from the possessive term “someone else’s” – all of this content belongs to someone else (i.e. it is “property”). The first person to publish content gets Copyright privileges. To “re-publish” content someone has already published (and thus who has copyright privileges on the Internet) either without permission or without proper citation is plagiarism.  **Keep in mind I’m not speaking as a copyright legal expert, I’m just using my university degree to explain this to you. **

Proper permission and citation includes:

  • Link back to the original appearance of the article.
  • Mention the author’s name with a link to their site.
  • “Ping” the author of the site with a "trackback" to alert them that you have posted about their content.
  • And always check the “Creative Commons” licensing for photos and videos previously posted on supposedly "Free" content sites.

In the past, you were safe using these methods. All of these original ideas would be properly cited—and the author would THANK YOU for the mention. Because backlinks are so prized in SEO (when someone else’s website or blog links back to your site)—authors were only too happy when you gave them a link and referenced their article.
Hence, the concept of “going viral” became covetable and profitable—once your content ‘went viral’– you would also be accredited for creating the awesome, original content, and you could track your influence from the number of times it was passed on.
Now we’re all on the same page about the definition of plagiarism. And if you're still keen on how Web 2.0 changes all of that, subscribe by RSS so you're sure to catch the next post "Here’s why Web 2.0 Internet might be screwing up all intellectual property rules--and the concept of plagiarism entirely."