Taking Out the Trash: Plagiarism edition

June 24, 2011 by
Filed under: Coupons, News 

It’s time for another edition of Taking out the Trash, a chance for me to speak my mind about things that are not necessarily specific deals.  Gotta clean out the head, hence the name Taking Out the Trash.

If you’ll permit me, I’d like to show you some of the behind-the-scenes workings of Green Bay Consumer and many other money-saving blogs, websites and discussion boards.  And a little ranting at the same time. :-)

Back in December of 2010 on my previous blog,  I wrote a post called Giving Credit Where Credit is Due. If you’ve been reading any money-saving blogs for any length of time, you may see a “thanks to Joe’s Website” at the end of a post.  At the time I wrote the piece,  I knew of one or two other websites that got a particular deal from my site and didn’t give credit.  So I expressed my displeasure.

Just this past week, I mentioned how one of my posts went viral in the couponing world. I discovered tons of discussion boards and websites I had never heard of; I stopped counting at 100+ different places referencing my work.  But wow, apparently a lot of bloggers do not understand copyright laws!

I found that on at least 1/2 dozen different sites, my article was cut and paste on their website exactly as written. While they did credit Green Bay Consumer, it looked like they wrote an article and just used Green Bay Consumer as a source.  And I’m not talking about using an excerpt or quoted the article–the entire post was used.  No lead sentence saying something like “I read this interesting article, here’s the content”.    It looked like my article was written by that particular blogger.   Wow–I was shocked.

If you have any sort of blog or website, (it does not need to be a money-saving one), you need to give credit where credit is due.  Some of the reasons:

1) It’s common courtesy to the other bloggers who are spending a lot of time searching for deals.   Many bloggers have the same sources.   But if I read about a particular deal on another website before I find it in my personal resources, I give that blog credit for being faster than me.   If you DON’T see a reference or source on a Green Bay Consumer post, it’s because I found that information myself.

2) It’s a way to empower the reader.   When I tell you where I found a specific deal, I hope you check out the other site because you may like other things that they post.  You can  then subscribe to them the way you subscribe to Green Bay Consumer.   That’s why I like to refer you to my Favorite Sites every once in a while. Knowledge is power and I’m here to help you save.

3) Quite seriously and most importantly, I have a legal obligation to mention the other blogs because of copyright laws.  If I don’t mention where I get the deal and if I don’t rewrite the post entirely, I am guilty of copyright infringement and plagiarism. As someone who has worked in the media and publishing for more than 20 years, I can tell you this a HUGE deal and can involve fines, sanctions (shutting down the site), attorney fees and in worst case scenarios, jail time.  To be safe, rewrite it AND mention your source!

Last year Pocket Your Dollars had a great post on the ethics and etiquette of blogging.  The article is in the back of my head as I blog, remembering to put my source or thank you at the bottom of the blog before I even write the deal so I don’t forget to give credit where credit is due.

I realize that many bloggers do not have a journalism background like I do, but everyone should have taken a high school language class where plagiarism was discussed. I’m just shocked that there are so many other bloggers who many know how to find deals but have no knowledge of blogging. Before I dipped my toe into the blogosphere, I did my research, asked bigger bloggers for advice and THEN proceeded slowly, with caution, until I had a handle on things. Trust me, there’s a lot to learn!

I always say that the majority of money saving bloggers are one big happy money-saving family.  We’re all just trying to help others.  But you also need to know how to do it correctly.  If nothing else,  a site can lose it’s credibility.  You can know how to find the deals, but if you don’t deliver it in the right way, you could be in trouble.

And if you’re a blogger following this site and are cutting and pasting people’s stuff verbatim, you have been given fair warning.

Okay, rant over.

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6 Comments on Taking Out the Trash: Plagiarism edition

  1. Stephanie lichtenauer on Fri, 24th Jun 2011 10:34 am
  2. that’s got to be difficult to police. UGH!!!

  3. Nichole Waggoner on Fri, 24th Jun 2011 10:48 am
  4. I know exactly what you mean. I wrote a series of “How to get into Mystery Shopping” articles for eHow.com. I received probably $30 from said articles but I’ve seen them reposted on other boards without citing me or the eHow website. I sold them all to ehow for $10 now that they aren’t doing writer submissions anymore. At least I made a little something for my time. It’s just worth it. Maybe they need a Napster lawsuit for the blogosphere!

  5. Heather@Family Friendly Frugality on Fri, 24th Jun 2011 10:48 am
  6. I also think that it’s common courtesy and good bloggy friendship building to email before you even excerpt an article someone else wrote. Deals are one thing, a simple link back is fine (just don’t copy/paste or hotlink images!), but articles take time and research!

  7. Shelly@GBSavers on Fri, 24th Jun 2011 10:51 am
  8. When I started sending my Pig deals to MoneySavingMom.com I started to get all sorts of links from other blogs/websites. Almost every time I would find my whole post copy and pasted directly from MSM’s site. I have to say I was pretty surprised!! Sure, there was a link back but seriously the whole post just copied with the same font and everything?!? I’ve only had a handful (maybe 8-10 bloggers) actually email me and ask if they could use my post on their site.

    Readers usually catch on to the bloggers who copy and paste posts. I’m guessing they probably don’t/won’t last too long. First, because no one wants to read the same thing on 10 different blogs and, second, if the blogger doesn’t ENJOY blogging then they quit after a short time. Copying and pasting isn’t blogging! :)

  9. Merissa @ Little House Living on Fri, 24th Jun 2011 1:04 pm
  10. I agree with what Shelly wrote, eventually the readers will catch on that they are seeing the same thing and when a blogger doesn’t have any original articles, they probably won’t last long.

  11. Stacy on Mon, 27th Jun 2011 9:55 pm
  12. At work, I maintain a website as part of my job. When I found another site had copied a long webpage I wrote, one that took a lot of work, I contacted them and pointed out that they had violated our copyright and that if it wasn’t taken down, I’d file a DMCA takedown notice. The page was taken down the next day.

    I know it seems harsh, but I don’t like someone stealing credit for work I have done. and in my case, a “friendly warning” was all I needed.

    Since you do have a copyright notice prominently displayed at the foot of every page, you should probably do something similar if this problem really bothers you. This is, in fact, exactly the kind of copyright infringement the DMCA can stop.

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