Plagiarism Definition

by AJ

What is Plagiarism? How do you avoid it?

The Definition of Plagiarism

in the Little Oxford Dictionary

According to the Little Oxford Dictionary, that sits on my desk, to Plagiarize is defined as:

Publish borrowed thoughts as original; steal from thus

The problem nowadays is that with the advent of the World Wide Web, so much information is instantly available in a form that is easy to simply copy and then pass off as one's own. It's not like the days when I was at school, when you had to research your homework using books from the library and then write it out and Heaven help you if you did not rewrite in your own words.

Now, everything you could possibly need is there, available in just a couple of mouse clicks. Copy and past is simple. Copy and paste and content theft is rife.

Why do people plagiarise?

Some of it is deliberate, some of it is in ignorance

With all the information available on the web, it is hard to understand that people can plagiarize in ignorance, but it does happen. New internet users and writers are often under the impression that because content is published and public, then it is there to be copied and pasted into other blogs, pages and websites.

Sometimes the Copyright Infringers think it is OK providing they credit the original author, but it is not.

Others infringe copyright, knowing full well what they are doing and this is blatent theft.

Examples of Plagiarism

What is Content Theft?

Content theft is committed when you take someone else's original work and post it on your site without their permission. As we have already stated, linking to the original source is not good enough. You need permission to reproduce anyone else's work and if you do not get it, then what you are doing is illegal.

Worse still are those who take content and then fail to credit the original source. The work is then assumed to be their's and the so called "author" deliberately presents it as such.

Examples of Plagiarism I have seen include:

  • Content copied from Wikipedia, where the source has not been credited - it is permissable to copy from Wikipedia, but only providing you link to the original source
  • Pages full of film reviews copied directly from the International Movie Database
  • Severe weather disasters, where content has been taken from the leading authority site on the specific topic
  • Pages about individuals and the content has come from local newspaper reports
  • Advice about what to do in an emergency - the content lifted from an authority site that deals with that kind of emergency

To be honest the list is endless.

What about pictures?

and photos?

The same rules apply to images as text. Taking photos, pictures, cartoons, drawings etc without the permission of the original owner is also content theft.

And you know, these days, there's really no excuse to steal someone else's pictures. There's so many sites that make images freely available for use, whether they are free pictures without the requirement of attribution, those that do require a simple attribution or those provided by Vendors, who allow you to promote them as affiliates.

The best line to take when checking out pictures for your sites is to assume you CANNOT use them, unless you find something that specifically says you can!

Another way to avoid all the pitfalls of using someone else's pictures is to take your own. This is a picture I use in a series of pages about Keeping Rabbits and is my own (copyrighted) photo, taken with a Nikon Coolpix Digital Camera.

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Sites that offer Free Images

But check out the Terms of Use First!!

AllPosters is a site where by joining as an Affilliate you can use their images in your content. As with any site like this you need to use the HTML supplied by the site to feature the images and you have the added bonus of perhaps making sales.

Join Amazon as an Affiliate and then you can use their product images, providing you link to the product on Amazon. This is particularly useful if you want to feature images that are owned by major Corporations who protect their copyright aggressively, like Disney
Royalty free, public domain clip art

Many images on flickr are made available by the copyright holders. But do check as not all are available for commercial use.

Free Digital
A great site offering great photos. Be sure to read the Terms of Use - one is that you credit the site AND the original photographer for all photos you use.

There's some wonderful images on NASA, that have been released into the Public Domain

All pictures on the Pixabay site are in the Public Domain and free to use without condition, unless the condition is required by law

Wikimedia has a vast collection of images that are free to use. Be sure to check the Terns that allow you to use these images, particularly those that require you to credit the source and the license that allows you to use them.

You can use images from Zazzle providing you are a Zazzle Associate. You do not need to have your own Zazzle store to sign up as an Associate and not only can you freely link to their images, there's a chance of earning commission too. But be careful to read the Terms and Conditions

What about Coloring Pages?

Take care that you are not plagiarising!

Coloring Pages - this is a topic that is fraught with pitfalls!

Do a Google Search for free coloring pages and you get 24,300,000 pages! There's huge demand for coloring pages on every topic under the sun. And the use of computers and home printers mean that parents can quickly find something to keep the kids happy and quiet.

They just have to choose a topic and hey presto! There's the characters from the latest Disney Movie ready to be printed off and colored in by their adoring fans.

But wait a minute....aren't all Disney images copyrighted to Disney? Yes, they certainly are!

But what about the 8,400,000 pages that are offering Disney coloring pages as free printables? My guess is that at least 8,399,900 are probably illegal, probably more. The only sites that normally have permission to reproduce Coloring Pages depicting Disney Characters are official Disney sites.

It is the same with any Trademarked or Copyrighted character and when you think about it, why would anyone give permission for Joe Bloggs or anyone else to profit from their images that have taken a huge investment to develop?

"Everyone else is doing it" is no excuse and certainly is no defence in a court of law, so probably best not to follow the crowd.


How to avoid Plagiarising

Write everything in your own words

When you are creating content, sometimes you will write "off the top of your head". But other times you will want to research your topic, curate information from various sites online and add your own thoughts.

Any information you glean from your research needs to be re-written in your own words and definitely NOT presented as your own creation. And it is also polite to credit your sources by linking to them, with a clickable HTML link.

After all, they did a lot of work, that has helped you and the least you can do is acknowledge their contribution to your page and give them a Backlink.

Updated: 02/24/2014, AJ
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sheilamarie on 11/09/2011

Thank you, AJ, for raising this subject. There is some tricky ground here.
I have seen a lot of articles that are basically collections of quotes from various sources around a certain subject. I actually have enjoyed reading these collections, but have wondered where the line is crossed to plagiarism. How much can be quoted (with the author's name, of course) before it is too much? If there is a link to where you can buy the book or books where the quotes originated, does that make it okay? I have actually rarely seen these links in most of the quotes articles.

AJ on 11/06/2011

Thank you all so much for your kind comments. To answer some of them:

tokyonights: our knowledge always starts with something we read, something our teacher told us, something we learned from someone else or something we saw. There comes a time when it is so much part of what we know, then, unless when we write about it we are actively quoting someone, I think it is OK not to give them credit. Because of course, sometimes it is very hard to remember where we learned it :)

Marciag - I love the fact that despite its enormous size, Google moves lightening quick to take down copied content. It is one of the things I love them for.

tokyonights7 on 11/05/2011

An excellent article. For anyone who has gone to university, the rules for writing an essay for a professor or an article for the Internet are the same. One issue I always came across when writing essays in university, however, was that of writing an essay on a topic about which I was already very knowledgable. Often, I knew the facts, but I could not recall where or when I had learned them. What should one do in this case?

marciag on 11/05/2011

Great article on plagiarims. It is one of those topics very dear to me. On the other side of the coin, it's amazing how much I have to fight against sites that copy my articles. I think Google must know me already by name based on how many Blogspot blogs I report for people who simply copy my text from my Squidoo lenses or my own websites, lol.

SquidRich on 11/04/2011

So good to see you spreading the word about plagiarism, particularly in relation to those dreaded colouring pages!

AJ on 11/03/2011

Thank you :)

nightbear on 11/02/2011

How to avoid plagiarism is such an important topic, and anyone seriously trying to do right on the web is going to need to understand it. We can always trust you AJ to give us the scoop on these topics. Thanks for another great one.

AJ on 11/02/2011

Thank you Pam. Yes, it can be very confusing when you first arrive online and I understand that mistakes can be made. I know I made a few when I first started publishing, but the main thing is for folks to accept when they have done wrong and just set about putting it right.

dustytoes on 11/02/2011

Very well said AJ. I do think that some people are confused and don't believe they are plagiarizing. I used to be remiss about always linking to the info I used when I first started blogging, but I have learned, and would like the same consideration if anyone uses info from my writing.

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