Plagiarism: You are still stealing even if something is easy to take

I know a lot of bloggers and other online content creators, and not a week goes by without someone saying that some of their work, their intellectual property, has been stolen. It may have been an image, a video, a recipe, or a blog post. It happens all the time, and it is wrong. Yes, on the Internet it is easy to cut and paste content, but it is still stealing even if it is easy to do. It’s still stealing even if you say who you stole it from.

Inevitably when someone complains about their content being stolen there is some victim blaming. You should have put a watermark on it. You should have explicitly said it was your content and people should not copy it.


Stealing is stealing, and people should not be doing it.

Think about porch furniture.

Perhaps you want to make your porch nice and welcoming by putting some chairs out there. A lot of people do. Is it okay for someone to come and take your porch furniture? I mean, it was outside and unlocked. If you didn’t want them stolen you should have locked them up. You shouldn’t have put it out there if you didn’t want it stolen, am I right?

What if the person who stole your porch furniture takes it back to their place and puts a nice sign on it saying “via [your name and address].” You’re cool with it then, right? I mean they gave you attribution.

Do not steal people’s stuff.

If you want to repost a blog post pull a reasonably sized excerpt and link to the rest instead.

What’s a reasonably sized excerpt? It depends on the length of the post. Quoting 150 words of a 1,000 word article makes sense, but quoting 150 word of a 300 word post is probably too much. If your quote negates the need for an interested person to read the source you have stolen from the author.

If you want to post an image check to see if it has a creative content license that allows sharing. If not, ask the creator.

If you want to post a video use the embed option rather than creating your own copy.

“But, I’m not a blogger, so this doesn’t apply to me.”

You may not be a blogger, but if you use social media this definitely applies to you since social media is full of stolen content.

On Facebook share an entire status rather than pasting it or making a copy. If Facebook didn’t allow you to share the status that means the person’s privacy settings do not allow sharing, which is probably for a reason. Do not “help them” by circumventing that.

On Pinterest be sure that pinned image links back to their sources.

On Twitter, use native retweets most of the time. If you do a manual retweet be sure that it is clear you who you are retweeting. If the person has a private account do not retweet them without their permission.

There is a lot of good content on the Internet. Much of it makes little or no money for the creators. Please do not deny content creators the little reward they tend to get (credit and possibly a little ad revenue) by stealing their stuff. You are smarter than that. After all, you were smart enough to read this article.

Disclaimer: I am not an intellectual property lawyer. I am just a writer who doesn’t want my stuff stolen.

(Please don’t steal this. Thanks!)

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