Plagiarized? Here's My Story

I posted this as a question first, but because there's no easy way to answer people's responses I've decided to create a Hub about it. Here goes:

I found what I thought was a good local client on craigslist and just submitted my 3rd article to her the other day. After seeming happy with my previous articles, she suddenly told me this last article needed "more work". She hasn't paid me and didn't tell me she published it, but I am "friends" with her business on FB. Today I saw she shared a link to my article. To my surprise and utter amazement she added 2 sentences, eliminated spacing between paragraphs and neglected to put my name on the article. I wrote her an email telling her what she did is considered plagiarism. Any suggestions?

Additional info: Our agreement was that she would pay me by the word and I would receive the byline on each and every article. I wrote 2 articles, since she only wanted one article per month. I pitched this latest article idea (as I did with the previous other articles) which she liked and gave me the go ahead to write the article, which I did. There was never a contract. She paid me for the previous two articles via check as she's local and I felt it wouldn't be a risk. Please comment with any advice. I'm very grateful for any help. Thanks!

Update, 7/16/11

I think I’ve figured out what was going on. As I said previously, all was fine between the client and myself. I pitched her article ideas, she agreed that I should write them, she published them on her site and included my byline (no bio, however). I submitted them and she paid me via check. I wrote 2 articles for her this way.

She stated she only wanted one article per month so when July rolled around I pitched 2 ideas and she chose one. I wrote the article and attached it to an email (as I had done the 2 previous times). I didn’t hear from her for a few days and thought it unusual.

Finally I received an email from her claiming that she had to do some work on this last article. She also said she was thinking about having me ghost write for her by writing a basic article, which she would then change to her liking. She said this as though it were an arrangement that would be solely up to her.

I was in the process of responding to her email to let her know that in no uncertain terms would I ever consider a ghost writing arrangement, when I saw a status update on her FB business profile with a link to my article. When I followed the link I found it had been posted to a business review site (which I had originally mistakenly took it for her own site) that she apparently joined in order to promote her business.

The article content was only slightly changed, but structurally it looked awful because she had eliminated all spacing between paragraphs. Just her business name was on the article and no mention of my having been the author. I immediately emailed her letting her know I considered what she had done to be plagiarism and I insisted she either remove the article or put my name on it. Although honestly, the way the article looked I wasn’t sure I wanted my name on it in that condition.

She immediately answered my email by saying that since she changed the article she felt she had the right to call it her own. I again insisted and even played the lawyer card. I guess this rattled her because she sent me another email saying she removed the article but since she wasn’t able to use the article she wanted the check back that she claims is in the mail.

Now it seems we’re at another impasse as my thought is since the only reason she is unable to use the article is because she clearly plagiarized me and is refusing to give me proper credit. My position is that I pitched her the idea, took the time to write the article and submitted it to her as per our original business agreement.

As a side note, I contacted the website where she had posted my article to advise them of the situation. I felt they should know what she had done in case she attempts to republish the article. The website has an entire section on third party copyright and such so I’m hoping that, although this woman seems to have no morals, perhaps this online review company does.

Sorry this is so long, and some information is redundant. As with most things this was an eye-opening, learning experience. I have no intention of writing for anyone without a contract in place anymore. The humorous thing was that, in her final email, this woman said to me, “I hired a writer and am not paying to build your business.” I’m not completely certain what she meant by this, but it says so much about the way writers are viewed in the work world and it’s no wonder why so many “clients” expect writers to produce quality content for pennies. It seems writing is still not viewed as a legitimate business.



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Comments 16 comments

J.S.Matthew profile image

J.S.Matthew 5 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

Were the articles published anywhere else like on HubPages? Or were they exclusively sent to her? Unfortunately, it sounds like since there was no written agreement or contract, and you have no proof that you are the author, I think you might have to eat this one. That really stinks and I sympathize with you. I don't know of any other resources or answers to this. I hope someone does and can help you. I will share this so that others might find it and provide you with an better answer. Good luck!

JSMatthew~


J.S.Matthew profile image

J.S.Matthew 5 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

One more thing...I think you should post this in the Forums. Maybe someone there can help you?

JSMatthew~


lovesleftovers profile image

lovesleftovers 5 years ago from Texas Author

No, the articles were written for her exclusively. I have all the emails with the document attachments however.


Christopher Dapo profile image

Christopher Dapo 5 years ago from Havelock, NC

Feel for you, my friend. One thing I have to appreciate about Hubpages is the certified time-stamping at the moment you publish an article.

In your situation, I'd like to remind everyone why you can't just send a company something and expect them to read it - even touch it - is because of the uncertainty involved with copyrighted material. Most places require both parties to sign and date a joint agreement at some point before exchanging these things so that both parties accept their responsibility in the sharing of information.

I'd suggest you make an attempt at one of these, even through a lawyer if you must, before going any further. That way, you are both protected.


J.S.Matthew profile image

J.S.Matthew 5 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

Since you have the e-mails, you may be onto something! That's a good thing cause it could represent an agreement that is dated before publication. Again, try the forums and maybe look-up the US Copy Rite Office and see what they say: http://www.copyright.gov/

I hope that you get this resolved!

JSMatthew~


breathe2travel profile image

breathe2travel 5 years ago from Gulf Coast, USA

How unfortunate. Consider posting a link to the article or her FB page, so we freelance writers can write on her wall! #maybethat'dgetherattention

I wish you the best in compensation and victory.

Warmest regards~


lovesleftovers profile image

lovesleftovers 5 years ago from Texas Author

Thanks so much everyone! She was acting kind of fishy after I emailed her the last article. Suddenly she was telling me she had to make a lot of changes. When I read the article she had taken out about 2 sentences and eliminated all the spacing between paragraphs. Honestly, the article looks awful now because of it. When I confronted her via email she maintained that she had the right to change the article, which of course is fine. I write for many places where editors require changes and I do them gladly. My issue was that she felt that because she had taken out a couple of sentences that gave her the right to call the article her own. I'm not sure if she's incredibly clever or just really dumb. In her final email she made a comment, "I thought I was hiring a writer, not building your business." Just goes to show how some people don't get the fact that writing IS our business. Sheesh.


Bretsuki profile image

Bretsuki 5 years ago from California USA

Hello lovesleftovers, I think this might have to be allowed to go to the experience file. I was plagiarized several times in one online class. The student was stupid enough to just copy and paste my postings including a couple of spelling mistakes. There I was able to report him to the teacher and Dean and he was expelled from that class at least in the last week.

That you have e-mails is in part support for your claims, if you state that they are as a result of an agreement to produce work and to be considered as invoices. Sadly without witten contracts it would probably not be cost effective to pursue a claim against this person.

What has happened to you is not fair and from my experience it is hurtful.

If you consider you might want to continue a working relationship with her I would get a full contract set up and signed before doing any other work for her, state your policies and terms and exceptions. It will cost money to set up contracts but it will show your clients that you are in business and that you request they accept that and honor your creativity as a writer.

I am not a lawyer so am not fully appraised of the situation and remedies available to you.


lovesleftovers profile image

lovesleftovers 5 years ago from Texas Author

Thanks for the feedback Bretsuki! There's no way I'd consider working for this woman again. I added an update to the saga above. Serves me right for being trusting I guess. Live and learn right?


Bretsuki profile image

Bretsuki 5 years ago from California USA

Hello lovesleftovers, I laughed when you mentioned that she wants her check back. Personally I would consider framing it and keeping it as a personal moento. Let her worry that you may cash it for the next year. :)

From my understanding of the law, the work always remains yours, unless specified by contract no matter how much the editor removes and changes.


lovesleftovers profile image

lovesleftovers 5 years ago from Texas Author

Exactly! She's a bit nutty if you ask me. One thing's for sure, she's not getting her check back. Like my Grandma used to say, some people have more nerve than sense :)


Diana Lee profile image

Diana Lee 5 years ago from Potter County, Pa.

No matter how much she changed it she's stealing your work. I did a research article on the nutritional benefits that eggs have for a writing assignment I did for a grade. This was for a freelance writing course. Even though I listed references at the end of the manuscript my instructor made it clear to me that I had at least 3 places in the article where the sentences were to much like another source's words. We must be very careful when gathering information how we write it in our own words or how we use direct quotes. But in your case if your name was not mentioned at all it plagiarizing.


lovesleftovers profile image

lovesleftovers 5 years ago from Texas Author

Exactly Diana! I'm completely dumbfounded how a "businesswoman" could be so clueless about what she's done. She owns a landscaping biz. I wonder how she'd feel if she spent hours designing a garden for someone and the client went with another landscaper, but used her design plan.


RealHousewife profile image

RealHousewife 5 years ago from St. Louis, MO

Hi love - wow - that's crazy! Thanks for posting this as I'm really inexperienced and didn't even think anyone would try something like that! She changed it so suddenly she thought it was hers? It wasn't a recipe was it? LOL just kidding. Up and awesome - new info for me.


lovesleftovers profile image

lovesleftovers 5 years ago from Texas Author

Hey sugar! Nope, not a recipe..too funny :)Yes, I guess it's something we all need to be aware of. Not too long ago I had written a very popular series of articles on my own blog and noticed someone had used a portion of it in their own article. However, they had the decency (and smarts) to provide a link to my articles. Unfortunately, plagiarism is rampant online and that makes it very difficult to stay on top of it. Being aware is only half the battle. Glad the info was helpful! :)


RealHousewife profile image

RealHousewife 5 years ago from St. Louis, MO

Sure is - I had no idea it was that bad! How can people be not only so dumb - but I wouldn't even want to pretend I wrote something! That's low. It's stealing and weak and underhanded. I'd rather - eat dirt than steal somebody else's work! Yep - this is an eye opener for me and something I will keep my eyes open for.

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