A Very Real Problem Facing Online Writers
Why Plagiarism and Copyright Infringement are Closer than You Think
I never imagined such a thing would happen to me. In school, teachers stressed the severity of plagiarism, but I never even considered doing it myself, so it wasn’t a concern. When I started writing online, it was the farthest thing from my mind. Who would want to steal an article about my dead laptop or why you should watch Milo and Otis? I just didn’t think I was writing things that people would want to steal.
The first violation was discovered purely by accident. My wife was doing a search on her own hubs to see the summaries that are generally invisible on HubPages. She then asked me (I was in the next room) to name off one of my hubs that she could look up to see an example of a summary I had written. I said the first one that came into my head; the one that had been most popular for several weeks: How to Install Content for DAZ Studio. I figured that one would be the most likely to show up. Now keep in mind, when I say popular, I don’t mean ‘cash cow’. At best, one of my ‘popular’ articles will get between 15-25 views per day, which is low compared to the success stories I’ve read about on HubPages. But anyway, my wife called from the other room, asking if an article she was looking at was mine. She sounded concerned so I walked into the room and began reading over her shoulder. I then asked her to bring up my hub so that we could compare the two. To my utter horror, I discovered they were identical, except the one she had found was posted on some ‘free article’ website. There was a brief feeling of flattery that my writing was considered good enough to re-post on a site for the ‘best’ free articles, but that flattery was quickly replaced with rage and despair. I don’t make a lot of money off of my writing on HubPages, so it is that much more enraging to discover that the little success I do have is being leeched by other websites. It would have been a different story if they had asked permission or only posted an excerpt or link, but no, it was the article in its entirety, complete with screenshots I had taken to illustrate my points.
Now I was worried. How many other articles had been stolen? I embarked on a three-hour-long mission in which I searched Google using sections of my articles in quotation marks. I went through all 110 hubs I had written, at the time, and discovered over 5 violations. At a distance that doesn’t seem so bad, out of so many, and yet it was always on popular articles; the ones that were the most likely to be making me money. You might be thinking that there is more to writing here than just making money, and I would agree with that. I write hubs based on what interests me, not what is going to earn the most; having articles that become popular is usually by accident. But I won’t deny that when they do become popular, it makes me happy. When you spend years living under a cloud of debt, you begin to appreciate the value of a dollar. But anyway, I can’t say what purpose these sites were using these articles for; maybe they really did just like my writing, but the fact remained that traffic was being stolen from me and I had to take immediate action to correct it.
My first instinct was to contact the owners of each website and kindly ask them to take down the articles. I thought “if I’m nice and describe my dire financial situation, surely they’ll take down the piece.” Whether they got the message or not doesn’t really matter because I never got any responses (as of the writing of this article). And every day the articles remained up, was another day I was losing potential traffic. So I asked a question here on HubPages and was directed to a very useful hub about what to do in the event this happens. In it I was directed to Google, where I could submit a copy-write violation form and get the offending pages removed from Google’s search results. I’m not sure if it has any impact on other search engines, but it was the best I could do without being able to contact the administrators of each website. So far Google has been very prompt and professional with their process and agreed to remove all duplicates from their results. I still recommend attempts to contact the owners of each website, either before or after contact with Google, in order to get the article removed for good. Just don’t expect prompt responses.
But I decided to write a hub about this because of how unexpected it was. When I heard of writers having their articles stolen, I always pictured more popular writers than myself. I figured that my insignificance on the internet was my shield from damaging activity. But I was wrong. And so I urge you to search for your articles in any way that you can to see if something you have has been stolen. This is especially important on any article you’ve written that has seen success. Don’t be like me and assume you are protected by your low traffic. Anyone, anywhere could steal your work at any time and only you can find it.