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A Very Real Problem Facing Online Writers

Updated on March 29, 2017
M. T. Dremer profile image

M. T. Dremer has been an active member of the HubPages community for more than 5 years.

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.

Apparently, writers not only have to work their fingers to the bone for pennies, they then have to fight to the death to keep those pennies.
Apparently, writers not only have to work their fingers to the bone for pennies, they then have to fight to the death to keep those pennies.

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. You can find that hub here. 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.

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    • M. T. Dremer profile imageAUTHOR

      M. T. Dremer 

      6 years ago from United States

      Dardia - A lot of those 'free article' websites build their catalog off the backs of writers like us. They just copy and paste and they think they can get away with it. Thankfully google has a system in place where we can flag these kinds of sites, but the downside is that it's hard to keep track of all your hubs. There is nothing I hate more than doing duplicate searches on google. But I do think it's something every hubber should know about. Thank you for the comment!

    • Dardia profile image

      Darlene Yager 

      6 years ago from Michigan

      I doubt any of my articles are of interest to anyone as far as making money but it is possible I guess. I know I don't make any money on them. ;) This is good info though for those who would lose traffic. I may go looking around and see if any of mine have been copied just out of curiousity. Voted up~!

    • M. T. Dremer profile imageAUTHOR

      M. T. Dremer 

      6 years ago from United States

      purp-drag913 - The subjects that have been stolen from me are popular on search engines, which is why I think they're being taken, not necessarily my talent. However I appreciate the compliment. :) Also, I'm glad to hear that you're searching for yours early in the game. I didn't do it until I had around 100 hubs and it took forever to get through them all!

    • purp-drag913 profile image

      purp-drag913 

      6 years ago from West Michigan, USA.

      P.S. Just did a search and didn't find anything. Am grateful for your advice and will be checking from time to time.

    • purp-drag913 profile image

      purp-drag913 

      6 years ago from West Michigan, USA.

      Hey, Dremer.

      Just read your hub and found it most interesting and helpful. From what you've written, it seems people want your writing style, rather than your success. Famous or not, you're obviously talented, have something to say, and say it well. I personally like your style. :o)

    • M. T. Dremer profile imageAUTHOR

      M. T. Dremer 

      7 years ago from United States

      Rusty - You're absolutely right; those who are not writers, do not understand the level of work that goes into producing an article, short story, or novel. I've been writing my book for years and despite all the progress I've made, and how much work I've put into it, people just think I'm lazy because it's still not done. I challenge anyone else to write a polished 600+ page fantasy novel in less time. Thanks for the comment!

    • Rusty C. Adore profile image

      C Levrow 

      7 years ago from Michigan

      Many people in the world seem to put writing on a lower pedestal than other professions. They tend to see it as a fun hobby, or something that's so simple any "Bob in accounting" can handle it (no offense to any and all Bobs in accounting.) They seem to think that they can take our words and use them however they like and we won't care because it's so easy to us. It's incredibly frustrating. I get a similar feeling when family members think that I will do any sort of writing or editing for them on a moment's notice. They act as though it's simple when it really is not.

      Thank you for writing this hub and bringing this topic to light. It's very important. Voted up.

    • M. T. Dremer profile imageAUTHOR

      M. T. Dremer 

      7 years ago from United States

      CASE1WORKER - It's definitely time consuming to perform these searches. Despite my discovery and action, every day that goes by is another chance for it to be duplicated again. I really don't want to perform these searches every day, so I'll have to come up with a system of every two months or something. We need to keep on it! Thanks for the comment.

    • CASE1WORKER profile image

      CASE1WORKER 

      7 years ago from UNITED KINGDOM

      I have been caught once with a mass duplication and every so often I do a half hearted search just to check that there is no more - luckily since that one occassion, nothing, but I ought to check more- thanks for this, you are right we all ought to be aware.

    • M. T. Dremer profile imageAUTHOR

      M. T. Dremer 

      7 years ago from United States

      MartieCoetser - I can't say I blame you for not wanting to do a search for duplicates. It's a very unpleasant experience, one that I don't want to return to (but know I will have to again). Hopefully you are never unfortunate enough to run into it. Thanks for the comment!

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 

      7 years ago from South Africa

      I'm too afraid to search for duplicates - too afraid of the anger that will overwhelm me. There is nothing that angers me more than knowing that somebody has stolen something (anything) from me. Call it selfishness, egotism, whatever, fact is, what I've managed to obtain in this life - whether material or non-material - was via suffering and hard-hard work. How dare somebody steal it from me? How arrogant and evil must a person be to take what is not his/hers? May it never be necessary for me to submit a copy-write violation form to Google.

      Thanks for sharing your experience, M.T. Dremer. I’ve stored it all in the back of my mind. Whenever I found myself in the unfortunate position you’ve found yourself, at least I will know that I am not the first (nor the last) victim of people without integrity.

    • M. T. Dremer profile imageAUTHOR

      M. T. Dremer 

      7 years ago from United States

      MonetteforJack - You're welcome. If more hubbers start to realize the danger of this, then I've done my part. :) Thanks for the comment!

    • MonetteforJack profile image

      MonetteforJack 

      7 years ago from Tuckerton, NJ

      I am so glad you wrote this hub. It's not like anybody would like to steal mine, but, as the old adage goes "better be safe than sorry" -- so I will be alert on this. Thanks for the info-sharing. I truly appreciate it.

    • M. T. Dremer profile imageAUTHOR

      M. T. Dremer 

      7 years ago from United States

      Majadez - Glad I could spread awareness; it's a good practice to check for duplicates every so often. Thanks for the comment!

      randslam - You're welcome. Thanks for the comment!

    • randslam profile image

      Rand Zacharias 

      7 years ago from Kelowna, British Columbia

      A good warning to keep all of us on our toes. Thanks for the heads up.

    • Majadez profile image

      Maja Dezulovic 

      7 years ago from Johannesburg, South Africa

      Thanks. This was very useful. Like you, I didn't see (and probably still don't see) why anybody would steal my work. If it did happen, I wouldn't know where to start. This has given me some idea...

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