Is it immoral to "use" someone's content to create something unique?

Jump to Last Post 1-17 of 17 discussions (34 posts)
  1. melbel profile image93
    melbelposted 12 years ago

    Let's say you see an article on someone's blog and website and they've got good information, but their entire article is extremely poorly structured, poorly worded, and just a gloppy mess.

    You could easily take the information they present and present it in a totally new way essentially entirely re-writing and re-structuring their article. You do this and the outcome is an article that is entirely different from their, original article and you publish it as a hub. Nobody can tell you got the information from this article, not even Google.

    Is this immoral? If so, isn't this what we do as writers? Collect information from multiple sources to come up with an article? What if there was only ONE source of information? Does this change the morality?

    I am asking this because I see an article that doesn't rank... and will NEVER rank... based on the structure, wording, etc... and if I just gutted it and rewrote essentially the whole thing, it could rank. However, I'm having a morality issue with that. Can someone come pat me on the shoulder and make me feel better?

    1. relache profile image71
      relacheposted 12 years agoin reply to this

      Working from a sole source and rewriting someone's original work is known as violating their intellectual property rights.  That's where the theft is of their ideas, their concepts of presentation and reasoning.

      1. Cardisa profile image87
        Cardisaposted 12 years agoin reply to this

        If you are rewriting someone else work no matter how sloppy or gloppy then it is not unique. It just mean you have spun or rewritten it well. I have seen where a lot of people do that, their article sometimes come out looking better but the source was still someone else.

  2. TerryGl profile image57
    TerryGlposted 12 years ago

    Well Melbel maybe you could look at it this way and I will answer your question in a roundabout way to come to the answer.

    Let's say I take your 7 hubs in your "E-Commerce and How to Make Money Online" category and turn them into a pdf with a pretty cover.

    I now go to Fiverr and sell that ebook to people and I make $4.00 a sale.

    I have now taken your information and presented it in a totally different way.

    Is that immoral?

    In short the answer is YES, it is completely immoral.

    1. melbel profile image93
      melbelposted 12 years agoin reply to this

      But I'm talking about like taking something like:
      "Cats are fuzzy. Some cats are not fuzzy, they have no fur, but there are less of them."

      And turning it into:

      "While most cats have furry coats, some cats actually have no hair. Hairless cats aren't as common, but they make great pets for people with allergies."

      It's not really a question of presenting it... or moving their article and claiming it is mine, but rather using it as a source of information.

  3. 2uesday profile image65
    2uesdayposted 12 years ago

    What if their badly written article is a spun article made from a well written original article?

    1. melbel profile image93
      melbelposted 12 years agoin reply to this

      Lol! The thing that makes me feel bad about it is that it's like the niche was "their idea" but they obviously didn't succeed. Other than that I'd look at it like it was pure research...

      When I write from a source, I use other sources anyway and I would in this case, but I just feel bad because the topic was their idea.

      1. Lisa HW profile image62
        Lisa HWposted 12 years agoin reply to this

        If you consider the other person's article "a source" I'd think you should refer to it as one of your sources in your Hub.

        To me, if something's debatable or questionable, I'd rather just stay away from it and think my own ideas, research them, and not have to worry about what's ":moral".

  4. kenwrites profile image69
    kenwritesposted 12 years ago

    No it's not's content writing or in essence rewriting. Getting ideas or even basically rewriting a poorly structured article is not plagiarism nor immoral. Hell, that's what Demand Studios does all day long.

    Just read the article, make some notes, close the article and write your own original article. Add an extra step and run your newly written article through a couple of free online plagiarism checkers such as dustball or article checker. You are basically taking an idea and expounding upon it.

  5. wilderness profile image93
    wildernessposted 12 years ago

    Say someone takes one of your hubs and puts it through some software they bought that spins it into something no longer a duplicate but that obviously still uses the same basic research and information.

    They then post it and use some more software to provide 1000 backlinks to it.  Google likes it and promotes it well ahead of your original article in the SERPs.  We see this every day right here on HP as the spinners end up in the hub hopper.

    Is it immoral?  After all, it is your time, effort and research over a weeks time that produced the information that the spinner has lifted.  He then took a few minutes to re-package it, advertise it and sold it.

    If yes, what is the real difference between that and what you are asking except that the spinning software is between your ears instead of on a computer?

    Illegal?  Probably not.  Immoral?  Absolutely.  Do your own research and don't lift all of mine right from one article.

  6. Stacie L profile image89
    Stacie Lposted 12 years ago

    I've had this happen ..and it's infuriating...

  7. Pearldiver profile image67
    Pearldiverposted 12 years ago

    What I personally find Immoral is that every time I post a comment in the forums of this site on ANY Thread that You (the OP) are involved in I GET BANNED!! sad

    I not only find that Immoral but I also find it highly questionable, given that my responses are certainly more balanced than the subjective efforts that certain parties continuously use to bait the forums with!

    WHY on earth would you ever consider stealing or spinning the work of others?

    WHY on earth would you consider that their original content is there for the benefit of content thieves that harbor a similar justification to that which you are presenting here?

    Would your reasoning or justification for such an action be similar to those statements that you made several months ago when you attacked MY morals and had me banned during my efforts to catch the site content thieves calling themselves 68 Articles?

    Oh.... And if you consider that this post is a 'Personal Attack' on your 'Good Nature' - It isn't.  But it is completely in context with the 'Nature' of the 'Moral Standing' of your post.

    Like many others, I despise having my personally created, original works 'doctored' by anyone who feels justified in raping or stealing them.... But then to 'Some' my stance could be questioned as being an author of the copyright merely wishing to hold the 'Moral High Ground' over some poor, unfortunate, immoral party who feels aggrieved when challenged.

    How many times have we had our work stolen here Melbel?
    - Sooner or later we all get sick and tired of thieves and those others who justify similar use and abuse of our creative efforts!

    DO YOUR OWN WORK and Make the effort (at least) to justify the title 'Writer' by NOT Bastardizing the efforts of others! roll

    1. wilderness profile image93
      wildernessposted 12 years agoin reply to this

      I remember that episode with 68 articles PD - I was one that had material stolen.  You did a lot of great work for the whole community and got banned for it.

      I never got the chance then but I'll say it now - thanks for the effort.  It was above and beyond.

  8. Haunty profile image73
    Hauntyposted 12 years ago

    Both sides have good points. I think it was totally worth asking this question.

    As for your example sentence: people tend to be allergic to the saliva of their pet rather than the fur.

    1. melbel profile image93
      melbelposted 12 years agoin reply to this

      I heard that somewhere as well.

      Oh yeah, I would definitely use multiple sources for research, most definitely. I'm just curious where this stands. This article I wanted to based some of my research off of has some good facts and then there is stuff in it that I KNOW is wrong and then there is stuff the writer left out as well.

      Thank you for the clarification on this from a legal standpoint. smile

      @PD - If you get banned for posts that you make, how is that immoral on the part of others that participate in your threads? I don't ban you. I have no moderating ability here. I commend you for your work in bringing to light the 68articles thing, I do. This is simply a question of morality and is something I wouldn't do simply because it doesn't 'feel right' to me. The point of this thread is rather to get others' points of view on this issue.

      And, PD, remember that writing isn't the only thing that people "steal." Photos, for example, should be used ONLY from sources that give permission for their use on your hubs. And even then, many of them require attribution. There are a couple of hubs and sections in the learning center all about using photos without permission that you might want to check out. You know, if you're curious. wink

  9. Urbane Chaos profile image90
    Urbane Chaosposted 12 years ago

    If you base your article entirely off another person's work, then I think that's immoral.  But, if you use that persons work as research, then I don't see any problem with that.

    If it was me, I'd take the general idea of the topic, do my own research on it, and write something completely new that not only clarifies their article but also adds a lot more information and value than they would have originally thought of.

    ...but no, I'd never completely rework someone else's article.

  10. mega1 profile image80
    mega1posted 12 years ago

    Personally, I don't take material from other hubbers.  If you had the idea first, though, and then found a poorly written article on the subject, here or elsewhere, then I see nothing wrong.  I think you need to get your inspiration from your own experience, life, and the world.  I do not think it is a good idea to take someone else's idea here no matter how much better you can do with it. 

    Recently another hubber published something from a male point of view and I suggested that I might do the same subject only from a woman's point of view and he had no problem with that.  But (1) it really wasn't the same material, only the same idea, and (2) I let him know I was thinking about it first, to get his reaction and (3) I still haven't done it! because I was thinking it is a little too much like his hub.   This helps you alot, right?  !

    1. melbel profile image93
      melbelposted 12 years agoin reply to this

      Yeah, I don't copy ideas from other hubbers. When I am writing a new hub and I come up with a title and the thing says "the url is taken" I take a look at that article. If it's something that someone obviously put a lot of time and thought into, I won't even write a hub of the same topic. Now, if it's not, then I'll continue and write my hub but I won't use their hub as any part of my research. I basically just scan to see "the hub I'm up against." Good thoughts. smile

    2. CASE1WORKER profile image61
      CASE1WORKERposted 12 years agoin reply to this

      Surely the article is just one of many sources. For example if I have read 20 articles and book entries then I may be extracting a part of each article or book then putting them together in my words to explain. There may in some instances be very little variance in the way the articles/books are constructed. For example if you were writing about the work of a famous artist you might start with birth, education, early life, success, death... so  the articles would follow the same pattern.

      1. melbel profile image93
        melbelposted 12 years agoin reply to this

        One thing I worry about is lets say you're doing an article on William Shakespeare and there is only ONE source in the entire world that says Shakespeake was born in whatever year he was born. That's the ONLY source.

        Now, let's say I write a hub about Shakespeare and I put the year he was born. At what point is that information proprietary and what point is it free domain (or whatever, I don't know the exact terms off the top of my head?)

        Like Joe Schmo was the FIRST and ONLY person to have that information, so shouldn't I at least credit him in my article? Aside from it being a morality issue, as Relache stated, it's intellectual rights. Now since Joe Schmo published it and everyone knows it's Joe Schmo that knows that information is it okay for me to say "Shakespeare was born in year X" as long as I credit Joe Schmo?

        Does Joe Schmo own the fact that Shakespeare was born in year X? If I write a high school book report and even though I cite Joe Schmo, am I still breaking the law? What is the law regarding saying Shakespeare was born in Year X without crediting Joe Schmo?

        I am finding a lot of grey area with this stuff. I mean, I know what I "feel" is wrong, but should our feelings alone be our compass? I mean, I feel it's wrong so I'm not going to do it but I am sure there are several others who don't feel it's wrong, and, in a way, I can understand the logic although I don't personally agree with it.

        This turned from a Hubber's Hangout topic into something more Philosophical.


        1. Urbane Chaos profile image90
          Urbane Chaosposted 12 years agoin reply to this

          I came across this while doing research for a book I'm working on.  The source had specific information that wasn't found anywhere else, but I wanted to include it in my book.  Namely, it was a about how the town of Poteau became incorporated.  I wanted to use this in my book, but was worried about copying the information.

          I know, it's a little different, but the principle is the same. 

          I contacted the copyright desk and they said that it was legal in certain circumstances under the fair use copyright laws.

          Basically, you're allowed to use a portion of someone else's work as long as you give proper attribution.  So if that one person is the only one who knew when Shakespeare's birth was, you could include that without ramification.  Nobody has a copyright on his birth, so there wouldn't be any issue there.

          Now if you claimed that you found this information on your own, then I don't think that would be right. Someone went through a lot of research to find it, so they should be credited, even though they don't own the information.

          Legally, you're allowed to use a percentage of someone else's work.  Morally, I think it'd be best to always credit the person who did the research if you can.  Beyond that, I say just do what your gut tells you to.. Hopefully, I won't get into trouble for using the information that I did in my book, but if I do, I'll just have to deal with it.

        2. Lisa HW profile image62
          Lisa HWposted 12 years agoin reply to this

          On another writing site,  this kind of issue was presented this way:

          If the information is something you know for a fact because it's either personal experience or assimilated knowledge, and you didn't use any source to come up with what you wrote - no references required because there aren't any.

          If the information is information that is already widely known (i.e., Shakespeare's first name was "William", or else he wrote "MacBeth") no reference is needed (as long as it's widely known information, and even if some poorly informed people don't already know it).

          If you use anything that someone else wrote as part of information you present in your own article it requires a reference.  If I write a crappy article and give information, and if you use the information I give in your article, you got the information from me - not from your own experience, assimilated knowledge acquired over the course of your life, etc.

          It's not really about whether one person offers a piece of information/idea somewhere but it's also in other places.  It's about what you use to come up with the information in your own article.  If the person with the poorly written article has a piece of solid information in it, I think the answer would be to see if someone with a better article offers the same information and would make a better looking, more credible, reference.  If that person has some isolated piece of information that isn't showing up in other sources then I think the person deserves the credit and the reference (and that your article will be built on "questionable foundation".  Why?  Because if you didn't think up the information yourself you probably weren't involved with the reasoning that led to coming up with it on your own.  The other thing is that if you write an article and don't give credit where credit is due, it's not the information in question - it's your integrity and professionalism as a writer/content-producer.

          There's a difference, though, between factual information and "ideas in general".  If I write a Hub about making cookies however I make them, someone else is free to write his own article about making cookies and approach it his own way.

          In the Joe Schmo thing with Shakespeare's birthday, if JS is absolutely the only one who knew that day, then your article to state where you got that piece of information from (and that was Joe Schmo).  If Joe Schmo was the only one who knew it hundreds of years ago, and if the world has since accepted that date as the correct one, then that's "widely known" and wouldn't require a reference to Joe S.

          Something people should be careful about, though, is this:  There are people who think the only way a piece of writing can possibly earn any money, or is even worth its space on the Internet, is if the article is obviously and well designed with SEO in mind (and the whole "Internet thinking thing" in mind.  Someone like that may run into what looks to him like a "crappy article", but there really is such a thing as non-SEO'd-up articles and/or even horribly written articles that make money for the author.  People shouldn't presume that because an article doesn't look like the kind of thing that earns a money for the author that it doesn't.   

          Besides, just because someone looks like they aren't involved in earning money with their articles ("because their article is so obviously crappy"), that doesn't mean that treating their writing with less respect or less professionalism is perfectly fine.

          The Internet is full of people who operate on the idea that what's out there is up for grabs, and that's just how things are done.  It's also full of people who know that's how it is and know not to put anything they really care about on the Internet. So, in general, what's "immoral" almost doesn't matter if a writer is OK with knowing he doesn't come up with his own ideas (or that he swiped someone else's, didn't give him credit, and passed it off as his own).   A lot of students think everyone else cheats and copies, and that it's fine, too.

          Personally, I don't think the "that's-what-everyone-does" mentality changes whether something is "immoral" or unprofessional.  There is, and always will be, something to be said for knowing that what we've written is something we've come up with on our own, something we can back up with reason, logic and/or specific references.

          Besides, if I knew someone's article was so crappy that I didn't want to include it as a reference I'd feel like a) I should maybe question how credible the information/idea was at all and/or b) I was exploiting someone else's lack of expertise/interest in producing a better looking article.

          (I do think it does make a good philosophical discussion, though.   smile  )

          1. melbel profile image93
            melbelposted 12 years agoin reply to this

            Wow! This was well thought out. Thank you for the really thorough response. smile I think what I'll do when I come across a situation like this again, I'll look for a more credible source and cite it. The article I'd found was full of information that many programmers already know as it's taught in classes, written in hundreds of books, etc, so it's not really original, but I guess this guy was the first to give me the idea to write on it.

            Your response has definitely given me a lot to think about. smile It's like DAMN, HW, you should write a hub on this!

      2. mega1 profile image80
        mega1posted 12 years agoin reply to this

        my main point is - who had the idea?  did you get the idea because you found another hubber's hub that is not well written?  or did you already have the idea on your own?  If you are stealing someone else's idea - not good.  However, if you read an article and you get an idea for a different article about the same general subject, that would be ok - just don't take someone else's ideas and facts.   Like you read a hub about tattoos for women - but then you write on the subject "women's flower tattoos"  - you got that idea from the women's tattoo hub, but you specialized it about flower tattoos only.  This kind of thing is often done.  I've seen some hubs written after mine where they refined the idea and used different info sources - no problem.  If someone took my women's tattoo idea and info and just wrote it out in different words, that would theft.

        1. melbel profile image93
          melbelposted 12 years agoin reply to this

          In my case, it was about an aspect of a programming language.

          There was a blog post on someone's blog about A in programming language B which isn't a great keyword and I don't even know programming language B anyway. Since A doesn't get that many searches for any programming languages, I was thinking of writing on D in the E programming programming language.

          So every aspect is different but the author was the one that came up with the idea of writing about an aspect of a programming language. I know that this writer and I would never be competition as people searching for his articles would only be looking for HIS language and THAT specific aspect the writer chose to write about... again, mine is a completely different aspect, completely different language -- but his article would kind of serve as the jumping point from which I would write my article.

          Again, since my article would be of a completely different animal of a different color, the original author would be thankful, but almost think it's strange that I cited him as the topics are so different... but the niche is the same: writing about a specific aspect of programming. Currently I write about programming on my own blog, but basically I write about the things that I'm learning -- I don't write like about for example How to Write a Method in Ruby which may be an idea I got from an article How to Write Something_Else in Some_different_language.

          It's essentially the same as like coming across and article like "Why HubPages is Awesome" and writing one "Why Helium Sucks"

          1. Ms Dee profile image87
            Ms Deeposted 12 years agoin reply to this

            If this is what you are talking about then, Melbel, I think we are *all* guilty. hmm

  11. Google Gal profile image60
    Google Galposted 12 years ago

    how do you know if their information is accurate? I mean if its pooly written and sloppy why would you want to even try to fix it? just a question

    1. melbel profile image93
      melbelposted 12 years agoin reply to this

      Very good point. This is one reason why I would definitely use multiple sources should the situation arise.

  12. 2uesday profile image65
    2uesdayposted 12 years ago

    I think as well as the rights and wrongs one needs to consider these definitions

    "the practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own:  there were accusations of plagiarism"

    "verb  [with object]
    take (the work or an idea of someone else) and pass it off as one’s own:
    he was fined $6,000 for having plagiarized the song
    take the work or an idea of (someone) and pass it off as one’s own:
    the author claims she was plagiarized."

    from this source -

    Of course it is difficult to know where one is and is not influenced by what one has read in the past. I think that plagiarism is more blatant than a mere influence on what one writes about or gets inspiration from.

    The original question did look to me as if the work would be based on one article and a re-working of it. Maybe that was just the way I read it.

    Pearl Diver - I respect the time and effort you spent on helping the Hubbers who had their work stolen, thank you.

  13. princess g profile image60
    princess gposted 12 years ago

    Take the information, fact check, do a bit more research, come up with your own take on it, and write a completly unique article.

  14. Ms Dee profile image87
    Ms Deeposted 12 years ago

    princess g just summarized it well, I'd say. The only other thing I'll add is when I used to write linguistics papers, it was always the practice to quote one's sources and give credit where credit is due. I've noted sources in my hubs when appropriate and have seen other hubbers do this too. Do this, and then write! big_smile

  15. Trish_M profile image80
    Trish_Mposted 12 years ago

    Hi smile

    It seems to me, that you would be inspired, by someone else's ideas, to write a new, original and different hub, of your own. You would not simply be re-writing the article, but using it as one of your sources.

    According to my understanding, one cannot 'copyright' ideas.

    Anything that was very close to the original could be quoted ~ placed within quotation marks ~ or credited by saying something like 'according to ... '

    Information, such as dates, is generally used by anyone and everyone, but if it were new and original research, and I were using it, then I would note this in my article ~ crediting the researcher.

  16. MSantana profile image66
    MSantanaposted 12 years ago

    To Mabel, Ken and others: In my opinion what Mabel proposed given the fact that it was re-writing someone work or using his/her words w/o giving the credits to the author does qualify as plagiarism.

    I have always told my students the following: how would you feel if I take your paper, re-write it and post it online with my name? Their answer is always "I won't feel good." "I wouldn't think that is appropriate." "I will not consider you an honest person." Then I say, then that is how that author would feel if he/she knew what you are doing with his/her work.

  17. MSantana profile image66
    MSantanaposted 12 years ago

    What we need here is more collaborations among writers. If you see a person who could benefit from your advice to make his/her article more profitable, then please mentor that person. You will benefit too, because, you are complying with and old reciprocity law/the golden rule. I for example had been 'blind' to the summaries until I got a huge amounts of As. Now, I am also revising keywords.
    We all would like to share the wealth :-)


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)