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!
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.