Blogging and plagiarism

I check my blog statistics quite often. I’ve been this way ever since I had the ability to check my site statistics, which has been most of my 7 year tenure as a blogger. I love to see who has linked to me and what search words are used to find the blog. Sometimes the words are weird and creepy, but occasionally they inspire a future post.

I rarely find something upsetting.

Four years ago, I noticed a link from a Chicana college student. She linked to an entry I posted about old school Mechistas. I perused her blog and found that she’d heavily borrowed and copied other parts of my blog. In some parts she’d taken the format for my “about me” section and substituted the original text for information about herself. In another section, she copied a list of favorite quotes. There was no attribution or links.

I was mad. I talked about it with a friend and he said something about feeling flattered. I was flattered, a little, but I was more upset about being copied without credit. And even if she had given credit, I still would have thought it weird that she adapted the profile section I wrote. You’d think that a section about herself would be original, right?

The budding academic in me (I had just started graduate school) was ready to send the young Chicana to the dean of students for plagiarism and to the writing center for a lesson on proper citation. Yeah, I know my blog is not an academic paper in a journal, but if you use my words, you should link. In academia, it’s even more stringent. If I even used your idea, I’d have to cite you. I can’t write a paper without stopping to cite someone every two sentences.

In blogging, I think it’s fair to credit someone if you lift a passage or are inspired by a topic covered in another blog. If words are borrowed, they should be quoted or indented like longer quotes in academic papers. Links should always be included.

I ended up drafting a short email to the girl. I explained why I was upset and asked that she remove my words. She apologized and said she’d take down her whole blog (not just the offending posts) because she felt she needed to start anew.

And then I felt kinda bad.


21 thoughts on “Blogging and plagiarism

  1. jennifer says:

    i had a similar thing happen to me. i realized that this acquaintance of mine from church (also a flickr friend) had a blog after some months of knowing her. when i checked her blog, i saw that she had written a post about her parents’ anniversary where she had heavily borrowed words, phrases, and format from a post that i had written about MY parents’ anniversary. i didn’t even know she knew about my blog because she never commented, but i realized she must have found it through flickr.

    i was really upset, but didn’t know how to broach the subject with her. at that point, we were acquaintances becoming friends, but after that i stopped returning her emails and un-friended her on flickr. i don’t really know how to explain my reasoning, other than i felt she had “stolen” something from me. and who wants a friend like that?

  2. I have absolutely no qualms about ripping from other sources. Heck, im downright proud of it. At the same time, I think crediting is VERY important.

    Beside the intellectual property and what have you, I believe a foundational aspect of the internet is linking. You’re supposed to be lead to related items and ideas. There is no reason why things should lead to a dead end, much less when there are obvious influences that could enrich the readers experience. It’s like building a freeway without offramps, just counterproductive.

  3. Are you able to see who reads you through feed readers? I haven’t figured that out yet. I may think I only have about 10 readers but maybe I have thousands! ha ha

  4. diana says:

    right on cindy! I don’t have a blog, but…I got really upset in class once when I made a comment in discussion ( a good one!) then a girl said the exact same thing in lecture an hour later. I wanted to beat her, yeah I know that’s a little much, but I really did. =/

  5. I would be pissed off if I found out someone stole from my blog without citing. When I see interesting stories/videos I sometimes post them on my own blog, but always mention in a prominent spot where I got that idea and link to it. It’s just honesty; don’t take other people’s ideas without giving cred.

    How could you even feel proud of something you wrote if you actually stole all of it? Even if nobody else ever found out, you would know, k no?

  6. They say that copying is the ultimate form of flattery. When people copy what you do, it simply means it’s something that works or what people like.

    Unfortunately, writing takes work. Creativity is a process that takes time and effort. Copying a text and assuming that it’s your own is cheating the real person that took the effort to write down the idea.

    Plagiarism is plagiarism whatever the media.

    I think the only reason why it’s rampant in blogs is because blogs are usually very informal. But even then, plagiarism is still wrong.

    Yeah, I’d say I’d be pissed.

  7. that’s weird.. was this chick a stalker blogger? he, he. I mean, I guess I would feel flattered…I mean there is someone out there that was to be just like you ..

  8. Momo says:

    Cindy, you mean you can actually check how many times I check your page? How *embarrasing.* By the way, I didn’t even notice your “About” section until you mentioned it in this post. There’s so much more to explore in this blog. I feel like such metiche!

  9. I steal ideas all the time from other blogs all the time, but I always give credit… In fact, I’ve taken from your blog and then given you credit and a link in my post, and you’ve even done the same to me. (which is really cool btw, since you were one of the first blogs I ever read, so seeing you give a shout out to me always makes my day).

    Anyway, I once saw a post on someone’s blog where the theme and some of the language was really similar to something I had recently written. It really bothered me, but at the same time it was just diferent enough that I couldn’t really be 100% sure that I had been ripped off… So I never said anything. But like I said, it really bugged me.

  10. Don’t feel bad. It happens. You were just being honest and that’s what’s important. Maybe she’ll learn to think for herself instead of stealing. I’ve had it done to me a few times. It doesn’t seem like a big deal at first, but it is nice to at least get some recognition for the work and thought you put into something. Like I said don’t feel bad. You expressed your concern that was all.

  11. You did the right thing. Generally speaking I think that….

    Stealing words from a post is flattery. Annoying, sure. But flattery in the grand scheme, unless she starts making money off your words somehow.

    Stealing a profile is just bizarre. And scary, or didn’t you see that movie where the one roommate started to try to look like the other roommate. (the name escapes me, it was that good of a movie…Single white female? something like that)

    Stealing photos without attribution and taking the trouble to remove or even carefully edit out the watermarks….please, don’t get me started.

  12. I don’t know if someone has copied my blog, but it would bother me. But I had someone take ad copy, from a reading series Mariposa Atomica and I curate, to describe an event they were hosting. It was copied word for word, included the spanglish flair and exact word arrangement! Then this person emailed me to invite me, I blinked because I couldn’t believe it. The much more confrontational Mariposa wrote a direct email to the offender and she ultimately responded with an apology and changed it. While I still had my store open, I also had a vendor copy another vendor’s art technique and then bring me the stuff to put out–I couldn’t do it. As a store owner I worked hard to be original and polite and not carry the same gift items as neighboring businesses–I was shocked when I had a vendor call to tell me about inquiries he kept receiving from my neighbors. (He kept me as an exclusive seller b/c he didn’t want to dilute his product either.) So, yeah, I can’t imagine taking someone else’s writing and presenting it as your own. Plagiarism should be included as the 8th deadly sin.

  13. yoyi says:


  14. “la poesia es del que la necesita”

    In the movie “El Postino,” an Italian movie about Pablo Neruda and a mail delivery man, when Neruda pointed out to the mail carrier, who had recited a loved poem to a woman, Neruda said that that was his poem. The man replied: “la poesia es del que la necesita.”

    I see your point Cindylu. I guess the issue is not giving credit, or just feeling like your own originality/uniqueness of expression is not so unique/you cuz someone else is using it as their own.

  15. What people forget is that writing IS work. Even if we don’t always use pristine grammar and sometimes our sentence structure isn’t all it should be, we’ve put in xx number of hours just in the production (let alone the intellectual processes and study that went into knowing whatever it is we write about).

    Like CindyLou, I use a “Creative Commons License” and expect it to be honored. At least a link, though I’ve had to spell out exactly what is — and is not — acceptable use on my own site. Those who have copied me without a link get a fairly nice letter. Those who copy me for commercial reasons get sent an invoice for reprint rights at 75 US dollars a page.

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