[Note: I know this is supposed to be my response to my blog post yesterday, but I want to address this particular issue right now, and interestingly enough, it does still carry the yesterday’s issue forward. I’ll explain my reasoning for why our industry works for peanuts tomorrow.]
Dear Client Whose Name I Shall Never Utter Again:
I got your email yesterday. No, not the one where you promise me payment “shortly” for the fifth time. Uh, no, not the one where you want me to work for you –again–although you still haven’t paid me for my last three jobs (I ignored that email, I’m sure you’ll understand why in a moment). I’m referring to the third and final email I received from you — you know, the one where you accused me of stealing someone else’s work. Remember that one?
—–Changing gears here a bit. I’ll come back to the letter at the end——-
To their credit, they didn’t come right out and accuse me of it — they blamed it on Copyscape and how my two articles showed “significant matches” to content already on the web. I guess they figured I’d become fearful and not fire off a response. And they were right — almost. I decided I would make this a teachable moment.
And they are the student.
You see, I have a Copyscape account too. I think all writers should have an account with a plagiarism checking service. It’s a good way to check your own work for duplicate content, and to be sure no one else is stealing from you. I mean, accidents do happen, and sometimes we do write something that is too similar to something we’ve read. It happens.
So, I ran the “offending” articles through Copyscape, thinking, ya know, maybe I did subconsciously duplicate content. Sure enough, article #1 showed substantial hits. Like 20 of them. So I started clicking through all the duplicates…
Let me stop here and backtrack a bit. The article was about a rule the FCC put in place to deal with debt collection agencies. In my article, I quoted the rule, with a “the FCC, in a recent ruling[ ….]The rule states:” lead-in for the quote. At the bottom of the article, I provided the source for the quote. Introduction, quote, source. With me? Good.
So, I’m looking at the sites where I supposedly lifted this content..and I notice four things:
1. No lead in sentence.
2. No quotation marks around the quote. It’s written as if the person wrote the rule himself.
3. No source citation.
4. None of the sites are the source I used.
And this was the same for 20 DIFFERENT SITES.
So, all these sites include this quote, without acknowledging it as a quote and from where it came…but I’M the one who plagiarized.
Eh…no. I think that’s backwards. And when I checked the second article — same issue. A quote I used tripped the plag flag.
Now here’s the teachable moment, folks. Just because a plagiarism checker picks up something, that does NOT mean the article is plagiarized. You have to compare what the checker picks up with the document being scanned, and determine if it truly is duplicate content or not. Copyscape doesn’t care if the text is in quotation marks. It doesn’t care if there was a attributive sentence or phrase leading up to the text in question, and it doesn’t care if the text is sourced at the bottom of the article. It sees the words and kicks them out. YOU have to verify whether it’s plagiarism or not. That’s your job. And you didn’t do it, because if you had, you would have seen that my work was properly quoted and attributed, and you wouldn’t have needed to send me an insulting email.
And since you didn’t do your due diligence, you end up reading a post like this from a pissed off writer who just got accused of committing the worst crime in our industry.
You also end up getting dropped as a client. I’m not working for you any more. You’re small potatoes and slow-paying small potatoes at that. Go find some other writer to try and screw over. I’m done with you.