Ever since I started blogging and writing, I have experienced others generously stealing my published content (be it blogs / papers, etc.) and passing it off as their own, without as much as a reference, link or acknowledgement to the author or the published source.
At every single instance that has come to my attention, I have always left a comment / written to the concerned person; and in most instances they apologize and remove the content from their blog. The fact is that “Every single piece of writing that I have authored has a part of my mind, heart, soul, sweat and blood; and I am PROUD of it. And YES! I am EMOTIONALLY connected to my writings! So I really don’t appreciate anyone stealing my writings – especially since they are of value to me!”
But the most surprising and shocking discovery came a few days back when a senior business leader of global repute from a 100Bn$ enterprise published a blog post in his name which was picked up “verbatim” from one of my writings – Something which took me almost a year to conceptualize, write, edit and publish! Something which was truly novel and demonstrated “industry thought leadership”. My first reaction was of shock! I mean, “How could he do it?” – Someone of his stature, I am sure he knew the significance and implications of his act !
Fortunately for me, he had posted it on a community blog which was owned and moderated by an independent third party entity, so I wrote to the owner of the blog. I also left a comment to his post, to which the author promptly responded stating that he had authored it way back in 2010; & he also very EXPLICITLY mentioned his professional designation as an indication of his power and authority! I mean first you STEAL content, then you claim OWNERSHIP for something that is NOT YOURS, and lastly, LIE about it in PUBLIC! – All under the purview of the fact that because you are a senior and powerful business leader in a large multi-billion dollar enterprise, you can GET AWAY with it!
This was PLAGIARISM!
ACCORDING TO THE MERRIAM-WEBSTER ONLINE DICTIONARY, TO “PLAGIARIZE” MEANS
to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own
to use (another’s production) without crediting the source
to commit literary theft
to present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source
In other words, plagiarism is an act of fraud. It involves both stealing someone else’s work and lying about it afterward.”
Moving on, fortunately for me – The blog owner did a detailed analysis, and was in agreement that the post was indeed copied from one of my original writings, and hence deleted the post. Thank God for that!
During this entire episode, I was also surprised to see the reactions of friends and colleagues. Most of them failed to understand “Why I was so upset about it?”. Some said “Forget it. Not worth your time!“.. Some said “Ignore it. He is too powerful, so let it be“. And some even laughed and said “You should feel happy that a senior business leader is passing off your writings as his own. It means that you’re writing good stuff!”. Honestly, I did not know what to say or how to react.
Also, I did some research on the issue, it appears that stealing content is a common challenge which plagues several blogs / bloggers. Most bloggers have accepted this reality of the blog-o-sphere; and have found ways to deal with it – Ignore it. OR Leave a comment. And a rare few actually get on to head-on legal battles. For most, it’s just NOT WORTH IT! They’d rather invest their time in creating new content. And rightly SO!
Ending with LESSONS LEARNED
(1) No, it’s NOT OK to Steal others CONTENT! If you must use it, acknowledge and give a reference to the original source / author. It hurts the author / writer, and if found it can be a serious “black mark” to your public brand image / character
(2) Value is personal and subjective. What is invaluable to you, may have no value to someone else. To Each his / her own ; and that’s OK
(3) Be GOOD on Social Media. As it is there is so much BAD and NEGATIVITY in the real world, Do you really want to carry that to Social Media as well? Here is a post on Social Media Etiquette 101 : The Basics that could help!
(4) And if you are in POWER, you can’t get away with EVERYTHING ALL THE TIME! At some point, one has to pay for his / her KARMA!
Recommended Readings / References
Just because it’s not illegal, does not mean it’s RIGHT
What to do when your online content is copied?
Know your digital rights – Blog Etiquette
How to file a DMCA take-down notice?
So, have you experienced anyone stealing your online content? How did you handle it? Do you have a view on the issue? Leave a comment to let me know!