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"Plagiarism for Dummies" - The ActiveRain Community Guidelines Re-Visited

Well, it's time once again for this weeks edition of "ActiveRain Community Guidelines Re-Visited" where we're going through each of the guidelines, one by one, and expanding on their meaning.

This weeks guideline is perhaps one of the most important, and often, the one most violated:

  • Respect copyrights. Only upload content/images that you have the right to use (what you have paid for or own), and whose copyright rules allow for commercial use.

And another one that is similar:

  • Do not plagiarize (copy and paste) content from another source, and publish it as your own. You must obtain expressed permission from the original source to republish, and give reference to such within the body of your post. Permission to re-print is NOT the same as permission to re-publish.
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Let me start off by confessing that I was guilty of violating this guideline very early on in my initial few weeks on ActiveRain. I was a newb. The only blogging I had done was on MySpace, and I don't think that really qualifies. I was totally ignorant about the whole 'copyright' 'plagiarism' thing.

Well, ignorance is bliss, but it doesn't keep you out of jail, or court, for that matter.

Let's start off first by defining what exactly constitutes copyright infringement:

"The original author of a particular article or blog post is the only person who has the right to derive any benefits from the publication and subsequent distribution of that article/post. You must purchase/pay for the right to publish or distribute someone else's intellectual property, otherwise you do not have permission to publish that material as content on your own blog."

I think a lot of well-intentioned, and seemingly innocent people are guilty, at one point or another, or copyright infringement or plagiarism. Many of us enter the ActiveRain blogging fray with little or no prior experience. We simply lurk and learn. We watch other members, and mimic what they appear to be doing. We assume that certain practices are accepted. But many times, they aren't.

It's usually not until someone makes a comment in your post, or sends you an e-mail, that you realize you've messed up. Or worse, one of the AR gods robs a few of your points, and you cry 'Foul!' Fortunately for me, I had some very kind mentors who helped point out the errors of my ways.

Just so we're all on the same page here, points are awarded for your own original content. Points are not bestowed when you simply reprint other people's intellectual property, whether you have permission to republish their content or not. But we'll deal with that issue at another time.

Perhaps one of the resident authorities on this subject is our own, Lenn Harley. If you peruse her blog archives, you'll find a wealth of very helpful and practical advice as it relates to copyright infringement. Lenn herself has pocketed a nice chunk of change from those who were foolish enough to mess with her content/images.

In one of her articles, "You cannot 're-print' on ActiveRain," Lenn states: 

"IF YOU DIDN'T WRITE THE ARTICLE, you do not own the content and cannot publish it - EVEN WITH ATTRIBUTION."

Hold the Bus, Gus! You mean, even if we give credit to the original author within the body of our article, we can't publish it?

Lenn goes on to say: 

"If you ask an author for permission to "REPRINT" and receive that permission, you may PRINT the article and distribute, perhaps in mailings or hand-outs in a relocation package.  The author's name will be on the article.  You are merely distributing the article and will benefit only by the limited number of copies distributed. The author still benefits by having their writing distributed."

Lenn Harley of Homefinders.comSo what you're saying is that obtaining the original writer's permission to re-print doesn't mean you have the right to re-publish their content to your own blog?

As Lenn affirms: 

"PERMISSION TO REPRINT IS NOT PERMISSION TO PUBLISH"

(Now might be a good time to go back through your archive of past blog posts, and delete/amend any suspect content, whether text or images)

So what if you only want to use a small portion of someone's content, perhaps a sentence or two, as quotes within your blog post?

Well, according to Lenn: 

"USE SNIPPETS AND LINK - THAT'S "FAIR USE"

"The proper or legal way to get the information to the reader would be to publish an "introduction" or "snippet" (three or four lines of the original material) and then LINK to the article on the author's web site. The "Fair Use" exclusion under copyright law was intended for reviewers of original material, critics of books, movies, etc. to use "SNIPPETS"or short excerpts of original material and then publish the review of the original, not the original.  When one publishes an entire article, they have violated the copyright of the author, even if you give attribution and include the author's name in the article."

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So there ya go! A crash course on copyright infringement and plagiarism. I don't think we've quite covered all there is to say on this topic, so next week, I want to discuss further the issue of copyright infringement as it relates to the copying of images/pictures.

Until then, have a fun (and legal) rest of the week in the Rain! 

(Note:  All quoted source material is the intellectual property of Lenn Harley of Homefinders.com, and is used by both expressed permission and 'Fair Use' exclusion)

For further reading enjoyment:  How to Kreate Kwality Kontent   Is There Really Copyright Confusion? 

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UPDATE:  A suggestion was made to make this post available to our members when they encounter a blog post on our Network that clearly constitutes 'plariarized' (copied & pasted) content from another source, and to simply insert a link to this article into the comments section of that post. Others may feel more comfortable sending an e-mail to the fellow member, with the link embedded there. Either way, please feel free to use this post in whatever ways are most appropriate in assisting other members to better understand the importance of this issue. And always remember to demonstrate grace to those who are in error. Thanks!

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Rich Jacobson is a licensed Real Estate Broker & Branch Manager for Keller Williams West Sound/Silverdale; an avid Crab Hunter, Clam Digger, and Oyster Shucker, He is the Social Media Evangelist for Life on the Kitsap Peninsula & The Western Puget Sound in scenic WA State.

Comment balloon 115 commentsRich Jacobson • April 24 2008 01:59PM
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