Bloggers Are Plagiarists

Out here in sunny California we have been enjoying a heatwave. Let me tell you how enjoyable 112 degrees can be. When you are floating on a raft it is actually quite pleasant. During the long weekend I had the good fortune to attend more than one barbecue and swim party. At one such event an acquaintance and I shared a laugh over how our conversations have changed.

We met around twenty years ago. Back then we talked about sports, girls and well sports and girls. Gradually this conversation evolved into what careers we hoped to enter and sports and girls. Slowly it moved from career dreams into actual jobs and sports and girls. Eventually we all got married and it evolved to include family/children, jobs, sports, politics and sometimes even girls. Although the truth is that now that we have daughters some of these conversations have changed radically.

Anyhoo, during this conversation we rambled onto the topic of blogging. He is not a blogger and says that he has never read one. Still he had some pretty strong opinions about it including the title of this post: Bloggers Are Plagiarists.

I surprised him by telling him that I have been blogging for more than three years and that the question of whether bloggers are plagiarists is interesting. I explained that I found it interesting for a couple of reasons, not the least of which was I wondered how he could say this without reading blogs. He didn't really have an answer and I didn't see a need to hammer him on this. But it didn't change my interest in this.

See, I have been wondering about a particular issue for a while. It has to do with attribution and how much content one can use. In my earlier days of blogging I didn't really think about this at all. I cut and paste as much as I felt like using and went about my business. Since then I have had more than a couple of occasions in which people took my own content and tried to pass it off as their own. It was more than irritating to see the lack of attribution.

When I refer to finding the topic of bloggers being plagiarists it interests me because I think that there are some gray areas. It is not about a hyperlink or deep linking because for me those are areas that have simple answers.

And it is more than just asking for attribution. Attribution is important, perhaps the most important thing. But so is traffic and sometimes attribution is not enough. If you are trying to build traffic to your blog you are always going to be concerned with how to ensure that readers make it to you. Here is an example of how attribution might fall short.

Let's say that I have a really funny picture on my blog. A blogger might copy the photo and post it on their own blog. Even if they provide attribution to me, it might not matter as people having seen the photo might not come visit my blog. OTOH, one could argue that they might be curious to see if there is other content that is of interest and would visit anyhow.

To be clear, this post isn't in reference to any particular blog or blogger. I know that I have made many of these mistakes myself. Really what I am trying to do here is determine for myself what sort of personal policy I want.

What do you think? Let me know I am interested in your thoughts.


Anonymous said...

Are you saying that you do not want people to link to your blog?

Jack Steiner said...

No. I am not saying that at all. I appreciate when people link here. As I said, it is all about attribution.

fashionista cat in a zero gravity shoe-store said...

I think nobody would be happy about a co-worker earning the merits for one's work; to plagiarize or to even just relate an idea in different words if it clearly has been influenced by some third party without proper reference is considered a major fellony in academia and in Germany would be called "theft of mental property". Minimum courteousy, IMHO, would be to at least point out that it's somebody else's work, even though I'd still expect people to ask for permission to use my stuff. (Alas, some of the teaching material I'd spent a lot of time on putting up appeared on other websites, some of which even are due to charge.) Then again, I haven't blogged much yet and somewhat doubt that I ever will, so what do I know? My predisposition towards the legitimate and legal use of mental property bases on an academic background, where failure in citing a source will inevitably lead to failing a class best case or being expelled worst case.

Michael said...

I try to give credit whenever I use someone else's idea or text, and try to hyperlink whenever I need to use a reference.

I figure that's just polite. I'm only semi-interested in traffic.

Deadman said...

What do you think? Let me know I am interested in your thoughts.

Jack Steiner said...

(Alas, some of the teaching material I'd spent a lot of time on putting up appeared on other websites,

I am not surprised.


Sounds reasonable to me.


I have something special for you.

Ezzie said...

As you know, I'm a linker. I generally do NOT like the idea of copying and pasting a whole piece, even with attribution, for the very reason you mention: People won't click through to the other blog. I try to put up enough that will entice them to go see what I thought was worthwhile.

On occasion, however, I am concerned that people will not click through. On other occasions, it may be a subject I felt important and was planning on writing about or the like. In either of those cases, I may put in the whole thing (still with attribution) in the hope that whatever message I felt should come across actually does so.

The Misanthrope said...

I am not so sure we are plagiarists as so much editorialists.

If I copy something, I never claim it as my own, which is what plagiarists do, but generally offer my take on the piece. As you know, I never take something of someone else's blog without a "tip of the hat" or a link.

Jack Steiner said...


Makes sense.


Editorialist is a good term.

Deadman said...

"I have something special for you."


I can't believe no one else went there first...

Jack Steiner said...

That is why we have you here, to cover the ground that no one else does.

Anonymous said...

I have a picture of Italian PM Prodi up in my blog from a post over a year old, I've had over 12 Italian language blogs use the picture in their posts loading off my webserver, only one ever bothered to link - the rest just merilly use me like a streetwalker, with nary a mention.

They find it in Google images and just inline use it off my bandwidth.. It's kind of rude lol. I wonder to myself do they think they are pulling the fast one? Do they get some weird perverse satisfaction from this theft?

Jack Steiner said...


I wonder if they know what they are doing is wrong. Some people are still ignorant about how it all works.

yitz said...

I think many of us in the blogosphere are "recyclists." We recycle stuff from others. When doing so, I try to add a link, an attribution, etc. I also usually add some of my own thoughts on it, or include other pieces related to it. It's not like we're stealing someone's parnasa [livelihood], bygosh! Adreraba [on the contrary], I think people will click thru if it's interesting enuf, to see what ELSE the other site has.
Pics, tho, are another story. Sometimes I need a good pic for a story & Google for something; I often may download a few images, & end up using only one. Go remember which site it came from! Come on, unless it's copyrighted, what's the big deal? Anyway, that's my take...

Jack Steiner said...

Go remember which site it came from! Come on, unless it's copyrighted, what's the big deal?

It depends. If you try to pass it off as being your own there is a problem. I am not saying that you do, just commenting.

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