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How to Prevent Brand Reputation Damage from Plagiarism
Posted on June 15th 2014
Does your business do any vetting or training of the people who write in your name? Too many focus on price over quality. Your writers may have no idea how to attribute information they include in their content. Check your content now using a service like Plagiarism Detect or Copyscape. You should not find any pages that are almost identical in their entirety unless you have intentionally syndicated your content to an aggregator. If you do, determine whether your content has been copied or your writer is plagiarizing before you act.
Many writers, especially those who work for little pay, speed up the process by copying entire posts, pages, or sections. This is never acceptable and will reflect very badly on your brand's reputation. Quality writing that isn't copied takes time. Many businesses are buying $18 posts because they're inexpensive. Remember that what you publish is a reflection of your business. It is never wise to allow poor quality content to be generated on your behalf. If your writer is guilty of plagiarism find out whether they just don't know any better. Some may be trained in using proper attribution.
Limited amounts of writing are permitted under what is called "Fair Use". This is the definition of Fair Use according to Stanford.edu:
"In its most general sense, a fair use is any copying of copyrighted material done for a limited and “transformative” purpose, such as to comment upon, criticize, or parody a copyrighted work. Such uses can be done without permission from the copyright owner. In other words, fair use is a defense against a claim of copyright infringement. If your use qualifies as a fair use, then it would not be considered an illegal infringement."
When writing, a quote such as the one above is considered "Fair Use". To copy an entire page is not. Usually we quote only a few sentences with attribution and link to the original source.
Failure to Attribute
Many writers are not intentionally stealing the works of others; they simply do not know how to properly provide attribution. Refer them to Richmond.edu's proper use of Quotes and Attributionto learn. The quotes below are from this source. One "rule" that writers are prone to break is this:
"Place only the exact words of the source within quotation marks."
Those who have studied journalism know that the proper way to deal with errors in a quote it to use the Latin adverb [sic] which means "thus is was written". If you are quoting something already published, even though you are sorely tempted, technically it is not proper to correct mistakes.
"All direct quotations should be clear, concise, relevant and effective...Remember this. Quotes bring the story to life."
Learning to quote well can make the difference between great journalists and mediocre writers. Any piece of writing can be improved by adding relevant quotes from thought leaders.
Protect Your Brand
Remember that what is published by your company reflects on your reputation. Poor quality SEO practices often include having very mediocre content published on even poorer quality sites. This is always a mistake. Unless you are using a domain you don't mind destroying, never allow bad content to be published in your name. Even media companies run into issues with their writers failing to attribute correctly:
"Digital First Media (DFM) has been having some issues with their reporters failing to attribute sources correctly in their work and as a result, their leadership team is asking everyone to take a “plagiarism and attribution quiz.” Source: MediaBistro
Freelance writers are often self-taught. Only a small percentage are trained journalists. If you care about your company's reputation hire only the best. Even then, check what is being published and make sure it meets your standards. Have you had issues with plagiarism or the quality of the writing you've hired done? Feel free to start a discussion by leaving a comment.