plagiarism, plundering and profit

Like most writers I'm very fierce about plagiarism. I don't do it and I despise people who do. Editors and buyers quite rightly get very sniffy about writers who turn in copy that contains work lifted shamelessly from other articles, but their reasons are about hard cash and reputation - plus Google rankings if you're an online purveyor of information. Not for nothing does Stephen Ambrose turn up as a keyword in an adsense search for plagiarism terms.

Just recently I followed up the work of someone who had done an article for a buyer and had used it in their showcase portfolio of work. The piece seemed stilted somehow, as though it had been hard to write, although the subject was easy to cover. It didn't flow, ideas were repeated, and there didn't seem to be the confident voice of a professional writer behind it. So I called up Google and did a search for the title. Up came some links and I visited the first one. Well guess what. This writer's article had been lifted and rejigged from another article, even including some comments that revealed the other writer's personality. It was so obvious this was a quick rehash done in what - 5 minutes? And clumsily.

The article may well have passed Copyscaping for sentence content and structure but the words were just in a different, mangled order. And yet - and yet!! - she had received good feedback for this article.

Does this kind of plagiarism and plundering matter in commercial writing? If you're up at the coal face, churning out articles for buyers who are trying to fill off-the-peg adsense websites with copy, then the buyer will get penalised by Google for duplicate copy and you as the writer will lose a client and probably not get paid. It's just a dumb thing to do.

Plagiarism certainly matters when you're working on long distance writing. This is the stuff you're sweating over, working long hours to pull off, hoping that this will be the next big novel or the last word in geophysical research or the dog's danglies in deconstructive criticism. Sticks in the craw when you discover that some smartass has lifted paragraphs from your blood-soaked manuscript and claimed it as his or her own.

So don't do it.

Image credit: PDClipArt

Where copywriting is concerned, there is a big divide between professional writers who do their own research, credit sources and write the whole damn thing themselves, and those who plunder, use article-spinning software, and turn out a load of horse manure. Maybe that's why many buyers on bid sites are not prepared to pay a decent rate. They're too used to horse manure and they know it's not worth much. Thank heaven for those buyers who know good writing when they see it.
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