Writing a book is not easy. It takes tons of hard work and research, as well as countless hours crafting your thoughts into words.
Now imagine all that hard work you put in becomes basically meaningless, because someone decides to plagiarize your work. They may take passages or even pages and use them in their own books, booklets, and articles and take credit for all your hard-earned thoughts. Your ideas are no longer unique and, who’s to say people may not think it’s you that copied from them?
Plagiarism is illegal, and it’s possible for writers to protect themselves and take recourse, but only if they take the proper steps in publishing their work.
What is Plagiarism?
Plagiarism is defined as the action of stealing a writer’s ideas and words without crediting the source. It can take a variety of forms, including the following:
- Copy and Paste Plagiarism: This is a direct word-for-word plagiarism without citing your sources.
- Mosaic Plagiarism: This occurs when you use bits and pieces of other people’s work and put them together to make a new piece. Even though the work as a whole may seem unique, you are still stealing other people’s ideas and words.
- Self-Plagiarism: This involves plagiarizing your own work. It may seem like plagiarizing your own work isn’t a big deal. However, if readers expect original content, it’s illegal to pass it off as a new idea.
- Global Plagiarism: Global plagiarism involves having a friend or family member write a paper for you or buying a piece from an essay mill.
How Can You Protect Your Work From Plagiarism?
There are several things you can do to protect your work from plagiarism.
Copyright Your Work
Copyrighting your work will mean that you will be able to take legal action if anyone decides to steal it.
Technically, any work you write belongs to you. However, if you decide to sue someone for copyright infringement, you will want a court of law to be able to tell that you are the owner of the work.
The best way to do this is to have the work copyrighted by the U.S. Copyright Office. This will cost $45 a submission.
Note that several other resources on the net may offer to copyright your work, but these may not be as reliable as they seem. It is best to go with the U.S. Copyright Office from the get-go.
You may also choose a do-it-yourself copyright strategy.
This will involve getting the work saved, dated, and copied. Then you can get the work notarized or mail it to yourself to get a postmark date.
Taking these actions will help you if you need to take a plagiarism case to court, but they may not hold up in a court of law. Therefore, getting an official copyright will be the best step to take.
Add Copyright Notices to Online Content
If your book or any other work ends up online, it will easily fall victim to plagiarism. The best thing to do here is to add copyright notices to your blogs. Most blog platforms have a tool that allows you to add a trademark notice to the bottom of the work.
Once again, this may not be as effective as a U.S. copyright, but it will help to deter most plagiarizers.
Use Plagiarizer Catching Tools
You can also conduct searches to determine if your work has gotten plagiarized and ended up on an online blog or platform. Here are some tools that will be helpful in finding plagiarizers.
One of the easiest ways to catch a plagiarizer is to simply type a couple of sentences of your work into a Google search bar. If you see your work come up, try contacting the author to see if he or she will take it down.
The request can come in the form of a cease and desist letter. These letters are most effective if they come from a law office, but there are plenty of online templates you can use if you choose to write one yourself.
If the person does not respond to the letter by taking the work down, you may alert Google. Google has a zero-tolerance policy for plagiarism. Sites found plagiarizing will be punished with ineffective SEO that leads to poor online visibility.
Copyscape is a paid checker service that allows users to plug in a sentence or domain name to see if the material is being used anywhere on the web. However, Copyscape does not always provide accurate results. It’s best to double-check its findings before pursuing bad guys.
Plagiarism.org: This site is similar to Copyscape, but it provides more accurate results. In addition, for a small fee, the company will send you extensive reports regarding plagiarism that may be affecting your work.
Choose Amazon for Self-Publishing
There are several self-publishing websites out there, but if you are trying to avoid plagiarism, Amazon is recommended.
If work published on Amazon is plagiarized, and the author can prove it, the platform will work to make sure all plagiarized pieces are removed from the catalog of smaller booksellers.
Avoid Web Page Downloads
Some authors make their books available as web page downloads that can be purchased by users or downloaded for free. This is an excellent way to get your name out there and gain exposure, but it also makes you a key target for plagiarism.
If you don’t want your work plagiarized, it’s best to make your work available in a book or e-book format and sell it through a reputable dealer.
If you do want to make your book available to a broader range of readers, consider sending the work to them directly via email if they request a copy.
Call on Your Friends and Colleagues
It’s amazing to find out how powerful it can be to ask your friends and colleagues to have your back. Ask them to look out for plagiarizers. What’s more, if you do find someone who plagiarized your work, spread the word to keep them from doing it again.
Suing Someone for Plagiarism
If you find someone plagiarized your work, your first course of action should be to ask them to remove it from websites, bookseller catalogs, or wherever else it may be available for public consumption. If they refuse, your next step will be to sue them.
The goal of suing someone is to receive financial compensation. Federal copyright law allows you to get $750 to $30,000 for each infringement, but if the infringement was willful, you could end up recouping up to $150,000.
However, suing is a long, complicated and expensive process, and there are a few things to consider before moving forward.
These are as follows.
Do you have a strong case? To build a strong case, you will need to have a U.S. copyright and strong evidence that the person copied your work. Remember, you can’t sue someone for using your ideas. To be found guilty, they will have had to have stolen your text word for word (or pretty close).
Can you afford to sue? Taking a case to court is expensive. You will have filing fees, you will have to pay to have documents served, and you will have to pay to have a court reporter attend the hearings. You may also have to pay a lawyer. This can end up costing you hundreds and even thousands of dollars, so you will want to have a good chance of being compensated for your fees and more.
Do you have the time? A court case will take up a lot of your time. You will need to attend hearings and meet with your lawyer. If you don’t have a lawyer, you will have to devote a lot of time to researching and learning the Rules of Civil Procedure. Consider whether the time investment is worth the possible reward before proceeding.
Does the defendant have any money? Winning your lawsuit is only half the battle. You will also have to collect money from the defendant. If the person does not have the money to pay, you may end up with nothing. Determine if the person you’re suing has the means to cover legal fees before moving forward.
Do you work with the defendant? It’s sad but true. Plagiarism often occurs in the workplace. Colleagues and even your publishing company may use your words in another context without your permission. Suing them could make for an uncomfortable atmosphere in the office and burned bridges. You may even end up losing your job.
Plagiarism may seem like a harmless enough crime, but when it happens to you, it can be quite upsetting. The tips in this article will help you avoid plagiarism so you can keep your work safe and secure.