Boston Globe: Online Plagiarism Strikes Blog World

The Boston Globe has a story today about plagiarism in blogs. I’ve previously commented on blog plagiarism – blogiarism – in terms of stealing content in order to drive readers to your site to capitalize on advertising revenue. The Globe’s story, however, addresses a different motivation for online plagiarism – personal blog plagiarism, where someone actually takes personal content and pretends it’s from their own life:

Last month, an alert reader informed Beth that her blog was being plagiarized. Dozens of Beth’s blog entries had been stolen, word-for-word, over six months. Names of people in her life were changed to the names of people whom the plagiarist apparently knew, creating the impression that she had lived Beth’s experiences and had thought her thoughts.

…Jonathan Bailey, the author of Plagiarism Today, a blog dedicated to the issue of plagiarism online, said this type of cut-and-paste plagiarism is widespread. At any given moment, Bailey said, he’s helping up to 25 bloggers who have been plagiarized — people like Jennifer Woodard Maderazo, whose Latino blog has been regularly plagiarized. There’s even a sex blogger who found that entries were being pilfered.

The Globe contacted me to try to offer some kind of perspective on this odd practice:

Michael Zimmer, a doctoral candidate and blogger at New York University, said that ”social network” sites like MySpace, which measure popularity by the number of page views or friends within a social network, may unintentionally contribute to the problem.

”The desire to fabricate content to attract people’s attention is a possible result,” Zimmer said, ”like a 6-year-old who exaggerates about something on the playground to impress and gain friends.”

Furthermore, the relative anonymity of blogs ”may create both protection from being found out, as well as a form of escapism from their actual life experiences.”

One of the solutions offered by the story to protect one’s content from plagiarism is to include a copyright notice on the blog. Instead As an alternative, I would suggest a Creative Commons license, which can encourage readers to copy, distribute, display, and perform the work, while requiring proper attribution and other conditions.


  1. I definitely agree about CC licenses, they are the best way to go. Like you, I encourage my readers t use CC licenses for a variety of reasons.

    What I was trying to get across, and may not have said clearly, was that it’s important to make it clear on every page that the work is protected by copyright. A lot of people, quite incorrectly, feel that if it isn’t marked, it’s not protected.

    Since that’s one of the more common myths about copyright, I felt it important to address.

    Nonetheless, definite agreement about the CC license…

  2. A lot of people, quite incorrectly, feel that if it isn’t marked, it’s not protected. Since that’s one of the more common myths about copyright, I felt it important to address.

    Right, Jonathan. Good point. I’ll adjust my post to be a little more accomodating to the standard copyright position as well.

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