There are many ways to deal with plagiarism in a civilized, mature, and responsible manner. When you're a writer, whether you write for a publication or manage your own blog, plagiarism is regrettably a way of life. You learn in high school and college that it's wrong, and that if you're quoting, borrowing information, or even sharing your inspirations verbatim, you have to cite your sources; in school, it's the kind of thing that can result in a failing grade or worse, so it becomes second-nature. Given the online environment, however, plagiarism has a tendency to become acceptable to some people. Maybe they believe that everything on the internet is public domain, or perhaps they're certain they'll never get caught. They will, however; they almost always do. Even Shia LaBeouf got caught out for plagiarizing a Yahoo! Answers apology! So if you should find that someone has stolen your writing, take a deep breath, stay calm, and employ one or more of the following ways to deal with plagiarism.
1. Cover Your Tracks and Keep Records
If your content is published online, Google usually has you covered, in that it knows what blogs or articles were published first. All the same, you should be saving everything you write to your hard drive. Wherever you publish will keep track of dates as well. This gives you three ways to deal with plagiarism because you can prove that your content came first. That's often important in the fight to receive credit or to get content taken down.
2. Make Sure It's Yours
You know your writing, of course. You know your tone and your personal touches inside and out. It's unlikely that you'll stumble across a blog post and think it's yours when it isn't, but it does happen. Plus, since plagiarism is a hefty accusation, you always want to make sure the content is unmistakably yours. You may need proof to that effect as well – more proof than just a publication date. There are dozens of plagiarism checkers online, both free and priced. Teachers frequently use them, as do professional editors, blog owners, and writers. You should make use of them as well, so that you can confidently compare your original writing with the suspicious piece.
3. Check with Your Publisher
If you write for someone else and/or have a contract, you need to talk to them or check your contract before you send off any angry letters. When you work for someone else, then generally the content you submit ceases to be yours. It belongs to the blog or company for whom you write. It's possible that they've given someone else permission to publish your work – although they'll rarely allow someone else to take credit for it. Still, you don't know what sorts of deals happen behind the scenes, so it's best to double check before you do anything else.
4. Start Copyrighting Your Content
If you're writing content for your own blog and publication, let people know it's yours. The moment you publish something yourself, it's yours. Say so on your blog. Include a note that attributes all content to you, unless otherwise stated. You should also let readers know how many years your blog or website has been active. If you want further protection, get a license through Creative Commons or register for a proper copyright for your blog. If you post your own photos, think about a watermark.
5. Protect Your Blog
There are other ways to protect your blog as well. For example, you could disable all right-clicking on your blog, which technically prevents anyone from copying and pasting your content. Just remember that there are ways around that, although it really should be enough to deter anyone from plagiarizing. If you're still worried, there are plug-in options and badges that can help maintain and protect your copyright.
6. Decide What You Want to Accomplish
Of course, those are preventative measures. They'll help you later, but if you've come across plagiarized content, you need to do something now. Ask yourself exactly what you want to accomplish. Do you simply want to be credited for your work, or do you want to have the plagiarized content taken down entirely? It's up to you, there's no right or wrong answer here.
7. Initiate Polite Contact
Once you've made that decision, however, you're finally ready to contact the person who plagiarized you. First, calm down and give it a day or so; the worst thing you can do is fire off an angry, threatening letter. Think about what you want to say and only draft a request when you're calm, cool, and in total control. You need to send a polite but firm request to the person who has plagiarized you, through email, Facebook, or whatever other avenues are available to you; it depends on the contact information you find. Don't stop there, however. You should send a request to the publisher or owner of the website or blog as well, because they might not be aware of what their freelancers or content providers are doing. Usually a well-written, civil response is all you need. If you're met with resistance, usually from the person plagiarizing, be firmer but don't get ugly. Just let them know under no uncertain terms that your content is copyrighted and you have proof of publication dates and so on.
It's unfortunate that plagiarism is such a problem, especially for writers who put their work online. We mean to share, and we're flattered when someone likes what we've written, but wanting proper credit really isn't too much to ask. However, getting ugly never solves anything, even though you have the right to be angry. If you take certain precautions and conduct yourself in a civil, polite manner, you'll usually receive proper credit or get the offending content taken down. Has anyone ever plagiarized something you've written? Have you ever accidentally plagiarized something yourself?