Is Copyright Enough?
If you’re a creative professional then having an online portfolio is a key way of sharing your work with others, and marketing it to potential clients. But if your work is online it could be tempting for someone else to try to copy it and claim it as their own. So what can you do to protect your work? Well firstly, you need to know that no matter where you place your work online, unless you sign a document giving away your rights to it, the copyright to that work will always be yours. Copyright gives you the right to control your work , so make sure that you place your name and a copyright statement on every piece of work you publish online. However, of course, simply seeing that copyright statement or logo wouldn’t prevent an unscrupulous character from lifting your work. Other practical steps you can take are to place a watermark over any images you publish to accompany your writing (so no one can use them without citing you and your work). Finally if you discover someone copying your work then the best thing you can do is send them a friendly but firm email asking them to remove your copied work from their site. If this doesn’t work then the Digital Millennium Copyright Act contains a cease and desist notice you can send to the offender. Finally, if you’re still having no luck getting your work removed from someone else site or cited as your own, a letter from a lawyer might be enough to scare them into action, as a final step.
Plagiarism and School
Plagiarism is the biggest concern for those writing for the educational sector. If you write on a subject that will be of interest to college students then it’s likely your work might be plagiarized. School pupils are often told that plagiarism or ‘copying’ work they find online is cheating and unethical. And there is a lot of grey area in the world of online plagiarism too: is lifting two or three sentences from an essay you find online plagiarism, if you fit it into a 12 page paper plagiarism? To many colleges it is. And no doubt to you, the author that worked so hard to create the original work, it is too! For this reason there are often investigations into the practice of buying essays or reports online. If you want to write online to earn some extra money, never reply to ads asking for writers to write college papers for students: this plagiarism is unethical and could affect the future college careers of those you are writing for.
It’s often said that nothing is new in the creative arts any more. If you have an idea, it’s likely that someone has already had that very same idea already. So how can you avoid plagiarism, both intentional and unintentional, in your own work? Firstly, start each new writing day afresh: if you have been reading just before you start writing, especially if you have been reading works by authors whose topics or styles are similar to your own, then it’s likely that you could subconsciously slip words or phrases that aren’t your own into your piece. Finally don’t forget that there are now a very sophisticated range of online plagiarism detection tools available online: if in doubt about the true originality of your work (or somebody else’s work!)then you could always run it through an online plagiarism detection tool for extra piece of mind that the work you are so proud of really and truly is your own.
Written by Claire Baines