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If you’re a writer, it’s likely that your work will get plagiarized at some point. It’s an unpleasant surprise when you enter a phrase from your article, or run a plagiarism scan before submitting your own work, and find that someone else is using it. Today, with so many uninformed people posting to the internet under the cover of anonymity, it’s sad just how likely it is, to happen.
If it ever happens to you, first double-check to make sure that the content is indeed yours. Use a plagiarism checker, or simply compare the article side by side with your original copy. Next, confirm that the person does not have the right to use your work. Once you’ve done both, if you find that they’re in the offense, here’s what you can do:
- Contact the website where they got your writing from
This applies to freelance writers. If you submitted your work for consideration through a freelancing platform, then try contacting the website’s support team. They may have a policy in place to deal with such a situation, or may contact the offender on your behalf. If that happens, this may be the easiest way to resolve this issue.
- Contact the person using your work
It is possible that the plagiarization is unintended – the person may not know that what they’re doing is wrong, or they may simply have forgotten to pay (or credit) you. So, try contacting them through their website or email, and explain the situation to them politely. In all likelihood, the issue will be resolved after this – either by their paying or crediting you, or by their removing the content. And you may gain a valuable client!
- Send a Cease and Desist letter
This step should only be taken after you’ve tried contacting the offender, and given them sufficient time to respond. If they don’t respond or refuse to cooperate with you, you can send them a Cease and Desist letter – templates for which can be found online. A similar course of action (albeit more complicated) is filing a DMCA takedown. Here are Google’s instructions on how to do it.
- Contact their web host
You can try contacting the offender’s website hosting platform, and explaining the situation to them. This will not be possible if they’re self-hosting. After contacting the host, you’ll need to prove that you own the copyright, and that the content in question is being used without your permission. You can then request that they remove the content from the website.
If matters get worse, or if sufficient action isn’t taken, you have two options. You can either let it go and let bygones be bygones, or you can find a copyright attorney and file a case of copyright infringement.
Prevention, as they say, is always better than cure. Here are some ways in which you can prevent your content from getting stolen in the first place.
- Get to know your clients
If you’re a freelancer, it is always advisable to run a cursory background check on your clients. If the check reveals anything disturbing, you have the option to back out, or if you decide to go ahead, you at least do so knowing what you’re in for. Most freelancing websites show employers’ past projects and reviews, so you get a fair idea of whether people like working with them.
- State the details at the outset
Before you get to work on a project, or submit your work to the client for consideration, explicitly tell them your terms – when ownership is transferred, payment due dates, etc. Communication is extremely important, and don’t assume that the client knows everything. The worst that can happen if you state the obvious is, your client might get a little offended. If you’re generally polite, that’s a risk worth taking.