Is your web writer stealing content? Are you encouraging plagiarism?

Do you patronize a business that steals content?

image says "copy paste steal"Last week I visited the website of a local business and was astonished to see that the keyworded webpage describing one of their services had the name of a rival business on it — in a big, bold subhead.

Curious, I went to the website of the rival, and there was the exact same content and photo.

The writer for the first business had simply copied and pasted the content (which appears to be original to the second business) onto the client’s site.

I sent email to the manager of Business #1, alerting her to the situation and explaining that the writer she’d paid to develop original content was instead using the content that Business #2 had paid their own writer, and a stock photography house, to provide. I noted that what her writer had done was plagiarism, and her writer had put them into a situation where they could be sued by the content owner.

The manager wrote back, expressing astonishment. She thanked me for letting her know, and said she’d deal with it.

Out of casual curiosity, I went back the following day to see if she had removed the page. My jaw dropped.

The content was still there. All that the manager of Business #1 had done to deal with the situation was to remove the name of the rightful owner of the content, Business #2, from the page and substitute the name of her business in the big, bold subhead. The unlicensed image was still there.

I called and spoke to the manager. She clearly thought that the error I was pointing out was that she had failed to remove the clue pointing back to the source of her stolen web content. I pressed the point, and her utterly unflappable response was that, hey, the content writer was a friend who had done the work for her for free.

Which shows that you really do get what you pay for.

Interestingly, Business #2 is an extremely competitive chain known for aggressive business practices. I predict it won’t take long for them to find the purloined web content.

I flirted with the idea that the writer who left the name of Business #2 in the stolen copy was making a stab at doing “black hat” SEO*, but decided not to attribute malice (or competence) to what’s clearly several layers of small-time thievery and laziness.

*”Black hat SEO” is the industry term for unethical search engine optimization. One of its milder (“gray hat”) tactics involves mentioning your rival’s name on your webpage so that search engines will lead people looking for your rival’s services to your page, where you can talk them into using your services  instead.

Do you write speculative fiction?

Signup is open for the Clarion West Write-a-thon, a “shadow workshop” that runs in tandem with the Clarion West Writers Workshop (June 17 – July 27) and raises money to support Clarion West.

Clarion West logoIf you write fiction, there’s a fabulous opportunity in the next few weeks to join with writers from around the world who are forming an online “shadow workshop.” It runs in tandem with the Clarion West Writers Workshop in Seattle June 17 though July 27.

During the six weeks that the workshop’s in session, participants in the “shadow” group will be pursuing their individual goals for writing (such as outlining a novel, writing to achieve a daily or weekly word count on a current project, editing a completed piece, or submitting work to agents, editors, and publishers). The shadow project is called the Clarion West Write-a-thon, and each participant, in addition to writing, can raise money to support the Clarion West and its scholarship program. (Note: I’m a member of the “shadow workshop” and of the Clarion West board.)

For more information about the Write-a-thon and experience of being a shadow participant, please take a look at this post by author Nicola Griffith. She talks about the experiences of writers in last year’s Write-a-thon.

To sign up as a participating writer, see the Clarion West Write-a-thon page. You’ll find directions for joining the shadow workshop, including creating a profile page with a short excerpt from your work. You do not need to be a Clarion West alumnus to participate.

Not writing this year? You can still be involved — as a Write-a-thon sponsor. To make a tax-deductible contribution to support Clarion West through one of the “shadow workshop” writers, scroll down to the very bottom of the Write-a-thon page to see the growing list of writers who have signed up to participate.

%d bloggers like this: