Plagiarism is the pain of any writer and the accompanying worry when the actual work leaves the writer’s hands. Most people associate plagiarism with the stealing of words, such as in a book or other printed work. But it can also exist in other forms, such as failing to give direct recognition for statements made by others, failing to use quotes in connection with those statements, and even the stealing of ideas that belong to someone else.
The Risk of Plagiarism
It’s what irks a writer most when submitting their original written work to writing contests and organizations that ask for writing samples, such as those requested as part of the interview process. It’s an uneasy feeling that naturally accompanies the act of sending out unprotected work. Of course, it would be truly unethical to have your words stolen by someone else in either of these situations, but that’s not to say it wouldn’t – or couldn’t – happen. Unfortunately, there are many people who have no problem with stealing the work of others. So, the keywords here are “protect yourself and your words.” Can you imagine how you’d feel if after spending months writing your novel – someone else claimed it as their own? A little precaution now can prevent a lot of heartache later.
Anyone who deals in producing work of their own needs to know how to avoid plagiarism. For one thing, understand your subject fully and present your own ideas on the subject. Don’t be tempted to take the easy way out by copying someone else’s ideas and/or words. This can only lead to trouble and why would anyone want to put himself in that position? Not to mention the fact that the creator of the ideas/words that were stolen has the law on their side and would most likely use it to the fullest extent available to prosecute the person who actually plagiarized their work.
How to Avoid Plagiarism?
Make sure to give credit for any quotes you use within a book, an academic paper, etc. You can use the quotes to support your ideas as long as you credit the originator of the quote. Not doing this is outright plagiarism, plain and simple.
In general, most writers know that the chance of having their words stolen is slim, but there is always a risk with any original work. One of the old “tried and true” methods has always been to mail a copy of your work to yourself, proving that it was your work as of the date you mailed it. Make sure you send the work using a postal method that will provide a receipt for the actual mailing. This way, you are assured of having the date it was mailed and can prove it is your work.
Another way that was used by most writers when the most most common way of submitting potential work to agents, editors, etc., was mailing the work was to include the letter “c” inside a circle, signifying the widely used copyright symbol. It is generally implied that all work belongs to the writer – even without this symbol; however, it was thought to be insurance at the time it was being used.
Now with most writing work being submitted electronically, the methods of protecting original work have changed. One of the best ways to check for plagiarism is to use one of the many available sites that will check your work for originality. There, you can submit your original work and the site will let you know of any grammatical errors, mistakes in usage and word choice, and will also check for any potential plagiarism problems. It is a helpful tool and many sites require that you subscribe to the site to make use of what it offers. At first, you may not realize how helpful a tool like this can be and if you are a working writer, a site such as this can be invaluable in the long run. So, consider this site, or one like it, to protect yourself and your words.
A plagiarism test is well worth the time and money it costs, although some sites will let you do a plagiarism check for free. You end up protecting yourself and your words that you worked so hard to develop. When you have spent months or even years dedicating yourself to a project that has your name on it, you want to make sure you are clear of any plagiarism issues. Sometimes as the words are flowing, and the pages of content are really adding up, you may not even realize you have plagiarized the work of another, only because the words are so familiar to you and are in everyday use. However, that is the exact reason why using a site dedicated to plagiarism detection can be so important. Performing a plagiarism check can settle the nerves of any writer.
Sites such as grammarly.com and plagiarismchecker.com offer these services and they can put your mind at ease if you feel your work may have been compromised. However, there are other sites that offer these same services, so do some exploring to see which one is most suited to your needs and budget.
How to Fight Plagiarism?
If, after all the time you spent working and editing your novel to get it to be the best it can be, you discover that someone might have actually stolen your precious words, you need to take action right away. Or, if you find that someone has actually stolen your words and you see your work in a publication without your name, the best thing to do is first contact the editor of that magazine. Give that person all the information you have regarding your work, such as when you finished it, which issue of the magazine that it appeared in and the name of the person taking credit for your words. A complaint like this should alert them to carefully check the work of this person the next time around, or else not even allow that person to publish anything further in that magazine. That is probably the best resolution you can hope for if you go that route.
But, if you feel that you need to do something stronger, find an attorney who practices in the area of copyright law, infringement, etc. If you don’t know an attorney to call, you may want to check with your local bar association, who can sometimes recommend attorneys in different practice areas. In fact, by calling your local association, they sometimes not only give you the names and phone numbers of some local attorneys who may be able to help you, but they sometimes give a lower rate on the first visit to the attorney. Some even offer a free consultation, so make sure you check it out thoroughly to get yourself the best deal and the lowest fee. But as the old saying goes, remember that sometimes the old cliche of “you get what you pay for” is very true. So just because an attorney offers a free consultation, that is not to say that he will be right for you. This is an area where you really have to put in some time and effort. Don’t skimp on the details and just visit the first name you see. Do some research to cut down the time you will have to spend on the search.
If you are lucky, you will find an attorney who not only can help you, but one that you have a good rapport with. In a situation like this, you are going to have to trust the attorney completely and let him proceed with your case. Remember that the attorney is limited only by the information you give him. So, then it stands to reason that the more complete picture you give him of what happened and when, the better. The more you give him to work on, the better the outcome will be. Always be willing to work with him by providing what he has asked for and let him handle the case the way he sees fit. This is what you are paying him for and he knows the law in your particular state. Whenever he asks for more details, be sure to give them to him in a timely manner. The last thing you want to do is have your case “on hold” due to the fact that the attorney can’t proceed without the paperwork he has asked for.
Another thing to remember is to make a copy of every paper you give to the attorney. He will use the utmost care in keeping your paperwork safe, but every now and then, things happen and paperwork gets “lost.” Don’t let this happen to you! Get yourself a folder to keep copies of everything you have brought over to the law office, so that your file is similar to the one that the attorney has. Also, when you receive copies of paperwork from the attorney, add those to the file as well. This way, you can refer to everything that is going on in the case. The attorney will be filing paperwork, sending letters, etc. and you will want to keep on top of those things so you know exactly how the case is progressing and what to expect as a result of the work being done.
The other thing to remember is to have patience. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will your case. It is going to take time for the attorney to do the research, prepare the paperwork to be filed, and keep ahead of those who are responding to his work. The more complex your case is, the more time you can expect to be spent on the case. Don’t make a nuisance of yourself by calling the law office often just to see what is going on. The attorney will keep you informed as things happen, but they don’t happen everyday and they don’t happen on anyone else’s timetable. The case will progress at its own speed whether you are anxious to have it finished or not. The best thing you can do is to lie low while all this is going on and let the attorney handle all the details. That’s what you are paying him for, so let him sweat the small stuff. The whole point of hiring an attorney to work on your behalf is to, in simple language, give all the grief to him. That was the agreement when you hired him, so let him do his job without too much interference from you.
Aside from the case itself, don’t let the situation put a black mark on your writing career. Remember that the fact that someone decided to plagiarize your work had nothing to do with you and you shouldn’t beat yourself up over it. Unfortunately, every career choice has things to look out for, and sometimes things go awry.
Remember that you are the most important person in all of this, because it is your words and your work that is meant to make a mark on the publishing world. Just because there are some unscrupulous people in the world, that shouldn’t deter you from continuing with your writing and the literary contribution you were meant to make.