December 2, 2013 at 4:04 pm #23705
Hi Jenn and fellow writers:
I have a client who gave me some back company newsletters to use as a backbone for blogs that I wrote for him. Today, I put my recent blog post in Copyscape and 10% of it had similar wording to another blog writer. I write organically and went back into my notes to see where I got my information. And it wasn’t from my notes. The weirdest thing is that I used the same phrase as this writer did in the intro paragraph. Then, I got the bright idea to check my client’s newsletters and voila–that’s where I got the phrase. Now, this business person may have had permission to use this material, but I looked at some other back newsletters and found other articles from the same blogger–to the point of using this person’s headlines. SHould I check with the business person to make sure he had permission to use this blogger’s stuff? And any hints on how to do that tactfully would be appreciated. Thanks!Wendy S. Komancheck Freelance Business Writer for the Landscape, Lawn Care, and Garden Center Industries Phone: 717-405-9873 email@example.com www.landscapewriter.com www.wendykomancheckswriting.comDecember 3, 2013 at 9:49 am #23706
I would approach the topic delicately, and definitely not toss around the words “plagiarism” or “copyright infringement.”
I’d start by mentioning that you always check your work just to make sure it’s not too similar to someone else’s, and explain the SEO ramifications briefly, or here’s the one exception where you might say you want to make sure no one accuses you of plagiarism in the future.
Then I’d mention that the check turned up a lot of similarities between your posts and someone else’s, and that it seems tied the source material they gave you to use. At that point I’d simply ask if they knew this material was being used elsewhere, because using it again could hurt them in search engine rankings. Or maybe ask them if that blogger helped them with their newsletter in the past.
Do the newsletters and blog posts have dates on them? Is it clear who got the information from whom? It could be that someone took blog posts and turned them into newsletter articles for them. Or it could be that a subscriber to their newsletter turned their content into blog posts thinking no one would notice. (Let’s hope that’s the issue.)
I’d just keep the emphasis on you wanting to protect the client rather than making it sound like you’re jumping to the conclusion that they swiped something. Hopefully they’ll appreciate the concern. And if it does turn out that they used the material without permission, I’d probably bow out of the project for the sake of protecting my own reputation if issues ever arise. At a bare minimum I’d let them know their source material cannot be used, and I’d charge them more accordingly for the added research I’d have to do.December 3, 2013 at 1:44 pm #23707
Thanks, Jenn. I’ll use your ideas to form a template. My husband basically said the same thing. So, I’m crafting an email to my client as we speak. Thanks!Wendy S. Komancheck Freelance Business Writer for the Landscape, Lawn Care, and Garden Center Industries Phone: 717-405-9873 firstname.lastname@example.org www.landscapewriter.com www.wendykomancheckswriting.comDecember 4, 2013 at 8:13 am #23718
Good news! My client bought articles from a communications company that services his industry. Thus, a lot of folks in the same line of business have the same articles floating around the internet. Thanks, Jenn, for pointing out to me about Google rankings. He appreciated that I brought that to his attention. And I’m relieved that my client isn’t pilfering stuff from other folks. I tend to be scrupulous and have a huge fear of plagiarizing. So, when I saw all of the same articles popping up on Google, I literally felt sick to my stomach.
BTW: I’m assuming that there are no copyright issues if a company is selling these articles to numerous companies in the same industry. The sad part: These articles weren’t well-written–and always required me to tweak them beyond what was provided. I hope I’m not sounding “cocky.”
Anyhoo, thank you so much for your help and support!Wendy S. Komancheck Freelance Business Writer for the Landscape, Lawn Care, and Garden Center Industries Phone: 717-405-9873 email@example.com www.landscapewriter.com www.wendykomancheckswriting.comDecember 4, 2013 at 10:17 am #23719
Glad to hear it Wendy!
Hopefully that’s something they’ll rethink in the future. And hopefully it means they’ll want even more unique content from you!
As for copyright, you’ll just want to confirm that the license the client has allows them to create derivative works. Otherwise you can’t use parts of those articles in the newer material. If it was PLR or something, they probably do have the ability to rewrite and reuse things. If not, they may need to check on that. One way or the other, it would be better to use other sources so they don’t have issues being penalized by Google later.
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