Are Paper Mills Stealing Your Work?

I’ve commented previously about the need to always credit your sources. Simply put, unless you wrote the piece yourself, you have to assume that you don’t know who produced the original work.

Besides, you should always be wary of anyone who says you can take a piece and put your name on it. There’s a good chance that they’re peddling someone else’s work and passing their plagiarism onto you.

However, it’s not just strangers over the Web or your friends that can defraud you, paper mills, the classic fallback of ethically-challenged and time-crunched students have a lengthy track record of doing it as well…

Take the case of Kelli McBride, a full-time English teacher at Seminole State College in Seminole, Oklahoma. She, like many teachers, created a site for her students to use and to function as a central repository for all her course information.

In addition to the usual information, syllabus, course notes, etc., she also posted several of her own essays to give her students a better idea of what she expects out of their writing. It was a kind gesture, one I wish my professors in college had done, but a move that would cause her great frustration.

McBride recently learned that eight of those essays wound up on a paper mill and being sold to students all over the world as “research aids”. This was done without her permission, without any credit being given to her and without her even knowing it was being done.

We all know that paper mills don’t stay in business by selling “research aids”. Though the infringing site talks a good game about not plagiarizing, there’s nothing to stop students from using the essays as such and that is undoubtedly the most common use for their wares.

On that note, it’s completely vile to steal the work of a teacher, with teachers being on the front lines of the academic plagiarism war, but it’s just as bad to defraud one’s own customers, which is exactly what this mill is doing.

Think about it, if you visited this paper mill and paid for one of McBride’s essays, you’d assume you have the right to use it for your own paper (either to plagiarize or for research). However, they can’t give you that right since it’s not theirs to sell and, as such, the money you spent bought you nothing.

Though there’s something karmic about students who work to defraud their professors being defrauded by the company they trusted to aid them, it leaves McBride in a bad position, with her work being used to facilitate one of the grave sins of her profession.

I’m hoping that she’ll be able to resolve this matter quickly and I’m working with her currently to do so. I’ll update this article as things unfold.

In the meantime, the lesson for the rest of us is that, as content creators, we need to be careful about paper mills. As temples of plagiarism, they won’t hesitate to rip content from anywhere they can. If you write essays or anything that’s remotely essay-like, you might want to consider checking some of the major paper mills for your material. Some of them might not show up on Google, especially those that charge for work.

Also, this just shows again why we need to always credit our sources, even when we pay for the ability not to. If you didn’t pen it from your own hand, you don’t really know who wrote it. It’s not worth the risk to take credit for someone else’s work, especially when you can reuse it freely with just a name.

Doing otherwise is very dangerous and, quite likely, you’re just taking someone else’s plagiarism upon yourself, receiving the blame, the scold and the mistrust without doing any of the original stealing.

It’s a bad deal that’s easily avoided. A simple byline is usually enough.

[tags]Plagiarism, Paper Mills, Content Theft, Essays[/tags]

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