Several blogs focused on the issue of freelance writing have posted entries wondering if some advertisements aimed less at writers and more at plagiarists. Two ads, one for a company seeking to hire an author to do a rewrite and another for a writer seeking employment, have raised questions in the freelance community.
But, as interesting as these questions are, there probably isn’t much to them once they’ve been fully explored. For while I’m certain that plagiarism is a major problem in the freelance writing community, it doesn’t make sense for a company, or even an individual, to knowingly hire one. There are simply too many alternatives.
Theory and Practice
The theory of the crime is pretty simple. A company sees an article or another piece that they really enjoy and want to reappropriate it to their site. Unable to license it, they put out a call for a skilled plagiarist who then takes the work and modifies it until it has no visible connection with the original work but still serves the exact same purpose.
On the surface, it seems like a quick and effective way to gain a large amount of well-written content. In truth, it’s both slow and expensive.
If one has their heart set on plagiarizing an article but wants to mask the original source. There’s synonymzing software available to do the dirty work. Even an inexpensive and prolific freelance plagiarist will cost more and take far longer than these automated programs would. The investment in the software would undoubtedly be paid back after just a few articles were generated.
Furthermore, bringing in someone else to engage in an illegal act is a very dangerous thing. Not only would this leave a paper trail of the infringement, essentially proving it to have taken place, but it would also involve another person, someone from the outside that may or may not be trustworthy. Most companies that engage in this type of action want to involve as few people as possible and certainly don’t want to advertise their intentions on the Web.
Of course, the truth is that there are millions of reasons that a company could want a rewrite of something. It could be an annual report where, though the formatting stays the same, the language changes. It could be a speech that needs updating, a presentation that that needs to be modified for a new audience and so forth.
The long and short of it is that only a foolish and very inept company would go this route. To be this stupid, this evil and this inept all at once would truly be an amazing thing. However, that’s not to say it hasn’t happened.
Still, it’s not the companies freelance writers have to look out for, it’s their peers.
Have Computer, Will Copy/Paste
The demands placed on a freelance writer are great, they have to turn out good articles under very tight deadlines, often on subjects they know little about. Those that can do it and do it well have my admiration.
However, a small number of freelance writers have been too tempted by the ease of copy and paste writing and repeatedly plagiarize other people’s work to meet their deadline and please their customers. As rare as this is, it’s still soiled the reputation of the industry and made it harder for legitimate writers to find work.
Still, only an extreme imbecile would advertise the fact that they’re a plagiarist when looking for work. Companies and individuals looking for a freelance writer don’t want to get involved in copyright disputes and certainly don’t want the damage to their reputation that comes with such a scandal.
Like any teacher handing out an assignment, an employer giving a job to a freelance writer is going to expect an original work. They’re paying good money for the rights to a work and that’s not something that they’ll obtain if it’s discovered later that someone else actually owns part or all of the creation.
In there lies the inherent danger in freelanced plagiarism. A company pays hundreds of dollars to own the rights of a work they commissioned, take it and use it for a period of time only to discover later that they owned nothing Like buying an empty well, the company that paid for the work buys something that amounts to little more than stale air.
However, the most tragic part of all is that the entire problem can be avoided, if both authors and companies are willing to put forth a little more effort.
Companies need to be careful when they seek out a freelance writer. Don’t simply give the job to the lowest bidder and be done with it. Investigate your authors well, check references and even consider scanning past works for signs of plagiarism. Not only will this help weed out plagiarists and other potential scammers, but it will also help you find an author that fits your needs better.
Writers, on the other hand, need to actively look for plagiarism of their own works, including those that they might not own the rights of anymore, and keep an eye open for their neighbors. Plagiarists have to steal from somewhere and, if everyone were to watch their own work, nearly every plagiarist would be caught.
But most of all, it’s important for both companies and freelance writers to promote honesty and originality. Trade organizations, certifications and other forms of community self-policing might seem cheesy but they do provide valuable safeguards against illegal or immoral activity. That’s why most trades have at least one.
[tags]Plagiarism, Freelance Writing, Content Theft, Copyright Infringement, Copyright Law, Copyright, Freelance[/tags]