It’s probably the most common plagiarism-related excuse that I’ve heard: “I’m not the plagiarist, I got the content from someone else!”
There are variations on the theme of course, a plagiarist poet claims to have posted the work for a friend, a business site blames it on their designer, etc. but the main claim remains the same, it was always someone else.
The majority of the time, the claim is completely unbelievable. This third party is an obvious figment of their imagination and an attempt to deny responsibility.
But even when the claim is at least somewhat believable, such as a company that clearly paid for a site to be created for them, I’m not exactly sympathetic to their situation. Any time you post content under your name, you are responsible for it and content buyers do bear at least some responsibility for plagiarism issues that arise from their posting, often as much as the plagiarists themselves.
While it’s true content buyers who acquire plagiarized content are, in many ways, victims the same as the person who was plagiarized, most content buyers become victims because they acted irresponsibly and set themselves up for trouble.
Your Name, Your Responsibility
There are many situations where you can legitimately put your name or your company’s name to someone else’s work. Ghostwriters, for example, make a living writing on behalf of other people who either lack the skill or time to do it themselves. Likewise, there are entire advertising, marketing, PR and other content firms that produce material for use by individuals and companies to help them create content for ads, websites and more.
However, when you take that content and put your name to it, you also take a degree of responsibility for it. If your autobiography libels someone, you don’t get off the hook because it was ghostwritten. Likewise, if an ad run by a company lies about a product or service, they can’t simply blame the advertising agency that wrote it.
In short, whenever you publish content under your name with your approval, no matter who wrote it, you are taking responsibility for it. As such, you have an obligation to ensure that the content is both accurate and authentic. What exactly this involves will vary from case to case but part of that is ensuring that the content is free from any legal issues including libel, copyright and so forth.
The problem is that many people who buy content do so specifically go avoid dealing with these kinds of issues and try to wash their hands of these problems, failing to realize that there’s simply no way to do that, not when you’re posting content publicly that is meant to speak for you.
After all, once you put your name to it, it becomes your words and that carries with it a lot of weight, whether you want it to or not.
Irresponsible Behaviors in Content Buying
Of course, for many content buyers the liability goes well beyond merely not vetting the content they’re getting. Instead, others actively take steps that put them at risk of getting plagiarized content and do so recklessly.
A good example of this is content buyers that will purchase content at an impossibly low price or do so from unscrupulous sites. When you pay a writer as low as a few dollars per 500 word article, it’s almost impossible that they can effectively write the content and sell enough to survive. Often times, the shortcut such writers take is to plagiarize other sources or to reuse their own content, effectively self plagiarism.
When buying content to put your name on, it only makes sense to ensure that it’s reputable and part of that means checking to ensure that the deal offered is at least plausible to the other side. After all, if a deal is too good to be true, it almost certainly is and you just have to ask what shortcut the author is going to take.
The problem is that many content buyers don’t really care. Instead, would rather save money and roll the dice with risky content and then claimed to be scammed when it comes back as unoriginal, full of mistakes or whatever problems may arise.
For those content buyers, I have no sympathy and view them not as victims of scammers, but part of the problem that lets plagiarism thrive online.
It is as simple as this: Every time you post content publicly under your name, you are taking responsibility for it. While you can buy content from various sources to help improve the quantity and quality for your writing, it doesn’t free you from that responsibility.
In short, when you buy content, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t take credit for it and enjoy its benefit when it goes well and, at the same time, hide behind your ghostwriter when it goes wrong.
If you want to buy content, that’s fine and there are many legitimate writers out there who would love to help you. However, it’s important to be a healthy part of the content ecosystem and not part of the problem.
If you do, you’ll likely find that the quality of the content you get will go up and your costs won’t increase by that much. After all, the difference between problem customer and investor is often a small one indeed.