How to Reduce Plagiarism in the Era of Self-Publishing

In the world of self publishing where anyone can upload a document to Amazon and call it a book, many authors are having their stories stolen.

Plagiarism self publishing

Some books are copied word-for-word while others are tweaked just enough to pass plagiarism-checking software. The plagiarized book often stays on the internet for months before someone detects the theft. For the writers, the damage goes beyond their finances. Writing a book can be a difficult and intimate process, and having your work stolen like this can feel like emotional abuse.

Who’s to blame for the amount of plagiarism on the web? Should the writer or the self publishing platform keep an eye out for content thieves? And the most important question one can ask is how to avoid plagiarism in the copy and paste era?

Plagiarism, A Tale as Old as Time

Plagiarism didn’t begin when the internet was invented. The first recorded case of plagiarism happened in 80 A.D. when the Roman poet Martial discovered that his worked was being copied by other poets without his permission. That was a very common practice back then, but Martial couldn’t sit back and watch others take credit for his work.  He wrote a poem attacking the person who stole his work, calling him a “plagiarus” (Latin for “thief”).

In spite of Martial’s harsh words, plagiarism remained a common practice. It is said that Shakespeare copied entire plot scenarios from others. Even Thomas Jefferson reportedly plagiarized from John Locke to create the Declaration of Independence.

As you can see, copying someone else’s work and appropriating it as yours is an old practice. The invention of the internet has certainly made it easier for people to plagiarize entire books and put them on self publishing platforms as their own. But can we completely blame the world wide web for the embarrassing amount of plagiarism out there?

Looking for a Solution

University teachers and students use software called Turnitin to check for plagiarism. Self publishing platforms, on the other hand, have no such detection system in place to identify stolen books. In fact, their rewarding system actually encourages plagiarism.

Most self publishing platforms reward authors who create new books regularly by placing them higher in rankings. The higher your rankings, the more sales you make. This policy puts pressure on authors to upload new books regularly to remain visible in search results.

It doesn’t matter if the book was plagiarized – the company is protected from copywriting laws as long as it removes the stolen content. Most self publishing companies comply with this rule and remove plagiarized books from their platforms. However, it might take a while until they respond to complaints, and fake books can remain on the site for months before they are flagged accordingly.

A lot of authors and columnists believe that self publishing companies should take responsibility for the content circulated on their platforms. For instance, they shouldn’t be able to profit from plagiarized works. Just as a regular publishing company is liable if it prints a novel that violated copyright law, so should self publishing companies be. Another way they could keep the amount of plagiarism under control is by ensuring that every piece of content uploaded is cross-checked for plagiarism.

How to Avoid Plagiarism

According to copyrighting law, the moment you create something original, it belongs to you. If someone else is to appropriate your work without permission, they can be sued for copyright infringement.

To prevent plagiarism, make sure to record all of your original work. For instance, print out hard copies and have them certified by a notary. That way, you will be able to provide proof that the plagiarized work is in fact yours.

Another great way to protect your work is by registering with the U.S. Copyright Office. For just a small fee you will get peace of mind, knowing that if someone is to copy your work without permission you can fight back through the legal system.

And last but not least, ask self publishing companies to implement detection systems and check new content against a database of previously published works. With a plagiarism detector in place, you can expose content thieves and discourage them from stealing other people’s work in the first place.

The internet has made it easier for people to steal books and publish them as their own. However, the plethora of plagiarism detection tools has also made it simpler for self publishing companies to detect stolen work. Until they start using them regularly, stay diligent to avoid becoming a victim of internet plagiarism.

Adam user

President & CEO,
Steuben Press

Adam Ellis has worked in the book industry since 2002, when he was first exposed to the wonderful world of Self Publishing. Over the years he has worked with thousands of authors and helped to produce, print and publish countless books.

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