Plagiarism In Creative Content

We will start this article off by making it a point to say that we were inspired to write about this topic due to a number of questions we have been asked, as well as our personal observations. Admittedly, we were further motivated to create our very own version of commentary about plagiarism in creative content after doing some research and fact checking on the topic, and coming across a blog piece entitled How To Protect Yourself From Plagiarism Without Crossing The Line by Gina Badalaty July 28, 2016, published here:  Badalaty’s article was both validating and informative. From this author we found out about reliable resources to help us know how to reclaim or remove plagiarized content originating from our creative effort, and how to avoid the mistake of crossing that fine line between plagiarism and research while putting together content for our company and our clients.

The topic of plagiarism has been in the news recently.  Check this out:  — and, take note of the last two words of the title – ‘SO FAR’.  Ha! This article was written back in January — six months prior to the recent political party conventions… and that’s all we’re going to say about politics. It is just a fact that high ranking dignitaries, officials, their speech writers, professors, corporate moguls, comedians, leaders of all sorts, and plain everyday people are all subject to finding ourselves on top of that fine line that could be crossing from referencing information to plagiarism. To commit a ‘violation of intellectual property’ sounds like a rough crime.  Basically, that is what plagiarism is. No one wants to be accused of that sort of thing! Seems like infringing on another persons intellectual property would be reserved for the uncreative and intellectually challenged. That is not always the case. The temptation is there. Understanding what plagiarism means and how it happens are the key to protecting your own intellectual property, and equally important, how to avoid plagiarizing.

We Googled it, and this came up as the definition of Intellectual Property (supposing credits for this one go to Google)

The question is: WHAT GIVES YOU THE RIGHT?

To be concise, if you create it, it’s yours. According to the B2C article by Gina Badalaty, you do not need a copyright notice or a registered copyright to protect your intellectual property. As long you can prove you thought of it, created it, made it. (Take a picture and make sure it’s stamped/dated!

If you believe your content has been stolen outside the parameters of these conditions, you should take action. So what happens if someone plainly steals your creative content without offering you credit, asking permission, and labels it to be their own creation?


If you are a blogger, here are some ways to avoid plagiarism in creative content:

-to make this clear, we’re talking about your risk of having another source ‘steal’ your material, OR, YOU (accidentally) reaching over the boundary of ‘getting ideas’ to ‘taking’ content that was created by another source – a source that deserves to be credited, at least, for the content you’re using.

  1. A college professor once stated that borrowing ideas is the highest form of flattery.  Of course it is irritating to have another creative person clearly steal your idea when you thought of it first. However, in the design world, we are familiar with the concept of inspiration and sharing – no idea is entirely original. Many great ideas – perhaps the most successful ones – are born out of inspiration from former creative efforts.  That said, misquoting, not giving credit where credit is due for ‘borrowed’ content, and adopting already published content to be your own are forms of plagiarism.
  2. To protect yourself from having your ideas copied without your permission, consider using a watermark on your graphic content, and/or branding your content so it has a distinctive style and appearance which obviously belongs to you. When writing content ‘speak in your own voice’ – that means, make it your own words, using your unique style of communication.
  3. Avoid using content if you do not know where it came from or who owns it… give credit where credit is due and it’s foolish to think that you can get away with copying content and fly under the radar these days. It’s worth it to get an account with a stock photography company. We purchase professional, licensed photography images for our clients or ask them to submit their own content, depending upon the situation.
  4. Use links that connect to your sources when you are referencing blog content from other creative sources. If you are not sure, it would be polite to ask the source for permission to use their content. Most authors and creative content managers would be thrilled to have your article referencing their content as inspiration for a great blog. (Yes, some of the points from this article were inspired by How To Protect Yourself From Plagiarism Without Crossing The Line by Gina Badalaty published recently on Business2BusinessCommunity – see, there we did it.)

We’d like to take this opportunity to say that the purpose of this article was inspired by our own continual challenges of finding relevant and interesting blog content, creatively presenting information, and understanding how to communicate original content that does not infringe on another source’s intellectual property. Many authors are allowed to write about a single topic. That’s okay. Spring-boarding onto a topic by referencing recent news, responding to someone else’s commentary, or quoting another author word-for-word are all acceptable content-writing practices… thinking you’re clever by stealing content crosses the line into plagiarizing, and it’s a lazy thing to do.

We all want to have good ideas. Tell your own stories, and reference the pros to legitimize and argue your points. Companies work hard to set themselves apart and create unique brand images. Set yourself apart. It is mind-boggling how often marketing professionals and designers are asked to copy and steal brand identities from other sources. The red flag is that if you’re having to ask your consultant to copy someone else’s content or ideas, you’re not relying on that agency, artist, or creative source to do the job you are paying them to perform. One smart corporate client once came up with this ‘incredible’ idea (as he described it) to use the image of a cow holding a sign that referenced eating chicken… in this person’s mind, it was not stealing an idea; it was relating the concept to the world of financial planning, connecting the cow image to the ‘bull market’ of stocks.  ‘Seriously… Bull… are you kidding?’  It was bull alright. Truth is… they were not even kidding.  ‘But our company just a small outfit… we’re a different type of business altogether…  there’s nothing wrong with taking the big idea from the big leagues – plus, they make chicken sandwiches and we are not their competition.’ The response was along those lines. Backing away, we were like ‘ummmm…. noooo way.’  You’ve heard stories like this… people who ought to know better – right? Proof that the temptation to steal creative content is such a slippery slope. Back away from the ledge! Think up your own stuff. It takes longer, but it is worth the effort.

And, that’s all we have to say about that. (creds to Forest Gump for the closing statement)

Read more at:  |  | | = Digital Millennium Copyright Act Services Ltd. ©(for instructions on how to create a takedown case to get your stolen content unpublished)