|Image courtesy of cooldesign at FreeDigitalPhotos.net|
In this day of a digital footprint that can be traced to anybody at anytime, such plagiarism is not only unwarranted from an ethical perspective, but even foolhardy, because you CAN be found out and quite easily. See bottom section how easily you can be discovered.
The bottom message is... do not do it because it may even land you in trouble! And if you do so, at least provide credit to the original author and link back to the source, though depending on the source owner's policies, even providing credit may be inadequate.
Early in my blogging days, I admit to using a google image search to find a picture to add to a blog article I wrote. Given this same picture was used countless other times by numerous other blogs, I figured I could probably use it too without any cause for alarm. Boy was I wrong! One day... probably a year or 2 later, a law firm contacted me representing the owners of the image I lifted from the google image search and was threatened with legal action. In order to avoid legal troubles, I was given the alternative of immediately removing the picture from my blog article and paying a $750 fine.
Much chastened and embarrassed by this encounter, I've taken much greater care in images I use, mainly by either purchasing the rights to them (I mainly use dreamstime.com) or using "free" sources with appropriate credit provided.
When it comes to writing, it's all original or citations provided to the original source.
Free Online Resources to Discover Plagiarism
I know that others have copied my work... even if I have chosen to ignore such violations at this time. How do I know this?
There are several tools at my disposal among many.
I heavily rely on Google Webmaster Tools which is a free resource provided to any website owner. One of the tools it provides is a list of all websites that links back to your site. For outright wholesale copying of online materials, links are typically preserved and when investigated, plagiarism can easily be determined.
I also employ hidden HTML source codes within my webpages to make it easier for me to track any plagiarism. By hiding code within the text, unless the plagiarizer evaluates the HTML code line-by-line and deletes this hidden code, it's like a homing beacon that states you plagiarized my work!
Even if you do not have access to Google Webmaster Tools, there are a variety of online plagiarism checkers including CopyScape.com. If you do a search for my chronic cough webpage, it'll bring up a bunch of websites that contains text material identical to mine. The premium (paid) version of this service would produce even more websites.
Once plagiarism is detected, it than becomes an argument of who plagiarized who. Was I the one who plagiarized or was it somebody else? That's when an internet archival system is used to show what any website looked like over time. The WayBack Machine is a free service to display just such information. Check out my webpage on chronic cough over time here. It shows what this webpage looked like on our current server in April 2010 all the way to present-time. For a true blast from the past, check out this same chronic cough webpage when it was on our prior server back in 2/20/07. Note the last modification date of 12/11/06.
So there you have it...
If you copy somebody else's work, at the very least, please provide credit and a link back to the source!
But be aware that depending on who you are copying, policies may vary in how stringently the source owners may protect their intellectual property resulting in not only fines, but even legal action.