The “capabilities” page on 50 Foot Marketing & Design’s website shows text that was lifted from BEACH’s 2009 website
Continuing with part 2 of the good-news/bad-news story that we started yesterday (“Good things come in smart packages”) today’s post is the “bad news” part: plagiarism as self-promotion.
The highlighted promotional copy above, was something that I originally wrote for a “services” page on our 2007 website and then revised slightly in 2009. Later, when we relaunched a different version of our website in 2011, that page was no longer even included.
So imagine my surprised to discover that the text I wrote 8 years ago to promote our services, is being used today on other companies’ websites to promote their own creative services!
Seems counter-intuitive that a “creative” company would need to swipe someone else’s creative work in order to promote itself, right? It’s like their copywriter did plenty of copying, but not so much writing. (To say nothing of copy-rights.)
But I get it. It’s a daunting amount of work if you do it all yourself—the writing, the designing, the SEO. How tempting it is to just copy what someone else has already written.
Here now are 3 companies that have apparently succumbed to the temptation to do this bad thing:
1. Texas-based 50 Foot marketing & design’s “capabilities” page (shown above) is the most egregious example. They’ve taken seven consecutive sentences from our 2009 website, with no changes that I can see except for changing the word “packaging” to “package” and removing the word “regularly.”
Regarding the rest of the text on their page, a search on the plagiarism checking website, Copyscape, shows that 39% of that page matches the website of New-Zealand based Big Impressions. (I’ll leave it to someone else to figure out who is copying who there.)
(Two more companies and a word about my own motives, after the fold…)
2. Bangkok-based Big Sauce has had two of our 2007 sentences on their website since 2011.
So there you have it, but what’s the point? We’re not even using these sentences on our website any more. What would it hurt to let these other companies feed on our leftovers?
I suppose could have quietly contacted them and asked them to please write their own promotional copy. Didn’t want to do it that way.
While I’m not so crazy about the public “shaming” aspect of this post, the truth is, I did want to make something of it. If my original motivation in writing the copy was self-promotional, it’s a motivation that I still need. These other companies sought to promote themselves by plagiarizing us. Why not write about them online? Let the text serve its original, intended purpose: to promote our services.
It’s like: our work is so good that people are stealing it.
This motivation to “out” the plagiarizers in order to promote oneself is not new. In ancient Rome, while plagiarism was not quite a crime, it was still considered a form of theft. According to historian Scott McGill, writers like Seneca, Lenaeus and Pliny the Elder would sometimes call out another writer for plagiarism, often using it as an opportunity for self-promotion…
Instead of just smearing their targets, moreover, the accusers use their allegations to advertise their own authorial value, to promote their own texts, and to win themselves a positive reading. Plagiarists are subject to censure but also provide contrasts against which the critics highlight why they and their works deserve favorable attention.
Chapter 2 “Blame and praise: plagiarism and self-promotion in Latin prefaces”
Plagiarism in Latin Literature by Scott McGill
Conclusion? All roads lead to self-promotion and my motives here are classic, if not pure.