“You sound bitter, Rose. Were you plagiarised?”

 

This post is a follow-up to my earlier post, The Ethics of Proofreading. After searching for this post myself on Google, I was surprised to come up with a few hits that did not relate to my own work.

Someone named “Muawiyah Haider” has ‘written’ a very similarly titled article, Proofreading Ethics (Tips to Proofread Translation of Other Linguistics)”

[sic.!]. This article appears on various sites around the web, each with a link back to her professional site – an otherwise seemingly legitimate company that is registered on ProZ.com.  A paragraph by paragraph comparison reveals very obvious plagiarism. Each paragraph contains serious linguistic errors, perhaps a proofreader could have helped? Muawiyah has posted this same article all over the internet, each article linking back to the same site. This has clearly been done to add “authenticity” to Muawiyah’s claim to be an “expert article writer” working for a “professional translation services agency”. So professional they plagiarise the works of other translators, indeed.

It appears, interestingly, that I am not the only victim of Muawiyah’s plagiarism. I recognised one of Muawiyah’s posts, “Cheap Translation Services and Poor Quality Translations”, as bearing distinct similarities to another highly rated article on ProZ, Cheap Translators Around the World, by Indonesian translator Ahnan Alex. Again, many errors now exist in the new text that did not exist in the original, and similarly, this article has been posted around the web. I believe that Muawiyah also obtained my article through its 4-star appearance on ProZ.com, posted via my ProZ profile.

There are many articles posted by Muawiyah around the web and I expect many were originally written by my fellow ProZ members. It seems Muawiyah simply looked at existing articles that were rated 3 stars or above and submitted to the ProZ articles section. I will be informing ProZ about this issue, and whilst Muawiyah (if that is a genuine name) does not seem to have an account, the linked website does have a ProZ account associated with it. Perhaps ProZ will have something to say on the matter – since in the case of the articles by myself and Ahnan, the text “Copyright © ProZ.com, 1999-2011. All rights reserved.” appears at the bottom. This is because we have transferred ultimate copyright for these articles to ProZ.com in exchange for promotion on the site.

So what can we learn?

Plagiarism does not pay

There are a few lessons to learn from Muawiyah’s efforts. Perhaps the most interesting is that Muawiyah’s website is still invisible to Google. I searched Google for the language combination Muawiyah’s website specialises in, Urdu to English, and despite a pretty self-explanatory domain, the site was invisble. Why? Google is clever. It searches for identical content, and if identical content is posted on different pages on the internet, it will be penalised. Links from pages of low relevance to the subject matter (“low quality” links) are also given less weight than, say, a highly relevant link from a client or colleague. Google also penalises sites that spam. It could be that that domain has used similar black hat SEO tactics (unethical tactics intended to raise search engine rankings), which can lead to search engine penalties or even being barred. The lesson is that plagiarising an article and posting it all around the internet will not actually help the website ranking. Furthermore, anyone who googles keywords from the article will come back to the original and discover the plagiarism (as I did). Potential clients who view the plagiarised article, complete with its repeated linguistic errors – typical of any rushed job – will only be put off. Note how relatively highly ranked articles on ProZ are now invisible on these generic article publishing sites, not least for the poor English.

But ethical blogging does pay

My translation blog is hosted on a sub-domain of my main website. This means that whenever my blog is linked to (and, thank you, it often is), the ranking of my main page goes up. Whenever I make a post on this sub-domain, Google likes that too – updated, fresh content is good in Google’s eyes. This means that my main site is now no. 1 for “translator German Nottingham“, for example.

I have also made countless enjoyable and useful contacts through my blog and twitter. Whilst these are mostly colleagues, it still helps with my online visibility. It is also great for exchanging knowledge and tips relating to my profession. Fellow twitter users can be a great help when wanting a quick opinion on how to deal with an unusual situation with a client, solving a software issue, or simply letting off steam. We also retweet each others’ posts when we find them helpful, increasing both our visibility and giving us that nice warm fuzzy feeling that we get from colleagues’ approval.

The basic tenets of ethical translation blogging:

In the style of the original Ethics of Proofreading post, I will summarise the main points of ethical translation blogging here. You may also wish to refer to the CyberJournalist.net Blogger’s Code of Ethics, which offers a more in-depth framework.

  1. NEVER plagiarise – If you refer to an external source whilst researching your article, refer or link to that source wherever possible. If you had inspired someone, you would appreciate some credit for that too, right? As you can see above, there are numerous negative consequences that may follow if you choose to plagiariase the hard work of another translation blogger.
  2. Link your sources – Similar to the above, this is relevant when writing anything factual in nature. This adds credibility to your statements, allowing and inviting your readers to make up their own mind.
  3. Be accurate – Be careful, insofar as this is possible, not to misrepresent your sources or other parties. Try to avoid quoting out of context as this may flavour the interpretation of the text. If there are any indications that the source may be inaccurate, it would be best to include these to give a balanced view. Correct any mistakes that later become evident.
  4. Try to give an unbiased view – This may not always be easy, as you naturally will have a positive or negative opinion on many issues. This is countered well, however, by declaring any personal interest or investment you may have in any subject matter on your blog.
  5. Give your colleagues a voice – Do not be afraid to allow comments from your colleagues, even with links back to their sites. You can benefit from their input and experience. It is well worth chatting to and befriending some, for some company whilst performing an otherwise very solitary job. We are colleagues, not competitors, even when working in the same field, in the same language combination. There is more than enough work to go round.
  6. Be fair and non-libellous – This is quite a general statement, but it is more a general reminder to be wary of your reputation and potential legal consequences anything else. Do not be scared of saying something negative, as long as you can back it up. Also be sensitive in your pursuit of information. I recommend the CyberJournalist.net Blogger’s Code of Ethics for further details on these issues.

About the Author:

Rose Newell is a British-born, Berlin-based copywriter and translator specialising in high end and high tech. Rose works exclusively with direct clients, mostly located in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. This blog is a labour of love for colleagues, not a sales funnel for paid membership groups, webinars, seminars, courses or coaching services. As one of those who has consistently spoken out against instagurus, readers can trust this blog will never be monetised. Truly successful translators have no need for the pittance generated by such activities.

16 Comments

  1. Vertimo Biuras Metropolis 08/09/2015 at 11:35 am - Reply

    Well… google does not really care about original source, too often we see copied text ranking higher then the original.

    • Rose Newell 09/10/2015 at 10:16 am - Reply

      You’re right; that can happen. It’s never happened to me, but I’ve heard about a company being penalised for duplicate content, except it was their (bigger) competitor stealing all of their stuff and getting crawled first.

      Fortunately, most plagiarists are stupid enough to copy already-popular content. That usually means the content has already been crawled. It gets nasty when the big guys pick on the little guys whose content is otherwise unknown.

  2. Krishna Rinaldi 31/03/2015 at 3:52 am - Reply

    Hi, Rose.

    Sorry for my bad english. I’m Indonesian and i have lack of knowledge about copyright and plagiarism.I read many article about it including this article to enrich my knowledge but i’m still confuse aboout how to avoid it.

    The question is, how If i cite an image or a sentence from other site to my blog, but i know that image/sentence is not belong to that site. That image/sentence has been cited many time by many sites without any credit, so I can’t find who is originaly write/make that.

    Should i just credit that site? or i have to find the original writer/image maker?

    • Rose Newell 19/04/2015 at 9:42 am - Reply

      Hi Krishna,
      Simply try your best to find the original site, if you can. Otherwise cite the source you got it from, perhaps mentioning it that the original source is unknown.

  3. Raees Hussain 04/01/2014 at 4:28 pm - Reply

    Hey Rose
    This is my first comment on your site.
    Your blog is awesome.
    The post was great, really helpful.

  4. Vertimo Biuras 09/09/2013 at 2:22 pm - Reply

    But Google can not discern plagiarism from quote…

    • Rose Newell 10/09/2013 at 4:40 pm - Reply

      There are strict academic guidelines on what is a quote and what is plagiarism. The same general principles apply everywhere: You credit the source, and you don’t quote more than a couple of sentences, or at most a paragraph. Plagiarism, ethically speaking, is anything that goes beyond that in any way – i.e. long quotes or failure to credit the source. If I decide to publish my own content in multiple places, that’s my look out.

  5. Marie-Hélène Mahy 29/01/2013 at 11:06 pm - Reply

    I can only imagine how frustrating it must be to find out someone copied your articles word by word. I would personally be tempted to throw my PC out of the window and then fly to whatever country that person lives in 🙂

    And well done about your post about old posts and visibility (the date of my comment proves your methods work!)

  6. […] has made my business. After the initial hit of The Ethics of Proofreading, which was linked to (and plagiarised!) everywhere, my rankings started to climb – not just for the blog on a subdomain – but […]

  7. Silvina 05/03/2011 at 2:13 am - Reply

    Rose,

    Great post. I always enjoy your writing.

    They don’t only plagiarize blogs, articles and books, but also website content and even companies.
    1) A couple of weeks ago I found the entire content of my previous website (including phone numbers and mailing address) posted in some Chinese bidding site. I guess they would get their hands on “their clients” through their links (which showed MY information). Sorry, I’m not as tech savvy as you are.
    2) Last year I had to contact LinkedIn support because there were 2 guys that were claiming to be employed by my company. In their profiles they showed my website and company information. Long story short, LinkedIn didn’t care!! So apparently my company has 3 employees: myself, a “President” and a “Computer Administrator.” I contacted these people and 1 of them wrote me back. You can only imagine his/her response… pure lies.

    Articles, information, names, addresses… anything! It just infuriates me. As you said, any legal recourse is long and difficult.

  8. Ahnan Alex 03/03/2011 at 11:15 pm - Reply

    It is one of the challenges we bloggers/writers are supposed to anticipate all the time. This kind of thing cannot be tolerated anyway, but it is the fact that the we are currently having. I hope that ProZ can manage this thing as it is one having the copyright of both articles and one where some would-be plagiarized articles are posted. Who knows?

    Thank you for letting me know, Rose!

    • Rose Newell 03/03/2011 at 11:23 pm - Reply

      You’re welcome! Let’s see if ProZ can do anything…

  9. Oliver Lawrence 03/03/2011 at 4:13 pm - Reply

    Well done, Rose, I was just going to post something about SEO and Google giving the sort of lamentable behaviour to which you appear to have been subjected a firm thumbs down, but you did it very well yourself. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, as unethical bloggers are likely to find to their cost.

    • Rose Newell 03/03/2011 at 6:30 pm - Reply

      Yes, good old Google. SEO is a fascinating area, and it’s good to see how they crack down on black hat techniques.

  10. Jill 03/03/2011 at 3:57 pm - Reply

    Congratulations! You are now one of us… But seriously, this Muawiyah may be a robot or is just a very unethical colleague. Several of us have had our blog posts reposted on dubious translation blogs that appear to have been run through MT into a foreign language and then back into English. Most of the time we don’t know about it since the sites are in some faraway country. Corinne McKay’s book was scanned and uploaded to some site, and it was downloaded for free about as many times as a legal copy has been sold. That’s even worse than an occasional blog post being stolen, because that is her livelihood. This kind of plagiarism and theft totally sucks, but unfortunately that’s life in the age of the Internet. And unfortunately there is no legal recourse except remain vigilant and report it to the ISPs.

    • Rose Newell 03/03/2011 at 5:02 pm - Reply

      I’m not sure Muawiyah exists, but someone, somewhere, is seeking to profit from the work other bloggers do by using these to generate links to their sites. I reported it to ProZ as the linked site is a ProZ member, and in this case, the copyright for two articles plagiarised is owned by ProZ. Indeed, we won’t know about most of the incidents where we are plagiarised… This, however, was a particularly blatant example.
      That is awful what happened to Corinne. I think there is SOME legal recourse, except, it is a long and difficult path. Too long and difficult for your average freelancer to tread.

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