Plagiarism ~ Ignorance is bliss until you get a call from an attorney

Real Estate Agent with South East Valley - DRE# SA528757000

angry about injusticeThey say imitation is the greatest form of flattery so why doesn't it feel that way when you stumble upon someone passing off your work as their own.

It happened to me yesterday when I found an agent had copied one of my blog posts (including the image I had paid to use) and posted it on her blog as if she had written it herself.

After I glued the top of my head back in place, I contacted her and asked her to remove the post from her blog.  She responded by saying that many of her posts had been copied because "everything on the Internet is public domain...there is nothing private" quote, unquote.  She also stated that she "did not see any copyright on the posting, therefore saw no reason to not share further".  She then provided the following excerpt.

"The fair use law is based on the free speech rights provided by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. The fair use of a copyrighted work, including reproducing, copying, or other duplication is permissible for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research. These uses are considered “fair use” and are not an infringement of copyright."

Lastly, she said she had updated her blog post to include my name as the author.

Here's the thing... I really don't mind my posts being shared BUT that does not mean you can do so without asking me first AND it's just plain dishonest to present it as if the work was your own.  I believe most authors will agree to a sharing of their words with permission and proper attribution.

I included the following in my response to her as a "by the way":

  1. Everything from April 1, 1989 is copyrighted by the owner or author whether it has a copyright notice attached or not.  All Internet users should assume that the work is copyrighted, unless otherwise specified by the author.
  2. Many works on the Internet are available for public use. However, the author of the work must have included verbiage explicitly granting it to public domain.
  3. Internet users cannot transfer graphics or works without the knowledge and approval of the owner and post them somewhere else on the Internet.
  4. "Fair Use" is a thin line, but is typically an excerpt with proper attribution, NOT the copying of an entire work with no attribution.

I also recommended she take time to read through Lenn Harley's compilation blog post Copyright Information for ActiveRain Members for some priceless information for anyone who is even thinking about "borrowing" another person's work.

Ignorance is bliss...until you get a call from an attorney.

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©2007 - 2016 Amy Jones. No article or image may be used without permission by the author. Some posts are also posted on Chandler Real Estate and Sun Lakes Real Estate

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Re-Blogged 4 times:

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Paddy Deighan JD PhD - Vail, CO
Paddy Deighan J.D. Ph.D

Her action of including your name in the post after the fact is a reflection that she knew that what she did was wrong.  "Public Domain" does not abrogate copyright laws and if the work is copyrighted, she needed to include you as the source and then it is permissible to do as she did. Plagiarism is never permissible. "Public Domain" means that she can use the work with proper acknowledgment but not use it as her own...

Jan 03, 2011 06:42 AM #69
Karen Burns
Sacramento, CA

Good post Amy. I'm blown away that plagiarism woman had the nerve to justify her actions. She should have spent the time writing her own blog instead of finding quotes she twists around in her agenda to rip off other people's blogs. I like Judith Sinnard #45 comment; very informative. 

Jan 03, 2011 06:48 AM #70
Amanda S. Davidson
Amanda Davidson Real Estate Group - Alexandria, VA
Alexandria Virginia Homes For Sale

That's downright stealing. If she truly wanted to give you credit she would have re-blogged (if your post was permitting that) within activerain. To go to the extent of posting it in an outside blog clearly shows she's guilty.

There are so many topics to blog about - should be no reason other then pure laziness (or perhaps jealousy if she works in your area) to steal another's work.

Jan 03, 2011 06:53 AM #71

I do agree that we have to protect our work, but keep in mind that we are in the business of selling homes, and let's not get side tracked. A phone call to the person copying the work should be enough, and perhaps to the manager. If this does not solve the problem, then perhaps take further step, but give it careful thought. America's Litigious nature really is an embarrassment.

This issue gets too much attention, but I guess it is to be expected when the market is hurting... To those of us who are more REALTOR® than lawyer, let's go sell some homes... Cheers...

Jan 03, 2011 08:51 AM #72
Louise St.Romain
FastCat Studio, LLC - Hendersonville, NC

Here's an interesting blog written by a commercial photographer and an intelectual property lawyer:  (they are in the process of switching hosts which is why two links).

I always send in my photographs (including ones made for virtual tours) to the copyright office (they make it so easy that it is silly not to send them in). That way, if I find someone using my images, I can make a stronger case. Also if it gets to the point that you have to get the courts involved, copyright law in federal law; it cannot be tried at the local level.

Jan 03, 2011 09:17 AM #73
Randal Jenkins
Coldwell Banker F I Gray and Sons Residential, Inc. - New Port Richey, FL

I sometimes feel so naive when I realize how little I know about so much.

Thank you for your observations.  I learned much reading your blog.

Jan 03, 2011 11:43 AM #74
RhondaHeaslip NanaimoRealEstate
RE/MAX of Nanaimo - Nanaimo, BC

Amy, I think calling a lawyer in would be a good idea. I'll bet no-body's pinned this plagiarists' ears back yet...and it's high time somebody did.

Jan 03, 2011 11:43 AM #75
Rob Arnold
Sand Dollar Realty Group, Inc. - Altamonte Springs, FL
Metro Orlando Full Service - Investor Friendly & F

I'm pretty sure the fair use laws do not apply to commercial enterprises like a real estate license.  Only to non-profits and educational purposes.

Jan 03, 2011 12:51 PM #76
Amy Jones Group
South East Valley - - Chandler, AZ

Ellen ~ That's one of the most priceless things that ActiveRain brings!

Paddy ~ Good point!

Karen ~ Always best to be an original!

Amanda ~ I agree.  Anyway would have been better than just plain stealing.

Brian ~ True we are REALTORS, BUT our Blogs are a big part of our persona.  They show our character and a bit of our personality to the public and potential clients.  When someone steals that persona... it's a lot like impersonation. Add to that the fact that duplicate copy on the internet can impact our internet placement and it becomes a very big deal.  So yes...we can go out and sell houses, but marketing via our blogs is often how we get there.

Louise ~ Thanks for the link!  I'll definitely check that out.

Randal ~ It's great that we can learn so much from each other!

Rhonda ~ I think she has a lot to learn.

Rob ~ I think you're right there.



Jan 03, 2011 03:13 PM #77
Lynn M. Bower
John R Wood Realtors - Naples, FL

What? Another lazy agent out there in our ranks? I am always amazed at the length some agents will go to in order to do as little as possible. Thanks for shining the light on this would their client like to know the truth about the lazy agent they are working with? The AR World is always one step ahead of the curve and it's because of great posts like yours.

Jan 03, 2011 10:39 PM #78
Jeff Dowler, CRS
Solutions Real Estate - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

Amy - it seems we see more and more of this all the time. And the attitude IS that if it's on the Internet it's fair game. Obviously that's not necessarly true. Lenn's compliation of copyright articles is a tremendous resource. Perhaps the right people are not reading her posts.


Jan 04, 2011 03:02 AM #79
Gene Riemenschneider
Home Point Real Estate - Brentwood, CA
Turning Houses into Homes

I would have been very upset and spoke to her Broker about it after that response.  It is not hard to come up with original material.

Jan 04, 2011 04:34 AM #80
Dana McGary
Crye-Leike Champion Real Estate Group, Searcy, Arkansas - Searcy, AR
Realtor - White County, Arkansas

I think it was in very poor taste for her to use your blog without your permission and without giving you credit until you called her on it.  I would have never even thought to do otherwise.

Jan 04, 2011 04:59 AM #81
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

This is so dumb. The Internet is filled with article sites where you are welcome to take any articles you wish as long as you leave the author's resource box in place. Why steal articles when you can get thousands of them for free with no chance of penalties?

Jan 04, 2011 06:32 PM #82
Peter Michelbach


like so many other commentators demonstrated, I also feel  sorry that you had to go through this felt betrayed I believe, hurt, and your feelings out of balance....because some one else  took away your work, your creativity, your intuition on the sphere of things...

....there are many angles to look within, and recognise met your shadow...and demonstrated how to see the big picture - the forrest, not just the trees.

...reflecting upon this trauma, demonstrates, at least to me, with how much professionalism and empathy, after all, you considered approaching the 'deliquent' gave her a chance...let her save have got respect, and I believe, of so many from the AR paid forward...

...and, in addition, you demonstrated how to act with distinction, not to react...

Thank you for sharing. Great comments. Peter -- Perth W.Australia

Jan 05, 2011 03:51 AM #83
Kathy Opatka
Serving Ocean City, MD, & The Delaware Beaches

I've just never understood why someone plagiarizes the work of another.  Sometimes it is difficult for me to just sit and whip up a blog.  But how small is your ego that you feel a need to steal?

Jan 05, 2011 06:00 AM #84
June Tassillo
Owner/Broker RE/MAX Elite Realty - Franklin, NC
Let me help you with the next phase of your life!

Wow, unbelievable.  I could not do that to someone.  I have however used someones pictures but have asked before I did it.  I just read this on a Reblog and thought I would come on over here and say hello as well. 

Jan 06, 2011 08:04 AM #85
Sidney Kutchuk - Realty Works Temecula Kutchuk - Realty Works Temecula
Realty Works Temecula - Temecula, CA
Realty Works Temecula

Amy:  incredible...even the image?  Wow, I never copy and paste....there is a tool that can be purchased that has a pop-up asking for the copy and past-er to contact the author for permission.....I think that all copy and paste will not be possible in the very near future!

Jan 11, 2011 03:09 PM #86
Wayne B. Pruner
Oregon First - Tigard, OR
Tigard Oregon Homes for Sale, Realtor, GRI

Sigh! No one wants to steal my stuff! Cut and paste is rampant on the Internet. Some people expect everything to be free.

Jan 22, 2011 06:57 AM #87
Judy Luna
Keller Williams Market Pro Realty - Fayetteville, AR
Technology with a Personal Touch

I  have found some of my posts as well on anonymous blogs. The way I have discovered these things is to set up a google alert for certain key words. Then I can write to these folks to tell them to cease and desist.

Jan 23, 2011 05:54 AM #88
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