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Plagiarism is No Joke

Services for Real Estate Pros with ActiveRain, Community Manager

I like to start my morning finishing up any Words with Friends games before my feet hit the floor.  I need a moment to wake up and adjust and 10 minutes on my phone playing a game or reading the news is a good way to start.

This morning an article on USA Today talked about Rand Paul and plagiarism.  It immediately made me think of AR.  Not a good thing, right?  

Rachel Maddow called Paul out for ripping off sentences from a Wikipedia entry on a movie called "Gattaca" in a speech of his.  In the article you can read the Wikipedia entries alongside Paul's speech quotes.  They are quite similar if not exactly the same.  Clayton, a professor at the University of Louisville had a quote that really stuck out to me.  He said, "When you do something like this, it damages (your) credibility".  

I can't tell you a day that goes by where I don't get a concerned member bringing my attention to a possible plagiarist.  I'm not even going to count the amount of tickets and calls Member Services receives.  This is no joke and we take it very seriously.

Not only is it illegal, those who are blatantly ripping off sources and posting it as their own content hurts ActiveRain.  It damages our ranking authority with Google which in turns hurts those who are using our platform who follow the rules.  And that really chaps my hide.  From the AR Community Guidelines:  "Do not plagiarize content from another source and publish it as your own. You must obtain explicit permission from the original source to republish, and give reference to such within the body of your post. Permission to re-print is NOT the same as permission to re-publish. This also applies to publishing real estate listings that are not your own." 

I like to give the benefit of the doubt.  Sometimes a new member or new blogger doesn't know that they can't use someone else's work.  You may be rolling your eyes right about now, but we are a community of trust so let's not go there.  Other times, they do have proper and direct authorization to use the content but are unaware of the rules about sourcing it within their blog post and checking the 'This is not my content but I have permission to post it' box.  We don't award points for unoriginal content.  We don't feature unoriginal content (or at least try not to, sometimes we make errors).  

The point is, if you're not 100% sure, don't use it.  What kind of SEO are you really getting from an article that has already been published elsewhere?  It's already been indexed by Google so do yourself a favor and try this method:  Grab a snippet from the article, link to it, and then write your own take on it.  How does it relate to your world, your market or your experience?  You'll get a lot farther with your readers and Google by practicing this method.

Oh and if you're a Words with Friends fanatic like myself, and aren't afraid of getting your butt whooped, my username is kerrielil. 

Posted by

Kerrie La Guardia
Community Manager


Comments (103)

Kat Palmiotti
eXp Commercial, Referral Divison - Kalispell, MT
Helping your Montana dreams take root

I never heard that expression before, "that really chaps my hide."  I'll have to remember that one.

You're right - plagiarism is no joke.  Thanks for focusing attention on this problem.

Oct 30, 2013 09:18 PM
Mitch Muller - Charlotte NC Real Estate
ProStead Realty Charlotte, NC CRS SRES mitch@prostead.com - Charlotte, NC
Certified Residential Specialist

I see that from time to time here Kerrie. I figure the just didn't know any better. BTW, my wife is ADDICTED to WWF!

Oct 30, 2013 09:23 PM
Scott Godzyk
Godzyk Real Estate Services - Manchester, NH
One of the Manchester NH's area Leading Agents

I have seen less copying word for word but many who steal a topic and then run with the stolen idea in their own words. One thing to note is that I would rather be locked in a home full of mold with fleas then have to watch or listen to Rachel Madow, if she tilst any More Left she will fall off the TV stand. As far as words with friends, my favorite way to pass time in between appointments and ready for challengers.  

Oct 30, 2013 10:48 PM
Michael Setunsky
Woodbridge, VA
Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA

Kerrie, it's good to put a reminder out every once in a while. As for the newbie's, I don't think they know any better until it is pointed out to them. Although the AR guidelines are specific, hopefully members will read them.

Oct 30, 2013 10:55 PM
Richie Alan Naggar
people first...then business Ran Right Realty - Riverside, CA
agent & author


Wherever you find the right way, you will also find the questionable way...One must choose or pay the price

Oct 30, 2013 11:58 PM
Richard Weisser
Richard Weisser Realty - Newnan, GA
Richard Weisser Retired Real Estate Professional


You don't know how many times someone has told me something along the lines of: "If it's on the Internet, it's there for the taking."


Oct 31, 2013 12:06 AM
Geoff ONeill
John L. Scott Medford - Medford, OR

Write your own, in your own style.  It should keep you out of trouble.

Oct 31, 2013 12:18 AM
Bill Roberts
Brooks and Dunphy Real Estate - Oceanside, CA
"Baby Boomer" Retirement Planner

Hi Kerrie, I thought AR was over the plagiarism problem. In the old days it really "chapped" me too when someone would do it just to increase their points.

Bill Roberts

Oct 31, 2013 01:18 AM
Ginny Gorman
RI Real Estate Services ~ 401-529-7849~ RI Waterfront Real Estate - North Kingstown, RI
Homes for Sale in Southern RI and beyond

Kerrie, I don't understand why ARers continue to do it once they are slapped once...learn from it and move forward...it is not for the taking because someone else wrote wise words...give credit where it is due.

Oct 31, 2013 01:29 AM
Robert Rauf
CMG Home Loans - Toms River, NJ

I've seen it happen often, I have even seen someone take printed material of my own and photo copy it and hand it out as their own..

How about the people that subscribe to blogging services that post for them? I have seen the same exact blog pop up with different users that subscribe to the same service... what does that say??


Oct 31, 2013 02:07 AM
Pam Graham
All Real Estate Options - Jacksonville, FL
Jacksonville, Clay & St Johns Counties

I had an agent steal a blog post of mine and put it on her site. She said since it was on the internet, she thought she could copy it. She removed it quickly. It makes you wonder what their thought process is.

I love words with friends and I will look you up on there. I'm not afraid to have my butt whooped or to whoop butt, so beware. :)

Oct 31, 2013 02:38 AM
Drick Ward Property Management / Broker Assoc
NEPTUNE REALTY - Virginia Beach, VA
"RealtorDrick" - Experienced Representation

Thanks for you post!

Oct 31, 2013 03:19 AM
Katerina Gasset
The Gasset Group & Get It Done For Me Virtual Services - Provo, UT
Amplify Your Real Estate & Life Dreams!

In defense of Rand Paul- most of the time politicians have their speeches written for them and have an editor to review them and many times, they are given the speech right as they enter a stage to deliver it from. I don't know if or what actually happened as I was not there and neither was Rachel Maddow who is very vocal about hating anyone with a libertarian flare to them. So she is not a credible source either. 

For AR- you are allowed to quote others and even newspapers, etc as long as you attribute the quote with quotation marks and state who the author of that quote was. 

There are also many public domain quotes and content that you don't need to attribute to an author. It would be nice if one would do so because it goes to your ethics and principles. Do you know you are using someone else's writings and pretending they are your own? Do you sleep well at night? 

Stealing articles and content though, is plageurism, is illegal and ruins not just your credibility but your being as well for you have to live with your conscience. 

There is so much content in our own brains that one does not ever need to steal content or anything else for that matter. 

Oct 31, 2013 04:04 AM
Michael Ha Elmhurst
Rego Park, Forest Hills, Jackson Heights, Corona, Middle Village - Elmhurst, NY
Woodside, Maspeth

I could not agree more.. especially in the online media - - we are but naked and vulnerable to plagiarism... Chaps my hide

Oct 31, 2013 04:50 AM
Gene Mundt, IL/WI Mortgage Originator - FHA/VA/Conv/Jumbo/Portfolio/Refi
NMLS #216987, IL Lic. 031.0006220, WI Licensed. APMC NMLS #175656 - New Lenox, IL
708.921.6331 - 40+ yrs experience

Kerrie:  I think it's great that you wrote this article.  It gives us insight into what issues AR is faced with ... how AR chooses to face them ... and the number of issues that arise.  It made me think ... and also teaches me to be patient.  You're acting on our behalf maybe even more than we know  ...


Oct 31, 2013 05:18 AM
Christine Smith
Buyers Brokers Only LLC - www.BuyersBrokersOnly.com - Canton, MA
Exclusive Buyer Agent & Attorney, Canton, MA

Kerrie...seems I'm late to the party but I've been following this story (which has nothing to do with Rachel Maddow's politics and everything to do with Rand Paul reading speeches that are verbatim from articles online without attribution - that's plagiarism whether he did it or his speechwriters did) and I thought of AR myself each time I listened to the story.  

I think you're kind to cut people some slack and as you say the community has to have some trust.

But, my kids learned in elementary school & middle school that it was NOT OK to copy and paste information - whether its online or otherwise.  So I can't figure out that if they know this is wrong, how could a grown adult professional not know?  

Oct 31, 2013 05:56 AM
Jeanne Dufort
Coldwell Banker Lake Country - Madison, GA
Madison and Lake Oconee GA

Its not about politics - its about character and the law.

Do not copy. Period.

You may quote, with attributon, of course.

You may not copy.

What's hard about that?

Oct 31, 2013 06:06 AM
Ellen Caruso
Daniel Gale Sotheby's International Realty - Glen Head, NY

Kerrie, Let something inspire you.....but make your own connection to it! Be original!

Oct 31, 2013 06:50 AM
Graig Griffin, SIOR
Utah Advisors | Windermere Commercial - Salt Lake City, UT
Commercial Real Estate - Utah and Nevada

Thank you, this is something that plagues our industry - and not just text.  My team produces custom cartography, aerial photography, and video and we are constantly coping with theft.  Sad thing is, we SHARE on request and in most cases will give a free license to use our material fully re-branded (to build industry connection and collaboration).

Something to think about beyond the simple right and wrong of it:

We now have a zero tolerance policy and any violation goes straight to our attorney who notifies  the perp's brokerage, and files a complaint with both the local Realtor board and the State Division of Real Estate. Then we let the client know plaigarized materials have been used in their marketing and a cease and desist order has been issued.  You can imagine how they feel when they are ordered to remove any marketing materials...  It becomes a very costly error in judgement.

Ideally, brokerages should include a copyright and terms of use section in thier independent contractor agreements to put agents on notice.

Thanks for posting!

Oct 31, 2013 07:15 AM
Debe Maxwell, CRS
Savvy + Company (704) 491-3310 - Charlotte, NC

Kerrie, I'm SO glad you posted this!  Believe it or not, I recently found a post that someone took from me here (not even a member here!) and posted it on Trulia!  I shared my original with T and then the thief's post and demanded that they immediately remove it. It was removed within hours.

I'm always shocked at the response from the offenders though - "Well, you should take it as a compliment!"  or "Oh, I found it on Google.  If it's there, I can use it!"  How does every professional NOT KNOW THIS?!! 

I'm with you, it chaps my hide too!

Oct 31, 2013 02:10 PM