In this post, we will be discussing the issue of Online Publishing on websites such as Amazon, and the risks a writer takes when choosing this method of publication.

Plagiarism: Why Worry?

The Pros of Online Publishing are simple. It’s cheap, fast, and accessible, it bypasses the middle man and reaches a wide international audience at the push of a button. However, the dangers of plagiarism across the internet are almost entirely unavoidable. Although online platforms like Amazon endeavour to remove any plagiarised material, this is often only able to be done when the website admin are alerted of the infringing material. Even in cases where the administration is notified of plagiarised material and it is immediately taken down, it’s all too easy for the offender to simply re-upload the content under different title/s.

For example, Penenberg writes that one particular author had a total of 19 ebooks that were entirely stolen, often from free sites such as Literotica. This isn’t a new issue for Amazon, as the options for editing and selling online material was never fully secured so that only the author was able to do so.

This is also an issue for the larger self-publishing industry as a whole. In the age of technology, with new loopholes being discovered faster than enhanced security, the absolute guarantee of secure online material seems to be getting further and further out of reach.

This issue of intellectual property is not only a problem for the author, but for the customer. Referring back to Penenberg’s article, a customer recently purchased ‘Dracula’s Amazing Adventure’, only to discover it was just a plagiarised version of the original ‘Dracula’, available for free online. So then, how much are online platforms such as Amazon to blame for the lack of security? One could say quite a lot. But in saying that, no matter the advances in copyright and online security, an author will always be inevitably running the risk of plagiarism when posting their work on internet platforms. And it doesn’t look much like these online platforms are willing to assume complete responsibility in the cases that it does happen.

Plagiarism – What Now?

Despite the lack of lawful punishment in regards to online plagiarism, Amazon and other such online material distributors have the ethical obligation to maintain the responsibility for authors, their potential buyers and anyone else using their service. As a service that is creating revenue from the distribution and purchase of others’ writing, Amazon, along with other such services is certainly lacking in the security department.

Suggestions such as all material being put through a ‘plagiarism checker’ before it is uploaded have been tossed around, but the reality of it is, implementing such processes means the host site (Amazon) has to sacrifice more time, and consequently more money, which they would prefer to put back into the revenue rather than securing the legitimacy of the online material.

Amazon is being confronted on its laziness and tendency to do the bare minimum required, and hopefully, they will pick up their act and recreate a safe and more secure environment for online publishing, selling, buying and sharing.

Ways to avoid plagiarism

1. Link To Yourself

Linking to yourself discourages plagiarism in a way that even the most advanced copyright enforcement strategies can’t. When publishing online (and even in print if it’s not too obtrusive) include a link to another one of your works. It doesn’t have to be extreme or break the flow of your writing, just find a subtle way of linking your work back to yourself.

2. Write Personally

Particularly in non-fiction writing, a good anti-plagiarism tool is to include stories or even little pieces of information about yourself in your writing. Doing this means that for someone to copy your work, they would have to put in the time and effort needed to edit out the personal information in a way that the piece of writing still flows.

3. Shift Your Audience/Tone

In many cases, the likelihood of plagiarism can depend somewhat on the nature of your target audience. For example, an adult audience may not be as likely to plagiarise as a youth audience. I.e. the more educated your audience is, the less likely they are to plagiarise.

However, if you are not able or willing to change your target audience, you can try changing your tone or style. For instance, if you write for a teenage audience, try writing with a tone that sounds less like the voice of one of your readers. The downside to this approach is that while avoiding plagiarism, you may risk decreasing your works marketability.

4. Write Longer

Plagiarisers will look for a piece of writing that is short. Generally, they don’t want to waste their time reading long, in-depth paragraphs or editing large chunks of writing, so they will instead seek out something shorter. However, if your work relies on a short and sharp delivery, this approach may not be the best for you.

5. Have A Unique Style

A crucial technique. Although this may be a little hard, particularly for writers who do not have much (or any) reputation, this is a very important element to incorporate into your writing. Those looking to use the work of others will search for writing that is generic and fits perfectly into a popular demographic. Although it may take years, work on developing a voice that is unique to you and others will come to recognize it over time.

As nice as it would be to live in a world where everyone respects and values each other’s work,unfortunately this is not always the case. There is no absolute guarantee against plagiarism, but there is advice and guidelines that we can follow to armour our work as best we can.

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