Imitation – the Highest Form of Flattery?!

The internet is certainly a huge platform that provides a wealth of information for “free”, meaning that you can read, watch, or even write about it in your own words. However, many obviously do not know or maybe do not care where to draw the line between free use and plagiarism. And so the question arises as to whether imitation is really the highest form of flattery.

Here, at the Gentleman’s Gazette, we pride ourselves on providing unique and original content. While we understand that most research must derive from a source, recently, we had to deal with a number of incidents of plagiarism and now I was wondering what you, our readers, think about it.

Plagiarized Articles and Text

The most blatant form of plagiarism is to simply copy the entire work, word for word, without adding a single bit of your own information. While this might sound too amateurish to be true, you are probably surprised how often I have found entire articles of the Gentleman’s Gazette or major paragraphs on other blogs or websites. While it is even illegal for educational blogs to just copy an entire work without adding any additional information or comment, I have found commercial websites that copied entire articles.

Even though facts themselves cannot be copyrighted, the structure of an article is protected just like its wording.

Luckily, there are certain online tools like copyscape which help to identify plagiarized content on the world wide web.

Not too long ago, our article about Baron von Eelking was copied in its entirety. When I tried to contact to owner of the blog, I could not find an email address, and so I left a comment underneath the blog, notifying the owner that we would like him to remove the copied article from his blog. Although this comment was published and publicly visible in the first place, the owner deleted the comment after a couple of days, neither deleting the article nor contacting us. As a consequence, we filed an Article DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) Complaint.

Copied Francesco Maglia Text

Copied Francesco Maglia Text

The DMCA was designed to protect the creator of an original work and about a month after we filed it, we received a notice that the content had been removed.

Also, our article about Francesco Maglia umbrellas seems to be very popular, because we found one online shop that used 80% of our text verbatim, and simply put it together in a different order. When we contacted them, they apologized and added a link with a keyword which is helpful to us.

Another person simply took all the information, kept the structure and changed the wording. While this is not obviously illegal, we still think that you should always link back to the original article.

Since you enjoyed the information so much, be fair and link back to the original site – that’s hardly anything compared to the information and inspiration they provided to you!

So, obviously, there are ways to protect your work and sometimes it even helps to create more links to your site. It may be a bit time consuming in the beginning, especially when you do it for the first time. However, once you know how it works, it is a matter of minutes.

Plagiarized Pictures

Unlike with text, it is rather difficult to search for copied pictures. On the one hand, there are services like tumblr, where pictures are reposted millions of times every day and, on the other hand, it is technically still illegal to publish copyrighted pictures without consent if it is not covered by the fair use policy. This means that if you really want to protect pictures, do not post them online. However, pictures are very important in our opinion, and hence, we decided to add watermarks to many of our pictures. This way, people can at least see where it comes from.

Copied Town Country Pictures

Copied Town Country Pictures

The other day, I stumbled upon a commercial website that used our article about Town and Country Shoes and made a How to Match Shoes and Socks series out of it. They used all of our pictures and even  the content of the text was exactly the same – they even started with the same quote. When I politely notified them that they had used our pictures and information, we were just told that they had used copyscape and had not found anything that matched. Moreover, they only suggested to link to our site if we linked to them! Of course, we did not link to them since plagiarism should never be encouraged in that manner.

At the Gentleman’s Gazette, we try to disclose where the pictures came from and link back to the original source, unless pictures are in the public domain. Often, it is pretty difficult to find out who holds the copyright to a picture and where it was posted first. In that case, we post it, and if you know who owns the copyright, please tell us, so can get in touch with the owner.

Gentleman’s Gazette Picture Policy

Generally, we encourage all non-commercial websites, to use our pictures on their websites. Just be so kind to add a link to the original article on the Gentleman’s Gazette. Even if you are a commercial website, just contact us and we will most likely allow you to use our pictures.

We think this is a very fair policy and hope you do agree. In any case, we would love to hear what you think about the topic, so please leave a comment. Thank you!

2 replies
  1. Eddie says:

    Hi there,
    I work for a local camera store.
    We regularly host online photo competitions. To prevent entrants using images downloaded from other websites, we use a free service called Tineye . It’s a reverse image search engine, it’s not infallible, but has saved us from some potential embarrassment in the past.
    I imagine it would be an easy way for you to track who’s using your images without your authority.

    • Sven Raphael Schneider says:

      Dear Eddie,
      Thank you very much for this valuable tip! we shall certainly look into tineye.

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