What happens when you steal someone’s work?


We live in the age of content overload. It is impossible for most people to keep up with a single feed, let alone multiple accounts across numerous platforms. Add to this the thousands of websites publishing tens of thousands of articles, each vying for the almighty click, and it’s no wonder people in 2018 would still believe people might not notice plagiarism. After all, nobody has time for everything.

Professionals never plagiarize. Professionals believe their purpose is to create, so they would never think to copy the work of another because it could never be a fitting representation of their own creativity.

The amateur, however, lacks this mindset. The amateur wants to create and impress at the same. They take on more than they can handle and refuse to disappoint. They mean well but lack the ability to follow through on their commitments because they have not yet developed the skills needed to do so. They also haven’t been able to realize and/or admit this to themselves.

Here’s the reality of plagiarism in music writing in 2018…

Every music publicist worth working with has become a master of Google alerts and traditional online research. There is not a single post about their clients they cannot find because proving they got coverage for their client is crucial to their continued success. In short, they see everything.

When a new post appears that resembles or outright steals from another post, that publicist then contacts the author of the original post, as well as their editor. Together, those three decide how they wish to proceed.

There are three ways these situations tend to be handled:

1. No one does anything and the plagiarized post remains up.

2. The editor of the offending site is contacted and made aware of the situation, thus transferring the responsibility of taking action to them and their site.

3. The alleged plagiarizer is contacted directly, often by the publicist who discovered the similarities or the editor of the site whose content was stolen, demanding answers

Of these options, the second method of response tends to be the most beneficial. Once the editor of the offending site is made aware of the problem they typically remove the plagiarized post and confront their writer. More often than not, the offending writer is then removed from the site’s contributor pool.

…But the fallout does not end there.

The music industry is small, and the music journalism community is even smaller. It is not a lie to say everyone knows everyone, even if they don’t know them on a personal level. As soon as plagiarism allegation arise the offender – otherwise known as the plagiarizer – may find it difficult to continue pursuing their work in music writing. After all, what site would want to work with someone who steals other writers’ work? What publicist or label or artist would want someone incapable of creating original content to cover their latest release?

Many who plagiarize claim they did so not out of a desire to mislead, but rather to make their deadlines and otherwise please those who demand they produce content. While this reasoning is understandable to an extent it does not make stealing okay or otherwise acceptable. It is far more professional to admit you are incapable of meeting a deadline or otherwise finishing something you were assigned than it is to lie about how you completed the work. Lies will get you nowhere in the business. Just don’t it.

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.