Plagiarism is not a new thing. It’s been around forever, and unfortunately we see examples quite regularly... and the VA Industry is in no way exempt from this practice.
Personally, it’s something I abhor (yeah, I know that’s strong, but that’s how I feel). Think about it – if you’ve spent time and money developing a website, writing content, creating engaging social media, and sourcing images (or even creating your own), it sucks big time when you flick open the internet and see it staring back at you with someone else’s name on it!
Believe me, I know exactly how it feels – I’ve been there and done that.
Being married to a photographer, I can tell you that nothing annoyed my husband more than people deciding to ‘borrow’ his images – which happened time and time again. What they were effectively doing was stealing, and I’m sure no one would be happy with that! A lot of the images that were used without permission were his aerial photographs which captured our amazing coastal town and surrounds from a bird’s eye view. To get great aerial images, he didn’t just launch a drone up and snap away… no, no, no… he actually hired a plane or chopper when the weather and light was perfect (and that may take weeks to set up) and hung out of the side taking medium format (film) images. So you can imagine how he felt when he saw his images on other business’s websites and advertising (even blatantly hanging in frames)!
You might be wondering why I am telling you this story. The reason is that no matter what you ‘borrow’, whether it’s content, images or – in some instances – directly copying another website, what you are doing is pretty much stealing from the creator.
As well as being unethical and wrong, there are repercussions that anyone doing this may not be aware of… so I’m going to spell it out here:
Images – even if it’s your website designer who is at fault, you are liable and legally responsible for ensuring that the images are licensed correctly, and failure to do this could result in a fine. Yes, you can definitely take advantage of free image sites such as Unsplash, Pixabay or Pexels to avoid any issues (provided said images are subject to a Free Media License Agreement), or you can purchase images yourself from stock photography websites such as Storyblocks.
Content / Text – I am going to spell this out to you… just DON’T copy other websites, or their pieces of content. Write your own. If you do decide to flout the rules and take chunks of copy from other websites (or copy entire websites – whether that’s you or your designer), at the very least, you will severely damage your ability to rank on SEO because Google doesn’t take kindly to copied content. Yes, even if you have an agreement with said person you are copying. More seriously though, don’t be surprised if you receive a takedown notice and have your website disabled all together. Or worse, both of those AND a significant fine.
Social Media – if you love what someone else has posted on social media, please don’t post it as your own. Always attribute the source – ALWAYS! It’s just plain bad manners not to do so.
Be creative, be unique, be original… it doesn’t take much to do the right thing.