Whether we’ve accidentally plagiarized someone, whether taking this photo or that photo is stealing, whether someone’s blog design can be similar or stolen, whether having the same blog post ideas near the same time is weird, whether bloggers can truly be original. It’s very confusing, and I don’t think we talk about it often, so let’s talk about it: how fine a line is there between plagiarism and inspiration?
(Also, a brief hello to the 160+ blog followers I gained yesterday (and is still going steady)! I’m still a bit floored at how much my notifications were blowing up after getting featured on WordPress’s Discover page, and I feel slightly intimidated, but oh so thankful!)
I think we as bloggers are always a bit uneasy when it comes to plagiarism. Most of us have been taught outside of blogging that plagiarism is a bad thing and we should never do it, and we definitely don’t want to plagiarize people in the blogosphere since most people don’t stand people who plagiarize, and you really don’t want to get on the bad side of the blogosphere…or else.
I think it’s a good idea to just talk about what we think is the difference is between plagiarism and inspiration, especially since some people claim plagiarism or copying when it really isn’t! I remember reading in a comment section somewhere that a blogger had told another blogger they couldn’t use the phrase “Let’s Chat” because they used it and it was copying, which, clearly isn’t true. Lots of people use the phrases “Let’s Chat!” or “Let’s Talk!” or “Chat With Me!” to get people to comment, and those phrases don’t “belong” to any specific blogger. So, obviously, I feel like we need to sort this out!
I feel like with blog posts, we worry less about outright plagiarism and more about accidental copying and when do we have to credit people.
I know I personally get half of my ideas from other bloggers or being inspired by people’s discussion posts, and the other half of my ideas are just from me and my constantly thinking mind, so I assume that most people do the same thing. I remember I had a brief freak-out when I posted my first discussion because someone who commented on my posts once had written a discussion about the VERY SAME topic that was published the day before, and I was so worried that she’d think I had copied her, even though I wasn’t even following her! It sounds silly now, but it’s definitely a valid fear that we all have!
I know I have a certain process when it comes writing a post that’s inspired by another blogger’s post.
If I’m inspired by a certain post or if I get an idea reading a person’s post, I’ll usually write it down since I don’t immediately write posts for ideas I have at that moment. When I finally do write the post, I try to tackle it in a different manner, like doing it in a list format or looking at the pros and cons or examining a different subject under the general discussion topic that I don’t think the other blogger did. If it’s a more personal post, like if someone explains how to get physical ARCs or tips for reviewing books, I’ll just explain my way of doing things. Usually, if I’m heavily inspired by a post – like if the only reason I’m writing the post is because I’m inspired or the topic is super specific – then I’ll credit them in the beginning of the post by linking back to their post or blog, and then I’m all done! I personally have had no issues thus far, so I think it works!
If you’re really unsure, just ask!
If you feel super uneasy about what you’re posting or you’re just an anxious person in general, just shoot the blogger an e-mail! The book blogging community is genuinely kind, so don’t feel terrified. I’ve had people ask me if they could write posts that were inspired by my own (even though they weren’t even my original ideas) in comment sections, and it’s perfectly fine!
Link back to the person’s post!
I’d say this is for people who are less anxious about plagiarizing. Just link back to the person’s post or Tweet or Instagram picture or whatever, and continue in with your merry way! If you link to a person’s post, they’ll be notified about it and will probably check it out and give you a thumbs up or thumbs down (hopefully).
Check your post against theirs!
If you read their post and you read your post, and they don’t sound similar or repeat the same information in a different order or writing style, then you’re fine! If not, that might mean that the topic has been overdone or you should talk about a different subject regarding the discussion topic.
Don’t panic about publishing similar posts in a short amount of time!
Really, you shouldn’t. If there’s zero way the blogger and you can be connected regarding post ideas, then there’s no reason for you to worry! Sometimes, great minds think alike, and we all talk about the same subjects or something huge happens in the blogosphere or YA community, so everyone has chosen to talk about it or, who knows, maybe it’s just a crazy coincidence. If you know you didn’t plagiarize, don’t worry about plagiarizing.
I think we’ve all heard our fair share of blogging horror stories.
You know, the ones where a blogger gets sued because the use a picture in one of their blog posts and the photographer decides to take them to court over it. Obviously, we don’t want that to happen to us, but it’s always a tricky subject! I know I leaned to error of my ways when my first ever borders were stolen right off of Google. If you don’t know, it’s not a good idea to just take things off Google, even if you credit it, since the person didn’t give you permission to use it. Fortunately, no one cared, I learned what I was doing was wrong, and I replaced those borders with ones I created myself!
I know I personally use my own bookish photography in my posts just for the fact that I get antsy about using pictures of book covers. I usually take them from Goodreads since they’re just out in the open and I haven’t heard a story of anyone getting in trouble for using their covers, but if I have the book, I’m more likely to just take a picture of it instead! This also applies to my graphics – my featured images are created using Canva and most of my graphics are from Freepik.
Take your own pictures!
I just mentioned above that I take my own photos, and I highly suggest doing that! It’s a fun hobby, in my opinion, and I just love taking and looking at gorgeous pictures of books! For those out there who are already panicking because they don’t think they’re good enough at taking pictures, here’s a link to a tutorial I wrote a couple months back!
Use stock photo images!
It is possible to use free stock photo images! I don’t use them at all and I’m not well-versed in it, but Molly @ Molly’s Book Nook talks about it in her post about her essential blog resources, and she has such gorgeous featured images, so don’t worry that it won’t look as good as your own photography!
Freepik is honestly my best and most useful resource! Basically, people upload gorgeous graphics on the site, you can search through them according to what you’re looking for, download and manipulate them in whatever way you please, and as long as you credit the artist, it’s free and easy to use! All of my graphics are taken from Freepik, so I highly recommend the site, obviously.
Search up blogs that have free downloads!
When I first got an arrow, it was actually from a blog that supplied free downloads, and though I don’t use it anymore, it was a great resource! There are blogs out there dedicated to designing graphics and templates and social media icons and you can just download them and use them to your fancy! Bridget @ Bridget & Books post has some websites, and I’ve heard that Pinterest is good as well!
What do you think is the difference between plagiarism and inspiration for you or when it comes to blogging in general? What are some ways you avoid it?