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Oh Those Plagiarists…

Grandma, I think you’ll get a kick out of this post. Just recently you made a comment about your frustration with folks who steal content.

Being new to Xomba, I decided to set a daily schedule of adding Xomblurbs/Xombytes. It seems that the successful Xombies (??) are those who post new content on a regular schedule. Wanting to become successful, I decided to do what successful people do.

Things were moving along swimmingly until I went to click “Submit” for one of my Xomblurbs and got logged out of my account. Thinking it was a computer glitch, I tried to log back in only to be met with a notification that my account either was not yet activated or blocked.

What??!! I knew I had activated the account so the only other alternative was that my account was blocked. Not knowing why I immediately sent an email to the Xomba team using their “Contact Us” link.

While waiting for a response, I looked over my Xomblurbs to make sure that I didn’t violate any of their terms. For the life of me I couldn’t figure out what I did wrong. All I was doing was linking to my previously written articles and/or blog posts. There were a few links to news articles and TV videos, but nothing that would be considered a violation of their terms.

The Long Awaited Response (actually they responded rather quickly)

Here’s the response that I received from Xomba:

Your account was blocked because we have found a lot of your content to be copied from official website. Law websites such as “(website link removed because I’m in the process of dealing with these plagiarists)” and others as well.

WTD??!! (In our house we say WTD instead of the more popular WTF. WTD stands for “What the Dude?!” Don’t ask, it’s a long story.)

I sat there with my mouth open for a moment. I was down right angry when I saw that response. Accusing me of copying from another site? My integrity was being questioned. What a royal slap in the face!

So, without thinking, I responded as follows:

That is not true. Each of the articles I posted today I wrote.

My name is Felicia A. Williams and if you look on Suite 101 I am the insurance Feature Writer.

I did not plagiarize any of the information. I was promoting my own articles. Is that against the terms? Xomba

Without waiting for a response, I stewed a little more and wrote:

Please go through my Xomblurbs. There is not a single link to the website you mentioned.

I’m very upset at being falsely accused of plagiarism.

You must be confusing my account with someone else.

All of the Xomblurbs I linked to today and most of them on the past few days were my own works at Suite 101 and eHow. Additionally I have links to my own blogs.

There are a few links to Fancast and some news items but most of my links are my own work.

Felicia Williams

To which Xomba replied:

I am not questioning your links. What was copied was your summary before your links. These summaries have the exact same content as the website links that I have sent you. All summaries must be completely in your own words.

And then I wrote:

They are my words. I wrote the article in 2007. If you look at the other site they copied it in 2008.

I have almost 200 articles on Suite 101. They are high quality articles and unfortunately unscrupulous people plagiarize them. I feel I’m being punished for writing quality work.

Are you saying that I cannot use my own summaries in the Xomblurbs? If I write an article and then promote it on Xomba, do I have to then re-write my own words?

Xomba’s response:

No no…we found your summaries on other websites. We just wanted to get your attention and let you know that this is not allowed. All of your words need to be your own. If they are…believe you but we needed to show you where we are finding your words and if you are coping them…please refrain from it. That’s all.

Sorry for the inconvenience and I hope that you understand what happened.

Cease and DesistThose Darned Plagiarists

Man oh man! I was both outraged and thankful. I’m outraged because plagiarists are causing honest folks to have to prove they are honest. On the other hand, I’m thankful that Xomba is a reputable site that does not accept plagiarism and have pointed me in the direction of thieves who are plagiarizing my material. What really ticks me off is that the first site Xomba linked to is an attorney’s site. My goodness, you would think that an attorney would know better!

Now I’ve got to go through the process of issuing cease and desist letters. Will it work? I don’t know, but I can’t let them get away with it. Oh well, something else on my “To Do” list to get done.

P.S. Xomba reinstated my account so I’m no longer blocked.

{ 16 comments… add one }
  • Deanna October 16, 2009, 4:00 pm

    Felicia, I can certainly understand how you feel about this incident as it has happened to me on another site. I had to prove the material I was supposedly copying was mine. It can be very irritating when you are accused of stealing your own writing. That is why I don’t use pen names anymore either – it only confuses the sites more. I hope they get this fixed for you soon.
    .-= Deanna´s last blog ..LoveToKnow.com Update =-.

    • Felicia October 16, 2009, 5:24 pm

      DeAnna, you make a good case for using real names instead of pen names. Unfortunately, for some sites I prefer pen names. I guess I’ll really have to work hard to prove the work is mine.

  • Grandma October 16, 2009, 4:52 pm

    Oh I did get a little chuckle out of that story Felicia. The attorney probably has an underling who did that.

    Isn’t there even software now that will scramble and rearrange text a la “spin” now? I never take on orders for spinning because to me it rips off the writer But people will continue to do that as they will continue to steal text because it is so easy to do that.

    I have seen some type of copying protection out there. If you try to copy any text a little sign comes up that says it is copyrighted material and it will not let you copy. But someone could still just copy it over to another window by typing it over. So there is no real solution.

    Hopefully clients might understand that problem. But if they paid you to write them custom copy and then it shows up somewhere else they may assume you resold it at first. I would put in a caveat on any purchase that acts as a disclaimer against plagarism occuring once a text has been put out on the Internet.

    It is similar to the problem of when a writer has written about a topic multiple times and it looks like it has just been rewritten or copied. The old example of – how many ways can one describe how to climb stairs? Try to do it differently a hundred times; not possible. Some of the verbiage will be identical to previously written things.

    Also since great minds think alike it could be possible the piece Xomba thought was copied may have been written by someone else.

    • Felicia October 16, 2009, 5:28 pm

      The unfortunate thing about my situation is that my work was copied word for word. Pretty sad, but I guess it’s something online freelance writers will have to deal with sooner or later.

  • Nick October 16, 2009, 8:53 pm

    Hi Felicia,

    I’m the owner of Xomba.com. I apologize for the mix up. Please rest assured that our staff works hard to make sure no one is being plagiarized on Xomba. Sometimes it is necessary to “temporarily” block an account just make sure. Glad to see our employee was doing their job and that the issued was cleared up asap. It’s frustrating dealing with people who steal content and we certainly do not tolerate it. Just please keep in mind we do this to protect you and other writers out there. The alternative would be to just let people post whatever they wanted. Copied or not.

    Welcome to Xomba and rest assured the incident will not happen again.

    Nick Veneris

    • Felicia October 16, 2009, 11:05 pm

      Thanks for your comment, Nick.

      I understand why it happened and after calming down, I don’t fault Xomba for doing what they had to do. I’m just frustrated that plagiarists get away with plagiarizing and us honest folks are left holding the bag having to prove that we are honest.

      Since I’ve been reinstated, I’ve gone back to Xombing (??). I think I’m developing a whole new lingo when talking about Xomba. 😉

  • Cassie Tuttle October 17, 2009, 2:57 pm

    Interesting story. I can understand your initial frustration and anger. But good for Xomba’s policy.

    With instant access to information that just seems to be floating out there in space for all to snatch, plagiarism is far too common.

    I’m copyediting a manuscript at the moment for a well-respected publishing house, and at times, I can tell when the author’s voice changes (especially in his footnotes). Out of curiosity, I’ve copied and pasted his words into a Google search — and there they are on Wikipedia, Free Dictionary.com, and various other sites.

    By they way, this is a treatise written by … a lawyer! AND … one of the subtopics is intellectual property (including patents, trademarks, and COPYRIGHTS)!

    This presents a unique challenge for me, as a copyeditor.
    .-= Cassie Tuttle´s last blog ..Even the Big Guys Need a Good Copyeditor =-.

  • Crystal October 17, 2009, 4:18 pm

    It’s nice to see Xomba so on top of this but really too bad that you have the extra (and I’m sure unneeded) work of the cease and desist process. Was just on the Xomba site and, as you say, you have REALLY been busy Xombing! Kudos to you – keep up the good work. You’ve inspired me once again!
    .-= Crystal´s last blog ..Financial Honesty – First Step Toward Financial Freedom =-.

  • prerna October 19, 2009, 2:54 am

    Wow, Felicia!! Can quite imagine your anger and frustration.. I faced a few instances of plagiarism where I had to send C&D letters and everything.. Now I set up Google Alerts for all my articles.. Tiresome and extra work.. bt gotta do it.. Glad to know Xomba takes a serious view of a serious issue.. Best wishes!
    .-= prerna´s last blog ..Being a Mom: A Book Review of What to Expect The First Year =-.

    • Felicia October 19, 2009, 8:01 am

      I guess its time for me to set up Google alerts for mine too. *heavy sigh*

      Oh well, I guess it comes along with the online writing territory.

  • Cyn October 20, 2009, 2:33 pm

    Oooh, I know how frustrated you were when you got that message. I’ve only been accused of plagiarism once. It was at DS. I got fired up and shot off an irritated letter. Richard emailed me back immediately and apologized. “Total mistake,” he said.

    I have since found my work being “used” (read: stolen) by other sites. It’s annoying to know that lazy people are trying to make a buck off others’ hard work. I wish google had a way to submit plagiarism complaints online. I hate having to fax every time. 🙁

    Incidentally, at my house it’s “WTC.” Stands for “What the cheese?!” 😉
    .-= Cyn´s last blog ..Question of the Week: Can I Get Paid For eHow Referrals? =-.

  • Christina Crowe February 24, 2010, 7:43 pm

    Wow, I’m a tad frustrated as well! I noticed my earnings had dropped for a few of my eHow articles. When doing a quick search on Google, I discovered that 4 (FOUR!!!) people had plagiarized the article. I was able to contact support on two of the websites that they plagiarized on (they were similar websites like Associated Content). Luckily staff was able to remove the plagiarized content (along with other articles that were copied).

    However, the other two websites that had plagiarized my eHow article are personal blogs (and I can’t seem to find where to contact each blog owner). Is there another way to notify the hosting company maybe or someone else that the work was plagiarized and then have it taken down? I’m a bit outraged to be honest, since it was my highest earning article (I had made about $32 the first month it was up) and now I make nothing at all from that particular article.


    • Felicia February 25, 2010, 4:17 am

      Did you do a Who is search to find out who owns the blog? It should give you the name, address, email and hosting company information.

  • Ignatius February 25, 2010, 10:37 am

    The “nuclear option” is to notify Google. If they are Adsense publishers, Google takes a dim view of copied work. Just be sure that they really did flat out scrape your work off the other website. If they simply have the same information you have, it will be difficult to prove your case. You can’t copyright the facts in your article, but you can copyright the way you present them.

    There is some information on how to report an Adsense publisher here:

  • Ignatius February 25, 2010, 10:44 am

    This is just a follow-on to the previous comment. I know the spam filter hates comments with more than one link so I split this out.

    If the website doesn’t use Adsense, they are probably still looking for traffic from Google. You can notify Google about the violation. They will de-list copyright abusers, but it may take a little time. However, losing their search engine traffic will cut off whatever revenue source they use. Unfortunately, the web is loaded with pirates. Here is a link for this type of reporting:

  • Christina Crowe February 25, 2010, 12:15 pm

    Great! Thanks everyone. They _definitely_ scraped off my work. The two articles are exactly the same as my article is. I’ll try to do a Whois on them and see what I can do about Google.

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