Hello friend! Today we are delving into some deep waters. I will be discussing blog plagiarism and copyright infringement. Because these waters are fairly muddy, the right answer is often not clear. Therefore I will give you some tips on how to stay safe, protect your content, and avoid a bad reputation!

Now I am not a lawyer. In fact, even a bit of legal-eze makes my head spin. Therefore I will not be spouting out laws in this post. I will refer you to legalzoom for that. However I will share my experiences and provide some helpful tips.

Simple Tips to Avoid Blog Plagiarism | Ugly side of blogging | polished whimsy | everyday style blog

Blog Plagiarism: My Experience

Last year I had another blogger accuse me of copying her work. She thought a post I had done was very similar to one she had done, including some of the same items. While I could see the similarity in the post, I know in my heart that I did not do it to copy her. In fact I had done a post like this in the past. Furthermore, I had seen multiple other girls do similar posts. So it definitely was not a post that was unique to her account.

Now to her credit, she did it in a very calm and low-key manner. Instead of calling me out on a post or a comment, she sent me a private message with her concern. However, the fact was I did NOT copy her work. While I could see how my post was similar to hers, I know I did not consciously take it from her post. But that leaves me in a gray area: did I subconsciously copy her? Perhaps…

Nonetheless, it was a devastating blow to my blogging experience. I absolutely adored this blogger. I was probably her biggest fan. I had purchased many items she had showcased. She definitely was a huge inspiration for me. Therefore, for her to think this of me was so disheartening, mostly because I knew I could never change her mind. She firmly believed I copied her work.

The most difficult part was moving forward. After this interaction, I felt paralyzed. I didn’t know what to do. Was anything I did original? Was I unknowingly offending every blogger out there? I was scared to post anything. And when I did post, I felt obligated to defend or explain every outfit/pairing/set-up. It was quite a stressful ordeal.

Blog Plagiarism: What’s Original?

In this ever-growing world of fashion (and other) bloggers, what is actually an original idea? I see countless posts (mine included) of a cute outfit in front of a colorful wall, or a blogger holding up a product in focus with the rest of the frame blurred out. But none of us truly thought of this idea as an original thought. We likely saw it (on a blog, magazine, etc.) and either consciously or sub-consciously decided to do a similar post.

So where do we draw the line? It’s difficult because in blogging, plagiarism can happen beyond just copying one’s words. Is it plagiarism if you take a photo in the same pose as another blogger? How about in the same location? Or similarly styled outfit? It’s hard to say what’s reasonably similar and what’s plagiarism. So to stay safe, follow these tips.

Blog Plagiarism Tip 1: Strive for Originality

Do your best to come up with original content. Instead of using a picture from Pinterest and simply stating “PC: Pinterest,” take your own pretty shot of flowers. Better yet, get more creative and post something unique, instead of that ubiquitous shot of peonies.

Blog Plagiarism Tip 2: Ask Permission

If you are using someone else’s photo or exact words/concept on your blog, ask permission first! I did this for my red stripes and leopard print post. In order to use Brooklyn Blonde’s photo on my blog and Instagram, I messaged her and asked permission.

Blog Plagiarism Tip 3: Give Credit

If you know you got your inspiration from someone else, credit them! After my experience last year, I make it a point to always credit someone for inspiring me. This goes to build long term friendships and working relationships with other bloggers. Just be careful if you are always getting you inspiration from someone else. You want to have your own point of view right? See tip 1 above!

Blog Plagiarism Tip 4: Assume Innocence

I love the statement of “assume innocence.” It is a method of dealing with any concern or confrontation. To use this method, you must first assume that the “offender” has done whatever act of offense in innocence. If you come from a mindset of assuming that the other person “copied” your work from innocence, you can approach the conversation more calmly. Thus, resulting in an easy resolution.

Sometimes people have every intention of crediting someone else, but may just forget in the moment of writing a post. This happens to me countless times, especially during an Instagram story. In the effort to get all my words out coherently and within the time constraint, I may forget to shout out the person who inspired a look. So knowing that I have myself forgotten to do so, I don’t hold it against someone else if they don’t either!

I hope my tips will save you from any blog plagiarism or copyright infringement drama. If you have other tips, please comment below to share!

2 comments on “The Ugly Side of Blogging: Blog Plagiarism”

  1. Elsie, this is such a great post and wonderful tips to protect yourself. I often write posts that are “Inspired by..” and I have an actual category for those…where my outfit or the topic I am discussing is plain old triggered and inspired by someone else’s work. But in this great big world and the world of blogging, how many ideas really are original? Also, the whole concept of collective consciousness comes to mind with issues like these. People really do think of the same ideas at the same time in different parts of the world completely and totally uninfluenced by anyone else. How can that be copying or plagiarism? It has happened often where I have written about a specific topic and then a week later I will see a blogger write about the exact same topic…some are bloggers that follow me and some are not. I have never once thought they copied me! I only have thought, “Oh wow, we are right on the same page with the same mindset. Very cool.” I am so sorry that you have had this negative experience, but I do love the way you have handled it and are moving forward in ways that protect yourself from any future misinterpretation. Thank you for sharing your experience as it will surely help others!


    • Shelbee, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. Per usual they are well thought out (hehe) and challenging. I like that you too don’t automatically jump to the conclusion that you were “copied.” I think you are right about the collective consciousnesses. Sometimes multiple people think of the same idea completely on their own! Thank you for your support. I will keep on doing my thing and trying to be as original or better yet, true to myself, as I can be!

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