If you’re an avid reader or participant of the online Personal Finance community, you’re probably aware that Nelson of Financial Uproar blew the lid of a huge plagiarism scandal that is nearly too blatant to be believed. Turns out Finance Fox — a blog that claims over 20,000 views per month and has been featured in national publications like Time and MoneySense — is significantly lacking original content. In fact, the author has plagiarized dozens (dare I say hundreds?) of work by other writers, namely Krystal of Give Me Back My Five Bucks. Since Eddie/Finance Fox has monetized his website and was being paid for some freelance projects, he’s essentially been profiting off stolen content for nearly two years.
Now, I don’t read Eddie’s blog and I didn’t even really know who he was before “Plagiarism Gate” (term coined by Joe of Timeless Finance), I’m just writing this post because I’ll need to link to it in the future. Plagiarism is one of the hazards of the internet, especially when you run a large blog. My blog has been plagiarized since its inception — on multiple blogs — but I’ve never dirtied my hands with a public-shaming like that happening to Finance Fox right now. Granted, none of those thieving my content run blogs with as much traffic as Finance Fox’s. There’s no point drawing attention to small blogs — even Krystal said Eddie’s 20,000 views/mo was nearly not worth the effort — because you run the risk of driving traffic to their blog only to have the scandal settle in the dust and the perpetrator will continue on their merry way. That’s why waiting for the right moment is nearly as important as taking any action at all.
If you’re plagiarizing my blog and I haven’t come after you, it’s for two reasons:
1. You’re too small to matter.
2. … so I’m waiting until it will ruin you.
Why plagiarism sucks:
When you plagiarize, it calls into question everything you’ve ever written.
I mean, who just copies one post? No one, that’s who, and Eddie was no exception. Because a copycat probably isn’t going to be caught the first time they steal something, or the second, and probably not the third either. Chances are they’ll get away with it again and again, until they get confident and then they’ll get sloppy, and that’s when they’ll get caught — as our friend Eddie “Finance Fox” learned the hard way.
The internet is forever.
Don’t think that anything you post online then delete is gone and won’t come back to haunt you later. It always can, and it probably will. How damaging it is depends on what you put up and in what context it reappears. You should be willing to stand behind anything you publish, because you’re going to have to face it later.
When Cait tweeted Eddie’s post that was plagiarized from one of Krystal’s, the first thing I did was save the webpages (both Eddie’s AND Krystal’s, because I am thorough!) and take multiple screenshots. This has proven useful in the past so it’s practically habit now. Long story short, I don’t really care if you take something down: if I’ve seen it, I’ve saved it.
If you do bad things, you will suffer bad consequences — even years later.
So now that we’ve established that your bad actions can’t be erased from the internet, let’s talk about how breaking the law and being a jerk will probably end badly for you. Trying to establish a career in personal finance with material that isn’t your own? Good luck. After Eddie’s plagiarism was brought to light, he was dropped as a freelance writer for Bargain Moose and kicked out of the PF online community Yakezie. It doesn’t matter that some of the posts were nearly 2 years old, turns out the statute of limitations on being a thieving jackass never expires. I want to point out that it isn’t even relevant whether or not the articles Eddie wrote for Bargain Moose were plagiarized or not — the fact that his personal blog boasted so much stolen content was enough to get every post of his removed from the website.
In short, even if you secure a contract or position in freelance writing or personal finance and submit all your own work, the fact that you stole content from another person at another time and published it in a completely different place, DOESN’T MATTER. Furthermore, the fact that you stole content years ago also DOESN’T MATTER.
Blaming it on someone else is cowardly and nearly as deplorable as the crime in the first place
Eddie issued a half-hearted pseudo apology for his plagiarism (no comments allowed, hence this post), where he essentially deflected blame to ghostwriters and tried to downplay his actions. I don’t even want to go into how freakin’ lazy it is to hire ghostwriters because I’m not even a lazy enough person to comprehend how that could be necessary, and that’s not the point here. We understand that there’s only so many ways to talk about paying of debt and saving for retirement, but there’s covering the same topic and then there’s covering the same words. Copy and pasting and entire article from another writer is NOT the same as writing a post on the same topic. Likewise, copying someone else’s style or format is equally deplorable, because frankly that’s just plagiarism with creative word changes.
Oh hey, I see you use colored subtitles and GIFs in every post, where did you think of that?
In case you didn’t read this wall of text and want the gist of what was said, here are the main points:
- Plagiarism sucks, and if you do it, you’re a sucky person.
- The internet is forever. Whatever you’ve shared can and will come back to you.
- It doesn’t matter when you committed a crime, you’re guilty.
- It doesn’t matter if you plagiarized some pieces and not others, you’re guilty.
- If you try to build a freelance or personal finance career on stolen content, it’s over.
- Everyone hates you, plagiarizer!
I don’t visit your blog to read my writing or the writing of others, I visit your blog to read YOURS.
Anyone that plagiarizes content or style does so because they’re lacking creativity on their own. It’s not something to be rewarded, or at the very least, ignored. If someone’s stealing from someone else, call them out, make them stop, and then unsubscribe.