I’ve noticed a disturbing trend that has been growing right along with the Internet: Lifting printed material off of Web pages and passing it off as own’s own writing.

This actually happened not once, but twice this week at the magazine. One author “wrote” an article for us that turned out to be, basically word-for-word, a company’s educational brochure, which had been posted online. Another author took material directly from a Web site and inserted it into her article. And, a couple of months ago, someone who spoke to a reporter spoke words directly from a Web site, pretending they were her own.

Our editors check to make sure the material we publish is original (both of the articles that came in this week were found out, and will not run in MASSAGE).

I have to believe that some people simply don’t understand what plagiarism is, and how to put together original material. So I offer this, for those who are creating Web sites or marketing materials:

– If you see text on a Web site that you want to use, contact the site’s owner and request permission to use it. Then put quotation marks around the text when you post it on your site, and attribute the material to the original site. You should, however, make sure that the text was original to the site you saw it on, and not lifted from somewhere else. This rule also applies to text in print form.

– Generally, copyright law allows us to use up to 100 words of someone else’s work without obtaining permission to do so. Attribution (where the material came from) must still be noted.

– If you’re writing an article for a newspaper or magazine, follow the steps above, and also hand in a source list so the editors can fact-check your material.

– If a reporter asks you for quotes for an article, make sure they’re your own, not something you’ve read.

In this electronic age, access to information is easier than ever. Using it without permission, though, is a legal liability to the one who “borrows” it, and disrespectful to the one who created it.

Until next time!