This is plagiarism, right?

This weekend I noticed a tweet by Buy Sell Ads touting an article by 1st Web Designer that highlights some useful Google resources that can be used with WordPress. I thought to myself, “Interesting, that sounds similar to my article on WPCandy.”

It turned out it was quite similar. Too similar. The list is almost precisely the same as mine, the links are almost identical, and the few simple code snippets are identical. The general wording was slightly different and the author, Sufyan bin Uzayr, rearranged the order of the resources.

This is plagiarism, right?

I immediately commented on the article, which you can see a screenshot of below. It sat in moderation for quite some time, until the editor (after a series of emails) finally published it. This was my intial and only contact with 1st Web before they emailed me.

A few hours later, I received an email from the editor of 1st Web Designer, Rean John Uehara, that said the following encouraging statement:

Hi Brian,

This is really embarrassing. We will be taking down the article as soon as I talk about it with Dainis, probably within 24 hours. My apologies, I should have spotted it while reviewing.

But that didn’t last too long. The article didn’t come down, and I eventually recieved a couple more emails. You can see our entire correspondence below:

Hi Brian,

After hours of deliberation, it appears that the article published on our website wasn’t plagiarized. I’ve spent a good amount of time searching for similar topics and it only returned two. And since Google really doesn’t have hundreds of products, it’s only normal that descriptions of the given items would either include what it’s for, how to integrate it with WP, and related articles or not include them at all, in which case it wouldn’t be an article worth publishing.

This is merely a coincidence because of the close-knitted topic.


Then my first response:

That’s a load of crap. Check the links, the code snippets, and more. It’s a direct rip with slight wording changes.

Don’t start a fight with me. You know it’s copied. Take it down.

And his response again, along with the email from the author he refereces:

I’m not trying to enter a fight here, I’m trying to reason things out. But you’ve started it, and I think we won’t be talking reasonably right now. For that, I’ll take a moment before responding further. And I believe Sufyan is already talking to you.

Let’s be civil.


This bears reference to your article at WPCandy:

I am a freelance tech writer. I recently wrote a piece for 1stWebDesigner:

I was informed that you posted a comment, claiming that my piece has been plagiarized from yours.
Well, I responded to my Editor, saying that this can, at best, be just a co-incidence wherein two article tackling a rather limited topic seem to have mentioned the same information. I ran CopyScape on my article too (can’t believe I checked my own article, but that’s just for your happiness).

To be certain, I never read your article before today. And since the said topic is bit limited, there seems to be some level of resemblance in treatment of the topic. Beyond that, there is nothing “copied”. The only sites I consulted have been acknowledged in the article itself via links.

Also, as far as I see it, we have made reference to the same links in our articles, plus the paragraph organization is same to a great degree. However, this can and should be attributed to the similar nature of topics.

I don’t think there is anything else that I ought to say now. My editor must’ve mailed you my detailed responses already.
Anyway, if you have further queries/claims/doubts/comments, please feel free to respond to me. As a writer, I fully respect intellectual property of others.

Will be waiting for your reply,

and finally my response back to the editor. This is the last contact I’ve had:

If you are so sure you should publish my comment.

I was very civil but you are clearly trying to dodge removing the article. I am not a pushover. Take it down.

I’m not responding to your author. His behavior is not uncommon in a pay-per-article world and it’s your responsibility to verify the validity of your content from a freelancer. It’s understandable you missed it the first time around, though disappointing, but now you should do what a good editor should do and remove the article.

They haven’t taken the article down. They have approved my comment, though hardly anyone will see it now that it’s a few days old.

What bothers me here isn’t that my (not even that good) article is being stolen, as WPCandy articles get scraped all the time. But scraping is different than this. In this case, my work is being stolen by a (I guess) respected blog with a pretty large audience and following, and the editor isn’t taking it down after I notified him of the author’s wrongdoing. He’s who I’m angry at.

The author is probably getting paid very little for freelance writing, and why he’s absolutely wrong, he’s one of thousands that do the same thing. But Rean and whoever else is involved in 1st Web Designer should be ashamed of themselves.

I hate to bring this up publicly on my blog. I never would have if 1st Web had done the right thing. And it hardly matters if it gets taken down at this point, but I hope to shed a little light to my small audience that 1st Web Designer is a joke of a publication, and to let the editors know that they should be ashamed of themselves.

And maybe if I’m lucky, Buy Sell Ads will do something about it, though I sorta doubt it. That’d be the best form of punishment, in the wallet.

If you think I’m being crazy and they didn’t plagiarize my article on WPCandy, please let me know, I’d be interested to hear how that is the case, as the 1st Web editor and author suggest.

28 thoughts on “This is plagiarism, right?

  1. Brian, I’m going to politely disagree with you here. I’ve read through both articles, and yes, they are similar. But they’re similar in the apps they cover, not much else. It just so happens that the apps you both covered are some of the most popular google has released, so it’s not really that surprising. I would also say that 90% of “list” articles are extremely similar. I can probably search google right now and find dozens of list posts that talk about the exact same items, though are not copies. How about “The Top Ten WordPress Plugins”. That one is for sure going to bring up dozens of results.

    You mentioned that the code snippets were identical: yes, they are. However, claiming that as proof that the article was copied is BS. Here’s why: those two snippets are extremely common snippets. I’ve seen countless articles that have posted snippets extremely similar, if not exact. I’d point you to this post, where both article’s jQuery snippets came from:

    It does really suck when someone copies your content, even if it’s not an exact copy, but in this case, I don’t think he has.

    I also don’t feel you went about addressing the issue the right way. The very first email you sent back “harsh”, and yet you said “don’t start a fight with me”, even though it was you that threw the first verbal punch. The author even sent you a very polite email, which you (as you said yourself) refused to reply to. Did you take the time to read his (the author’s) reply to your comment on the article?

    I would suggest you take a step back and re-evaluate your words and attitudes. While plagiarism is most certainly something that has justification in getting angry about, the way that you have displayed it is not helping.

    My two cents.

    1. I was only harsh because to me it was obvious the editor thought it was copied too based on his first email, and then came back with the next.

      And I just absolutely don’t buy that the author never saw my article. Too many of the links are the same. Too many recommendations are the same.

      Take for instance the link under the Chrome dev tools section pointing to PC Mag (one of thousands of articles on Chrome marketshare), the link to KISSmetrics tutorials, the links in the Google URL shortener section, the Max A/B alternative recommendation (rather than Shrimptest or many other a/b plugins). For Maps, not only did he cite MapPress, but also all plugins tagged Google Maps. He did this all over the place.

      For the code snippets, I specifically deliberated how to cite the deregistering / registering of jquery, and decided on Frederick based on age of the comment, because they really are a ton. Also, the font in the google one is the same all the way down to declaring it for body text at “normal normal normal 14px/20px” – that is not coincidence. I pulled that from my own theme.

      It’s just way too much smoke, and too many of the exact same references.

      And yes, a lot of list posts are the same, but I purposefully chose this topic because I didn’t know of one out there. It’s definitely not a “top ten plugins” or “25 creative portfolios” type article.

      I don’t know how it can be more clear. Yes, the wording is not exact. It’s deliberately not exactly the same, but it’s not original work. To me, that’s plagiarism.

    2. I’m not going to try an argue either way, but I will say that I think you could argue either way. There are definitely some strong points that point towards plagiarism, and also some that don’t.

      I would be careful about assuming the editor thought it was copied as well based off of his first email. That email looks like the “I haven’t looked at the post yet but will assume that you are right, so I’m going to alleviate your anger towards us” kind of email.

    3. jQuery snippet in WPCandy article happens to have typo in third line of code – “query” instead of “jquery”.

      Guess what – other article happens to have exactly same typo.

      You can argue that snippet is common, but this makes more than probable that snippet was lifted from WPCandy article and not just happens to look same.

      Not even counting other stuff.

  2. Admittedly, I don’t have a lot of time today but I did a series of quick automated analyses on the two posts to see just how high the similarities are. The answer is, frankly, not much.

    I first ran it through Copyscape just to see what it could pick up. Neither with a free or paid search did the two turn up as a match for each other in my tests.

    I then copied the text from both, put them in txt files and ran them through WCopyFind with instructions to detect matches as few as 4 words. That is, by most standards EXTREMELY sensitive.

    WCopyFind found about 15% similarity between the two though most of the phrases were false positives, extremely common 4-word phrases you would expect.

    Likewise, it did detect the code as matching but, as pointed above, that code is fairly stock and has been used elsewhere. Though interesting, not enough by itself.

    The other thing it pointed out was this phrase, “Google Libraries API currently supports Chrome Frame, Dojo, Ext Core, jQuery, jQuery UI, MooTools, Prototype,, SWFObject, Yahoo! User Interface Library (YUI), and WebFont Loader. You can check its developer guide here” which was more or less verbatim from the alleged source article.

    Finally, there’s Rarst’s point about the mistake RE: jQuery. However, as was also pointed out, it’s also a common mistake (made it myself trying to find the above line.)

    I’d have to do a more detailed human analysis to get to the bottom of things but there are two things I’m sensing already.

    1) Even if there is plagiarism, there’s no real room to claim copyright infringement. There just isn’t enough copyrighted material used between the works to go that route.

    2) It is likely, though unproven as of yet, that the article did use the WPCandy one as a source. The list above either came from that article or a common source as it’s unlikely that many items would be listed in that order.

    So, is it a legal issue? Probably not. Is it an ethical one? Possibly, though I’d need more time than I have today to make a final determination. Early signs point to yes.

    Hope this helps at least some!

    1. Thanks for the analysis Jonathan. I don’t have, nor did I ever have, any desire to pursue legal action. I just wanted to point it out for what it is: a sham. Your analysis is very much inline with my own. It’s an ethical issue and 1st Web should be happy to take down copied / unattributed work like that.

      1. You’re welcome for the analysis. It’s worth noting though that legal action could include just DMCA takedown notices or other similar actions. It doesn’t have to be a lawsuit.

        Still, it wouldn’t be wise in this case…

    2. That is not a common typo, that is typo that was in source post when WPCandy post came out, but been long fixed there. There is no way to copy that snippet from source post and produce that typo now.

      Two possible explanations:
      – post was written many many months in advance and posted three days ago
      – snippet was not copied from cited source, but from article that has earlier version of the snippet (like WPCandy)

      Overall text is mostly different, but composition of list itself, code snippets and choice of links are nearly identical.

      1. I didn’t realize the mistake was in the code. I misinterpreted what you said. Must have been my rush. Changes things some but the end analysis remains the same, plagiarism possible, more likely now, but still not copyright infringement.

  3. Yep, this was copied from your WP Candy article.

    Besides some of the things already mentioned, there are whole sentences copied with just the words turned around. The first sentence of the article is a dead giveaway.

    Google offers seemingly endless services and apps.

    Compare it to the original:

    There are many ways to utilize the seemingly endless resources of Google in WordPress.

    You can pull several more examples just like this directly from the article.

    I’d say the chances of that opening sentence appearing in two articles on the same topic are pretty slim if the author had never read the original article (unless you both copied similar text from another source). When I used to teach English to Korean school children, this was a classic technique they used when writing their essays — take a good sentence and rewrite it. I’d see it over and over each time essays were due. As a teacher, you learn to spot these things quickly. A few sentences like that would be an automatic failing grade at my school.

    I’m not sure if this constitutes plagiarism, but it is unethical.

  4. Hey,
    I do not know if you’re going to publish my comment. Ideally, you should. Rest up to you. It’s your blog anyway!

    1. No, I did not plagiarize. Pippin, above, puts my point well: “But they’re similar in the apps they cover, not much else. It just so happens that the apps you both covered are some of the most popular google has released, so it’s not really that surprising.”

    2. What do you mean by ‘composition of lists’? Am I expected to skip a Google service, simply because you’ve already included it in your list? Not to mention that I had not even read your article.

    3. Your “too similar” rhetoric is BS, with due respect. You’ve included GMail, I haven’t. Docs and Chart Tools are one in mine, not yours. Thing is, when it comes to Google’s services, anyone would follow the same lines when writing about them.

    4. We’ve gone over this innumerable times. You did not consider me worthy of a reply when I emailed you. And then you blog about the issue and continue to accuse me of plagiarism.

    5. Also, the ‘query’ and ‘jquery’ snippet was copied from Frederick Townes (he has been cited in my article). Either there was a typo in his original piece which he may have rectified later, or I ended up making a typo in copying. The fact that you have the exact same typo is beyond my comprehension.

    6. This is getting torturous for me. Even though I didn’t copy/plagiarize. It has been a ridiculous turn of events thus far. In any case, feel free to believe what you wish, sir.

    7. Nice blog you got here. Especially the “Powered by WordPress and me” element in the footer. Just epic! 🙂

    I hope you do publish my comment. Just so I can have my say. Thanks in advance if you decide to publish it. If not, well, as I said, it’s your blog anyway!

  5. So I went through the links…

    In article there are something over twenty links (not counting those to Google resources themselves) that are identical to WPCandy article in URLs, highly similar in anchor tags and almost always identical in order they appear in text.

    In one (at least) case of Reader there is no identical link, but there is text and URL reworked without attribution (surprise-surprise) from post that WPCandy linked to.

    There are couple of links that I find especially weird:

    – why would author that had “never read anything on WPCandy in his life”… link to WPCandy? 🙂

    – what is the point of linking to Summer of Code Page 2011 and suggest to follow its progress… when that had kinda ended months ago.

    1. Hello Rarst,
      1. I can’t locate or recall myself linking to anything under the Reader head. Which one are you talking about?
      2. Which link to WPCandy are you referring to?
      3. Has the Google SoC ended FOREVER, and shall never, ever happen again? Reply yes/no.

          1. 1) Another post you just happened to write copy of then.

            2) I googled as well. First result I’ve got is plugin’s page in official directory. Second, third and fourth results are plugin’s official site.

            But you’ve chosen to ignore all of those links in favor of highly outdated (February) news item on a blog you never read.

            3) The status of GSoC is not my point. Your article having precisely same external links (even when they don’t make sense at the date it was posted on) is.

    2. Perhaps he just happened to link to a news post I had written about the release of the Max A/B plugin from his research, rather than linking directly to their site. Could be total coincidence, like all the other coincidences he claims. ; )

    1. Whoa! Thanks for the research, Tom.
      My comments link to Brave New World. It is not a “news site”. It is a progressive issues e-journal. If you fail to fathom the difference between the two genres of sites, you should not be commenting about it anyway.
      Brave New World is not a “scraped” piece of thing either. The website has over 110 authors (which, by the way, is perhaps way more than the people you’ve ever known in your life, looking at your ‘under construction’ website). You may mail either of the authors listed at Brave New World. Articles are published/re-published with consent.
      I do not link to my personal site nowadays. If you look at it, it is hosted at a free server and has many links out of place. I haven’t had time to update it, so I’d rather refrain from linking to it for some time.
      Nevertheless, for those “wondering exactly who Sufyan is”, ask me. That’ll save Tom some efforts.
      (Sorry for the harsh tone, but honestly, you started it).

      I’m also done commenting here. Thanks Brian, for publishing my comments (I had doubts you will, after you had refused to reply to my email). Sorry for having hurt your feelings, but I can swear on anything you want me to, I HAVEN’T COPIED A THING FROM YOUR ARTICLE. I mean it.
      Also, thanks Rarst for that investigative journalism. Again, the code snippet was a typo/later edition by the original site. Even though it is useless as you wouldn’t believe me, I’ll assure you, I haven’t plagiarized.

      1. Correct, I won’t believe you. You have made exceptionally hard for me to do that.

        Your writing (in multiple instances) is similar to work of others to degree that defies probability and common sense.

        When that was pointed out you chose to treat it with with uncaring and dismissive attitude.

        There is no single trustworthy move that I had seen from you in this situation.

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