Home stagers, how would you feel if your child failed a course or was kicked out of school for plagiarism? Most parents would be embarrassed, angry and disappointed and they’d expect there to be consequences. Just as schools are now using software to detect and penalize students who submit plagiarized work, web site owners are stepping up their own battle to protect their copyrighted content.
What’s wrong with copying web content from another home staging website and pasting it to yours? It’s out there on the Internet – nobody will ever find out about it anyway, right? Wrong!
Contrary to popular belief (or so it seems) it is NOT okay to copy another home stager’s website content and pass it off as your own.
It’s not flattering, it’s not appreciated and it’s not legal. It’s plagiarism. Even if you change some words around, it’s still plagiarism and theft of copyrighted content.
If another stager’s home staging website content is compelling enough for you to want to put it on your own site, someone either spent a tremendous amount of time working on it, or they paid a writer to do it for them. If they discover that all their hard work, or work they paid for, has been stolen by another home stager, they will be justifiably angry and you can expect them to take action against you.
If you’re lucky, you might get a warning letter to remove the stolen content from your site. Or you may wake up one morning and discover your entire website has disappeared.
Many hosting companies have a zero tolerance policy for illegal content. All the owner of the original content has to do is contact your web hosting company about the plagiarism.
Once it is brought to their attention, your entire website might be taken down. It’s not hard to prove where the content originated since there are free web tools that let you go back in time and see when material first appeared on a website. All it would take is a screen shot with the date the content appeared on the original site, and a screen shot of when it appeared on yours, and you’re caught.
Don’t think you won’t be caught because you’re hard to find among the millions of home staging websites out there.
Did you realize that there are tools people can use to quickly search the entire internet to find out if their website content has been copied?
When I want to find out if the text from my websites has been used elsewhere, I do a quick check on Copyscape. All I have to do is specify which of my own site’s pages I’d like to check and the computer does the rest! It pulls up the pages on other sites with my content (it even highlights all the duplicated phrases) and gives me instant proof of their plagiarism.
Another easy way for me to find where my content has been stolen is with Google Alerts. You might think after writing approximately a thousand articles about home staging I wouldn’t recognize my own stuff so quickly, but I do!
Rather than stealing another home stager’s content, you have a couple of options.
If writing isn’t one of your strengths, you can hire someone to do it for you. Gather your thoughts, make some notes and send them to a copywriter with experience writing for the web.
If you just want some articles to add more information to your site, you can search article directories for content and as long as you credit the author you’re usually free to use it. You’ll find guidelines on how to use their content on these sites.
Alternatively, if you find content on someone else’s website that you’d like to use on your own, contact the site owner. You might be able to get permission to use sections of their copy for free as long as you give them proper credit and quote them somewhere. I have given such permission many times. On the other hand, I take a very dim view of people I catch stealing my content and I will take appropriate action.
If you find the whole thought of building your own website and filling it with your own content too overwhelming, and you’re a Staging Diva® Graduate, you can have your company profiled on the Staging Diva Directory of Home Stagers.
By joining the Directory of Home Stagers, you only need to generate 600 words of text about you and three sets of before and after pictures, rather than enough words and photos to fill an entire website. Within a week, you’ll have a very effective web presence on an internationally recognized and respected website that is already linked from major sites like CNNMoney.
You should also know that plagiarism goes beyond just copying text.
It applies equally to stealing home staging photos. If you present another company’s work as your own and you’re caught, you’ll have zero credibility— not to mention risking having action taken against you.
“Plagiarism,” according to Wikipedia.org, “is the unauthorized use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one’s own original work.”
That means you can’t pass off someone else’s photos or ideas as your own – it’s all plagiarism.
As a home stager, you are in the business of creating. Please create your own website content from your own ideas or have a professional help you along. Don’t damage your reputation (or your karma) by copying other home stagers’ stuff. Once you lose your integrity, it’s pretty hard to get it back.
Debra Gould, The Staging Diva®
President, Six Elements Home Staging
Learn how to effectively write about your services and photograph your own work from internationally recognized home staging expert Debra Gould, president of Six Elements and creator of The Staging Diva Home Staging Business Training Program with thousands of students worldwide. Debra is the author of 5 home staging guides and offers a Directory of Home Stagers to help homeowners and real estate agents locate home stagers who will decorate homes to sell quickly and for top dollar. To learn more visit https://www.stagingdiva.com.
I love to see people taking a stand against this. The rate of plagiarism just seems to keep growing online.
Plagiarism checker says
Plagiarism check is helpful in preventing the unethical practices of content theft and copying the coursework of others.
Debra Gould says
Thanks for that resource, I hadn’t heard of you before. CopyScape is another service, I’ve used this one.
Caroline Jurgens says
Very good article Debra and you are absolutely right. Unfortunately it happens a lot. I just did the test with Copyscape and was shocked on the outcome! I posted your article on different social media and am hoping to create awareness of this issue within the Spanish Home Staging market. https://www.facebook.com/LuminaHomeStaging
Debra Gould says
Thanks Caroline, and I hope others will continue to share this article too. Stealing of copy and photos is rampant in the home staging community and it does a complete disservice to our industry as a whole.
And is really bad karma for the individuals involved.
Sherry Castaldi says
Excellent article Debra! Unfortunately, I’ve been down this path a few times myself with plagiarism offenders. I definitely appreciate your article! After this latest incident I am compelled to write a post on it as well.
Debra Gould says
Thanks for commenting Sherry. Feel free to share this article on social media too to help spread the word with your fellow home stagers.
Sherry Castaldi says
Thank you Debra! I would be happy to. I am very appreciative of your article and will also mention and link to your post to continue spreading the word of what you have written. Yours is an important article to help create awareness of this issue and should be read by all proceeding forward in this industry!
Laurie Mattson says
I recently started using a furniture store that rents out their furniture. They also added home staging a few years ago as part of their services when the economy slowed down. I have staged 34 homes for my builder client (and have won RESA awards for my designs). I have my builder put the furniture lease in his name and pay the furniture store directly, just as I have done when I use Cort Furniture. I have staged 4 homes with this new furniture vendor, with many problems, such as trying to bill my builder 2 months prior to their lease being up and for double the amount quoted. FYI – the furniture vendors contract makes no mention of use or rights to any photos. I also have a separate contract with my builder for my services, staging items, also it states a third party will be used for furniture, etc. and my contract states I have rights to use photos for marketing. I make the selections and mix in my own accessories as well. The owner of the furniture store has a site on Houzz with her design and staging work, yesterday I noticed she has posted 44 pictures of 4 of my staged homes that has her rented furnishings in it, never mentions or gives my company credit and is acting as if her company did the staging. In addition, she took her pictures directly off the MLS sites. I’m not sure what to do in this situation, any advice would help.
Debra Gould says
Hi, Laurie. Thank you for your comments. Yours is a tricky situation that is not easily answered on a blog post comment. You may consider investing in one on one coaching with me and I could walk you through this and any other challenging situation you may be facing. To read more about coaching visit: https://www.stagingdiva.com/businesscoaching.html .