I have to be real with you, this is going to be a weird blog post to write–but due to popular demand, I’m writing it anyway.
If you follow me on Facebook, then chances are that you already know this story. But since a large portion of my readers don’t use Facebook, allow me to briefly recap here.
This past week, a few of my readers alerted me that my writing was being plagiarized.
Specifically, there’s a woman named Ashy Bines (who apparently, is a big deal in Australia), who took one of my favorite blog posts, cut & pasted excerpts of it, and attempted to pass it off as her own work on her very popular Facebook and Instagram accounts.
Not cool, right?
Even worse, when I politely asked her to stop using my writing as her own, she basically ignored me and deleted my comments. As I’m typing this on Monday, November 10th, my words are still up on her Instagram account and are racking up the “likes” at a pretty rapid pace.
So, what’s a guy to do? Move on and take the high road, right?
Well, let’s talk about that.
Taking the “High Road”
Before we get to the “high road” stuff, hopefully we can all come to a simple agreement on one thing:
Theft of any kind is wrong.
I’ve heard a few well-meaning people say, “hey, at least your writing is so good that people want to steal it!”
Unfortunately, that’s like telling a person whose house was just robbed that, “hey, at least your house is so nice that people would want to break into it!”
Not much of a consolation, is it?
I work super hard at my writing, and as much as I wish that I could say that this comes easily to me, it doesn’t. I spend many hours (more than you would probably believe) on each blog post that you’ve read here, and I’ve never made a dime from any of it.
That’s why it bugs me when someone takes my words that I’ve spent hours crafting, cut and pastes it less than five seconds, passes it off as her original work, and then use my words to direct her followers to her website where people can buy her products. She’s doing more than stealing my words–she’s stealing my time and my effort.
And it’s not okay.
Even so, I still hear some people say, “Shola, take the high road.”
But what does that mean, exactly?
You guys know me well-enough to know that I’m not going to start calling Ashy Bines names, making fun of her, or engaging in any of that kind of silliness. So there’s nothing to worry about in that regard.
But, I’m also not going to walk away and pretend like this never happened.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again–what we allow is what will continue, and I don’t want her to do this to anyone else.
In this case, walking away and ignoring this is not taking the “high road,” it’s a dead end.
The high road is traveled by standing up for yourself respectfully, definitively, and consistently. And hopefully, when I choose to stand up for myself, it will serve as inspiration for others to stand up in the areas of their lives where they need to do it too.
That’s my goal.
The Insanity of Defending Plagiarism
Apparently, a few people from Ashy Bines’s camp responded to a few of my readers who tried to call her out on her plagiarism. Here were a couple of those responses, summarized in bold below:
1. “It’s not plagiarism. She changed around some of the words to suit her needs.”
Let’s break down the craziness of this statement.
I’ve shared with you that I’m writing a book, right?
As much I’m excited to share it with you once it’s done, I have to admit that there some days when it is a pain in the ass to write it. Do you know what would be so much easier than sitting down and writing 60,000 coherent, entertaining, and informative words?
Taking a best-selling book like The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho or Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, switching a couple of the words around to “suit my needs” and then attempt to pass it off as my own work. I could even call my new book, The Solutionist or Eat, Pray, and be Positive. I’m sure that Paulo or Liz wouldn’t mind, right?
Even though that would be easier, there’s one tiny reason why I would never do that.
Because it’s stealing!
I’m not sure why she’s failing to understand this simple concept when it comes to my blog post.
But then again, apparently this plagiarism lesson has been a very tricky one for her to learn. If you don’t believe me, check what others have to say about it
2. “All of these critics are haters. They’re just jealous of Ashy.”
In a word, “No.”
This is a common response that Ashy’s fans yell loudly as they stick their collective heads in the sand and ignore the shady actions of their fearless leader.
I can’t speak for anyone else out there, but I definitely don’t hate Ashy (I don’t hate anyone) and there’s no reason that I can see to be jealous of someone like her either. Believe it or not, this isn’t about Ashy Bines as a person at all.
This is solely what this is about:
Addressing her plagiarism and ideally making it right.
Any other idea is just crazy talk.
3. “Ashy’s content always get shared around, and she doesn’t care about not getting credit, she just hopes that it helps someone. I wish more people were like her.”
This is a classic plagiarist’s defense, and as always, it fails miserably.
This isn’t about “sharing content.” I’m all for sharing content–that’s why there are share buttons at the bottom of every blog post. I hope that this blog post gets shared 1,000,000 times (really, I do.)
But like I said, this isn’t about sharing. This is about a woman ripping off my work by pretending that it’s hers.
So, in response to this comment–theft helps no one and the last thing that the world needs are more people like her who are willing to steal content from other unsuspecting people.
No matter how you slice it, there is no sane or logical defense of plagiarism.
Rise of the Solutionists
In comparison to Ashy Bines, I have a pretty small following of people. Believe it or not, The Positivity Solution has less than 1% of her total fan base.
She has over a 500,000 people following her on social media. I only have a little over 5,000 people. Maybe that’s why she felt that she could pick on the little guy.
My readers (affectionately known as Solutionists) didn’t take very kindly to this behavior, and they stood up for me, my writing, and most importantly, our community, in the most amazing way.
They shouted from the rooftops, they demanded that she take the post down, and they even reported her on Facebook and Instagram multiple times.
Why such a passionate response?
Many of my readers shared with me that they’ve been picked on before too (by bully bosses, emotionally-abusive spouses, fake friends, etc.) and it felt empowering to stand up for what was right.
That’s the message that I want you to take from this:
It feels good to stand up for what is right.
If there’s an area of your life where you feel the need to stand up, I am urging you (no, begging you) to do so today. Maybe it’s at home, at work, or someplace else–please honor yourself and do it. Even if it’s not easy.
Especially if it’s not easy.
Lastly, I have some final words for Ashy if she is reading this blog post for some reason:
Please remove my blog post from your Instagram feed, create your own content going forward, and most of all, be the positive role-model that you claim to be for your followers (and an apology would be nice too, but I won’t hold my breath on that one.)
The world is watching.
Do you ever hesitate to advocate for yourself when you know that you need to do it? For the writers out there–have you ever been plagiarized? If so, how did you deal with it? Either way, jump into the comments and make your voice heard!