How Bad Is Plagiarism?

by Jami Gold on October 18, 2011

in Writing Stuff

Broken doorknob from a forced entry crime

(Read below for updates.) Recently, a thief broke into my brother’s house.  They weren’t home, so no one was physically hurt.  However, the shock of the crime still caused emotional pain.

The thief didn’t take too much, mostly just small things he could carry, but now they wonder if the guy will strike again in a couple months with a truck and a better plan.  They worry about whether he’s been watching them and their comings and goings.  And they’re asking themselves if they could have prevented it.

Crimes create victims, often in unpredictable ways.  Last week, a blogger was outed as a plagiarist.  Terrell Mims stole the content of his blog from Cracked.com, About.com, and other sources on the web.

I vaguely knew him from Twitter, and I’d visited his blog once or twice.  I thought the material sounded familiar, but I read a lot of blogs, so I figured I must have read that article before.  I had—on Cracked—but I didn’t realize it at the time.

He stole material from other hard-working writers and passed it off as his.  He advertised his editing services to take advantage of people who were impressed by his blog.  He got other writers to support him, retweet his blog links, add him to their blog roll, “like” his Facebook page, include his posts in their link roundups, give him blog awards, etc.

In other words, the trail of his victims stretched far beyond those he stole material from.  He stole an undeserved reputation.

That reputation allowed him to take money from editing clients.  He set other writers on the wrong path with his idiotic advice because he couldn’t duplicate his “expertise” in real-world situations.

That reputation allowed him to take time and attention from deceived writers who befriended him.  He took opportunities away from other more-deserving writers.

That reputation was a lie.  And every single person who believed in him is now a victim of betrayal.

Yes, copying and pasting on the internet is insanely easy.  But it’s also very easy to get caught.  And it’s almost as easy to properly attribute material to the original source.  Anyone who copies and pastes onto another location on the internet will be caught eventually.

Every so often, I create Google Alerts for unique phrases in my blog posts.  This same technique can alert you if a scammer scrapes your entire blog to make their spam site look legit. And if I’m using this method, you know the big blogs are too. Maybe the question in the title should be “How Stupid Is Plagiarism?”

If I were alone in the writing world, this would have been a gossipy type story and nothing more.  But I have very good friends who were blindsided by this betrayal.  Rather than spend their weekend writing, they were removing links to his now-closed blog, erasing all connections to him, and trying to undo any wonky changes his poor advice had prompted in their work.

Just like my brother, everyone who believed in him wonders if they could have prevented this.  They also wonder how they could have been so misled.  But Terrell alone deserves the blame.  The fact that he succeeded with his intention to deceive them is not a reflection on their ability to judge someone’s character.

The good news is that many of my friends who were betrayed have banded together, stronger than ever, with a “we survived Terrell” attitude.  As I mentioned in my last post, the power of blogging and social media for writers is the social aspect—the concept of a tribe.

One of his victims, Kristen Lamb, commented on the post that exposed this crime:

“Plagiarism is the treason of the literary world and needs to be met with swift justice. … Thank you … for bringing this disgusting behavior into the light. We have to watch out for each other.”

That we do.  Also, use Google Alerts.  *smile*

(01/22/2013 Update: Turns out Terrell Mims re-emerged on Twitter—even going so far as to ingratiating himself in with the same group of writers he victimized before—under a new name, Chris DeLaune. Thanks to my commenter below for the heads up. Here’s the Storify of the Twitter confrontation with Terrell/Chris.

01/24/2013 Update: Here’s my follow-up post with more links to Terrell/Chris’s confrontation with his plagiarism victims, as well as an update on his one-week-old plagiarism of a Forbes article and his current status.)

Did you know Terrell or had you heard about his crime?  Have you ever been a victim of a crime like this?  Was your material stolen or were you betrayed?  Do you have Google Alerts set for phrases on your blog?

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95 Comments below - Time to Add your own.

M. Howalt October 18, 2011 at 5:45 am

Great post!
I never understood deliberate plagarism. For me the greatest pleasure in writing is creating, the act of making something that wasn’t there before and that no one else has. Putting something into words in a new way. I also like recognition (feedback of some kind, knowing that I have readers, all that), but if someone commented something I had stolen, the critique or the praise wouldn’t be for me, and so what would be the point?
I think, unknowingly, everybody is in danger of some degree of plagarism. When I was a teenager, I worked on a long story about a bloke who sounded a lot like a protagonist in a published book, but I had never heard of this book until someone pointed it out. But that’s not the same as deliberately stealing, and considering how disappointed I felt that “someone had already thought of the same thing”, I simply can’t understand why anyone would want to take the credit for something they haven’t done. I do mean morally as well as simply how it can bring them any pleasure at all.

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Jami Gold October 18, 2011 at 8:38 am

Hi M.,

the greatest pleasure in writing is creating

Isn’t that the truth. And you’re right, similar plots, themes, or characters are part of the art. Every story has already been told if we look at it from the “boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl” level (*gasp* my current WIP is that same, exact plot! *shocked face*), but the difference is in the execution. If the execution is the same, then we’ve got issues. :)

Anyone who reads my blog knows that I try to give credit even to other bloggers whose post or comment inspired me to make a 100% original article. Do I miss some? Sure, but I never purposely take inspiration from someone else without credit, much less their actual material. I like sharing the blog love.

And as you said, I don’t know how a plagiarist could take any pleasure from the situation other than “getting away with it.” Thanks for the comment!

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Paul Anthony Shortt October 18, 2011 at 6:00 am

I don’t know him, but I find plagiarsim deplorable. It’s nothing but theft and lies and there’s no place for it.

Great post.

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Jami Gold October 18, 2011 at 8:39 am

Hi Paul,

Yes, plagiarism is one of those crimes that’s really many crimes rolled into one. Thanks for the comment!

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Amber October 18, 2011 at 8:20 am

TM was one of the first people I met in MyWANA, and I kept him at arm’s length very early on. I posted about it today – guess the topic is on all our minds. I feel awful for those that trusted and supported him.

Your Google Alert advice is great! We all need to be aware of how to protect our work and ourselves.

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Jami Gold October 18, 2011 at 8:56 am

Hi Amber,

Ooo! Thank you so much for pointing out your great post about it! I think you’re exactly right with your impression that he flattered and sucked up to those above him and treated everyone below him like trash (his definitions of “above” and “below” of course). The more I hear about him, the more this is the emerging picture. (And for anyone who worries about “due process” check the comments from Kristen Lamb on David Walker’s blog.) Thanks for the comment!

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Patrick Thunstrom October 18, 2011 at 8:34 am

I just found out about this this morning. It’s a sad thing to see, and I’m not even sure there’s more to say than that.

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Jami Gold October 18, 2011 at 9:03 am

Hi Patrick,

Yes, it is very sad. Thanks for the comment!

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Sonia G Medeiros October 18, 2011 at 8:37 am

My philosophy is, if I’m gonna suck, I might as well suck authentically. :D Seriously though, this news made me so sick. I don’t want it to be true that someone would do this. I want to believe it was a mistake somehow, a reaction to a total lack of confidence in the creative self. But I know it has hurt a lot of people and that makes me so angry.

Thanks for the Google Alert tip. Great idea!

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Jami Gold October 18, 2011 at 9:14 am

Hi Sonia,

My philosophy is, if I’m gonna suck, I might as well suck authentically.

LOL! Yep, that’s pretty much my attitude too. :)

Yes, I didn’t want it to believe it either. I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt, even though the evidence was pretty damning. But the more I heard about the background, and how he tried to take his friends down with him, the more I was disgusted by the whole thing.

Anyone who worries that this is a witch hunt should look at David’s blog. The comments from Kristen in particular give the background explaining the depth of lies.

Thanks for the comment!

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David N. Walker October 18, 2011 at 9:11 am

Thanks, Jami. I think your comparison with your brother’s burglary is very apt. The feeling of being invaded is almost worse than the actual loss.

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Jami Gold October 18, 2011 at 9:18 am

Hi David,

Yes, when we talk about plagiarism, we often focus on those whose material was stolen, and there’s no doubt they are victims of a crime. But in speaking with my friends this past weekend, it was the sense of betrayal that really stuck out in my mind. We usually don’t think about that whole other layer of victims around a plagiarist. Thanks for the comment!

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Sonia G Medeiros October 18, 2011 at 10:07 am

The sense of betrayal is huge. I think it really hits hard because we try to support and encourage eachother so much. We tend to trust one another.

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Jami Gold October 18, 2011 at 10:28 am

Hi Sonia,

Yes, we do trust one another. We join critique groups full of strangers, send chapters to beta readers we’ve never met in person, etc. And that trust makes the sense of betrayal worse. But that’s also why I was so pleased with how many came together to support each other through this betrayal. Rather than digging into a hole of fear, people reached out to each other in support. They were hurt, but not broken. :) Thanks for the comment!

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Jami's Tech Guy October 18, 2011 at 9:19 am

Great post Jami.

I spent most of that Friday dealing with the fallout of the TM issue.

While few clients were affected, it hit many friends hard. I spent the day helping them deal with the various stages of grief over the betrayal while helping them go through their sites to help clean their previous ties to TM.

It very much reminded me of going through sites to remove traces of a hacker attack. I deal with hackers all the time. The ones that hack data cause far less damage and pain than the ones that hack people’s trust.

-TG
@jaytechdad

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Jami Gold October 18, 2011 at 9:22 am

Hi Tech Guy,

The ones that hack data cause far less damage and pain than the ones that hack people’s trust.

Good point! And you’re a good friend for spending your day helping the victims clean up their blogs. :) Thanks for the comment!

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K.B. Owen October 18, 2011 at 1:01 pm

Hey, Tech Guy! Thanks SO much for helping me “clean” my blog site on Friday (not much there, fortunately), and for letting me vent to you!

Jami, it’s great being in a twibe with you. :)

Kathy
@kbowenwriter

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Jami Gold October 18, 2011 at 1:09 pm

Hi Kathy,

I’m glad you were able to get it all cleaned up. And I love the great writing tribe that looks out for each other (Yay for Tech Guy!). :) Thanks for the comment!

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Gene Lempp October 19, 2011 at 12:12 pm

And from all of us to you Tech…Thank you with all our heart :)

Your help was invaluable in assisting many of us through this difficult time.

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Jami's Tech Guy October 19, 2011 at 12:47 pm

Kathy / Gene: I’m glad I could be helpful. Hopefully the next time will be under more fun circumstances.

-Jay
@jaytechdad

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Carradee October 18, 2011 at 10:29 am

I started freelancing as a college kid. Prospective clients treated me as a plagiarist until they proved my innocence (with a CopyScape check of what I’d delivered them). I couldn’t afford to be insulted when clients saw my work and expressed disbelief that someone my age could produce that.

I finally sat down and wrote an article about why plagiarism’s such a bad idea and how to avoid doing it even on accident, sold it to FreelanceSwitch, and started pointing there when folks started harping on “All articles must be 100% original!”

I’ve had work stolen. I figure it’s part and parcel of being a web writer—but that doesn’t mean I’ll let you get away with it, if I catch you. (Darn it, I did not need that code bunny.)

It seems to me, though, that Terrell used plagiarism to help him commit fraud, which adds an entirely different category to this issue.

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Jami Gold October 18, 2011 at 11:53 am

Hi Carradee,

Yes, exactly – “fraud” is the perfect word for this. Great point about why this situation goes beyond simple theft. Thanks for sharing your experience and for the comment!

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Maureen Crisp October 18, 2011 at 11:01 am

Thanks Jami for the news. I will link to this in my weekly roundup.
That is truly a sucky situation and I have great sympathy for the writers who got caught up in this!
Maureen
New Zealand

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Jami Gold October 18, 2011 at 11:55 am

Hi Maureen,

Thanks for the link! And yes, at first I was worried that some might blame my friends, or that their reputation would be damaged, but everyone seems to understand that he alone is to blame. Thanks for the comment!

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Nicole Basaraba October 18, 2011 at 11:45 am

Wow. I read about this at your blog first Jami and then hopped around to check out the others. I remember seeing TM all over twitter and I though he looked friendly. I know that I checked his blog once or twice and I got a weird vibe from what he posted and also from the language he used describing his services.

I just hope that nobody was too hurt by this.

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Jami Gold October 18, 2011 at 11:56 am

Hi Nicole,

Thanks for the good wishes. The writing tribe is pulling together to help out those who were most hurt. :) Thanks for the comment!

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Kate Wood October 18, 2011 at 12:17 pm

Hi Jami!

This whole situation makes me sick. I found out yesterday over at David N. Walker’s blog…and I was just at Amber West’s blog reading about it.

I feel so badly for Kristen Lamb, especially. She works hard to help us out, and to be used like she has been is reprehensible.

I feel like a moron for believing in him. I took one of his classes…and worked my butt off to try to do the assignments right! He was always really cool with me, and I took his oddities for enthusiasm.

Worse, I feel like I have his dishonestly on me like bits of slime from stepping in a dirty puddle. I need a shower. I removed him from my blogroll, but I have no idea how to remove him completely from my blog – I’ve linked to him in some of my posts. I haven’t had a chance to get on Twitter or FB to remove him from there, but I’m going to at my first opportunity.

Ugh…this just sucks. This whole thing sucks.

Thanks for letting me vent ;p

~ Kate

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Jami Gold October 18, 2011 at 12:30 pm

Hi Kate,

I just tweeted you in the direction of my Tech Guy, @jaytechdad. He’s got Google Foo and can help you find all those links. :)

And like I said in the post, don’t feel stupid. The fact that you believed in him only proves that he was good at lying and deceiving. That was his goal. Good luck with the cleanup and I’m happy to let you vent!

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Jami's Tech Guy October 18, 2011 at 12:33 pm

Kate: Check your Facebook messages, I left info there so you can do more cleanup.

-TG
@jaytechdad

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Jami Gold October 18, 2011 at 12:34 pm

Thanks, Tech Guy! You’re the best! :)

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Kate Wood October 18, 2011 at 5:02 pm

I’ll check as soon as I get home. Thanks Tech Guy, you are the best! :)

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Jordan October 18, 2011 at 12:35 pm

Thanks for this post, Jami. I’m so glad to hear that Mr. Mims was finally outed. I recently came across his blog immediately after reading an identical post on another author’s blog (the original dated a week earlier). I contacted the author and she already knew about it, but didn’t know what else to do. I’m glad to know at least he’s been stopped.

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Jami Gold October 18, 2011 at 12:45 pm

Hi Jordan,

Wow, yes, this is one of those things that once the dam cracked, all sorts of stories are coming out after the fact. Thanks for the additional information and the comment!

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Brooklyn Ann October 18, 2011 at 1:01 pm

What I don’t understand is how a person could plagiarize and maintain any sense of dignity. What kind of deplorable mindset is behind such behavior?

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Carradee October 18, 2011 at 1:07 pm

What kind of deplorable mindset is behind such behavior?

Entitlement.

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Jami Gold October 18, 2011 at 1:17 pm

Hi Brooklyn Ann,

I won’t pretend to know what went through his head, but I have to think that his brain doesn’t work like mine. It’s not just the dignity issue, or the fraud issue, or the lying issue, or the lack-of-pleasure-taken-from-creating issue – it’s all of that added together. If I were writing a character with those traits, I’d come up with some pretty bad descriptions for them. Thanks for the comment!

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Lena Corazon October 18, 2011 at 1:30 pm

As a teaching assistant at a major university, I catch at least 2 or 3 instances of plagiarism each quarter. This happens even after we stress the sanctions that will occur for those who engage in such activity, which can range anywhere from failing the assignment, the course, or even being suspended from school for at least 1 quarter. And yet every time, without fail, someone decides that they’d rather copy and paste material from sources other than their own without offering the proper citation.

There was an article in the New York Times last summer that basically argued that in the digital age, students don’t know any better (link below). I don’t buy that. We teach (or at least I do, in my classes) students when it’s appropriate to cite. We teach them how to cite. And yet I still have students submitting things that aren’t theirs, even going so far as to reproduce things that I’ve written, and treating it as their own (this is a true story. I TA’d a theory class last spring, and provided a breakdown of Weber vs. Durkheim for them, half of which ended up in one young woman’s paper — no citations, nothing).

Really, I feel like these cases demonstrate a helluva lot of hubris, and quite a bit of laziness. It’s not hard to offer proper credit. And sure, coming up with blog topics (or paper topics, or whatever) can be a little daunting, but it’s not impossible. This smacks to me of someone who wants to gain a little glory (or a good grade) without having to put in the work that it takes in order to earn that glory. And it pisses me off, because it makes me feel like that person thinks that everyone else is an idiot and isn’t going to catch it. It’s selfish, it’s self-serving, and especially in this case, it damages trust and reputations. One of the things I mentioned on Amber’s blog is that trust is the prime currency that we have in this social media landscape, and to willfully damage that is unethical and akin to social suicide.

But as you say, one of the positive things that have come out of this is the reminder about why we enter into this community with each other in the first place: to support one another, to watch out for each other, and to take care of each other when betrayals like this (which will hopefully be rare) occur.

Great post, Jami!

(NYT article on plagiarism: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/02/education/02cheat.html?pagewanted=all)

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Jami Gold October 18, 2011 at 2:35 pm

Hi Lena,

Yes, I don’t get how someone could claim they didn’t know any better. Classes now include instructions on how to cite websites in bibliographies. And why do they give those instructions? Because internet sources are supposed to be cited too.

One of the things I mentioned on Amber’s blog is that trust is the prime currency that we have in this social media landscape, and to willfully damage that is unethical and akin to social suicide.

Great point! Trust and lack of corruption are hugely important to civilization in general, and when those go away, so does civilization. We fly on planes we trust were built and maintained to certain specifications. Without that trust, people wouldn’t fly. Now multiply that thought by every aspect of our lives, from the food we eat to the electric appliances that we trust won’t start fires in our home.

But the fact that this is such big news points out how rare it is – and that’s heartening. :) Thanks for the great comment!

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Tamara LeBlanc October 18, 2011 at 2:06 pm

How horrible for the people this person betrayed.
I’m glad you posted this Jami…I didn’t know this about TM and will scour my Tweeps to see if I’m following him. If I am, he will quickly be un-followed. I also plan to Tweet this. Getting the word out to as many people as possible can only help those who might find themselves in the same situation.
I’m so sorry your brother and his family had to go through such an ordeal, and it’s awful they have to worry about being robbed again. You did an excellent job of comparing these two crimes. On the surface they’re different, but at heart, they’re very much the same, both are beyond heinous.
Thanks so much,
Tamara

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Jami Gold October 18, 2011 at 2:37 pm

Hi Tamara,

Thanks for getting the word out! :)

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Marcy Kennedy October 18, 2011 at 2:21 pm

Only found out about this now as I’ve sat down to catch up on missed blogs. I still haven’t managed to pick my chin up off the floor. I pay my bills through my writing, and I see plagiarists as basically stealing food off the tables of other people like me. Not to mention the hours that so many honest bloggers sacrifice in order to produce their work.

And I also feel really deceived. I’ve read his posts and tweeted them before. I took it for granted that he’d written them himself. Suffice it to say that I’ve already unfollowed him on Twitter and will be checking to see if I’ve linked to him in any other way so that I can remove those as well. I don’t even want to risk taint by association.

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Jami Gold October 18, 2011 at 2:40 pm

Hi Marcy,

You’re not alone. Many people feel very deceived. Thanks for the comment!

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Sara Grambusch October 18, 2011 at 3:27 pm

Thanks for posting this. I’m glad people are talking about it so openly and I hope he is embarrassed and ashamed. Intellectual theft feels more like a violation than my physical property being stolen. I knew of him from Twitter and around the blogs which already feels too close to home. He always seemed kind of creepy to me, but you never know on the internet. I love seeing writers band together and defend their community. He only hurt his own reputation.

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Jami Gold October 18, 2011 at 5:30 pm

Hi Sara,

Yes, his reputation is now obliterated. But the writing community will survive and move forward. :) Thanks for the comment!

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Andrew Mocete October 18, 2011 at 4:28 pm

I caught wind of this mess last Thursday because I’d subscribed to the comments on a plagiarized blog. When Ian Fortey posted a linked to the Cracked article, I clicked it expecting it, at most, to be similar. We know the rest.

Aside from talking to some friends, I decided to keep my mouth shut. Terrell had a lot of support and I honestly didn’t think anyone would believe me. If someone ever tried to say anything negative about my good friends, I’d tell them where to stick it. I knew it was only a matter of time for word to spread. By the time I returned from my weekend at Comic Con, it was all over.

I said this on Amber West’s blog today, the guy obviously had a gift for telling people what they wanted to hear. It’s a shame he didn’t just improve his writing and combine the two. He might’ve been able to be as brilliant as the material he stole.

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Jami Gold October 18, 2011 at 5:32 pm

Hi Andrew,

Wow, thanks for the information. And good point about how much he could have done with a different attitude. Thanks for the comment!

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Jennifer Tanner October 18, 2011 at 4:52 pm

Hi Jami!

Geez, I will never understand why people plagiarize other’s work. As writers, we’re creative, capable of putting our own spin on our observations.

Maybe one day TM will pen a bestseller. But within the community of writers, what will he be remembered for?

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Jami Gold October 18, 2011 at 5:33 pm

Hi Jennifer,

Exactly. We all get inspired from other things, but it’s our unique take that makes things ours. Thanks for the comment!

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Sarah Pearson October 18, 2011 at 5:49 pm

I don’t know this guy and I’m not involved in any way but it makes me really sad. Maybe I’m an idiot, but that somebody could do this, and use and betray people, never entered my head. I guess I need to learn to be less trusting online.

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Jami Gold October 18, 2011 at 5:55 pm

Hi Sarah,

I hope that’s not all you came away with from this post. :) Just as our houses will always be vulnerable to a criminal determined to find a way in, our trust–no matter how closely we hold it–can always be broken by someone determined to deceive us. This is big news because it’s so unusual. Thanks for the comment!

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Teresa Robeson October 18, 2011 at 7:11 pm

I’m so sorry to hear about the break-in at your brother’s home. How very scary. Once you’re violated like that, it’s so hard to go back to feeling safe. :(

I’ve not heard of Terrell and his plagiarism, but I feel for his victims. I don’t think I’ve ever been a victim of plagiarism…maybe it’s because I don’t write enough. :} That is great advice about doing Google Alerts for unique phrases from your blog posts!

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Jami Gold October 18, 2011 at 7:46 pm

Hi Teresa,

Some of my friends were already terrified of plagiarism, and this incident won’t help. :) But like I keep pointing out, the reason this is big news is because it’s so unusual. Thanks for the comment!

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Barbara McDowell October 18, 2011 at 7:33 pm

I’m sorry to hear about what happened to your brother Jami. That is such a cruel violation for someone to break into his space. During 11th grade chemistry, I had someone steal money out of my purse (I was across the room n the lab), and that yucky feeling still resonates. I’ve also had work/ideas stolen in the business world and it burns my guts.

My sister used to do tons of genealogy research, write articles and give speeches. An online thief lifted her work in a similar copy and paste situation and kept doing it even after being notified to stop. I get the sense that some unscrupulous folks online think that they can do whatever without consequences. I also think they figure the attempt is worth it because there are so many sites that people may not stumble upon identical text. Then they get away with it and keep going.

I’ve used Google Alerts a few times on titles, but not phrases. How much text should we put in the searches to make them the most effective?

Thanks for this post Jami and for the highlight of the continued strength of his former friends/student clients that were hurt the most. I’m new to the MyWANA tribe and in the short time I’ve started interacting with the community, reading and commenting on more and more blogs and tweeting for interaction, I’ve felt the welcome and support. The high level of helping and giving. I hope that this jerk’s actions do not dim that positive spirit and light. I also trust the universe to give him back everything in life that he deserves.

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Jami Gold October 18, 2011 at 7:49 pm

Hi Barbara,

Oh yes, I bet this resonates a bit too close to home for you. *hugs*

I don’t know if Google Alerts has a limit on how many characters can be in an alert (I haven’t run into a problem with my phrases yet), but really you just want the phrase unique enough and long enough that you won’t get false positives. So if you had an extremely unique 3-word phrase, that would work, but in general, I’d probably aim for 8 words or so. Again, just because I wouldn’t want to get false positives. Hope that helps and thanks for the comment!

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Barbara McDowell October 18, 2011 at 8:10 pm

Great! Thanks for the Google Alert user tips. :-)

I forgot to ask, what recourse do people have for dealing with the Mims scourge? I know the blog has been shut down, but as people have noted here, there was a larger fraud afoot. If people see a case like this in the future, do they alert the original writer to take action, report it to the blog host (like WordPress), etc.?

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Jami Gold October 18, 2011 at 9:30 pm

Hi Barbara,

*whew* That’s a good question. I know in this case, the person who noticed the plagiarism emailed those affected. One of those people was associated with Cracked.com, and he had the contacts to mobilize people. They watched his Twitter account to notify anyone who interacted with him about his crime. They left comments on his blog and Facebook. They emailed people who they knew worked with him. In short, they spread the truth until Terrell went to ground. I don’t know if anything more will come of it. Thanks for the comment even though I don’t have an answer for you!

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Sophia Chang October 18, 2011 at 8:53 pm

Ack! So sorry to hear that. Someone smashed my car window for my GPS in my own driveway. I do live in L.A. county, though. Too common.

Plagiarism pisses me off. I just heard an NPR piece tonight about Bob Dylan ripping off artwork and lyrics. sigh.

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Jami Gold October 18, 2011 at 9:32 pm

Hi Sophia,

Ugh, sorry to hear about your car.

Yes, it makes me wish that anti-plagiarism/anti-piracy laws had stronger teeth. :) Thanks for the comment!

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Susan Sipal October 19, 2011 at 6:49 am

So sorry to hear about your brother, Jami. I know when that same thing happened to my friend and critique partner, it took a long time and a move before she felt safe again.

One thing I’m curious about regarding online plagiarism that you might know the answer to — I’ve seen posts on my blog copied online and reprinted on spammy-type blogs, but with proper attribution. My son say’s they’re doing it for internet marketing purposes. Since they did at least give my name as the author, I’ve not done anything about it. Do you know anything about this?

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Jami Gold October 19, 2011 at 8:07 am

Hi Susan,

Great question! Yes, I’ve seen that before too. As you said, they give proper attribution, so it’s harder to know what to do. I have the “No content on this site may be reused in any fashion without written permission” notice at the bottom of my blog, which technically precludes doing a “reprint” like that, but I have to pick my battles.

The times I’ve seen it, they’ve included a link to my blog, so in that case, they’re almost like those Twitter papers, but with the whole article (usually) instead of just an excerpt. Have you seen whether or not those included your link? Of course, I’m not sure that associating your URL with a spammy website would be an improvement or not. :) Thanks for the comment!

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Jami's Tech Guy October 19, 2011 at 8:18 am

Hi Susan,

Those “internet marketing” sites are very grey-area. If it bothers you, you can submit a DMCA take down notice and hope they honor it. If not, then you can to go to their ISP and try to get their site shut down.

Good luck!
-TG
@jaytechdad

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Kristin Nador October 19, 2011 at 2:37 pm

I’m a little late to the discussion, having first read it on David Walker’s blog while I’m catching up on blog reading. What a cautionary tale for writers/bloggers. It is just terrible that so many people were affected by one person’s bad choices. I have to wonder if Mr. Mims found himself slowly getting in over his head as far as his writing skills level and resorted to stealing others content, kind of the frog in boiling water situation, or did he maliciously make a conscience decision to deceive from the get-go? I’m sure no one will ever know, and in all reality it is a moot point, he broke trust and the damage is done. A really sad situation.
Thanks for the post, Jami, and especially the tip about protecting yourself with Google Alerts. Spot on as usual. :)

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Jami Gold October 19, 2011 at 4:46 pm

Hi Kristin,

Thanks, I hope this helps teach people how to protect themselves. :)

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Darcy Peal October 19, 2011 at 3:00 pm

I hope Mims was reported to Google and Yahoo by the people whose work he stole.

http://www.plagiarismchecker.com/report-cheater.php

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Jami Gold October 19, 2011 at 4:47 pm

Hi Darcy,

I don’t know. I don’t know any of the affected original authors, but that’s a good tip. :) Thanks for the comment!

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Dan Kleinman of SafeLibraries October 19, 2011 at 3:06 pm

Excellent blog post. I am about to write about the American Library Association’s repeated use of plagiarism in significant ways. Some of the evidence is already in the public domain and I will simple point it out. Your blog post will help me to explain to my audience the effects of plagiarism. And I will likely quote you and give you full attribution via a link or other means, as honest people always do. Thank you, and I am sorry for the victims of plagiarism.

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Jami Gold October 19, 2011 at 4:53 pm

Hi Dan,

I would be interested in seeing your finished article. Thanks for the comment!

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Victoria Mixon October 19, 2011 at 5:55 pm

I had a post lifted a couple of years ago by a then-new ‘writing’ site that advertised their paid services in negotiating down the rates of editors such as myself. They posted all of my post but the last paragraph, throwing in a link at the end to keep from being prosecuted for plagiarism.

Using my own words to try to attract my potential clients to their services against me, without so much as politely asking.

Yeah.

When my sys admin notified them that that material was copyrighted and asked them to use only as much as Fair Use allows, they simply removed the post without an apology or even an, “Ooops! Didn’t understand copyright law. Honest mistake!”

And they’re still out there now, flogging their site heavily to the online community.

Be aware, people. Be very aware.

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Jami Gold October 19, 2011 at 6:01 pm

Hi Victoria,

Yes, I’ve had several of my posts lifted (in their entirety) like that as well, but as you said, they act like putting the link at the bottom makes it okay. Yes, they’re attributing it, but a full or near-full article is beyond fair use if they’re doing it without my permission. I’m glad you were able to get them to take it down at least. Thanks for the information and for the comment!

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Victoria Mixon October 19, 2011 at 7:14 pm

Oh, Jami, I’m sorry you’ve dealt with this, too. I always have my sys admin send a polite but firm note reminding them that the material is copyrighted and asking them to abide by Fair Use copyright law. It burns them up, but they do cooperate.

If you can’t get your copyrighted material taken off someone else’s site (and anything you write is automatically copyrighted in this country), there are legal steps you can take:

1) Send a Cease & Desist letter
2) Contact their ISP

ISPs don’t want to be associated with people breaking the law, and they do have the ability to remove an entire site if they feel the situation so requires. They’ll do it. They don’t mind.

(Plagiarizers should probably not tangle with editors whose husbands work in online community management at Intel. :) )

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Jami Gold October 19, 2011 at 7:28 pm

Woo hoo, you go, Victoria!

Thanks so much for sharing that advice with all of us!

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yikici October 20, 2011 at 3:10 pm

Heya Jami,

I finally got round to your blog and post (these weeks are just getting too hectic). I am totally shocked to hear that TM has done this; however, I do have to add my initial encounter with him (much like many others), he immediately dismissed me as a writer without any credentials -this miffed me. I left it at that, and at times on twitter had chats but that’s as far as it went.

I did pop over to his blog a few times but each instance made feel restricted -a strong negative vibe kept coming through which luckily prevented me from growing any further interest (I considered giving out a blog award but my gut said nooo!). Having said this, I am saddened to hear so many people have been affected by his malicious intentions. I can’t understand how someone could do such a thing as I couldn’t bear even considering such a thing –let alone carry it out again and again and again.

News like these will hopefully make us stronger, more wary and above all ready to take on whatever is out there.

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Jami Gold October 20, 2011 at 3:14 pm

Hi yikici,

I’m glad you were able to avoid dealing with this mess. It sounds like you had a near-miss with him like I did. And yes, I hope news like this makes us stronger too. Thanks for the comment!

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Amber October 21, 2011 at 5:26 pm

PS – From comments here and elsewhere, I’ve concluded that your tech guy is fabulous. I officially have a harmless geeky crush. :)

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Jami Gold October 21, 2011 at 9:36 pm

Hi Amber,

LOL! Yes, he’s scary good. He’s @jaytechdad on Twitter, where he tweets about silly stuff, interesting links, and how his wife is a crack shot. ;) Thanks for the comment!

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Renee Schuls-Jacobson October 22, 2011 at 7:54 am

Grrrrrrrrr. This stuff makes me so mad. But it will be fabulous to show my Comp-101 class when we talk about plagiarism. Thanks Jami. Consider yourself a primary source. ;-)

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Jami Gold October 22, 2011 at 10:48 am

Hi Renee,

Yes, the idea that someone would do this was shocking to me, and I can’t even begin to guess how his victims felt. And I’m happy to be of help. Thanks for the comment!

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julie gardner October 22, 2011 at 12:29 pm

Great post, Jami.

I did not follow Terrell, but out of curiosity, I went on twitter and searched him to discover many #FF suggestions including him just yesterday.

One of them is someone who #FF’d me, too.

Shameful. In every way.
And scary.

Thanks for spreading the word here…

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Jami Gold October 22, 2011 at 12:34 pm

Hi Julie,

Ugh. I haven’t searched his Twitter account, but obviously some people haven’t gotten the news yet. Thanks for passing that along, and thanks for the comment!

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Judy Stone-Goldman October 24, 2011 at 8:52 am

I just read about this on Kristin Nador’s blog post http://bit.ly/mRTso7 and came here to get the full story. Thanks for the sorry details along with the Google Alerts suggestion. Your post really speaks to the power and potential problems of connections–all the spirals of people affected by his false reputation and claims.

Plagiarism bothers me in my gut. Very deep level. I don’t think I’m alone.

Thanks for spreading this unfortunate word.

Judy Stone-Goldman
The Reflective Writer

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Jami Gold October 24, 2011 at 8:55 am

Hi Judy,

I’m sorry the news exists that I have to spread it, but I’m happy if I can help people learn how to deal with it. Thanks for the comment!

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Nathaniel Matychuk October 24, 2011 at 6:49 pm

A “friend,” of a friend plagarized Neil Gaiman on facebook. He was passing himself off as a wannabee writer and a lot of people, me included, bought his act.

He was not only a literary fraud, but a womanizer who victimized several individuals. While it is difficult to tell if his world truly fell apart when he was outed, can’t verify what I see on social networking sites, I know that the hurt he caused to others was deep.

I don’t know this Terrel Mims character, but I know somebody who might as well be him.

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Jami Gold October 24, 2011 at 7:37 pm

Hi Nathaniel,

Wow, that’s terrible. Yes, for as bad as the Terrell case was, it could have been worse. Thanks for the comment!

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Chris Doherty January 21, 2013 at 9:03 pm

Someone should do a followup on this guy about hypocrisy and hubris. It seems he’s separated himself from the discovery of his past and now spends all
His time on FB pontificating about how righteous he is , continually dogging our public figures and just saying all sorts of disgusting things about people who don’t have his views as if he’s never done anything he regrets in his life. Hmm…maybe a guy like Terell Mimms doesn’t regret anything he’s ever don’t in his life. Glad I found this, justifies my being disgusted with the guy.

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Jami Gold January 21, 2013 at 10:50 pm

Hi Chris,

Yes, I highly suspect he hasn’t learned his lesson. *sigh* Thanks for the comment!

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Chris Doherty January 21, 2013 at 9:43 pm

Oh, and he now goes by the writers name of Chris DeLaune. It’s quite pitiful he is changing his name in attempt to scam people again.

https://mobile.twitter.com/AuthorCDeLaune
http://chrisdelaune.wordpress.com/author/chrisdelaune/

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Jami Gold January 21, 2013 at 10:52 pm

Hi again Chris, :)

Wow! Yes, you are 100% correct with your accusation–I’ve verified and taken screen shots. I’m in contact with those he scammed the first time around. Thank you VERY much for the information!

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Jami Gold January 22, 2013 at 1:57 pm

Hi Chris (and All),

Here’s the Storify of the confrontation we had with Terrell Mims, aka Chris DeLaune on Twitter: http://storify.com/JamiGold/terrell-mims-plagiarist

Thank you SO much for the heads up! :)

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