Buying “example” papers. How is it that really ethical?

Copyright Symbols

Copyright Symbols (Photo credit: MikeBlogs)

One of the most popular posts on my blog continues to be My Life, Ten Years From Now written in July of 2010. It was a response to a Plinky Prompt and then surprisingly featured on Freshly Pressed. This week alone, it has been read 249 times and everyday one of the top searches that brings people to my blog is – 10 years from now I will be.

Why?

Out of curiosity, I plugged that post’s page into Copyscape’s Plagiarism Checker search engine.  In a click of a key, I was suddenly staring at my own work on someone else’s website. Not only was it on someone else’s website, but it was marked as a premium essay, which meant I had to pay for a subscription to read the essay in its entirety. Someone was getting monetary compensation for my copyrighted work. I felt sick to my stomach.

What kind of website was this? And how did my essay end up here?

Apparently I am much older than I want to admit, because I had no idea that there were websites offering subscriptions to gain access to “example” papers. In fact, this particular website’s mission statement reads:

To provide an idea encyclopedia that enables members to streamline their research process, jump-start, and focus their paper writing efforts.

In order to get a free membership, with limited access, you have to submit an essay “donation”. Apparently, someone passed off my work as their own in order to get a membership to this service. There are numerous disclaimers stating that you are not allowed to plagiarize or submit plagiarized material. And of course, there are numerous disclaimers stating that this service can not be held accountable for unknowingly posting plagiarized material. Of course, the only reason that they are not “in the know” is because they don’t actually check any of the work submitted. In fact, just for fun, I submitted something myself yesterday to gain access to all the content. Within seconds, I received an email thanking me for my “donation”. My essay was posted immediately, glaring mistakes and all.

*So if you are one of those paying patrons, be very aware that these “quality” submissions have not been checked for grammar, spelling, form or function. They are posted “as-is”.

Obviously, I made a complaint. At first I called their help-line and was told they can’t help me. The available phone number is only for their sales department. My only option was to fill out a complaint form and report the essay as plagiarized, linking back to the original work. I am happy to say that my essay was removed from the website by the end of the day. And their response?

Yeah, I thought there should have been an apology too, but whatever.

Beside the fact that someone has been financially gaining from my work for two years without my permission or compensation (it was added to their website in September of 2010), it really irked me that sites like this even exist. Maybe shocked is a better word. If the intent of this site is to help students jump-start their writing, or give examples of quality work, don’t people know they can get all that information for free? Good grief, at the very least, they could have been reading that particular essay for free right on my blog! Or, I don’t know, meet with your professor if you are having trouble or take better notes in class. How about this idea? Do your own friggin’ work.

Hmm, maybe I’m missing a big opportunity here and should make my blog password protected and start charging a monthly membership fee. If I charged what this site does for unlimited monthly access to other people’s work ($30), based on the number of followers I currently have (2,341), I would be making about what? $70,000 a month?

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About My Pajama Days

I am Emily Okaty Wilson, freelance writer, blogger and public speaker. It sounds better than saying I stay in my pajamas all day eating salt and vinegar chips. I claim to be a wife, a mother, a homeschool teacher and a musician. Sometimes I'm funny.
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9 Responses to Buying “example” papers. How is it that really ethical?

  1. Doesn’t that make you feel violated? Some people really don’t have a smidgen of ethics floating about in their mind. I’m so glad that you were alerted to the fact and that now you are warning others. I guess you have to believe in the old biblical adage — you reap what you sow. If they are going to play that way, hopefully it won’t be for long.

  2. What’s truly pathetic is the culprit knew what he/she was doing. The profile contained nothing that could remotely be traced back to an actual person. On a separate but possibly related note, I know that some college professors use their own published textbooks as required reading for their classes. And some of those professors put out a new edition every year, requiring the new crop of students to pay top dollar for “new” material, when sometimes all that’s changed is one paragraph on page 219 that’s caused the page numbering to be off. I have to wonder if a professor is receiving a kickback from this site, requiring his students to acquire a subscription as part of the syllabus for his on-line class or study group.

    What is equally terrifying is the fact that the following is under the “frequently asked questions” tab: “My copyrighted material is on this website without my permission. How can I get it removed?
    Please contact us and follow the procedures in item 21 on this page: http://www.studymode.com/terms.php.”

    This should be a warning flag. Any site that has this question listed as “frequently asked” is not a site that cares about it’s members or the content posted within its pages.

    On top of that, should you look up “jobs”, you find that company perks include catered lunches every Wednesday and Friday, catered dinners for anyone who decides to stay and “work after hours”, a generous budget to customize your workstation, and 100% premium coverage for medical/dental/vision healthcare package for you and your family. And there’s a picture attached that leads me to believe they take an annual company trip – expenses paid – to Las Vegas.

    For study help? Am I the only one who smells scam? This is the sort of benefit that the home loan banks were giving their people a few years back when the bottom fell out of the market and the federal government had to bail out banks to the tune of millions.

    They’re making $30 a month on over 3 million members.

    I’m pissed. It’s not happening against me, but as a writer, a blogger, I’m pissed that it happens, and especially that it happens to someone I respect and follow.

    • OMG! I think I just read your response three times, and it made me smile every time. I agree – when the FAQ give instructs on how to remove copyrighted material there is a problem. My kids learned a valuable lesson, I hope. They were pretty angry that someone would “steal” from their mom. Hopefully they will remember this when they have to write big papers for college/high school. Thanks for your support!

      • Of course you’ve got my support! Always. :)

        It’s unconscionable that a company is this grossly negligible and blatantly insensitive to the education community alone, to the writing community and the general populace on the grander scale. That no one has yet been able to rake them over the coals during their 13 year history is unsettling. How many people have been wronged by their lack of action or prevention? If I had the resources, there would be class-action scale war.

      • I meant to say negligent. Oops. I’m so pissed I’m not able to think straight. :)

  3. Tammy says:

    That’s awful. I am almost afraid to go there with a couple of my posts.

  4. I couldn’t believe it when I saw that. I “flagged” it as well and I’m glad they took it down.

    It reminds me a bit of Pinterest’s “we aren’t responsible if someone plagiarizes, you are and if we get sued, you have to pay for our fees!”

    And that is a really good post. :)

  5. I’m trying to work out if that’s more crazy than scary or more scary than crazy. ;)

  6. Miriam Joy says:

    That’s obscene. Though in the past I’ve seen my work on other sites, they haven’t been ones where you had to pay. The thought that someone would do that makes me furious. No wonder writers are always skint, if other people are taking money for their work!

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