Social Media Plagiarism in Recovery

Submitted by on Monday, June 29, 2015No Comments

Plagiarism Methods

Social Media Plagiarism in the Recovery Community?Plagiarizing (or the copying and taking the credit for)  art, infographics, words, and so forth, on the internet is probably not surprising. The innocent and incorrect attribution of quotes, for example, is quite popular itself and is in the same category as false information going viral into the public domain so that the false information becomes such common knowledge we can’t easily find the true origin.

So it may not be surprising that it’s happening in the recovery communities on Facebook Pages and Websites. With social media and the possibility of something wonderful getting shared so much it goes viral, it seems some people are going so far as to take the creator’s or author’s credit either by not leaving attributions intact or by re-creating the medium either with false ownership or no ownership.


  1. I put my name/website on a graphic. You take the graphic (art, words) but snip off my website. You post the graphic to your website or Facebook Page and everyone thinks you did it.
  2. I put my FB Page on the bottom of a graphic since I created it for my FB page let’s say. I find my words re-copied on a different background and with no credit. Worse (as in an example I’ll show of how it happened to one of mine), a spammy sploggy website’s .com is listed on it and in a nice cursive font, some other person’s name, not mine.

I see it mostly on Facebook but (Facebook is where I often see the fauxspiration of everything unholy, anyway, that enables my most frequent breaks) that’s because my feed throws them at me. I don’t go looking for them.

So that when this all ‘accidentally’ culminated, this is why this plagiarism article.

Why Plagiarize Online Media

Desiring for you to “Like Up” or “Tweet” or “Pin” their stolen content so they can get traffic, fame, or money, these people have no interest or care that someone else made the work. But whatever the reason for plagiarism, it’s still trying to pass off someone else’s work as their own.

Plagiarism: Whether it’s writing, painting, any artistic expression, music, etc, and yes including digital media, if you take someone’s work and attempt to get credit for it – made perhaps easier by social sharing  – it is known as the term ‘plagiarism.’

I’m not going to get into “fair use” or the legality of how to use what, because country laws vary (and the internet is the global wild west) BUT as long as you keep attributions intact or link to the source you find or offer the original creator the credit, then plagiarism can be avoided.

The trend I have noticed are Facebook Pages with 10’s of thousands of fans (probably bought) are the ones doing it. They can steal your clever little infographic, quote, video or digital art, remove your name, and take the credit. Their 50K Fans share it, download it, post it on their websites, reference it, and some of them will do the same as the place they just got it from. Why not? (Maybe they add their own name or website.)

And because you posted it online (digitally) – as opposed to a hard copy – if your name, in the form of pixels, is removed or altered, how to prove they weren’t the source without your seeing it and offering your own proof?  And the negative in this is that most who shared it, probably don’t care.

Unique Expressions ONLY are Plagiarizable

How many different ways can I express that water is wet? It’s a universal truth. To say you plagiarized it would be silly. We’re all in the thought-stream, yes, but our unique expression is the difference. And “water is wet” isn’t unique. But to make a poem about the wetness of water, a video about the moist qualities of water, or write a blog about it, a book about it, or make an original or unique image with the words of ‘water is wet’ – those unique expressions are open to plagiarism.

Water is Wet Unique Expression versus Not Unique Expression

Because It’s Easy To Plagiarize Online Media

My own incident some weeks ago, involved my Enabling infographic ( that I feature in my “Enabling” article ) that was hijacked. It had some re-pins on Pinterest, probably made it to the wild, and I traced the plagiarized version to a spam website that seemed to be about recovery but was really a splog.

Plagiarism of my Enabling infographic

My original is on the left. The plagiarized is on the right.

I tried to pass off the plagiarism as a hazard of the creating business. But it was gnawing at me. Who did it? Where did the Pinterest User GET the false version (since it was ‘uploaded by pinner’) and why did I have to see it? And why did her comment caption refer people to a Facebook page that wasn’t mine but DID have over 10K Fans? I suspected a black hat marketing company.

Apparently I was supposed to see it because it was entirely “accidental” [I do not believe in accidents but DO believe in HSP metaphysical happenings a la  Jungian synchronicity]. It was just weird to see my words on “Enabling” that I had so carefully (and artistically) chosen to be so blatantly stolen with someone else’s name and a website. Complete with the lined format and parentheses, it was surreal to see it.

(Hat-Tip to Pinterest for DMCA take-down ease of use. It was removed in less than 20 minutes.)

One day later, a Facebook Page had a status that they did not like that one of their graphics had been re-posted with her attribution removed.

I thank Lilly Hope Lucario for sharing what she did and so I link to her as applause. And if you were to click on the link and visit her website, she might appreciate it even more.

Two weeks ago, and shortly after the above happened, I watched a cute video – in my Facebook feed – about a tortoise helping his friend turn back over from being turned topside on his shell. I thought it would be a nice share for my FB Page about Friendship. I was just about to share it when I saw it was originally shared (by a friend) from a Radio Facebook Page with over 50K Fans I think it was. Seeing where it came from made me feel funny since it sounded like a home movie with the way a man was talking. (Why would an apparently popular FB Page have this video with no attribution at all, yet uploaded themselves as if they had made it?)

When I found the original source, it had come from YouTube with a clear message AND information ON the video, itself, of its “All Rights Reserved” by AuDi Yu (Taiwan Zoo) and that stated how to get licensing to share the video from Jukin Media. This Facebook Page, whether they had the licensing or not I do not know. What I do know is that credit to the creator was removed and no link to the original video on YouTube stating the licensing information was available.  UpRoxx, however, well done: Tortoise Video – Companion Saved Him. So I’m giving THEM the traffic if you’d love to see the cute video embedded correctly with the licensing information and copyright notice.

Why It Matters

It not only matters to the Creator who has been stolen from, but to a larger degree it will matter to the people who follow these Creators.

  • If a content creator in the recovery community (or anywhere) constantly sees their stuff getting re-purposed or plagiarized, they may stop being of benefit in the recovery community or start watermarking their stuff in a very ugly way. (I hate that I have to ‘’ or ‘’ at the bottom of my images as it is.)
  • If a content creator is writing a hard-copy of a book or making a video and seeks to re-purpose their own work in that book, the content may be suspiciously like Ms. Sploggy Spammers that the reader or viewer remembers having seen. Then the content creator may be assumed to have been the plagiarist.
  • A content creator may be relying on website traffic for their income, which is incentive to continue creating or writing. But if you remove their .com or help share an image from a 50K Liked Facebook Page that removed their .com, you have just enabled him or her to lose potential traffic as well as morally righteous credit.

Finally: It matters because it does. If this is the Recovery Community we’re talking about, and it is, then how can anyone support a Facebook Page or follow a Twitter Account or Pinterest User who consistently uses someone else’s work? I don’t think you knowingly would.

So how can you help?

Help Creators Keep Their Credit

Probably the largest – due to the viral power of social media – and most inadvertent contributor to the problem – but easiest to remedy because you have power – is: That people are so quick to share something they enjoy, that they never bother trying to source the original work.

I was talking to my Mom about this article in progress and said she’s guilty of doing that. I, too, am guilty of doing that. In fact, I am sure I have some background images on some of my work that were not public domain but I was either too lazy to look and see or I found it somewhere literally saying it was public domain or somewhere I assumed it was public domain or free to use for non-commercial use.

When she asked, “But what is the solution?” I told her we are. “People with a conscience will care.” She offered the hopeless rejoinder that “Spammers and copyright thieves lack conscience.” But I was talking about the ones who become aware that this is a problem. The ones who may be reading this right now.

I’m not suggesting you hurt yourself trying to play detective every single time you want to share something, but spending a few minutes might save someone’s livelihood.

How To Avoid Unintended Plagiarism

  • Spending a couple of seconds typing in words to a search engine – before sharing to a mass audience – may yield an original source. Then you can offer them the credit.
  • Visiting or other reverse image look-ups and inputting an image URL or uploading one may reveal an original source.
  • Read what Creative Commons is about. At the bottom of this page you may notice my CC License which means you can share or build off my work here but credit me, link me, etc. Some people have an even more open license which allows you to use their work for commercial purposes.
  • If you see something on a Public Facebook Page that is being shared BY the Facebook Page (as opposed to a personal Facebook Timeline which is usually not Public or usually does not have a mass following of people connected to it) as their apparent work, but you don’t think this is the case, share with them that you have an original source if you do.

Which leads me to the primary and more recent issue of copying without credit and the reason I write this.

Codependent Recovery Plagiarism

It began on Pinterest when I re-pinned a bullet point list of an entitled Codependency Symptoms graphic from another Pinterest user to my Recovery Board. I’m no mega-pinner and I don’t “collect” pins which means if I re-pin, it means something. And this Codependency Symptoms list meant something. It was just that good. It was clear, succinct, and honest.

Lizard Brain and HSP Connection

But when I finally noticed the image said it was by “Author Unknown” HSP began to tingle. And it doesn’t take HSP in this case. It only takes a little thought: Someone had to have originally taken that list from someone or somewhere in order to write “Author Unknown,” eh?

No way could a LIST like that just be floating about with no idea of origination. It was a LIST; It was not a quote or a limerick or an oral story or a fauxspirational line with a period at the end. Once again, it was a list.

I did a search and found the same text, same order, on various websites or images claiming, still, “Author Unknown.”

On one website I found, the order of the lines had been changed and lines were missing that had been in the earlier ones I found. It was obviously from the same list except looked suspiciously altered to avoid plagiarism. This one, too, was “Author Unknown.”

Active Codependency Doesn’t Tell the Truth

When I did find the source of the “Codependent Symptoms,” I saw that the parts that had been excluded from the ‘faux list’ were the less savory characteristics of codependency like ‘manipulation.’

Way to discredit yourself as a source of Codependent Recovery? Make sure to leave out ‘manipulation’ as a codependent trait as you manipulate a Symptoms of Codependency list to look as if the author is really unknown and that codependency isn’t damaging to other people since there’s nothing in your list that reveals that codependents can be manipulative to get what they think they need.

If a codependent can get someone see that their ‘worst’ quality is merely ‘loving too much,’ what’s so bad about that?

On the other hand, if Codependency told the Truth; told you the basis of many of their behaviors was fear covered in self or other trickery, control, or manipulation to get people to do what they wanted them to do, sane people might run away.

Maybe the web page this was on, wants to be popular and doesn’t want to risk the truth alienating those who might link or share the page. Or maybe they have a bad association with the word ‘manipulation’ or maybe really is trying to paint a portrait of the victimized Codependent rather than the complex Codependent. But this is just speculative.

Origination of the Symptoms of Codependency List

All I did was Google some of the phrases I found on the list. And the book showed up. Here’s a screen capture you can click on to see it for yourself in case you have one of the plagiarized lists with “Author Unknown.”

Spirituality for Recovery Addicts by Richard Bulworth

Father Richard Bulwith is his name

The book is entitled Spirituality For Recovering Addicts And For Anyone Seeking Spiritual Growth. It took less than 3 minutes to find it. The result came up in a Google Book Search and the copyright of the book is 2012.

Richard Bullwith - Spirituality for Recovering AddictsIf he did not plagiarize it, and I have no reason to think he did, how can he not get the credit?

Now, it’s true he could have borrowed heavily from Melody Beattie or CoDA literature because as far as I am concerned, she is the Queen of Codie Recovery and was my personal first exposure which does pre-date 2012.

Plagiarism is not unique expressions that end up pointing at the same thing that others may also uniquely express as pointing to the same common thing.

Beattie had to have borrowed from someone to learn codependency characteristics, yeah?

Yeah, like I grew from Elaine Aron’s initial learning of HSP-ness (and then added more qualities with the more self-discovery I grew into awareness of), others have now borrowed off me without so much as a wink or a nod. (Especially the HSP and Codependency connection that I’ve ‘suddenly’ seen popping up. Why? Why do people do this?)

But I Still Wanted to Share This Wonderful List

I did want to share the list but because I had my own thoughts I wanted to add, I made one myself based off of Bulwith’s. While I was at it, I kept the ‘unsavory qualities’ like ‘manipulation’ and added some or altered the language.

I also titled it differently.

And, of course, gave credit.

Codependency Symptoms - Codependency tells the truth.

Codependency Tells the Truth

Recovered People Tell the Truth

Codependency, for the one who’s not yet recognized it for what it is, doesn’t know the truth in themselves.

It’s such a perilous affliction of co-opting another’s identity or an outside source as key to their internal wellness, that they really do need for others to be who they (think they) need them to be.

In fact, the basis for recovery or sanity (from anything!) starts by telling the truth. And as the person recovering grows in recovery, more illusions slide away revealing more truth. Plagiarism is not telling the Truth.

Insofar as the previously omitted “manipulation” (from the many plagiarized “Codependency Symptoms” lists floating about) goes, the symbolism of that was quite extraordinary.

And I love irony.

 *I also love Orange is the New Black. #oitnb


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