I recently came upon an article on a popular writing site that promoted the use of Copyscape as a way to rewrite articles so you can sell several versions of the same article. The person writing the article didn't clarify whether she was rewriting her own articles or another author's articles. That is why this bothered me enough to blog about it. There are many sites and writers out there that promote the rewriting of existing articles, enough to pass a plagiarism checker such as Copyscape, and selling them. So the title of this blog says it all - rewriting another article does not make you a writer.
People trying to make a fast buck by rewriting one article into several and posting it all over the internet don't really care about ethical writing behavior, and that affects all of us who are actually following the rules. Rewriting another person's work is unethical, no matter how many plagiarism checkers you put it through. That isn't what checkers like Copyscape were created for. Plagiarism checkers were created so buyers could check to make sure they were buying original work and writers could check their work to make sure they didn't unintentionally copy anyone else.
This is not to say you cannot write several articles from research you did for one article. This is entirely different. I recently wrote three articles for eHow on acid reflux, all from the research I did for the original one but with different slants. One was how to detect acid reflux in infants, one was on how to identify causes of acid reflux and the third was on how to prevent acid reflux through diet. All the same subject, but all on different topics of the same subject. It is not uncommon to research one article and find several more topics for articles as you research. That is the legitimate way that writers come up with topics for articles. However, I did not write three identical articles on acid reflux and try to pass them off as original on three different sites.
Another legitimate way to use articles is to post the same article on several sites that ALLOW articles that have been published elsewhere on their site. On eHow, you can publish previously published material, as you can on Associated Content, HubPages and many other sites. Since you are only re-publishing the same article legally, then that is another way to get use out of one article. What is wrong is to take another writer's article, rewrite it enough to pass the plagiarism checker and then publish it under your name.
Unfortunately, there are many writing sites out there that let people ask for rewritten articles. Many of the bidding style writer's sites allow requests by customers stating they have an article that they want you to rewrite 5 or 10 times so it passes Copyscape. Since these sites allow this type of activity, then some writers believe it is okay to do this. I think it is on the shady side, myself. Even if the requestor wrote the original article himself (not always the case), I find it still to be wrong. But, of course, since most of these types of requests only want to pay $1-2 dollars for each article, I guess they really can't expect someone to research a new article for that price. But just because you see this happening all around you doesn't make it right.
Understanding Copyright Laws
I think the biggest problem is that people become "writers" without actually understanding copyright laws or rights to articles. People still seem to believe that if it is on the Internet, it is public domain and free to use or copy. That is not true today and never was. When I wrote for print media, I had to understand copyright laws, as did any legitimate writer. If you were selling an article for Full Rights, First Serial Rights or Second Serial Reprint Rights, you had to know what you were selling. Different terms for rights came along when the Internet began. Suddenly you were selling Use Rights, All Rights or no rights at all. But, it still remains that unless you print on your article that it is for Public Domain Use, or you place your work on a site that takes all of your rights away, then you own the Copyright to your work even if it isn't stated that you own the Copyright on the article. So, because I own this blog, and because I wrote this article, I OWN the copyright. No one should copy or use this content without my permission. It is as simple as that.
However, Copyright laws can be confusing to some people. I found a link to an article explaining Internet Copyright Laws that you should check out if you want to learn more.
I know Legitimate Writers are Out There
I am not saying that every new writer out there is not a legitimate writer. I read a lot of articles every day on sites such as eHow, Associated Content, HubPages and Suite101 and am always pleased to find so many talented writers who come up with wonderful, original content. The majority of people who write for these sites read the rules and follow them. They want to contribute to the sites, not copy others. This is wonderful and I enjoy reading these articles very much. By publishing this post, I hope to deter anyone who has read it is okay to copy or rewrite other writer's articles. In some cases, they don't even know they are breaking copyright laws. Informing people is the best way to stop copyright violation.