Three Things Not to Say about Plagiarism to a Blogger | Rheumatoid Arthritis Warrior

Three Things Not to Say about Plagiarism to a Blogger

1) Oh, that’s just flattery, they like your writing.

2) Well, at least the message is getting out.

3) Don’t say anything because that will make you look bad.

All of these have been said to me. And I’m not buying it.

List of stolen wordsClick image to enlarge.

My regular followers know that for I’ve been typing away about Rheumatoid Arthritis on my red Dell laptop for the last two years.

The first and the worst lesson I learned as a writer is it’s horrible to have one’s work stolen. I’ve never spoken publicly about this, but I’ve found my own text and images on other patient blogs and large websites dozens of times, without attribution.

Today, I’m pushing back. I’m calling out Health.com for using a blog post of mine to create new revenue-driven content. If you’d plan to comment about this post here on elsewhere online, please finish reading this post first.

There are many ways to steal an article. Here’s what’s happened to me:

  • An entire blog post is pasted into another blog or website.
  • My entire blog has appeared on another site thanks to RSS. (This has happened twice.)
  • Someone copies a couple of paragraphs, adds a few words, and then calls theirs.
  • My basic outline is followed, key phrases are repeated, and the exact same obscure research sources are cited and my post is considered “re-written.”

Perhaps you think the last example of theft is the most innocent. However, it requires the most time and intention. And it’s most difficult to identify.

Look carefully at the image I’ve created by pasting words from my original post (11/30/09) 20 Things Not to Say to a Rheumatoid Arthritis Patient on the left. For the last week, Health.com has promoted their new article, 15 Things Not to Say to an RA Patient. You’ll find “their words” pasted into the right column.

Two things plagiarizers have in common:

  1. They don’t apologize, even when they get caught and have to take content down.
  2. They make money from bloggers’ content before we realize what they’ve done.

It seems new sites pop up about RA or PsA almost daily. Competition for RA traffic is cutthroat for an obvious reason: money. The drugs that treat RA are the most expensive drugs in the world.

So-called respectable health sites hire writers to create content that will appear next to Biologic ads. When these writers have no personal experience with the conditions they write about, they read blogs to get information.

It’s apparent that these sites been reading and stealing from my blog. And they are probably reading and stealing from others.

Are we as patients, as writers, or as health advocates going to accept this practice by continuing to treat these “health” sites with the level of respect that they have enjoyed? We need to call them out. Please join me in that.

Notice: The only 2 items from “their” list that were not taken from mine are not things that I’ve ever heard said to an RA patient. People tell RA patients “I know someone with RA and she is not as sick as you are,” not the opposite. Perhaps the “author” should have asked an RA patient about those.

UPDATE 3/10/11: Health.com Replies to RA Warrior

Recommended reading:

Kelly O'Neill Young

Kelly O'Neill (formerly Kelly Young) has worked over 10 years as an advocate helping patients to be better informed and have a greater voice in their healthcare. She is the author of the best-selling book Rheumatoid Arthritis Unmasked: 10 Dangers of Rheumatoid Disease. Kelly received national acknowledgement with the 2011 WebMD Health Hero award. She is the president of the Rheumatoid Patient Foundation. Through her writing and speaking, she builds a more accurate awareness of rheumatoid disease (RD) aka rheumatoid arthritis (RA) geared toward the public and medical community; creates ways to empower patients to advocate for improved diagnosis and treatment; and brings recognition and visibility to the RA patient journey. In addition to RA Warrior, she writes periodically for newsletters, magazines, and websites. There are over 60,000 connections of her highly interactive Facebook page. You can also connect with Kelly by on Twitter or YouTube, or LinkedIn. She created the hashtag: #rheum. Kelly is a mother of five, longtime home-schooler, NASA enthusiast, and NFL fan. She has lived over thirteen years with unrelenting RD. See also https:/rawarrior.com/kelly-young-press/

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55 thoughts on “Three Things Not to Say about Plagiarism to a Blogger

  • March 4, 2011 at 12:30 am
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    Oh. My. Gosh. That is bold. Wow! Get em’, Kelly! That makes me angry for you!!!

    What makes it even worse? Really, if these companies want to hire writers to write about RA, why don’t they approach people like YOU that have successful, high-traffic blogs to write for them, instead of these idiots that probably didn’t know there was more than one type of arthritis? L.A.M.E. Sorry it happened to you 🙁

    Reply
  • March 4, 2011 at 12:55 am
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    There’s actually a form of real harm that ripoff artists like Health.com cause you: Google doesn’t rank you as highly if the same content appears elsewhere. For someone like you, who’s trying to generate some income from it, that’s theft.

    Amazing: the post there even has a byline, as if someone else wrote it. I’m going there to post a comment, linking to here. Maybe their admiring community will get a sense of what’s going on … or maybe my comment won’t get approved for posting. 🙂

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  • March 4, 2011 at 1:03 am
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    Kelly, here is the comment I left on that website…now to see if they publish my comment. This is despicable!!!! Makes me so angry!

    Wow. Way to plagiarize Kelly Young’s RAWARRIOR blog. Kelly’s been writing for several years about RA, as a patient, and I see a LOT of things (especially this list of 15) that came DIRECTLY from her blog. The wording has been changed a little, but this is hers. I hope whoever wrote this will correct it and at LEAST give her credit for “your” ideas. I suppose a public apology is too much to ask for? How very sad and deceitful.

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  • March 4, 2011 at 1:04 am
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    Kelly,
    When I came across a link for that other article, red flags immediately went up. The title they used was the exact title of a blog you had written some time ago–except they gave 15 instead of 20 things not to say. I just had to click on the link to look into this further. Lo and behold, it was essentially the same as your article–and your name was nowhere to be found. UNbeLIEVable!! To take someone’s original idea and publish it is not only unethical, it’s illegal! And they didn’t even bother to change many of your words–that’s just lazy! Shame on them and others who take the easy shortcut and take credit for others’ hard work. Pretty pitiful.

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  • March 4, 2011 at 1:10 am
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    Okay, I went there and posted (twice, because the links to here didn’t come through). The comments:

    =======

    Oops. This is wholesale plagiarism, 8th-grade style, from a hardworking arthritis blogger.

    The Nov 2009 original is here; a post Thursday blowing the whistle is here.

    This post changed some wording, but it’s just a rewrite of another’s work, without credit. Take this down.

    =======
    and:

    I guess embedded links aren’t allowed on this site…here’s the URL to the whistle-blow post https://www.rawarrior.com/three-things-not-to-say-about-plagiarism-to-a-blogger/. Or you can google “three things not to say about plagiarism to a blogger”.

    ========

    We’ll see what happens.

    Reply
  • March 4, 2011 at 1:18 am
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    Dave your comment is up there now. Mine isn’t…yet lol

    Reply
  • March 4, 2011 at 1:36 am
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    UGH, this makes me beyond angry! Kelly,it must have been hard to sleep thinking about this. Good job for having the backbone (although it’s a painful one) to fight these thieves.
    Bless you Kelly, and thank you for all that you’ve done for all of us <3

    Reply
  • March 4, 2011 at 1:54 am
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    Left comment on their site, this is outrageous.

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  • March 4, 2011 at 6:58 am
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    So well written,Kelly. Of course, it is sad and outrageous that your work, based on countless hours of hard effort and research, is stolen. Why not give you credit? Makes me sad and mad. Thanks for writing this. I so appreciate your advocacy on behalf of me, and millions of others with RA, AS, and PsA.

    Reply
  • March 4, 2011 at 7:06 am
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    Go get them Kelly…Wow…That is a pretty clear case…I thought it sounded familiar when I first saw the article…but did not get the connection at first…Wow what a shame…What a rip-off…

    Reply
  • March 4, 2011 at 7:49 am
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    You know, I read that at Health.com – it was linked from Sara Nash’s blog – and I thought, gosh, that sounds awfully familiar!

    They would do better to just hire you to write for them!

    Do you have your blog copywrited? – I’ve seen some that are. Maybe that would scare them off a little.

    Reply
    • March 4, 2011 at 8:23 am
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      I don’t read Sara’s blog regularly so I didn’t know that until someone said it late yesterday. This was already written. Of course I want to state that I see Sara as blameless. She would not have been told of course.
      Yes, every post on this blog has a copyright statment on it. Things are copyrighted in this country regardless, once they are created. It’s also addressed on the FAQ tab.

      Reply
  • March 4, 2011 at 7:56 am
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    Oh, oh I feel stupid now. I saw that article and a bunch of others on there and thought ‘Yay someone else is getting it!’

    …Or not. This is too upsetting. I’m so sorry for this happening to you and for how so many of us seem to have read that thing never realizing just why it sounded so familiar.

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  • March 4, 2011 at 8:41 am
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    I also commented, “Shame on you.” on their site. Thank you for bringing it to our attention, so we can help call them out on it. Keep up the good work, Kelly. Many of us rely on your info, and the comments here, each morning to get us going for the day. I know I do.

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  • March 4, 2011 at 8:56 am
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    I’ve received an email with some of the 3 statements at the top of this post, telling me to forget about it because it is flattery & the message is getting out, etc.

    We don’t have to agree. But as I already carefully stated here, I’m not buy that.

    Also, there are some Tweets someone created saying I’m angry. I didn’t write this out of anger. This is not about feelings. It’s about doing the right thing. Bloggers and health advocates need to stand together against this abuse of our legal rights.

    I’m having a good day & this is not eating me up. Having RA is actually much more difficult, so I can handle this.

    Reply
  • March 4, 2011 at 9:17 am
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    Good for you, Kelly.

    What I find most baffling about theft of this sort is not why the individuals in question would want to steal your content (A: because it’s great) but their thinking that you or a member of the community wouldn’t notice.

    Patient bloggers are *the* most highly attuned receptors and human filters of the content that is most relevant to them on the web, period. To think that you would not discover this larceny beggars belief, really.

    @andrewspong

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    • March 5, 2011 at 12:39 pm
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      Andrew, good point. Numerous members of the community have stated that they did realize it even before I spoke up. I suppose this happens so much because it is too difficult to pursue any remedy. They are betting on that with these sites every day.

      Reply
  • March 4, 2011 at 9:25 am
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    Kelly you are the best! You go and have a wonderful day. We all have a right to our own opinion and we are blessed that you choose to share yours. Bless you and THANK YOU..your efforts are much appreciated 🙂

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  • March 4, 2011 at 9:39 am
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    Kelly-
    A comment on my blog just brought my attention to your article, so I came over and checked it out. I just want to say that I am mortified that I unknowingly participated in this. I have also found my writing in other places without attribution, but not on a site making a profit on it. I will say one of the topics, ‘Now is the time to have RA,’ is one that I contributed to the article when I spoke with them (and have written about on my own a long time ago), but I’m going to remove the link to the article from my blog and FB page…and just want to say publicly here that I am really sorry this happened. Good for you for pushing back. They should have just paid you to reprint your post!

    Reply
    • March 4, 2011 at 9:47 am
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      Good point, Sara. I think the fact that they went to the trouble to add quotes from you in an attempt to give their page legitimacy just makes it more deceptive. As we’ve said before, if a company wants to make money by patients, then they’d be better off if they included patients at every level of the process with the patient’s permission, cooperation, and payment when appropriate. Both my Now’s the Best Time to Have RA post and my 20 Things Not to Say to an RA Patient post are from 2009. No doubt yours is that old too. I never doubted you.

      Reply
      • March 4, 2011 at 10:58 am
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        I was the one who wrote to Sara and alerted her to the plagiarized content. Initially I thought they might have plagiarized her, too, taking quotes from her blog and inserting them into their article as though they’d interviewed her personally. I learned that wasn’t the case when I found her blog link to the article. Her reply to me was very gracious. It burns me up that this sort of thing happens all too frequently online.

        Reply
        • March 4, 2011 at 11:08 am
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          Sara is very gracious. We can all stand together because we are all the victims here of this crime.

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  • March 4, 2011 at 9:53 am
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    As a college professor, i am not shocked at how rampant plagiarism is. But for another known website to do it…well that’s just brazen.

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  • March 4, 2011 at 9:59 am
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    I sent you a message about your copied content, then I later said, at least the word is getting out. UUgh I’m So SORRY! I have to get my barrage of comments on their copied pages -pronto.. My keyboard is smoking! We can’t wait around for Karma.. we have their Karma right here.baby!

    Reply
    • March 4, 2011 at 11:13 am
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      I actually got an email Rachel that quoted all 3 of the things I said Don’t Say To a Blogger. The person was saying them to me anyway this morning. 😛

      Reply
  • March 4, 2011 at 10:13 am
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    Kelly, it took me a while to get my response on this plagiarism posted. I tried to “send” it several times, but it finally got through, but without my name on top–it’s listed as “anonymous”…. I don’t care how it was listed, as long as another voice got heard. Anyway, I’m wondering if the site is being bombarded with an abundance of people wanting to point out their lack of citing–perhaps that’s why it took me so long!

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  • March 4, 2011 at 10:23 am
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    As I was reading the article,my mind kept drifting to you Kelly and I thought about e-mailing the article to you. Glad to know I wasn’t alone in my thoughts. Their dishonesty has crippled them far more than they know,and not giving you any credit for their article is heartwrenching. Guess this is really the world we live in,and it is a sad state of affairs. My heart goes out to you. Your work is remarkable, and despite what low-life’s do, you will prevail.

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    • March 4, 2011 at 11:07 am
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      When that happens, please do send it to me. And please do question the one who is doing it. I cannot make this stop but if all patients and all bloggers reject these then we can make a difference. Thanks for your good words.

      Reply
  • March 4, 2011 at 11:05 am
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    As a former college professor, I can tell you that the inability of young (and old-enough-to-know-better) people to known what constitutes plagiarism seems to be going strong. As a published author, I can tell you that the ongoing theft of services is rampant beyond the point of sorrowful. This is one reason I am a proud member of the Authors Guild.

    Reply
  • March 4, 2011 at 1:30 pm
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    Kelly,

    It is disheartening when others take credit to work we’ve done. The autoblog-type pages which reproduce posts from the RSS feed are annoying. I did complain to Google/Blogger about a blog which was stealing my own. I left a comment on the website but I’m sure that nobody was monitoring it. However, Google did take the blog/website down. Yay!

    Now…to take a different viewpoint. Many people have written similar “top 10, top 15, top 20” posts/articles regarding other chronic diseases and conditions. If asked the question, I would likely have said many of the very same things in the same words even.

    The list is universal. Ask the members of any online health community and they would probably list the very much the same things.

    Not long ago while I was doing research on a very specific topic, I found several articles online which contained the same primary concepts. Some were obvious plagiarism of each other. Trying to address the same topic (even with reading way too many medical articles to find solid information to share) it was difficult to turn around and begin to write my own post on the subject. The same ideas had been rewritten/tweaked so many times that even my own words would come out sounding too similar to the other articles.

    I don’t want to be accused of plagiarism (and once was).
    Choosing what to include in that article became a challenge. Eventually I found the book which provided much of the information for the ‘original’ article from which many of the others had been rewritten. None of the articles referred the medical book by name. Only one mentioned two of the authors of the text. Finding the book was by accident (almost).

    But no matter what, this occurrence of suspicious similarity is disheartening. I’m sorry that we have to be so diligent to protect our own work.

    Reply
  • March 4, 2011 at 1:34 pm
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    i saw the “15 things” article and posted it on the RA board for Daily Strength. i didn’t realize how closely it resembled yours. as this is a recent thread, i will go there and post that the article borrows (seemingly) entirely from yours. sorry for being an inadvertent contributor to this farce!

    Reply
  • March 4, 2011 at 3:27 pm
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    note to self: don’t mess with kelly! 🙂

    shame on them! your honesty and heart always come through in your writing……we all feel it and thank you xoxoxo

    Reply
  • March 4, 2011 at 6:53 pm
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    I’ve been stewing about this all day. The more I think about the, the more outraged I become. Kelly puts way too much work into this site to have it stolen from her. As for calling them out on it, I say GOOD FOR YOU! Stand up for yourself. I know I speak for more than just myself when I say we will stand with you.

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  • March 4, 2011 at 7:58 pm
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    This just amazes me coming from a “well-known” magazine/website–why an editor would even allow something like this, is beyond me; but as stated by others, it’s pure laziness on both the writer and editor. It also makes me leery of any information that would come from this organization now–if they “steal” others words and plagiarize information, that they obviously have no idea what they are reporting on, then how credible can they really be??? NOT that yours is not credible, but if they don’t do their JOB–then how can they be assured this is factual???? I’m sorry they did that to your words Kelly, as a teacher, unfortunately people don’t think taking someone else’s words is harmful!!!!!

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  • March 4, 2011 at 11:58 pm
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    I just want to say that, although I’m not a blogger, I have been dealing with Plagiarism, on Facebook comments!!! Although that’s on a much smaller scale, it’s still WRONG!!! I try to post “witty and/or heartfelt” comments, but people keep copying my comments and posting them as THEIR comment, without giving me any credit!!! I’ve seen people comment about how great the post was, and the person says, “Thank you”. This has also happened with more than one person. I really don’t know what to say…I need to get some helpful information.

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    • March 5, 2011 at 10:42 am
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      Facebook is made-to-order for plagiarism. Many posts are less than the “magic” 25 words, and thus can be used with impunity. And most people don’t even think about plagiarism in the context of re-posting on Facebook. It’s a shame. Although I try to remember to attribute stuff, I’m sure that all-to-many times I don’t.
      Shame on me. I’ll be more careful in the future.

      Reply
    • March 5, 2011 at 10:53 am
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      Kelly, if I’m ever guilty of this, catch me up on it. It will be inadvertent, I assure you. I don’t want to be guilty of plagiarism in any form, but especially not from you.

      I will quote you WITH attribution and a link. Your stuff is too good to not share.

      Keep up the fight.
      Love
      Elizabeth

      Reply
  • March 5, 2011 at 2:37 am
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    Just wanted to let you know, I sent a letter to health.com (whatever their name was) telling them I think they should give you credit….not that they will, but it’s one more voice.

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    • March 5, 2011 at 12:29 pm
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      Thanks Michael. I guesss we’ll find out if they do the right thing. I asked them to apologize and remove it. That would be a shock if they took patients seriously at this point and did so.

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  • March 5, 2011 at 8:00 am
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    I’ve had the misfortune of having some of my photos used online without my permission and it felt really lousy. It gave me the opportunity to understand, first-hand, what it really means to own your intellectual property. And on a purely emotional level, it feels like someone takes a piece of you.

    Reply
  • March 5, 2011 at 2:12 pm
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    Y’know… I thought I recognized that. It’s despicable and unethical and just plain wrong.

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  • March 5, 2011 at 11:17 pm
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    They deleted/didn’t approve my comment that I posted above on here (copied). It was one of the first ones, but I guess it’s ok cuz everyone else posted.

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    • March 5, 2011 at 11:22 pm
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      Raini you are the third person who told me that; so they are not all posted. But thank you for letting us know what happened with you. I haven’t even been on their site since the night I read the piece since I don’t want to give them pageviews. 😮 I wonder how many they have actually deleted.

      Reply
  • March 6, 2011 at 10:27 am
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    That’s so stupid ! If they like your text, they should contact you, ask you if they can use it and telling it’s from you.
    Your right to defend your text.

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  • March 6, 2011 at 9:40 pm
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    That really is just awful.

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  • March 7, 2011 at 11:13 am
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    I’m going to play the devil’s advocate here. I think either of those lists can fall into the ‘public domain’ category, given that I’ve seen all of ‘things not to say’ multiple times in multiple places over the years. I’m pretty sure there is a thread on the Arthritis Foundation board with the same things in it, started prior to this blog.

    “Competition for RA traffic is cutthroat for an obvious reason: money. The drugs that treat RA are the most expensive drugs in the world.” – Thank you for sharing that. It is something to consider when reading the content posted here.

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  • March 7, 2011 at 7:59 pm
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    Oh, Lord, I never knew all this was going on. I just had someone leave a comment on my blog because they read I have Fibromyalgia & RA and that it was kicking my butt lately. She left a message with a link to your site so I hopped over to check it out. I am following you now thru GFC. It is sad that people get paid to write about something that they know nothing about so they have to steal ideas? What a mess! Sorry about all the trouble Kelly….

    Mary@http://mmbearcupoftea.blogspot.com

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  • March 7, 2011 at 9:10 pm
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    Kelly,
    I put in my two cents worth at Health.com. I read many comments. People will know the truth.
    Phyllis

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    • March 7, 2011 at 9:15 pm
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      Phyllis, some have told me that their comment was deleted. Let me know if that happens to you. I do appreciate your concern.

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  • March 8, 2011 at 4:11 am
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    Hi Kelly,

    It’s been awhile since I commented but this situation certainly warrants All of our attention.

    While imatation may be a form of flattery, in this case it proves to be an injustice not only to you and your commitment to this cause, but an injustice to the customers that pay these people for information. Your articles are written with such integrity and a honesty that comes from personal experience that you are able to reach thru the screen to all of us. And while they stole your words, they could never steal the love that which u deliver those words. If they had any sense, they would hire you as an expert/consultant from which they could quote you, all done very honestly…I’m sorry this happened to you but knowing of you as I do, this will not deter you, oh NO..I have a feeling your voice shall be heard..And when you are up there raising that voice, you need only to look over your shoulder and see all of us right there with you..You go girl…
    ps..I left a donation for you, hope it helps..Thank You as always….

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  • March 8, 2011 at 10:23 am
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    I’m proud of you for pushing back, Kelly. You work tirelessly to improve the lives of so many of us who have autoimmune arthritis,and to have your life’s work stolen is simply unacceptable.

    Unfortunately, theft of intellectual property is all too common in today’s world. From the person who buys one software license for a product and “shares” it with 5 friends and family members, to the person who illegally downloads free songs or movies on illegitimate websites, to the seemingly legitimate websites who plagarize your written content – it is rampant, and it is WRONG.

    I’m making a note on my ever growing “to do” list to write to Health.com about this matter. They need to know that this is unacceptable.

    Reply
  • March 10, 2011 at 8:40 am
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    Goodmorning kelly just got done reading your artical on plagiarism. I agree with you 100%. I have gone to other sites and none of them hold water for me. Your site is the only truth.You site all your resources and go to great lengths to backup what your saying. You support eveyone on here and we support you.So dont let them take your stuff Kelly. Good for you. Fight on…Being a RAWarrior is the only truth for me.Real,honest,and RAW! Straight from our home,our computers..to you!

    Reply
  • March 11, 2011 at 11:33 am
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    My list of Top 10 things not to say to someone with a chronic illness was written in… 2002 I think. At least as far back as then. And I printed it on a tshirt!

    http://www.restministries.org/invisibleillness/laugh.htm

    I’ve seen it ALL over the internet without a word changed. Granted, most of these we all HAVE heard, but when they are in the same order, and even copied and pasted it can be frustrating. Here are mine (feel free to reprint IF credit is given – smile)

    10. You can’t be in that much pain
    9. Stop being lazy and get a job
    8. You just want attention
    7. Your illness is caused by stress
    6. No pain. . . no gain!
    5. It’s all in your head
    4. If you just got out of the house…
    3. You’re so lucky to get to stay in bed all day.
    2. Just pray harder
    1. But you look so good!

    Copyright, Lisa Copen, Reprint permission granted if the following is included:

    Reprinted with permission of Lisa Copen, Copyright 2007, National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week, http://www.invisibleillness.com

    Reply
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