Buzzfeed delivered a stern message to writers everywhere when they fired their political editor, Benny Johnson, in 2014. While Johnson was at one point among Buzzfeed’s most celebrated political contributors, they were left with no choice but to terminate their contract with him after allegations of plagiarism were discovered. What began as accusations of Internet plagiarism against Johnson resulted in a full review from Buzzfeed. Eventually, Buzzfeed discovered more than 40 examples of plagiarism from Johnson. Most of the examples included Johnson taking text from another source without properly giving credit. Buzzfeed Editor Ben Smith said that this was “not a minor slip”. Thus, Benny Johnson was fired.
In this age, when people can easily copy and paste text from another website, without giving credit, Internet plagiarism is becoming more rampant than ever before. Essentially, the legal definition of plagiarism is taking someone else’s copyrighted ideas and using them as your own. For Internet plagiarism, this means copying text from another website. In the case of Benny Johnson from Buzzfeed, he used the same words from other websites without giving any reference or credit to the original work. This also includes not using quotation marks from someone else’s text.
For Benny Johnson and others who are guilty of committing Internet plagiarism, the legal ramifications can certainly add up quickly. In most cases of Internet plagiarism, civil lawsuits tend to be expected. For example, those found guilty of copyright infringement will have to pay royalties for any profit received from their plagiarism. The royalties can be more expensive for those people who are rich and famous. Even if someone is found innocent of Internet plagiarism, then the legal fees can still be expensive. And some egregious cases of Internet plagiarism can also result in criminal charges.
Whether someone is a reporter for Buzzfeed like Benny Johnson, or someone is trying to write a report for school, Internet plagiarism is serious crime with serious legal consequences. If someone like Benny Johnson from Buzzfeed can be fired for committing Internet plagiarism, then so can anyone. Therefore, it would be wise to avoid committing Internet plagiarism.