You did it. You wrote a thing. You wrote your thing, and it was good. And it found an audience, a big audience, an audience that loves you and is hungry for more of your work. You spent 30 hours researching and 40 hours writing something that was so specifically born out of your tastes, and your experiences, that it could have only come from you.
In the time it took you to read that paragraph, over a hundred blogs stole your article and claimed it as their own.
It happens to us all the time. Someone will remove the "Cracked.com" logo from one of our infographics and repost it on Reddit and Tumblr. High school kids copy and paste our articles into their Wordpress blogs, changing nothing but the byline. "Writers" in foreign countries will sloppily translate our articles for their own sites without permission. On many occasions, popular morning radio DJs have read whole articles, word for word, on the air without so much as a passing mention of Cracked, let alone the poor author who wrote the thing. It happens so often that we have a thread dedicated to it in our forums, a thread that, as of now, is 26 pages long.
Ian Fortey (a former writer of ours and the current Head Honcho over at Holy Taco), recently came across a blog full of articles that the writer had been stealing from Cracked for over a year. The owner of that blog, whose name I can't reproduce here because the button on my keyboard that is just a picture of a flaccid penis weeping over a typewriter is broken at the moment, copy and pasted a bunch of our articles and images onto his site and claimed them as his own. There's a lot more to the story, (including the fact that the guy is hilariously offering to give writing workshops, provided you pay him money), and I encourage you to read all about it over at HolyTaco, but the bottom line is that our writers worked hard and spent a lot of time writing thoughtful, original articles and some shithead with a blog spent less than three minutes stealing them. When something similar happened three years ago, I lost my shit, wrote a long rant about it and replaced all of the images that the guy had stolen from our site with pictures of male genitalia. When one of our writers told me about this new rip-off site, I just shrugged and said, "Whelp, that's the Internet."
It's an unfortunate reaction to have, but it's true. Publishing on the Internet means you run the risk of having your work seen but also stolen by millions and millions of people, all the time, every day, forever. Even if we got this guy's blog shut down, I guarantee you three more blogs would take its place, all of them piloted by writers who have no problem stealing other peoples' material, because starting a blog and stealing are two very easy things to do. To a lot of folks, the Internet is still just the Wild West, lawless and open, and full of shockingly filthy people. There are no rules, and if anyone's caught doing something wrong, the go-to excuse of "Relax, man, it's just the Internet" isn't stale enough yet that people won't still casually throw it around. And maybe the Internet will always be this way, with fickle audiences, impossible-to-please commenters, distractingly endless pornography, and shameless plagiarists.
But even if those problems never get fixed, it won't be too big of a deal. I mean, it'll suck, but all of the bad stuff can't compete with the good stuff. The best thing about writing for the internet? Even a total idiot like me can do it. Even though there are sites that exist just to steal your content, there are also sites like Cracked that exist just to help new writers build a portfolio and find an audience, regardless of their experience. Sites that will pay me real American dollars to, occasionally, make a joke about a dead president farting into a dead actress' hand.
I mean, I think that pro alone outweighs the cons, but that's me.
Daniel O'Brien is Cracked.com's Senior Writer (ladies), and he would like to remind you that you can write for Cracked whenever you want (everyone).