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I authored all the text in this post, except where noted. This gives my words certain rights (legal copyrights).  From Simple Wikipedia, the definition of a copyright:

“A copyright is a law that gives the owner of a written document, musical composition, book picture, or other creative work, the right to decide what other people can do with it.”

The reason I’m writing on this topic is because I came across the term PLR, which stands for Private Label Rights.  If you purchase PLR rights, you can publish the words someone else wrote and give yourself attribution.  That just seems wrong.  This practice has been around for a few years.  Anyone experienced in the web and blog world is probably familiar with this topic.  For others – read on …

Ghostwriting

Is PLR really much different from the older practices of Ghostwriting or Work for Hire?  These are essentially the same thing.  Work for Hire is the legal term.  Under the terms of the agreement, the writer gives up their rights to receive credit.  Occasionally we see books with some acknowledgment to the ghostwriter, with phrases like “as told to”, or some writers actually get listed as editor or even coauthor.  But more commonly there is no credit. Some people view the ghostwriter as an interpreter of someone else’s story.  I guess that makes sense, especially for works such as biographies.

I read an account of one a ghostwriter for blogs.  He generated 220 blog posts in less than a year; performing 100% of the research, writing and editing.  Of course, it was all work for hire so no authorial credit was received.  This seems like a lost opportunity to build one’s brand.

Demand for Content

This trend is driven by the need for digital content, which is just another way of saying there are a gazillion web sites out there and someone has to supply them with interesting words (actually, “interesting” isn’t necessarily required).  Good ghostwriting isn’t cheap, hence the drive to make words a commodity.  If you look at fiverr gigs, it’s not unusual to see one such as: “12,000 Health and Fitness PLR Articles”  (for $5).  Typical reviewer’s comment: “horribly written .. but it only cost $5”

The need for more content is driven by a desire for a good page ranking result to a Google search.  Does anyone ever look to the 2nd page of results or beyond.  It is well known that word count is one factor that Google uses to determine ranking of a web page.  A page with 1,000 word would seem be more authoritative than a page with 50 words.  But how many words is enough, and how much influence does word count make versus other criteria.

Here is a recent article on page ranking factors from backlinko.

Business Implications

A lot of success in business is founded on trust. You should be able to trust that the author of an article is actually the author.  PLR is readily available in subjects such as health, nutrition and psychology.  If someone publishes PLR on these topics – does that build trust?  In addition, if you are simply publishing the PLR in it’s original form, Google can detect duplicate content, (identical text that appears on several sites).  It hurts your ranking.

Learn How to Write Good

All of this reminds me of an old satirical article by Michael O’Donoghue (National Lampoon, Saturday Night Live).  I believe he was having fun with the idea of correspondence classes for wannabe writers.  Among his tips: when you can’t figure out a logical end to the story, just resort to:  “Suddenly, everyone was run over by a truck!”  This relates to PLR, because it is usually Pretty Lousy Writing, and should be run over by a truck.