photo credit: joelogon
Plagiarists are not typically known for being the brightest nor the hardest-working people on the planet. If they were, they wouldn’t be plagiarizing. But for every reasonably intelligent person that makes a mistake and gets caught up in a plagiarism tiff, there are dozens, if not hundreds of morons blundering their way through copy and paste 101.
But while I don’t assume I’m dealing with Mensa candidates when I’m handling plagiarism cases, there have been a few that really raised the bar on stupidity.
So here are three of my “favorite” plagiarism cases from the 700 plus I’ve handled involving my own work. I’m obviously not going to mention any sites or names, but all of the stories are accurate retellings (memory and evidence allowing) of actual idiot plagiarists.
The 10-Year-Old Poet
The second case of plagiarism I dealt with introduced me to just how asinine some plagiarists could be and almost put me off to dealing with plagiarists directly at all.
I had noticed that some of my poems were on a journal hosted a LiveJournal-like site. I attempted to contact the admins since the individual had no email address on his journal but apparently something went amiss. After waiting a few days, I left a comment on one of the posts and then watched as all Hell broke loose.
He claimed not just to have written the items be posted, but every single one of the works on my site, over 100 of them. I then confronted him with the fact that my site, at that time, had been up for well over six years, something easily proved in the Web Archive, including many of the poems he had copied. He didn’t deny the time frame and continue to claim he had written the works, even though his profile said he was about to turn seventeen. This meant that he would have been only ten years old at the time the first poems went up.
The logic train pulled further away from the station as he later began to make claims of somehow telepathically delivering the works to me and began to pen vulgar fantasies about how he would beat me in court by being too “sexy” to prosecute.
After a brief mention on my site, it quickly erupted into a flame war with my readers inundating his comments. However, even that was for naught. Even after being called out and facing overwhelming evidence, he actually increased his posting pace, adding two or three of my poems every day.
Eventually the admins did step in, after I sent a second email, and the journal was suspended. The case was resolved but I’ve never been able to forget that someone actually claimed to be a 10-year-old poet with magical telepathic powers to get out of a plagiarism accusation.
Mitigating Circumstances: If I were to defend this individual I would plead insanity. I often wonder if this person had mental problems far beyond his love for copying mediocre poetry.
A Friend’s Betrayal
In 2004/2005 I had an online friend that was helping me settle into New Orleans a bit. She was right across the border in Mississippi and new the city’s literary scene pretty well. Having just moved into town a bit over a year prior, I was still getting my feet wet some and needed the help.
She knew well my battles with plagiarists, by that point I had written about them many times before on my site, and I even demonstrated the power of my detection tools to her, showing her plagiarist links that had only gone up the day before.
So I was incredibly surprised when one of the Google Alerts I received pointed me to a site run by a woman who was eerily familiar. She was from the same town as my friend, roughly the same age and had a very similar screen name. Despite that, I didn’t put the pieces together right away, but when I clicked a link to her Myspace profile, it all fit.
To make matters worse, this woman had included all of her personal information in an informal resume, including real name, address and phone number (all of which I had previously) and had even linked to my site from her Myspace page. Yet, on this personal Web page, there were 12 of my works, all under her name.
I tried to call but got no answer. I then sent a hostile email about the matter and consulted with my attorney about what to do. He advised me to sue and I hurriedly registered my work with the Copyright Office in preparation. Eventually, I heard back from her,after several weeks of waiting, and she flatly denied being the one who posted the works.
The only problem, other than the mountain of personal information that I could easily verify, was that the week before she had emailed me asking if I had removed three works. I hadn’t, they had just changed categories, and I directed her to the correct place. Those three works were the most recently plagiarized.
In the end, Hurricane Katrina put an end to the lawsuit preparations. When it hit and both of our cities were severely damaged, everyone involved felt there were more pressing issues. Furthermore, it was unlikely she remained in the same location, making it very difficult to file the suit.
The site, however, was quickly shut down.
Still, I find it stunning not only that someone who I considered a friend could betray me knowing full and well what I could do in this area, but that her best defense was “Not me” despite her literally telling everyone it was.
Mitigating Circumstances: Looking back on this individual, I see that almost everything about her was a lie. Though she had good information, everything about her was either a lie or an exaggeration. I usually pride myself on being a good judge of character, but this time I got fooled. I have come to believe this person was a compulsive liar, just not a very smart one. I, as with the first one, wonder if this is due to some kind of serious mental issue.
No Plagiarism: That’s the Policy
I am often alerted to plagiarism issues not by Google Alerts, but via concerned readers and fans. One such case involved a stranger who asked me to confirm if I had written everything on my site. When I replied in the affirmative, he informed me that he had seen almost a dozen works on a forum he visits.
When I checked it out, I was surprised to find that this was no ordinary forum plagiarist. It was the administrator of the community, which in turn was part of a larger community/social networking site.
To make matters worse, I was literally stepping into the matter mid-fray. The plagiarist was already being bombarded with hostile questions and a forum topic about the posts had already received many dozens of replies. Even the plagiarists girlfriend, who was apparently a part of the forum, was part of the discussion (especially interesting since had claimed to write one for her).
To make matters worse for him, he had apparently made all of his posts “sticky” putting them at the top of the forum. That made it very easy for me to locate. However, as I began to look up information on how to contact the higher ups at the site, the admin-turned-plagiarist started lashing back, locking the thread in question and removing the sticky from the posts. This, in turn, buried them under dozens of pages of other people’s writing.
Fortunately, that was nothing that a “site:” search in Google couldn’t resolve (still no idea why I did not get a Google Alert for these items) and I was able to get the site admins to remove all of the posts. As I left the plagiarist to patch up things with his community and his girlfriend, I noticed he had posted a terms of service for people posting his site, I took a quick peek and found that the second item began with the words “NO PLAGIARISM” (caps his).
I was tempted to enter the fray on this one, but thought better of it. Leaving this one behind.
Mitigating Circumstances: I’ve got nothing. Hypocrite and jerk are not mitigating circumstances.
Have you had any dealing with stupid plagiarists? If so I’d love to hear your thoughts, leave a comment below and share your stories.
I look forward to hearing your stories!
Note: The guy in the image is not a plagiarist, just someone I imagine expressing a natural reaction when confronted with high levels of human stupidity.