When talking with people who aren’t content creators or are generally unfamiliar with the harm plagiarism does, it’s very difficult to motivate them to take action in any way.
Though they might understand that it’s theft, that it’s dishonest and that it causes the victim a great deal of pain, they’re reluctant to step in and help, even if it just means reporting plagiarism, because they see it as a personal matter that doesn’t involve them. Since they can’t sympathize with the victim, they do nothing.
Plagiarism, contrary to the common belief, is a crime against everyone. First and foremost, it is a deception against the public. The plagiarist may steal from just one individual, but he or she lies to the entire world. Their claim of “this is mine” is not intended to deceive the original author, but everyone else.
But even more disturbing than the deception is the theft from the creative community and the public at large. However, it’s a theft that’s value can not be measured because, simply put, one can not measure what isn’t there, what never was there and what never will be there. It’s like being asked to measure how much is in a giant hole.
For no matter how hard you try, nothing is there, but you know in your heart that so much could be.
When I try to talk to others about posting their works on line, many of them respond by saying “I can’t do that, people will steal it.” I want to argue with them, but my personal experience won’t allow it. People will steal your work and, if that risk is not acceptable, then not posting online is your best choice. This causes many great minds to shy away from the light of the Internet, hiding their works in desk drawers for all eternity.
Then there are those who do run sites and become bona fide victims of plagiarism. Many. rather than fight for their work or deal with the struggle, simply shutter their doors, removing their works and never posting any new ones. Even if their work survives in plagiarized form, no one is ever treated to new works from them and the public is deprived the chance to see them grow and change as writers, artists or musicians. Furthermore, this leaves their established following out in the cold, seeking a new home.
If you take away its content, the Internet is nothing. Without words, pictures and music, the Web would be nothing but a series of gray screens. Meanwhile, plagiarism has deprived the Web of countless pages of free content simply by forcing well-meaning Webmasters to give up or never appear. You can never add up the value of what isn’t there, but it’s clear that the quantity in question is huge.
So, if you enjoy the Internet and the massive amounts of free content on it, then you need to do your part to help stop plagiarism. Even though the size of the Web has grown as usage has, there’s so much that we’re missing that the Web we see today is, at best, an incomplete picture. To make the Internet whole and to build respect for it, Webmasters like myself need people like you to help report plagiarism when you notice it and take an active role in stopping it.
For this is a crime that, usually, can easily be stopped. However, it’s a crime that’s often impossible to catch, that is, without the help of people like you.