The Different Viewpoints on Plagiarism

Earlier this week, Darren Rowse, the author of problogger.net, posted an article entitled “Introducing a Shoddy Blogger�? that drew attention to a blogging tips site which was, at the time, nothing more than a collection of articles ripped off from other blogs without credit.

Though Darren’s usual subject matter is how to make money from blogging, a subject he seems to know a great deal about, it seemed to be just another outing. After all, blogs that exist solely to plagiarize are a dime a dozen and articles about them are a regular occurrence.

But what made this unusual wasn’t the outing itself, but the conversation that followed it. Even though the vast majority of people offered their support, a few people had strong issues to Darren’s article and that created both a firestorm and some of the most interesting plagiarism discussion I’ve read in a long, long time.

In the comments to the original piece, one blogger named Id.Ology, who had previously had his copy and paste ways exposed by another commenter, took extreme issue with the discussion, saying in part (Note: All spelling and grammar errors are in the original):

“I’ll copy something interesting to me as I wish”you can see yahoo news copys the whole news from different news source like new york times etc without giving orginal links or MSN news doing the same.�?

(Editor’s Note: The above is, clearly, inaccurate. Not only do such sources always attribute their links, but almost always have some kind of preexisting agreement with the sources. Only Google News, to my knowledge, searches without permission and they only provide summaries of public articles with links to the full pieces.)

One blogger in particular, Steven Clark (AKA: Nortypig) of Pig Work, disagreed openly with the prevailing attitude both in the comments of Problogger and in several entries on his own blog. It escalated until he publicly unsubscribed from Problogger.

Though Steven repeatedly has stated he doesn’t approve of content theft, he has said that such plagiarism is a “fact of life�? and said that the actions of Darren and the others who agree with him are largely motivated out of greed. In one entry, he called them an “elitist mob�? and said that, “My views are simply that the web is about WE and US and not ME and MY.�?

The article and discussions demonstrate a wide variety of attitudes about copyrights on the Web, ranging for the traditional copyright standpoint all the way to the anti-copyright viewpoint. It’s just proof that no one viewpoint on copyright is valid for everyone and no two people are going to have the same comfort level when it comes to their work.

The only point I don’t understand is how some people can claim to be against plagiarism but also angry when others defend their copyrights. As Edmund Burke once said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.�? If no one raises their hand to stop plagiarism, then the problem is going to get worse and worse until legitimate writers and content creators stay away from the Web in droves not wanting their works to be stolen.

Furthermore, you can agree with something either implicitly or tacitly; through action or inaction. You might disagree with plagiarism and think that it’s immoral, but if you fail to do something about it, you’re facilitating it. No matter what your personal feelings on the subject are, you’re supporting plagiarists by refusing to help and even thwarting those that seek to stop them.

Finally, in regards to the blog whose plagiarism started this whole discussion, the blooger there has apologized for the theft and has begun attributing its sources religiously. It’s a refreshing change and I hope it sticks. Only time will tell if this blogger has really learned their lesson or not though.

No matter what though, this is a good read on the subject of plagiarism and showcases a lot of the different viewpoints on the subject. Anyone who is interested in the subject should check out this dialogue. It’s very educational.

Further Reading:

Content theft: its plain scary!: More information from The Blog Herald
Using Other People’s Content: A good follow up by Darren on the subject.
A Quick Guide to Referencing : An excellent guide from The Blog Herald on referencing sources. Targeted at bloggers.

Note:

Yesterday I promised that I would explain how to add RSS footers into various blogging software packages. That article is being postponed until tomorrow due to a desire to get this article up as soon as possible. I’m sorry for the inconvenience.

[tags]Plagiarism, Blogging, Content Theft, Copyright Infringement, Copyright[/tags]

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