The Three Kinds of Plagiarism: Part Three

Note: This is a continuation of parts one and two from the series. If you have not read those, please take a moment to do so. Otherwise, this segment will probably not make a lot of sense.

Personal Plagiarism

Personal plagiarism, or artistic plagiarism, is any kind of plagiarism that takes place strictly for personal use. It is unique in that there is no material gain from the act of plagiarizing. Unlike the academic plagiarist seeking a good grade or a professional one wanting a promotion or to simply keep his job, the personal plagiarist doesn’t actually gain anything from his plagiarism beyond, perhaps, an improved reputation and a greater sense of importance.

Personal plagiarists rarely charge for what they steal. They generally want as many people to see it as possible and usually promote their stolen wares quite proudly to friends, family and anyone that they want to impress. This can lead to crossover with professional plagiarism as thieves often submit their works to higher ups in a desired industry in hopes of either breaking into the field or moving up within it.

Though little is consistent between personal plagiarists as they come from a wide variety of backgrounds, most suffer from some a lack of self -confidence or extreme laziness. They feel that their work and skills aren’t up to par and that they need to lift content in order to get the respect that they want. They see what other content creators have and, rather than working for years and years to build their skills up to the required level, decide to take a short cut.

Though this seems harmless and innocent, personal plagiarism can have a very severe impact on content creators, especially those who create their works for sale. The creation of a large number of unauthorized duplicates underneath different names can greatly diminish the economic viability of a piece, essentially making it worthless. Even sites that support themselves through ads wind up suffering because visitors see their content on other pages and never have to view the ads that made the content’s creation possible.

In the end though, the hardest hit are the Webmasters who are posting content to the Web solely for the joy of it, to get feedback on their work or perhaps make some progress in their chosen field. They are robbed of the precious feedback that drives them, often times get accused of being the plagiarist and watch as running a Web site a very difficult affair as they have neither the time nor the money to track down plagiarists. This is a huge personal blow to them as their work almost always holds some kind of sentimental value to them and many simply wind up closing up shop once they find out that their work is being stolen.

Even though personal plagiarism is a clear violation of copyright law, such matters are rarely settled in a courtroom. Simply put, legal fees and court costs are simply too big a hurdle for most content creators to leap over. Lawyers, generally, are only brought in when the monetary value of the work warrants it or the copyright holder has the finances to pursue such action without much hope of recovering his expenses.

Instead, such incidents are usually handled through either threats of action or public humiliation. Since personal plagiarists, generally, are seeking praise and admiration, the mere act of being caught and publicly scolded is generally enough to put an end to the act.

As such, victims both online and off frequently use cease and desist letters to handle acts of personal plagiarism. Many, including myself, keep a stock one handy. After that, plagiarism online is dealt with by contacting hosts, often with DMCA notices, and other steps can be taken from there.

Offline, the options are much more limited, as Neil Bowers book illustrates, but, generally, a public outing of the plagiarist is usually enough to get it to stop. Once the plagiarist learns that no admiration or laurels can be earned from his or her actions, and instead they will be attracting a great deal of disgust, they generally stop.

The bad news is that very few personal plagiarists ever stop completely after the first time. Where professional or academic plagiarists have their names and their careers to lose, most personal plagiarists hide behind pseudonyms and, once shut down with one identity, simply pick up stakes and put on a new home and a new identity.

It seems that getting caught plagiarizing only throws fuel on the psychological inadequacies that help promote the behavior and, those that crave it, seek the lauds that plagiarism brought them even more after a fall from grace. It’s a sad case where the act of shutting down a plagiarist seems to create a downward spiral deeper and deeper into the act, but it’s still a necessary event.

After all, most plagiarists do learn and latch on to other, though probably equally amoral, means of getting the praise they want, but not before doing a great deal of repeated damage to the copyright holders they enjoy. That’s why, even though many seem to write off personal plagiarism as innocuous or harmless, it’s actually one of the most damaging forms out there.

For what it lacks in profit motive, it makes up for in both frequency and resiliency. That alone makes it an issue that content creators have to take very, very seriously.

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

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