Wrap Up: Martin Luther King & More

It’s been a very busy week for plagiarism online. The holiday weekend generated a flurry of interest in plagiarism and several large breaking stories came to the surface. As usual, there just wasn’t enough time to cover everything, however, here’s a brief look at what happened in the world of Internet plagiarism over the past week.

MLK Jr. Day

Yesterday (Monday, February 16) was Martin Luther King Jr. Day. With it came a flurry of posts about King , many of which covered incidents of plagiarism that have more recently been uncovered. The allegations of plagiarism , which extend to his dissertation, his books and even his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, were actually discovered some time ago but are consistently recycled every year on the day that bears his name.

While many of the people who discussed his plagiarism used it to put a more human face on the revered figure, others used it, or tried to use it, to discredit King’s work, including the good he did in his life. The alleged plagiairism has even been used as ammunition by racists to try and roll back the progress the civil rights movement brought with it and use it as an excuse for their feelings.

Personally though, while I find the allegations of plagiarism to be very serious and disconcerting, I don’t see it as a reason to abandon King’s legacy. Though I’m not one to say that the ends justify the means, the fact that King was a flawed man who did things that were dishonest does not mean he did the country a disservice or was somehow wrong on the issue of civil rights. A man can do good and bad in the same breath, it’s just a matter of balancing the two.

Wikipedia Plagiarist Tim Ryan Fired

Last week, I wrote a blurb about Honolulu Star-Bulletin reporter Tim Ryan and his plagiarism of Wikipedia. The story progressed this week with Ryan’s firing as other incidents of plagiarism came to light. The paper was also forced to issue corrections for several of his other stories that Ryan had written over his long career. Wikipedia, which had conducted its own investigation into the matter, turned up several additional incidents.

The Wikipedia discussion page on the incident, which includes a mention of this site, goes on to point out that the Ryan is not alone with his use of Wikipedia as a news source and gives voice to a dissenting view that says such plagiarism is not a major deal. In truth though, the plagiarism does violate Wikipedia’s GNU Free Documentation License, which requires all copyright notices to remain intact.

Nonetheless, this is a discussion that will very likely continue for a long, long time.

Mass Plagiarism of Spike Fan Fiction

Several LiveJournal users that write Fan Fiction pieces for Buffy the Vampire Slayer character Spike were stunned to discover that dozens of their stories had been plagiarized by a single plagiarist. The plagiarist, who used the name “Spikes Fic” or “Spikes Baby” took the works word for word and posted them to his own site hosted on bloopdiary.com. Very quickly, a tight-knit community of fan fic authors rallied against the site, reporting the plagiarist to the bloopdiary staff, taking screenshots of the infringing material and sending letters of complaint.

The incident was resolved when the plagiarist posted a pair of apologies and closed his site down.  However, it illustrated how vulnerable the fan fiction community is to plagiarism and raised questions about how many other fan fiction plagiarists like this one are out there yet to be discovered. Needless to say, this is an issue that will be debated for a long time to come.

On an interesting footnote to the issue, in researching this matter I did discover the “Stop Plagiarism” group at LiveJournal. In short, it’s a small group of LJ owners dedicated to condeming plagiarism. Though the group seemed to be fairly inactive before this incident, the discovery of this plagiairist seems to have woken it up a bit. I’ll definitely follow it and see if it continues to be active over the coming weeks.

[tags]Plagiairism, Martin Luther King, Fan Fiction, Content Theft, Copyright Infringement, Copyright, Wikipedia, Wiki[/tags]

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