Wrap Up: WSJ Tackles Online Content Theft

A lot has been going on in plagiarism news these past two weeks (I missed last Tuesday’s update due to Mardi Gras) but much of it, including the recent Feedburner overhaul, has already been covered here.

However, there are a few important stories that fell through the cracks so, without any further ado, here’s a look at what’s been going on in plagiarism news.

Wall Street Journal Reports on Content Theft

Wall Street Journal reporter Lee Gomes recently decided to try his hand writing freelance content for the Web in order to “learn more about the process” and quickly learned what readers of this site have known for some time, that plagiarism online is rampant.

In his article. Gomes talks about first struggling to be low-bidder on a freelance writing contract, finally winning a contract to write 50 articles at the price of $100, only to find that his buyer, a mysterious person named Whirlywinds has less-than-wholesome intentions in mind.

First, Wirlywinds tried to have Gomes write on dodgy topics such as “colloidal silver” and, when Gomes refused, pushed him to write on more newsworthy topics, such as the bird flu, but largely using content stolen from reputable sites. Gomes wound up refusing again and pulling out of the contract before having completed even one article to the satisfaction of his boss.
Gomes’ article, however, ends by hypothesizing that search engines are to blame for much of these content problems on the Web. This has lead some in the freelance writing community to view this as an attack on the validity of the Web as an information source, causing them to point out that the business model Gomes criticizes, gaining prominence to display ads, is similar to that of his own paper.

Others however, view the criticism as a fair critique on the way business is done on the Web today and view it as a call for change.

Either way though, the article does provide a rare glimpse into the seedy underside of content writing on the Web.

FastMediator.com Accused of Plagiarism

Fast Mediator, an legal blog that described itself as being in beta, was accused by Robert Ambrogi of legaline.com of stealing much of its content from various other legal blogs.

Fast Mediator quickly removed the offending links and quickly posted an apology on its site saying that “it was not my intention to republish any work on a permanent basis without prior approval from the creator.” The apology went on to say that the error was due, in part, to a computer error with attribution not being carried forward.

The case is unusual because legal blogs rarely see much plagiarism due to the fact that everyone involved understands the legal implications of stealing content. In the end, it’s just proof that no one is completely safe from plagiarism, apparently, even Plagiarism Today.

Special thanks to David Giacalone for the heads up!

Argosy University Fires Official Accused of Plagiarism

Finally, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, Argosy University fired faculty member and Director of Training Bindu Ganga after finding that accusations she plagiarized her doctoral research project had merit. The school also revoked Ganga’s doctorate in clinical psychology and has removed her profile from the school’s Website.

These findings, which are contradictory to the ones reached a year ago when the university first investigated the matter, have prompted Ganga to consult legal counsel. The student that filed the original allegations, Marla Decker, was disciplined, in part for pushing the accusations, has said that she feels “vindicated” by the turn of events. No mention, as of yet, if Decker’s record will be completely cleared.

Clearly there are many unanswered questions surrounding this case and, though academic plagiarism is not a regular topic here, I will be following the case closely as it is one of the strongest responses to plagiarism in recent history.

[tags]Plagiarism, Copyright Infringement, Content Theft, Copyright, Blogs, Splogs, Wall Street Journal, Freelance Writing, Argosy[/tags]

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