attack_laurel (attack_laurel) wrote,
attack_laurel
attack_laurel

This writing seems familiar...


I was reading cleolinda's journal (you should definitely check it out for the movie parodies and the movies in 15 minutes community), when I found a link to the one-year follow-up on the Cassie Edwards plagarism story in Smart Bitches Trashy Books.

(Sorry, that was an awful lot of links in one small space.)

Anyway, in the "State of the Plagarism" entry on SBTB, the commentary was interesting - of course, most of the commenters were madly against it - but even there, apologists started popping up, including one who claimed to have a degree from Edinburgh, and claimed that people should be "flattered" that their work was stolen.

Mindboggling, but the state of mind of many people when it comes to plagarism. There's a mental disconnect between ideas and physical objects in many people's mind - while they would very much mind if someone stole their i-Pod, they don't understand why The Verve using a large sample (uh, a major part of the appeal of the song, too) of a Rolling Stones song was such a big deal. In the same way, the written word is not seen in the same light as, say, a TV, even though the work of the writer is their livelihood.

I'm starting to see this creep over into other areas, too - the continued use of commercial patterns to produce "original" costumes on Etsy is unbelievable in its bull-headed insistence that they're doing nothing wrong. People steal artworks - I wrote in one of my posts about a rather high-profile case between the T-shirt company David and Goliath and an artist who was forum member of the Something Awful website. Further research by the readers of the SA site revealed that David and Goliath had taken a number of artworks for their use without attribution to the artists, let alone paying them any royalties. Speaking of artwork, the Twilight franchise made a bit of a mistake when they decided to market a "Twilight" perfume (gah!) in a knockoff Nina Ricci perfume bottle; even in those comments, you'll see fans trying to excuse the "coincidence" (my ass). Since the original design was made exclusively for Nina Ricci by Lalique, I think someone in the Twilight franchise art department is getting fired.

(The irony being that Stephenie Meyer -and by extension, her publishers - is rabid about enforcing copyright infringement and plagarism of her own work.)

My father makes a living writing books; I take plagarism theft very seriously. If someone steals his work and claims it as their own for profit, they're literally taking money out of his bank account. Not metaphorically - that's cold hard cash my father has earned with his work. And yet, people don't seem to have a problem with plagarism, even when it's unbelievably blatant.

SBTB commenter Amy Lane said "Plagarism is overlooked because Honor is no longer a family value".

I think Honor is no longer a cultural value - our culture seems to have leaned all the way over to Gordon Gecko's credo "Greed is Good". We wouldn't be in this current financial mess if people had been less greedy, and more responsible. When money is involved, all ethical considerations too often fly out of the window. But, as SBTB commenter Shiloh Walker said, "We all work hard. It doesn’t matter if we’re writing recipe books, material for greeting cards, blogs about whether or not the state of the world will ever improve, fiction, nonfiction, published, unpublished, nobody has the right to take somebody else’s hard work and pass it off as their own. Nobody".

I'm actually seeing the same lack of honour on the part of Cassie Edwards (who refuses to admit what she's done, even though it's been proven) that I see whenever someone is called on the carpet for their behaviour in the SCA. And I'm frustrated by it every time. In Nora Roberts (yes, THAT Nora Roberts)'s words in the same thread, "I’m tired of being slapped at for standing up for myself and for what’s right. I’m tired of seeing the messenger roasted and the victim vilified, the plagiarist comforted and soothed."

Exchange "plagarist" for "problem child", and you have what is wrong with our issue-solving process right there. We coddle the asshole and blacklist the victim, with an amazing lack of honor as a group.

But I'm getting away from my point.

The Intartubes is a fantastic medium for sharing - ideas, secrets, information, gossip - but it is starting to reinforce the idea that "if it's on the Internet, it must be free". And, speaking as someone who writes, this is a disconcerting idea all by itself, but when you add in the slack morality concerning plagarism, the Intarwebs goes bad. Yes, we love to share our ideas and work, and we're being generous enough to provide you with hours of entertainment for free, whether it's movie parodies or random deep thoughts, or the story of a turtle on his way to Bethlehem, but that doesn't mean someone can then turn around and claim the words and pictures as theirs. It doesn't matter whether it's for profit or not - it's intellectual property theft, and it's a shitty, shitty thing to do.

I've just had people forward my work, but mistakenly (in a well-meant way) stripping all identifiers from the work, not understanding that I WANT my name on that thing. I wrote it, it's mine. I want credit for coming up with those words that made you laugh, cry, or get angry.

I know of one case where a woman was posting very slightly altered Dave Barry essays in her diary, claiming they were her work. I was the one who reported her (I have pretty much all of Dave Barry's work memorized - you should read his Book of Bad Songs. It made my tummy hurt, I laughed so hard) to the diary provider.

cleolindahas had her work plagarized.

(These two cases show that if you're going to plagarize, be at least a little bit smart - cleolinda has over 5000 readers, and Dave Barry is, well, Dave Barry. Someone is going to notice. THEFT - UR DOIN' IT RONG.)

I hate the fact that when money is involved, people's moral compasses waver considerably from true North. In the case of Kavaaya Viswanathan, she got slammed, but in the case of Cassie Edwards, while one publishing house dropped her, another picked her up, and her books continue to sell. In the first case, an over-entitled newbie who didn't come off well in interviews was punished, most likely because of the huge publicity, the big advance, and the complete unsaleability of her book after Harvard's Crimson newspaper outed her. In the second, legions of adoring fans screamed "shut up, shut up, SHUT UP!!!!OMG UR SO MEAN!!!!!", and her books continued to bring in tons of money (she has at least two new releases this year), so the cash cow cannot be allowed to stop bringing in the greenbacks. Morality is inverse to the amount of money to be made.

...Which is why plagarism is actually more policed in the non-earning sector of the internet - if there's no money involved, you can afford to make a fuss. It doesn't stop the litany of excuses from the plagarizing thief, which usually boil down to "I'm only sorry I got caught OMG UR SO MEAN!!!!", since someone without an understanding of why you shouldn't plagarize in the first place is lacking a key part of their honor.

Honor is doing what is right even when you can get away with doing wrong. Honor is doing the hard thing even when no-one's watching. Honor is not cheating even when you won't get caught.

Honor is standing up and admitting you were at fault when you fail (and you will). Honor is accepting the consequences of your stupidity without whining (at least, not where anyone can hear).

It seems like a useful value to me, but what do I know? I just write a blog.
Tags: deep thoughts, honor, links, plagarism, play nice with others
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