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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.

Comments

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sorchekyrkby
Jan. 16th, 2009 03:06 pm (UTC)
I love you for this. *mwah*
attack_laurel
Jan. 16th, 2009 03:16 pm (UTC)
Thank you! It's a group thing - the more people we recruit in the fight against plagarism, the more effect it has. Taking credit for someone else's work should not be acceptable, and it's the grass-roots work of many people on the Internet that can change things.

Free works to enjoy is a great thing; taking them and claiming them as one's own for the cookies is not.
virginiadear
Jan. 16th, 2009 03:15 pm (UTC)
This came up, most vehemently, on a discussion board years ago. The person who had done the plagiarizing had every possible explanation except the true one, and was falling over themselves to put the blame on the individual who pointed out that this was *not* the poster's original work.

I know a now-retired U.S. Marine, who commented on that fuss and furor: "You don't lie, cheat, or steal, or affiliate with those who do."
Succinct.
attack_laurel
Jan. 16th, 2009 03:18 pm (UTC)
True, dat.

What horrfies me is the number of people who want to sweep bad things under the rug and pretend they didn't happen; the hate is turned on the whistle-blower for "making waves" and spoiling everyone's illusion of happy fun feelings, when it should be the thief who takes the blame.
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kass_rants
Jan. 16th, 2009 04:05 pm (UTC)
A couple of months ago, I had someone PDF a whole set of my articles and remove my copyright notice and MY NAME. Infuriating!

Stupidity is copying and pasting something from somewhere else. Taking off all identifying marks of the owner is the same as buffing the serial numbers off a stolen car.
(no subject) - hsifeng - Jan. 16th, 2009 05:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
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kass_rants
Jan. 16th, 2009 04:08 pm (UTC)
I had a college professor do it to me once! She had just put up a website and she was so proud, so she sent a bunch of her internet buddies the URL and said, "Tell me what you think!" I went right to her pages on Irish clothing and giggled at her witty writing style... And then it became really familiar... And then I realised, "THAT'S FROM MY WEBSITE!" She emailed me to ask what I thought. I told her I thought I should get a co-writer's credit. *smirk*

Stupid kids? Wrong but okay the first time. College professor? Should really be flogged in public.
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - kass_rants - Jan. 16th, 2009 05:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
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lorebubeck
Jan. 16th, 2009 03:35 pm (UTC)
"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."

Just out of curiosity, if one wanted to use a commercial pattern for something - whether it be clothing or a birdhouse - and wanted to sell them, how would one go about doing that completely above board? (Other than not claiming it as original obviously). Do you just have to say something along the lines of "Created with the use of So and so's pattern XXX"? or do you owe them a royalty of some sort?
kass_rants
Jan. 16th, 2009 03:43 pm (UTC)
Contact the pattern company/pattern maker. Different people/companies have different rules. You can't really make a generalization about such things.
(no subject) - attack_laurel - Jan. 16th, 2009 03:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - eggies_red_dres - Jan. 16th, 2009 06:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
kass_rants
Jan. 16th, 2009 03:51 pm (UTC)
Don't know if you remember a couple of months ago the "Clan" of "Irish Reenactors" who had my Irish articles PDFed on their website with my name, copyright notice, and all my information purposefully cut off. They gave me a real hard time about it. It didn't matter that they weren't selling my articles. You cannot use them without my permission. And you sure as hell cannot use them and pretend they're not mine!

Of course they really could have stood to read those articles. I had no idea Xena was an Irish warrior princess! *rolls eyes*

(See how I'm not complaining about people who falsely accuse other people of plagiarism? I think I've grown.)
attack_laurel
Jan. 16th, 2009 04:13 pm (UTC)
Oh, b'lieve me, I remember. Asshats. Man up and admit you're wrong when you do things. Stupidity may be forgiven, but wilful disregard and insults don't.
stringmonkey
Jan. 16th, 2009 04:37 pm (UTC)
"people should be "flattered" that their work was stolen"

Sure. Just like we should be flattered by unwanted sexual attention.
attack_laurel
Jan. 16th, 2009 05:07 pm (UTC)
Exactly. "Wassamatta? You got not sense of humor! You should be happy I'm paying attention to you, bitch!".

*anger*
(Deleted comment)
kass_rants
Jan. 16th, 2009 05:44 pm (UTC)
Bless her little entrepreneurial heart!
naburimannu
Jan. 16th, 2009 05:26 pm (UTC)
Yeah, this is a large chunk of why I left academia. Cheating cases, 90% plagiarism, among my students every single semester. Faculty who didn't prosecute because it was too much bother, thereby making the problem look much milder than it actually was. Administrators who were perfectly willing to see the rules bent to let convicted students get off, if it meant avoiding controversy.

Still working on some of the other aspects of honor, but that one's pretty important to me.
hsifeng
Jan. 16th, 2009 05:36 pm (UTC)
I don't know that I am 'conscious' of an effort on my part, but I just can't imagine posting information from someone without crediting the source. Maybe it's my research training from my college days; maybe my parents just brought me up right. I always name sources, or post links to original work, etc.

Why the hell wouldn't someone do that? I don't get it...
hsifeng
Jan. 16th, 2009 05:36 pm (UTC)
And for Gods Sake, if I ever forget - feel free to smack me! *grin*
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popelizbet
Jan. 16th, 2009 07:21 pm (UTC)
Someone accidentally stripped the identifiers from a piece I did on Festival Rights & Responsibilities.

I was surprised by the depth of my upset and anger when the people I had intended to share it with already had it....without my name...in the flier for the event it was designed for. We've gotten it straightened out, and no harm was meant nor did anyone try to take credit for what was mine...but it was so very upsetting and disappointing, even with all that.
attack_laurel
Jan. 17th, 2009 02:28 pm (UTC)
It really does hurt - I went ballistic once when something of mine was put out without attribution - the person had done it tying to impress me, but what's the use of my stuff being out there if it doesn't have my name on it?
(no subject) - popelizbet - Jan. 18th, 2009 01:25 am (UTC) - Expand
reasie
Jan. 16th, 2009 07:39 pm (UTC)
wow, I've never seen someone vilified or pounced on for pointing out plagiarism. Kinda glad of that.

Plagiarism BAAAD. Don't people learn that in school??

(I have had bad responses from people when confronted about plagiarizing. "Uh, you're using illustrations from a PDF I made, drawn by my sister, and my research on your website"

"Oh, well, I've decided your conclusions are wrong now so I'll take them down. Eventually. Because I'm so much better than you. Oh but not really, you'll come back a year from now and still see your pictures - but I'll add a footnote that YOU drew them." (Biotch paraphrased to make her sound as nasty as it sounded to me at the time.))
attack_laurel
Jan. 17th, 2009 02:29 pm (UTC)
People who steal other people's work are not exactly known for their ability to sack up and apologize. >:(

Weasels.
(no subject) - sorchekyrkby - Jan. 17th, 2009 06:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
femkederoas
Jan. 16th, 2009 07:44 pm (UTC)
Or, to paraphrase Lois McMaster Bujold: Reputation is what others think of you. Honor is what you know about yourself.

And, in all honesty, my bad for refusing to make an issue of things a couple years ago when a lady from a nearby group essentially replicated my entire Pentathalon Entry. Or at least 80% of it. To include documentation, and even making the same error I discovered in my own work after the competition and later corrected. I didn't want to raise a ruckus about it. She's since gone on to rather lofty heights in A&S competition. And it seriously grinds me. Things (TM) were said to her, but she seems to really, truly not understand what she did that was wrong. How do you get through to the willfully ignorant?
attack_laurel
Jan. 17th, 2009 02:31 pm (UTC)
You don't - you tell everyone else. And mention their names frequently. There is such a thing as a permanent record, it's just not on paper. *evil grin*

Parallel research lines do occur - after all, the information is out there for anyone to find - but blatant coyping should definitely be broadcast far and wide.
sileas_1
Jan. 16th, 2009 10:03 pm (UTC)
I find this a fascinating conversation. Just recently I lost points for "authenticity" in an A&S competition because my entry
dared to be creative and not an exact copy of an extant piece. Mind you it was jewelry and not writing, but it is interesting that on one hand if you create with words, copying is called plagerism, if you create with metal copying is termed "authentic". What a crazy world we live in!
attack_laurel
Jan. 17th, 2009 02:33 pm (UTC)
I really, really think the judging forms need to be split into "interpretation" and "reproduction" divisions - they do it for the historical masquerade competition for Costume Con. I don't see why it's not done in the SCA.
(no subject) - holyschist - Jan. 23rd, 2009 06:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
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