It’s been a rather surreal week.
But I’m not going to write about that in this post.
Instead I’m going to tackle a question which Melanie asked in her latest Share Your World.
Because of a referrer link I saw in my blog’s stats which had me searching online and discovering things last night.
Melanie asked two questions in one:
Is copying and pasting images or information off the Internet plagiarism?
Do you credit those whose work you ‘borrow freely’ or do you think the idea is repugnant?
If you’re a blogger, the concept and activity of plagiarism (which means literary theft or kidnapping if you check out the etymology of the word) is one which you’ll end up bumping into one way or another on your blogging journey.
The most common bump into plagiarism a blogger will get is when it happens to you…
Like with life, we tend to only pay attention to certain things when those things happen to us (or to someone close to us whom we care about).
Then it gets personal… and our primal survival instinct kicks in and kicks us in the butt which makes us want to kick someone else in the butt… pass it on.
My first kick in the butt actually came from an artist who got mad at me for posting their image on my blog and it went slightly viral, propelling my tumblr blog into momentary attention getting status.
I had linked to source, given credit to the artist, adding a link to their deviantart account when posting the image, but I hadn’t realised they had a tumblr as well… due to them not linking to it on their deviantart which is where I had found the beautiful image.
I can’t recall if I used the tumblr share button they had on their deviantart account and the images they shared on there because that button was often glitchy – I used it when possible.
I apologised to them even though I hadn’t done anything wrong, had followed blogging etiquette, but sometimes you need to apologise because it’s the quickest way to resolve a misunderstanding and sooth a pissed off creative ego… and they took down their rant against me post. So all was okay.
I learned to be extra careful after that.
Blogging etiquette requires that you give credit to source if you use words or images created by someone other than you.
Which is simple to do for the most part.
And it’s a lovely feeling to give credit where credit is due.
It can get a bit more complex with images, especially those which have been repeatedly shared online, on social media in particular, but Google Image Search can help with that if you’re genuinely interested in finding and crediting source.
You can always link to the place where you found it as an interim to finding the original source.
But it does take a bit more work on your part to do that… and it’s easier to do on a computer than on a mobile phone.
My second kick in the butt was a vicarious kick… I was dumbfounded by what I witnessed and the dramatic story which ensued. It left me distrustful of WordPress bloggers for a long time afterwards.
A blogger I was following on WordPress plagiarised another WordPress blogger’s post, got caught because the plagiarised post received a lot of positive attention (Likes, comments, reblogs, etc) and the original author found out, confronted them. The plagiariser did a confessional post with apologies and explanation about why they plagiarised… which was fascinating.
That seems to have been an unusual case… most plagiarism of posts is hard to detect unless you’re super paranoid and constantly check for it, using Google or bots.
It is often perpetrated by “fake blogs”. They steal “popular” posts and place them on their blog to get Ad revenue, traffic, clicks. It’s not about stealing creativity, just about making money.
Sometimes though it is about taking your creativity and claiming it as their own – I’ve had that happen, it’s usually always with your blog’s popular posts. They want to own your popularity for themselves… but it’s a self-destructive action because they’re not the source so they can’t keep it up (sure they could keep plagiarising your blog posts, but think about it… think about the toll it takes on their self to keep doing that), and can’t deal with the reaction people have to your work (people regularly have strong reactions to my posts… I’m used to it because my posts are me, and I get that reaction just by being me, have done all my life, but those who plagiarise may not be used to it).
Usually when I find out that one of my posts has been plagiarised, deliberately or accidentally (sometimes people share excerpts from my posts without giving credit and their name is the only one attached so those who read it assume they wrote it… and no one sets things straight), I just rant about it on my blog… and remind myself of the choice I made to have an open creative commons copyright for very specific reasons.
Some authors have a very strict copyright, and they often demand that you ask permission before sharing their work… although they often have “share” buttons for social media… which can muddy their controlling of copyright waters.
Even with all copyright precautions in place… this is the internet and people are people.
Here’s a cautionary tale I came across last night while researching plagiarism in connection with blogging, it’s from an article published in 2013:
Here’s an excerpt:
“In June this year I was sent a link to an article on a tabloid newspaper website titled Edwardian Rogues Gallery, by a friend and former lecturer, suggesting I might find it of interest. When I opened the article, I was surprised and horrified, to find a post I had published on my blog just weeks earlier staring back at me, with somebody else’s name placed at the top. Worse still, I found the same post reproduced on other sites, under the name of more authors.
At first, my overriding emotion was that of disbelief. Although I knew that some news organisations were far from scrupulous in their reporting, I had always assumed this would stop short of reproducing others work without permission or acknowledgement. But after taking to Twitter to get some more opinions, I was saddened to hear that, yes, this can happen, and yes, it happens all the time.
Indignant, I resolved to contact those responsible. I emailed both the news agency that originally circulated the post and the two national newspapers, one regional title and global website that took it. I also tried several times to contact the individuals who had put their names above my work. These attempts were, of course, all in vain. Wherever I turned, I was met with a frustrating wall of silence. I soon realised the overwhelming likelihood that I would never get a response from anyone involved or be given any acknowledgement for my work. That is when I took the decision to partially shut down my blog.
I didn’t want to. For over a year I had invested time into producing something I was proud of, and into promoting it at every opportunity. I couldn’t bear the thought of removing it all, so I left a few posts, including the one in question, and a cautionary tale to other bloggers, on the site. I’ve not been back since.
excerpt from The Guardian – Academic blogging: a risk worth taking?
Blogging provides a vital method of communication and networking for PhD students and early career researchers. Blogs can raise awareness of a researcher and their work in the early stages of a career, before they have a long list of publications, or grant applications behind them. But with an environment existing in which your research can be taken and used by others – for profit – without your permission, and without accreditation, is it a risk worth taking?”
I didn’t use to share excerpts like the above on my blog.
I used to just link to a post or article.
And then maybe I’d say how much I found it informative to read that article, especially the part about articles on plagiarism being plagiarised.
But then over time I realised many links I’d shared to articles and posts ended up nowhere, in error 404 territory. The blog or website had been deleted or restructured itself altering the links in the process.
Sometimes it doesn’t matter, but if I discussed in a post what I’d read in the article, it could confuse matters… so I decide to excerpt the parts which I had found helpful and inspiring in some way just in case the source disappeared, was changed.
Also people who read your post aren’t necessarily going to click on the links – I’m sometimes one of those people who don’t click on links in posts and articles.
Just share in your post what it is which meant something to you, which inspired your post, you… with credit and link to source.
So if there’s something I want to share – I share it, with credit and link to source in case you want to check out the full article or post.
If any of the authors of the articles from which I share excerpts have a problem with what I do, there’s a notice in my Copyright page which says:
“Anything which I post that is the creation of others will be credited to their creator, and linked to source.
Sometimes I share the creation of others without credit or link because I couldn’t find who did it and where they are, if you notice something of yours and are okay with it being on my blog but would like to add a credit and link let me know.
If I post something of yours, and you wish for me to remove it, let me know and I will do so immediately. I do not intend to offend or upset, just share the things which inspire me.”excerpt from my Copyright page
It seems fairly straightforward… but humans.
If we can complicate something simple… into the drama triangle we go!
The referrer I spoke about earlier in this post, which I spotted last night in my stats, was one of those sites which offer certain services mainly to students writing papers, such as a ‘plagiarism checker’.
I’ve had those before in my “Referrers” stats.
It perplexed me, but not enough to get me to research the matter online.
Apparently it is common practice for students to use paper writing services… and plagiarism is also considered a common practice, normal, a “must” if you want to survive to graduate.
It’s kind of sad that the education system requires such methods… that learning isn’t fun, isn’t exciting in a good way, and is more about who can cheat the system well enough to survive it.
A gauntlet to run which is best run while using acceptable cheats to do so. Everyone does it…
Kind of like playing a video game which cheats enabled… or using a walkthrough which you found online. I’ve done that… so I get it.
So those who don’t do it, who refuse to do it are… what?
I refused to cheat when I was a student… while everyone else was doing it. It was one of many mistakes I made due to being young, foolish, far too idealistic and deeply rebellious to the point of stupidity.
Ah… we live and learn… and maybe keep making the same mistakes because we’re stubborn about it. Fuck that, I’m not learning that!
Oh… the image I used for this post:
Is a screenshot of weird shit happening on goodreads if you search for quotes about “plagiarism”…
I wonder if Paul Gauguin really said that or if he borrowed it from someone else… who isn’t on goodreads… does it matter?
That’s it from me…