A friend of mine, who peppers my in-box with links to articles that she thinks I’ll like, sent me one last night from the The Christian Science Monitor, Headline: What is the price of plagiarism? Byline: Karoun Demirjian Contributor to The Christian Science Monitor
Date: 05/11/2006. The article talks about the issues surrounding plaguirism.
Plagiarism means to copy or alter a piece of intellectual property. Sometimes, authors, musicians, and artists THINK they are creating something entirely new, but perhaps, subconsciously, it is really something that they’re already seen, heard or experienced, created earlier by someone else. If the originator can track that person down and has the resources to sue, the consequences can be grave. In the case of writing, an author with a registered copyright (I have one on every single page of my web site and this blog is also copyrighted), copiers can
be liable for legal fees and damages, which range from $750 to $30,000
per work copied. Those fines can rise to $150,000 if the copying is
particularly agressive and pre-mediated. “
After 14 years online, I realize that in fact, most people really do not know, understand, or care about copyright infringement. Most have no idea that they are stealing online (after all, if you can right-click a mouse and “save” it’s for free, right? WRONG, WRONG, WRONG!!!) and younger people are lifting photos, music and pieces of web sites verbatim (or changing one or two words, making it seem like THEY wrote the piece, and not even making a nodding attribution to the author). This happens all the time, all over the net.
On the flip side, I remember vividly, writing a book report in High School. I worked really hard on it and I knew it was good. I was ready to see an “A+” on my page, but instead, I got a note, circled in red, that said “see me.”
After class I went up to the teacher, who sat me down and directly accused me of plaguirsm because as she said (I can still hear the words stinging in my ears) the paper was “too good for a high schooler to have written.” WHAT?!!!! I wrote every single word! I never read or heard a review of that book before, and even if I was the sort who would consider buying a school paper, I wouldn’t have any idea where to get one, or if book reviews were common on the dark side of the market! I was stunned, upset, shocked.
Where is this all leading? I am extremely worried about the lack of concern, culpability, and resources to keep my own work safe, but I also realize that sometimes, the accuser can be wrong. It’s best to be vigilant against plagurizers and outright intellectual property theft, but alas, the only way to do that fairly is to consider each case, as it comes, on an individual basis. The best way to deal with these issues, IMHO, is to educate people about them, and to make the consequences, count.
DO you agree? Disagree? Let’s start a dialogue (just don’t plagurize my post)!