I was pleasantly surprised this morning when I did a search over at technorati.com and found somebody I didn't know had linked to this blog. I went over there, expecting I know not what, and, well, I got a big surprise.
Here's a comment I just posted:
I appreciate the 'tip of the hat' at the bottom of the article, but at the same time, a 'tip of the hat' is completely inadequate when someone has ripped off your work without permission and placed it on their own site in an attempt to pass it off as their own. We writers have a technical term for that sort of thing -- plagiarism. It's highly immoral, and I object to it entirely.
Not all of this article is stolen directly from my site. The second paragraph is an uncredited reproduction of a comment my wife left on my site in response to my entry above. And some of it is apparently original to the blogger here. But 95% of this entry is my work, or my wife's work, and neither of us is credited, and our permission was not solicited before our work was re-used without credit.
That's deeply, deeply wrong. I find it highly offensive, utterly unacceptable, and I am hereby requesting and requiring that every word of this article that was originally authored by anyone besides the blogger here be pulled off this page immediately.
I don't expect this comment to accomplish anything, and in fact, I don't even expect it to show up, or if it does, to stay up very long. But I'm sure the blogger here will read it, so be advised -- I will be linking to this entry from my blog, and reproducing this comment there.
So, there's that.
It makes me wonder how many people out there are passing my work off as theirs without my knowledge. If this idiot hadn't been so idiotic as to link back to the guy he was stealing from, I'd never have known what he was doing.
It also makes me wonder just how morally bankrupt we've become as a culture, when somebody will blatantly steal someone else's work, pass it off as their own, and apparently be so unaware that this is an immoral and unethical act that they actually give a 'hat tip' to the guy they're ripping off, as if that somehow makes the act of literary theft acceptable.
Update, Sunday morning, 5/26/08 :
To their credit, the staff of Fourth Wall has responded quickly to this situation. Yesterday I found the comment you'll see below, from 'Art', apologizing and advising that the article would be taken down. I hit the link in my entry and found that, indeed, the article is gone. So that's something.
This morning I got the following email, from 'Jesse':
First let me say we apologize for any inconvenience this has caused you. I understand how you feel when some one takes your work and claims it as their own. I did not post the article in question but fourth wall was created by me so I should deal with it.
Out of respect to your original work we have taken the post down and the one who posted it has been talked to.
Once again we apologize for this. And we do not take stealing, plagiarism or taking credit for some one esle's work lightly at all and would find it highly offensive if other people would think this.
Once again we can't apologize enough,
Fourth Wall Staff
In response to this, I just sent the following:
time being. I sincerely hope it doesn't happen again.
If your webzine wants to use my work, I'm generally pretty reasonable about such requests. I'm always happy to see my work get more exposure. I just want full credit and a link to my blog, and, obviously, if anyone makes any money off my work, I want fair participation.
It troubles me that both you and Art, who left an apology similar to yours on my blog itself, seem to be at pains to hide the identity of the plagiarist on your staff. Also, that the plagiarist "has been talked to" is not satisfactory to me, especially combined with this obvious effort on your magazine's part to keep his or her identity unknown. If I were publishing the work of others and discovered that one of my contributors was a plagiarist, I would pull his or her work, publish an apology where that work had originally appeared that included the name of the plagiarist, and make a solemn promise that not only would the act of plagiarism not be repeated, but that the plagiarist would never work for me again. Plagiarism is a dreadful and unacceptable act, and your response to it should be absolutely zero tolerance, if you want to have any credibility with any writer anywhere again.
As it is, I'll be checking back to your magazine from time to time to see what's going on there, as, for all I know, what you 'talked to' the Mystery Plagiarist about was "hey, dude, if you're going to rip off someone, don't link back to them, you idiot". It seems obvious that whoever 'wrote' that article has no clue as to the actual immorality of plagiarism, and given the inadequacy of your response, I have to wonder if your magazine as a whole shares that generally apathetic attitude.
Thanks for what you've done.
I think that about says it all. I have a dark suspicion that what FOURTH WALL did to me is something that's more a policy there than otherwise, and that all this incident is going to resolve is their foolish tendency to link back to the people they're ripping off. Well, and I doubt they'll be stupid enough to steal from ME again. Still, despite their protestations otherwise, I am getting the very distinct impression that they really do not understand what plagiarism is, or how such a charge could possibly apply to them. After all, it's not like they're copying something out of a real book; they're just finding stuff on the Internet and passing it off as their own work. They may believe that anything they find on the Internet (where, of course, everything is free) is in the public domain, and can be used by anyone else in any way without credit, links, or attribution, especially if they aren't charging anyone any money for it.
However, regardless of where I publish my work, it is still MY work. My original work, something I created and brought into being. It is my intellectual property and they have no right to it at all, other than quoting brief excerpts for purposes of review... and if they do that, they have to credit me fully, and link back to my work's original publication site, if possible.
It doesn't matter that I'm 'just a blogger' and I put my work out there in a public space where anyone can view it for free. I still own that work, and no one gets to use it for any purposes without my permission. And no one EVER has any legal right to pass off my original work, or anyone else's, as their own, under any circumstances, unless we enter into a very specific contract where I agree to
effectively act as a ghost writer... which, obviously, has not happened here.
Stealing is wrong. I know some people may find it hard to get that in these circumstances, but just as I cannot spend a week typing SALEM'S LOT into my computer word for word and then post it to my website as an original novel I've been writing for months, so too are all others prohibited from stealing my blog entries and trying to pass them off as their own original work.
It's deeply, profoundly, innately, and irrefutably wrong. Anyone who does not understand that has no business publishing anything anywhere for any reason.