It astonishes me that an August 1, 2010 NY Times article could state that "many students simply do not grasp that using words they did not write is a serious misdeed" - which is absolutely true - and that yet, the likely now-infamously-moronic editor Judith Griggs of Cook's Source admitted to beliefs about plagiarism that put her on par with a lazy college freshman.
Griggs, with a purported three decades of experience, has recently been at the center of a wave of rotten tomatoes splattering the Internet with stickiness after her imbecilic actions. You can find the whole story (albeit, with a little profanity, apologies) here, but the story is basically this:
Author and blogger Monica Gaudio wrote an article that she later found, to her dismay, that Cook's Source had appropriated her article and given her credit, but no notice, and no compensation. When Gaudio requested an apology, acknowledgement, and a modest donation to be made to Columbia School of Journalism, she received an astonishing reply from editor Griggs. For a full excerpt, see Monica's blog, but here's a teaser:
"But honestly Monica, the web is considered "public domain" and you should be happy we just didn't "lift" your whole article and put someone else's name on it! It happens a lot, clearly more than you are aware of, especially on college campuses, and the workplace. If you took offence and are unhappy, I am sorry, but you as a professional should know that the article we used written by you was in very bad need of editing, and is much better now than was originally. Now it will work well for your portfolio. For that reason, I have a bit of a difficult time with your requests for monetary gain, albeit for such a fine (and very wealthy!) institution. We put some time into rewrites, you should compensate me!"
The Internet has served to spread the ire over this, and rightly so, especially since it appears that this may not be the first case of plagiarism from Cook's Source.
The debate about whether or not writers should blog everything, should give away story portions, should place electric copyrights on their work, is much older than this issue, and more has been said more eloquently on the subject. But as a college student, it's an issue I hear about on campus on a regular basis.
It is one thing for a college student to lift wiki material and be confused about how to cite it, another for a professional in publishing to do something similar. Making profit off of work that has clear authorship feels much more like theft. But then again, a good deal of collegiate plagiarism isn't as innocent as being unsure how to cite.
With social networking becoming less a phenomenon and more a way of online existence, creation as an individual, independent act is giving way to creation as a collaborative, community-based act. Ideas are bounced off any number of people, who provide feedback, more is published, discussed, dissected, etc. Readers and writers feed off of each other, often through anonymous or alternate online identities. With so many people circumventing the publishing middle-men by publishing electronically, thus avoiding the traditional linear author-editor-publisher relationship, is it any wonder a few publishers may be tempted to use the Internet to their advantage?
Wrong? Absolutely, both ways. Knowing all of this should, I think, encourage writers to be selective about what they publish online if they are uncomfortable about potential plagiarism. It would also be a good idea to be up on publications within their genre of writing, to make sure that Monica Gaudio's experience doesn't become a common happening.
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