11.29.2005

Borderline attacks plagiarism; told to "get a life"

Plagiarism: The act of appropriating the literary composition of another author, or excerpts, ideas, or passages therefrom, and passing the material off as one's own creation.

- Definition from the University of Colorado website

Oh dear. Borderline has angered another Waltham Shopper reader. You may recall that over the summer Borderline took issue with the writings of a Waltham city councillor who is also a contributor to the Shopper, and was later slapped down in a reader comment for three factual errors in his original post. Borderline apologized. However, Borderline stood firm on one of the original issues -- that the city councillor's plagiarism is wrong.

Another Shopper reader, apparently someone with inside knowledge of the plucky monthly and its editorial policies, has jumped into the fray with a 439-word rant against Borderline. The gist of the diatribe: it's OK to plagiarize from the Internet, because it's helpful information that Shopper readers appreciate.

There's more. This second reader says it's not just the local pol who plagiarizes, but other contributors, too. The anonymous Waltham Shopper fan claims co-owner Glenna Fabbo borrows other people's writings for recipes and historical biographies, apparently without asking permission or giving credit. Roger Moreau does it as well, claims this person: "Most of what he put in his column was not his own information nor his own words but it didn't make it any less valuable to know and it didn't make me think any less of Roger Moreau ..."

And finally, the reader sounds off on the purpose of the Waltham Shopper. It is published "... as a convenience and benefit to residents of Waltham, Newton, Watertown, Weston, etc.".

Wait a second. The Shopper is just for the benefit of the community? All 45,000 issues are delivered as a free service? No one is making any money off of the Shopper? Ads can be included for free?

Well, then. That sounds just like what Borderline is doing. Offering a free service and resource for the members of the Newton and Waltham communities.

Except Borderline doesn't have any advertisements, and never, ever plagiarizes. Borderline frequently excerpts from other news sites and blogs, but credit is always given.

Borderline would like to repeat that it thinks the Waltham Shopper is a great resource. The articles about history, tea, health, are interesting and valuable to readers. Passing along information from another source is also OK -- that's what research and writing are all about. But if the words are copied from another source, without credit or permission, that's plagiarism.

Plagiarism is bad. Plagiarism is illegal. It can get you thrown out of school (if you are a college student) or result in a court case for copyright violations. More importantly, it's totally unfair to the original author. If you take words directly from another source, the author needs to be credited and/or asked for permission to have the content reprinted. If that original author's content is generating advertising revenue for the publication, he or she deserves a cut as well, unless some alternate arrangement is reached.

Yes, it's a pain to deal with these details, but I am sure the Waltham Shopper would understand if I lifted the entire body of original writing from the latest issue, posted it on my blog without credit, and then started charging money to advertisers to have their company's name or product placed alongside the copied content.

Advice to the Waltham Shopper and its writers: Learn how to give credit where credit is due, and payment where appropriate. Paraphrase if you want to avoid dealing with these issues. But stop plagiarizing other peoples' hard work.

2 Comments:

Blogger Lisa said...

Wow, that's pretty scummy. And you're right, it is plagiarism. If the Shopper has a website and they repost your stuff, you can send their ISP a DMCA takedown notice, which would oblige their ISP to shut down some or all of their site until they removed the stolen material.

11:02 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Also, anonymous commenters probably don't realize this, but it's not as easy as you might think to remain anonymous on the net. Most people who visit a website are broadcasting their IP address, which can often be traced back to them or their employer.

11:07 PM  

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