Friday, October 02, 2009

Plagiarism - ugly word, uglier truth

I don't suppose one should be surprised. There have been people copying the words of others for millennia. This entry, by Angel Zapata, documents the work (I suppose you could call it that) of one individual who has been quite active, stealing sentences, whole paragraphs, entire stories and passing them off as his own.

Apart from current up-and-coming writers, this individual had the temerity to steal from Stephen King and H. P. Lovecraft.

"How to paint a large target on oneself and go dancing in the rain during a thunderstorm - holding a lightening rod" should be the title of his next story. One of the comments to Mr. Zapata's blog entry suggested torches and pitchforks. May I add tar, feathers and ask if anyone might have a rail handy?

The openness of the World Wild Web does make it easier to select, copy, paste the ideas and words of another. If you're feeling particularly energetic, you might change a word or two here or there. Presto, change-o, there you have your story.

That said, the same facility of the World Wild Web that allows for the above, provides the tools to identify, with some detective work, exactly such theft. Leaving me with the question, what's the point?

In the writing I have done, some concepts, turns of phrase, happy sequences of dialog have involved inspiration. Others, hard work. Most of them, some combination of the two.

I would take it amiss were someone to lift those and pass them off as his or her own. Yet, I place writings up on my blog for all to see and read. It's possible someone might take a fancy to one of my fancies, and copy it.

Suggesting I should not put it out there for all to see, so to speak, because it might tempt someone... Well, that smacks of the old, "it wouldn't have happened to her if she hadn't been wearing pretty clothes".

Please don't ask my opinion of that. I know all the words, but don't usually care to use such language in public.

So, I will continue to write, to submit stories, to post others here, or elsewhere. If some of my words are stolen, I will take comfort in the belief that the thief can only copy, not replicate, my words.

Well, comfort in that and some single malt scotch.


  1. I agree completely. Just keep the pitchfork handy...

  2. There truly is nothing uglier for a writer than to see their work, or as Erin Cole has stated on her blog, "their babies" taken from them.

    Thanks for posting this.

  3. You are so right, Kevin. You bring up the topic of submitting ezines to the web because of plagiarism. The fact of the matter is that it can happen to anyone anytime, but the chances that it will? Very slim. I like your analogy. Thanks for writing this.

  4. @Laura - be assured, I never leave my pitchfork out of reach (it goes with the horns and the tail *way* too much) :)

    @Angel you're welcome, Sir. You did us all the favor of researching the thefts - I'm happy to add my voice from the sidelines.

    @Jodi - You are also welcome. I'm glad you like the analogy. It's something I feel rather strongly about.