Stop! Thief!

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Time for a little rant, just to get this off my chest. I’m more miffed than grumpy today, but this was the closest Mr Men book I could find, so that’s what it will have to be.

Completely by accident, I discovered earlier today that one of my blog posts had been plagiarised by another blogger. There I was Googling a related topic, when what should come up as the third search result on page one but the title and opening text of a post I wrote four weeks ago relating to the classic TV show Hawaii Five-O.

For about a quarter of a second, I revelled in delight to see that something I wrote had appeared above the fold on the front page of a Google search. And then I noticed that the URL provided referred not to my blog but to someone else’s site. Let’s just say I was not best pleased.

The website defines plagiarism as:

The use of another’s original words or ideas as though they were your own. Any time you borrow from an original source and do not give proper credit, you have committed plagiarism.

Actually, ‘plagiarism’ almost doesn’t go far enough in this case. The other blogger has not only used my original words and ideas, but had clearly done nothing more than copy-and-pasted the entire text of my post – formatting and all – into their own blog. There had been no attempt to reversion the content, and no sign of so much as a citation or a link to my original.

In a sense, I should feel flattered. I don’t. I feel violated.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to get all precious and claim that my personal equivalent of War and Peace has been shamelessly ripped off, denying me the greatness that is rightfully mine. I don’t get paid for what I write, nor have I ever sought to do so. Some of what I write is quite good (even if I do say so myself); some is not. I’m under no illusion that I am on the verge of being plucked from obscurity to be offered a seven-figure publishing deal. I write purely for my own entertainment, and hopefully the entertainment of a few others. But that’s not the point. I put in a couple of hours of my own valuable spare time into constructing an original piece of writing, researching my facts carefully and articulating my own ideas on the topic – they might not have been unique ideas, but they were nonetheless a product of my own thinking and not someone else’s. I could have saved myself a lot of time by simply copying and pasting content from Wikipedia and YouTube. But that’s not how I do things because (a) I take pride in crafting and expressing my own content and (b) I know that plagiarism is illegal.

It is this sort of shameless theft that contributes to bloggers being frowned upon, especially by those whose livelihoods rely on the production of original text and ideas themselves. I know I’m not the first writer out there to have content stolen – it has been happening since time immemorial, which is why we have copyright laws in the first place  – nor will I be the last. The truth is that 99.9% of fellow bloggers I have encountered are mindful of the moral and legal perils of plagiarism – indeed, many will go to great lengths to cite and ask permission from their sources – but it is that tiny minority who lack both the talent and the conscience to produce their own content or follow the rules of the ‘fair use’ game who bring down opprobrium on us all.

I have left a firm but polite comment on the offender’s blog pointing out that they have used my original content without either permission or any form of acknowledgement. I fully expect that comment to be deleted, or at the very least ignored. And the reality is that there is basically nothing I can do to force a retraction, because it’s just not that important in the greater scheme of things. In truth, I’m more miffed than I am mad. But it is annoying.

Mind you, if someone wants to plagiarise this post about plagiarism, they are more than welcome to – although anyone who does so might want to consult with my friends Mr Irony and Mr F&$% Right Off first …