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Sara Coslett

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Plagiarism in an Online Community
By Sara Coslett
Last edited: Friday, August 25, 2006
Posted: Friday, August 25, 2006

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It seems to me that an Internet community of writers, where the writer is paying for accolades, the addiction to praise becomes a strong reward for plagiarism. However, we should not forget that plagiarism is dishonest and unethical, which ultimately negates the value of any praise given in the past, or maybe even into the future.

From time to time I have written poems about plagiarism. I am usually prompted to do so after discovering an author has plagiarized the fine works of another author. This time though, I feel a lengthy article that explains my position on plagiarism, with an overview of its impact to the writing community is warranted.

The person who is plagiarizing others, is probably wondering why I see this issue as a problem. Maybe they think something is wrong with me, that I would be so concerned with uncovering plagiarism. And I can tell you, to them, I am a guilty vixen and they are an innocent victim. But the facts are there are only two victims when it comes to plagiarism and the plagiarist is never one of them. The first victim is the originating author whose works have been stolen, the second are the readers who have come to trust and respect the person who has been plagiarizing others.

It seems to me that an Internet community of writers, where the writer is paying for accolades, the addiction to praise becomes a strong reward for plagiarism. However, we should not forget that plagiarism is dishonest and unethical, which ultimately negates the value of any praise given in the past, or maybe even into the future. In an online article by Gunnar Swanson he states:

Plagiarism as a lie is probably the definition with the fewest problems: lying can have victims and specific harm, but most of us believe that lying is wrong even if no victim other than the liar is identifiable. And, after all, no matter how you feel about issues of property, ownership, cultural value, there is no doubt that presenting someone elseís work and claiming it as your own is lying. When a lie is told for the purpose of gain it becomes fraud [Ö]. Another form of dishonesty closely related to fraud is cheating. It differs from theft in that it does not require the existence of property or ownership. Although cheating can harm a ďrealĒ or would-be winner directly, everyone is harmed by cheating. By unjustly rewarding a dishonest individual, cheating shakes the faith of everyone in the fairness of the system, making everyone less able to compete. (


To me, whenever I write something, I am sharing a piece of my soul. So when another writer steals the words from me or anyone else, it is as if our souls had been violated; no differently than if a family heirloom had been stolen, or if we had been raped. As writerís we work hard on our creations. And we have expectations that our works will be honored with our copyrights. This does not mean that one cannot take inspiration from another writer; it simply means to steal, word for word, partially or entirely passages without crediting the originating author is plagiarism and is the lowest form of dishonesty within the writing community.

For example, the other day I read a poem on Authorís Den. I thought to myself, what a wonderful poem, but yet, it looked suspicious to me as it didnít fall within the publisherís style of writing. Upon a search of the Internet I discovered that in fact it was not written by that author at all, but by Oswald Mbuyiseni Mtshali. The author who plagiarized Mr. Mtshaliís works, changed a word or two, but did not credit the author at all. Instead, they removed the true authors copyright and placed their own name on the bottom of the poem. In fact, they had published the stolen poem, with their fraudulent copyright insignia in the past as they showed the copyright date as 2003-2006. So, not only had they misled their readers into thinking they wrote the poem, but they further insulted their audience by claiming they had first written those words three years ago.

If my only purpose was to hurt the plagiarist, I could have posted a point blank review revealing to the entire world the truth of their thievery. Or I could have demanded from Authorís Den that the plagiarist be banned from the site, but I did not do any of that. Furthermore, had my intent truly been mean-spirited I could have sent a message to each person who reviewed the stolen poem, advising the reviewers they had just given accolades to a thief, but I did not. I sent the author a private message, for the second time I might add, informing them they had plagiarized someone elseís works.


I understand the importance of this medium to the individual. My only wish is for them to stop stealing from other people and claiming stolen works as their own. I do not believe anyone here would condone plagiarism of any kind. Had it been a single occurrence, I would have let it go. In fact I did, with the first one, but now I see a pattern of plagiarism after finding several posts that were not the authorís works, but which belonged to others like Oswald Mbuyiseni Mtshali, Jon Bohrn and John Donne. In light of this, I felt I had no choice but to call attention to this matter on Authorís Den, as this is where the author is based.

I am not going to name the author, as I do not wish to hurt them. If they feel they need to incorporate a phrase, a stanza, or even an entire poem from another author, they should properly cite it. I had always admired this author for their spirit and passion for writing. So I truly do hope they settle down in their loathing for me, the whistle-blower. I believe in their ability to communicate elegance through their poetry. I believe in their creativity. But, I also believe in honesty and integrity. Without that this medium would degenerate into a den of thieves.



© 2006 Sara Coslett



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Reviewed by Charlie 2/27/2008
I never could understand the concept of desiring to plagerize. How can you possibly consider yourself creative if you don't create? I can't even use a pattern in sewing or crafts because of this. Maybe I'm just too prideful, but I can't stand the idea of using somebody else's ideas-- I do however, enjoy twisting ideas to conform with my own. I'm all about twisting... --Charlie
Reviewed by Sandie Angel 8/26/2006
Some people took my songs from my songs site and posted them together with Sandie Shaw's and others. See this link for yourself:

However, they have given me the credits for the songs that I have sung, so I think it is okay.

Also my story "My Psychic Dream" has been copied together with my name and put into another author's site who is a psychic advisor, and then one of my reviews here in the Den in which I had responded to another author's work regarding how I had escaped death when pinned underneath a car is posted in another's site. However, they have all given me the credit for the work I have done, so I have not said anything. I wonder if it is appropriate because these people have not asked for my permission first, even though they have posted my name along with the my songs and posts.

Anyway, most of my work are done instantaneously, i.e. I think, and therefore I write type of style.

Sandie May Angel a.k.a. Sandie Angel :o)
Reviewed by R. S. Williams 8/26/2006
Good article! In fact, I'm seriously considering removing your name and posting it on my website.

Just kidding! Lol
Reviewed by Jill Carpenter 8/26/2006
Very interesting and well thought out article! Since plagiarism is a serious thing to accuse someone of, I also applaud you for not naming names.

There could actually be other explanations for someone's apparent copying. For example, a writer may have posted somewhere else, perhaps earlier in their writing career, using other pen names. Or maybe the OTHER person is the one that actually plagiarised from the one that's being accused.

I also know of at least one AD writer that relies very, VERY heavily on public domain works. Which opens up the liklihood that others may have utilized the same public domain items..not always the best (most honest) thing to do, but probably not illegal.

Anyway, I very much respect the way you handled this article by pointing out a potentially serious problem without accusing anyone specifically. Well done.
Reviewed by Edwin Larson 8/25/2006
Oh Sara, don't be afraid to call a spade a spade!!! Name names !!! ;)
Reviewed by Felix Perry 8/25/2006
In my books there is no excuse and they should be named and asked to defend their work in public. If they feel they have the right to plagarize then they should be pointed out.

Reviewed by Mr. Ed 8/25/2006
Plagiarism runs rampant on the Internet, because it's so easily accomplished in this environment. I've found several of my poems and articles displayed on other websites - supposedly penned by someone else! I think it will only get worse.
Reviewed by Ronald Hull 8/25/2006

Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

Once a plagerist, always a plagarist. Like the cleverly-crafted Internet hoaxes and more cleverly Internet viruses, plagarism is a violation of copyright law and criminal.

This person does not need kindly reminders like a five-year-old. This person needs to be exposed and his/her name posted on the Internet as a warning to the unwary.


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