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 else’s work and claiming it as your own is lying. When a lie is told for the purpose of gain it becomes fraud […]. 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 “real” 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. (http://www.gunnarswanson.com/writingPages/Plagiarism.html)
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 writer’s 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 Author’s Den. I thought to myself, what a wonderful poem, but yet, it looked suspicious to me as it didn’t fall within the publisher’s 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. Mtshali’s 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 Author’s 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 else’s 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 author’s 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 Author’s 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