Blog Plagiarism

Today, while browsing PPS pings, I came across several instances of what – on the surface – appears to be straight-forward cases of plagiarism.

If you’ve been reading this blog for some time (I worship the ground you walk on), you’d know that I don’t like plagiarism (or to use the common term, ‘copying’).

I remember when I was taking my SRP (later replaced with the PMR) examinations, a friend of mine seated across me tried to copy my exam paper.

Now, he was a friend; but he was also a major slacker (and when I – a chronically lazy person – says this, that ought to tell ya how much lazier this guy was) and probably spent all of 10 minutes to study for the exam, while I was busting my chops hoping to get at least one – oh please, just ONE – A.

So naturally I had to hide my paper from him. When he realised what I was doing, he started cajoling, persuading, pleading, and finally threatening me so I would help. I didn’t, of course.

My constant fidgeting (trying to block the paper from his view) and his mumbling caught the attention of our invigilator. Fortunately, he was the smart kind and after observing what was happening, walked up to my ‘friend’ (who, at this point, was anything but) and told him to concentrate on his own paper or risk being thrown out. He had no choice but to comply, since the invigilator kept an eye on him the whole time – although I suspect this might have allowed other instances of copying to flourish elsewhere in the hall.

Needless to say, he failed the paper.

He blamed me for his failure for a long time, and there were times when I did think that I should have just given in and helped him cheat. But no matter how you spin it, it would still have been wrong. It would have negated the hard work put in by many other students, and would have reinforced in his mind that cheating is okay. And most of all, there was no way in hell I was gonna let him pass HIS paper by using MY efforts.

Not to say I don’t mind taking short-cuts. But cheating by taking the results of someone else’s hard work and passing them of as your own is just CRIMINAL.

With the existence of concepts like the Creative Commons License, people are now encouraged to use, modify and display other people’s work AS LONG AS THEY CREDIT THE ORIGINAL SOURCE/AUTHOR. It’s not hard to do. A single sentence, a couple of words, is all it takes. Sometimes, all you need to do is to ask the author’s permission. Why is that so difficult to do?

If you don’t happen to know who the original author, just say so. “I came across this in my inbox, I don’t know who the author is, but I want to share it with you all anyway. If you are the author or you know who it is, let me know and I’ll include the appropriate credit.”

There. Was that so difficult?

Instead, I see some instances of people copy-and-paste articles or other blog entries on their blog and make it appear as if it’s theirs. When asked what the original source and where is the attribution, they reply that there is no need for attribution since it’s SO obvious it’s not theirs, and you can find it via Google anyway.

I don’t know the exact rules about citations and references beyond what I learned back in uni, but something tells me that is not a proper reply. Correct me if I’m wrong here.

And, of course, there was that thing with The Star last year… but I’m pissed off as it is, so I don’t wanna open up that can of worms.

I’m starting to sound preachy… damn.

Anyway. Back to the instances of plagiarism I mentioned earlier.

I found this blog via Jordan‘s.

Now that’s a funny post. Very funny, no doubt. His readers certainly appreciate it. One reader commented:

OMG that was hilarious! Please tell me you made this up and it’s not copied from a chat log?

Troy (the blogger) replies to the many positive comments:

Whew – glad you all got a chuckle out of it. (I didn’t know if that humour was in *too* bad of taste.)

Not once in the post (or in the comments) does he mention that he wasn’t the original author.

That particular chat log is part of a series of chat transcripts posted by someone known as ‘bloodninja‘ way back when AOL ruled the internet. You can find tonnes of bloodninja classics online via Google, but for our purposes, I point you to this site. Check out the transcript near the end and compare it with Troy’s post above.

What do you think? Should Troy (being a “freelance writer, journalist and raconteur”) state that he copied the piece of the net and published it with some modifications? Should he not state anything since no one really knows who the real bloodninja is? Should he finally end the deception and announce to the world that he is none other than the legendary bloodninja himself??

Maybe it was an oversight. I like to give people the benefit of the doubt. After all, although he did not mention that he wasn’t the author, he also did not mention that he WAS the author (although one could argue that by not acknowledging the fact that the work is not yours, you are therefore implying that the work IS yours).

I think I just twisted my brain with that last sentence.

Anyway, for an example of a real serious case of deliberate plagiarism (and one closer to home too!), check out The Silencer’s post. An 18-year-old accounting student copied this post and posted it on his blog. Not only that, but he copies one of Silencer’s Eggheads comic strip and pastes it here – notice that he even put his own nickname on the strip in place of Silencer’s logo!

Taking a look through the blog in question, one can find another instance of plagiarism e.g. this post is a copy of this one.

So what do we do about things like this? Do we raise a hue and cry, spam the plagiariser’s comment box and tell him/her to stuff it where the sun don’t shine? Or do we just shrug and say, well, c’est la vie?

I think we’re gonna be shrugging.

Aw, hell, what do I care? I’m no saint myself – after all, do I not cheat Hollywood out of billions of dollars by downloading a movie online or buying a pirated copy? But at least I don’t go around pretending like I directed the movie…

UPDATE 1: The blogger above has appealed for forgiveness from Silencer, and had credited him as well as removing the Eggheads comic.

UPDATE 2: The other blogger (the one with the bloodninja post) has removed the post.

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14 thoughts on “Blog Plagiarism”

  1. Plagiarism? so what’s new in malaysia?

    I was laughing my head off about that Star article. Classic case of your typical lazy sports journalist. I found it funny coz I’ve done it myself, on a few occassions, when I’m looking for some quality quotes. Sometimes, I put my own views to give balance to the article but attribute it to someone else, like what Mr. Sanjeevan did. I know how you feel, tho, I’d be upset if someone were to blatantly copy my writings or poetry and pass it off as their hard-thought out creations.

    I think what you’re doing, expose-ing these culprits, is the best we can do. Perhaps start a PPS plagiarism watchdog blog? (I’m not volunteering :), but I’d support it.)

  2. Hey, cool down, dude. The web has a certain freewheeling nature and I like it that way. As long as it is not done for profit, I think we can safely turn a blind eye. Many people unwittingly plagiarise because they do not know the source of the article, but they publish it anyway. No harm is done most of the time.
    In case you’re wondering, I’m talking from a receiving end point of view.
    An article I wrote in March this year has already been “unofficially duplicated” on 8 different sites already. Also, the Lai Ma sex-in-kancil article has been “unofficially duplicated” on 7 other sites. Knowing that the web has to have a certain amount of unregulatory behaviour, I prefer to take the more broadminded view that “imitation is the most sincerest form of flattery”. I’m still a true-blue conservative, but I’m a liberal when it comes to the web. It will be cowboy country. Learn to live with it. I did. 🙂

  3. Thanks a lot, man. It seems like the guy already shut down his blog, lol. But after reading what viewtru said, yeah, if it’s gotten way out of hand, then I shall live with it. I first thought that imitation is flattery as well, but to a point where my signature on my artwork is removed, and replaced with his own, that just pisses me off.

  4. it’s happened to me in the short few months i started blogging (somebody copying my postings and circulating via e-mail), but obviously not as seriously as the the Star case and some you mentioned.

    I suppose it’s not something i can do about it, except support blogs that are decent and original, expose the poseurs.

  5. actually if one of my postings got copied and circulated via email, I would be proud and happy… but of course I would love to be given credit to my work. Oh well… the age of information…

  6. Man I know what you mean. I hate plagiarism. There are a few good people on the blogosphere. I know little of them. But at the end of the day, there are just too many traffic hogs (a less derogatory term than traffic whores) out there, along side the glory-seekers, the parochial bigots, the amoral plagiarists and the pretenders with a self-delusion of grandeur. I myself are none of these. I am just a man trapped in a blog.

  7. Referencing is good practise and allows other people to obtain more information on the topic that you are following, in my opinion. That is what has been drilled into my mind by my lecturers, and is very true. Nothing saves me more time than digging up a small portion of relevant work from a book, and the editors provide the reference from where that work is taken from. Saved me hours, if not DAYS of research.

    But then again, the credibility of science literature is of much more importance than a blog. Or is it not?

  8. Jordan: Yes. No news. But it’s an old story anyway, and I guess I *should* be flattered…

    Idlan: Of course – you were my biggest supporter during the Star thing too…

    Anuar: That’s right, how much is MUSK worth anyway? 10 kupang?

    Kenny: Yes, eyes of a hawk – like Brave Starr! (oh please, somebody tell me you remember this cartoon!)

    tormentt: A watch-dog blog sounds interesting – maybe a Plagiarism-watch wiki…

    viewtru: True enough, dude. That is what we all do anyway – we let it slide. It’s just that it always makes me uncomfortable when I see an obviously plagiarised work, so I just had to get this off my chest. However, it might be the last time I’ll speak out on this again… guess I’ll just have to learn to live with it…

    silencer: yeah, it’s one thing to copy a post word for word, but to grab your eggheads and sign his own name on it… yikes… however, he has apologised, and he’s still a teen, so maybe forgiving him may be an option here… or choke his trachea with the Force, whichever you prefer..

    simon: I’m keeping the faith, bro. Thanks..:)

    Kenneth: Yes, I’m sure it is flattering to have something you write acheiving that sort of popularity, but I’d still rather be acknowledged. My ego still needs to be fed, after all… 😛

    Can’t Remember: hahaha! i see you copied your comment from simon’s post… ok, i get it, time to lighten up… like your angle for your blog, btw..

    elb: Good question. Wish I knew the answer, though.. actually, this reminds of something else i wanted to post, about how making money via google ads have turned blogs into.. well, that’s a post for another day…

  9. Someone told me that reporters are scan blogs for ideas. However, it is really unethical if they do not to carry the source. I do carry news which first appeared on various newspapers but make sure I have at least a link to the site.

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