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Why does anyone care...

…whether a plagiarist apologizes or not?

Yesterday I read one of the latest cases where a plagiarist is caught, confronted and shamed (with the inevitable “leave the poor plagiarist alone, she’s suffering enough as it is” comments thrown in).

What baffles me is the repeated expectations for an apology.

Why?

What does an apology change?

Look, not all crimes¹ are equal, and I’m not going to call for pitchforks here, but plagiarism–and particularly repeated plagiarism–is not an accidental thing, there is intent. A person cannot inadvertently copy and paste chunks of other people’s work and then forget it’s not his/her own work.

Given this, what is the value of an apology? How can any apology over a deliberate act be anything but, “sorry I got caught”–which is no apology at all?

So, why does anyone care to receive an apology from a plagiarist?

~~~~

¹ Plagiarism = theft, ergo, crime

How the wheel turns!

Way back when, after the SBTB exposed Cassie Edwards’ plagiarism, they got called all sorts of names. Hey, someone even wondered if Ms Edwards had run over the Bitches’ puppy (I don’t have the link, but I’m sure someone will provide it at some point).

If memory serves, months later there were some folks still bemoaning the mean girls who had almost killed Ms Edwards by making public something that was “a private matter” (I kid you not, this was said, word by word).

Now it seems that some enterprising thief has been lifting reviews pretty much verbatim from AAR–as well as copying their ratings and rating system. (Mind, this kid also lifted Kristie(J)’s blog name–no, no linkage for the thief–so color me not much surprised by the news).

The funny thing is that there are some who wonder why the blogosphere is not as incensed over the theft of reviews from AAR as it was over Ms Edwards’ 20+ years of plagiarism. (more…)

For those who just got here (hello, new peeps!) I have blathered on about plagiarism before, here and here (and those two links are chock-full of links, it’s a treasure trove of links, I tell you)

Being late on my blog hopping this week (sue me) I just saw this post over at Dear Author, linking to the latest plagiarism scandal: a Christian author copied an essay by another Christian author. (And hey, it seems our most beloved SmartBitches found about it too.)

The funniest bit? The plagiarist added a bit about how vividly he remembered the incident that happened to the actual author of the essay. Incredible memory, indeed.

Or perhaps the most bitter of ironies is that the rabid fangrrrrllls and fanbweeees are not only defending the plagiarist, but claim that the actual author should feel flattered that such a celebrity had deigned stealing her work. (I can almost hear the steam coming out of Shiloh Walker‘s ears over such nerve.)

I’m having a cynic moment here–it’s Christians like this one and his fans who give such a bad name to other Christians.

As Ms Chand said over this bit of thievery and the subsequent lack of honest repentance:

“Has the man who writes best-selling books about his ‘Conversations With God’ also heard God’s commandments? ‘Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not lie, and thou shalt not covet another author’s property’?”

(Attentive readers may have noticed that I didn’t name the plagiarist–I don’t care to give him more exposure; follow the links if you are curious)

The Cassie Edwards plagiarism scandal broke in early January. (Neat centralized pdf. document from the SmartBitches here)

Dear Author and SmartBitches—and a number of authors—wrote about it during the following weeks.

I posted about it here in March (including a number of links to previous discussions)

Signet finally dumped Cassie Edwards over it in mid April, which reignited some discussion.

By late May people, including well known authors of the stature of Lori Foster, were still wondering why there was public discussion of something that, in their opinion, was “between Ms Edwards and the parties involved”

In late July—well over six months later—there was a panel on plagiarism at the RWA National Conference in San Francisco, with Nora Roberts as one of the panelists. Conference room seating 200, about a quarter of the seats filled.

May I ask, what the hell?

Because even if you are an author who thought you knew all there is to know about plagiarism, copyright infringement, proper attribution, etc., etc., ad nauseam, there was still a Q&A portion of the panel where solutions could be proposed, and where specific instances could be brought to light and examined.

My inner cynic is starting to wonder if indeed many writers don’t want open discussion of this because of dirty linen in their own closets.

A bit about plagiarism from someone who is not a lawyer, doesn’t want to be a lawyer, and doesn’t play a lawyer in the internet.

I’m sure that a lot of people who travel the romance blogosphere routinely got tired pretty quickly of the many discussions on plagiarism, copyright infringement, intellectual honesty, and other related topics sparked by the CE dêbacle (or the SavageGate, which I believe Seressia Glass coined).

However, the Obama speech incident reignited discussion on this at a couple of places I visit, and once again I was impressed by the varied and well, weird ways people can look at things.

• There have been statements that all writers ‘plagiarize’ from academic texts when they research say, the Middle Ages. “After all, it’s not as if the writer could have been there, right?” (Though one wonders what the hell is a writer’s imagination for, in that case. But perhaps that’s just me.)

• There have been statements that word-by-word copying from non-fiction sources is ‘poorly integrated research’ (You don’t want to know the words that left my mouth upon reading this.)

• There have been statements that Nora Roberts, or Mary Balogh, plagiarize from their own, earlier work, because they have certain recognizable tropes or themes or characters in several of their novels. (One wonders what the hell a writer’s voice is, then. But again, perhaps that’s just me.)

• There have been statements that there are all sorts of gray areas between ‘using research by changing a comma or two’ (paraphrasing from an earlier discussion, but I swear that is the condensed version) and ‘actual plagiarism.’ (All I can say to this is… WHAT THE F…?)

• There have been statements that, hey, this is the information age! Sharing is what it’s about! It’s all good! (One wonders whether creativity has any place in a society where everyone can claim everyone else’s original work as their own without it being wrong.)

• There have been statements—by authors who are otherwise very much invested in protecting their own copyrights (Diana Gabaldon for example)—that using out-of-copyright works without attribution is fine. (Yet another WHAT THE F…? from the peanut gallery)

Then, in a more recent, and completely unrelated discussion over at the SmartBitches, Laura Kinsale posted these comments:

I’m curious. What’s the difference between Cassie Edwards writing about ferrets and fan fiction published for profit?

So that’s what I’m asking. Why is that so different from Cassie Edwards? Why is taking a paragraph about a ferret, or even a page of dialogue, so worthy of scorn and ridicule, but fan fiction is supposed to be a nice compliment to the author of the original work?

Leaving aside the bit about fanfiction, and whether it’s legal, illegal, original, derivative, or what have you (a topic worthy of its own article), but simply judging from all that I listed above, I can only conclude that a lot of folks don’t know what plagiarism actually is.

So here it is, in the immortal words of… well, I’m sure plenty of people have said it before me, so you can check your favorite dictionary for a better worded version, but here is mine:

Plagiarism, distilled to the most basic terms, is the intent to pass off someone else’s words as your own, original, new creation. Whether or not there is a concurrent illegal action (such as copyright infringement), ethically this is fraud. It is lying. It is saying, “look how smart/creative/artistic I am” while using someone else’s work, and getting credit and/or money for doing this.

So perhaps I am simple minded, but I don’t see how there can be a gray area there.

Now, let’s see what plagiarism isn’t. (more…)

Plagiarism = Bad. Period.

Plagiarism doesn’t equal “Yeah, it was bad, but those girls were so mean.” These are two fucking separate issues altogether.

Any author who writes yeah, plagiarism is bad, but those girls are mean bitches, run the risk of people assuming that they don’t really think the issue is that big a deal. Unfair maybe, but that’s how it comes across.

Writing a friggin’ long essay on how mean, some bloggers and their readers are, whilst taking potshots at said blogger and their readers, is a tad hypocritical. (Passive aggressive tone, notwithstanding.) Some people prefer to call it righteous indignation, than what it actually is. Whatever works for them I guess.

Using the blog in question, as a forum to wring one’s hands in consternation over the way one has been treated in the past, due to one’s own actions may I add is… well…cringe-worthy lame.

By the way, most bloggers, or at least the ones who don’t put their readers to sleep will always have their own lovable sycophants. When you write a blog about how fangirlish certain blog readers are, and then your own blog readers chime in with, ‘Right on sister!’ or ‘Amen motherfucker!’, you look silly. I’m sure I don’t have to explain why. We’ve all done it I’m sure, but it still makes us look silly.

The next time anybody talks about trying to gain respect in this genre, I’ll be sure to pipe in with my ‘Not in this lifetime’ mantra, and quote the RWA’s initial response, when this issue was first reported to them.

Thank goodness for The SBs, Dear Author, and Nora Roberts I say.

Anyway, I’m turning off my comments because I don’t really want to have a discussion on the subject. Plagiarism is wrong, period.