Saturday, November 6, 2010
Plagiarism - It could happen to you
Very Messy Apple Pie
The first story involved a blogger/web writer who wrote a blog post about medieval apple pies complete with recipes and a bibliography. The editor of Cooks Source Magazine used the article without permission and reprinted the article in both Cooks Source online and in the printed version.
The author of the original internet article took to the internet to protest when she discovered the theft. Later, NPR wrote a story about the resulting internet outing phenomenon.
In this particular case, the editor of the magazine [erroneously] stated that everything on the internet is in the public domain.
In the second case, Mindie Burgoyne on the Who Cares What I Think? blog wrote the history of how one of her blog posts was stolen and used by a Colorado university professor without permission or proper attribution. This particular blog was on the rather unusual topic of "thin places" which according to Mindie is "a place where connection to that [spiritual] world seems effortless, and ephemeral signs of its existence are almost palpable." Definitely, a unique topic that is easily identified.
This article is particularly interesting because it details how Mindie confronted and dealt with the theft and the how the professor responded. Most of this article revolves around lack of permission but more importantly lack of proper citation and attribution.
Genealogists on the web
Genealogical writers also need to be concerned about copyright, whether they write for print publications or the web. Writers need to be diligent that their work is appropriately credited and attributed.
The main copyright reference for genealogists so far has been Carmack's Guide to Copyright & Contracts by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack. This is a short, easy-to-read book that is a must read for any genealogical writer.
There is also a chapter by Val D. Greenwood, J.D. called "Copyright and Fair Use" in the book Professional Genealogy, edited by Elizabeth Shown Mills.
While both of these works are excellent and will get you on the right path, the waters have gotten much murkier for those publishing on the internet.
Addressing today's online issues
The realm of publishing on the internet is confusing to say the least. Protecting your work when it can be easily copied and pasted is much more difficult. And there are two battlefronts here: 1) outright theft like the two examples above and 2) stealing of content by splogs that do attribute and provide links back to original sources but do so without permission on sites that earn revenue from advertising.
Thomas MacEntee of GeneaBloggers has been at the forefront of leading the charge against sploggers and internet plagiarists for genealogists. He calls out the theft of content against genealogical bloggers and assists with getting the stolen content removed from the offending sites. He has used "Content Theft" and "Copyright" tags to make it easy to locate his posts on those topics.
Where do we go from here?
Thomas has made a great start but it is not enough and he can not do it alone. I believe it is time for a new publication to help genealogical writer's address the questions they have about online copyright and plagiarism. We need to understand how to protect our work online and how to handle it when theft occurs.
I hope that a member of the genealogical community will produce a publication such as this. Preferably it would be written by a copyright lawyer or a genealogist working in conjunction with a copyright lawyer.
What do you think? Has the online copyright issue impacted you? Do you want to know more about this topic so that you can protect your work?
Posted by Marian Pierre-Louis at 11:56 AM