Tanka : copyright & plagiarism

control c copy
such an easy thing to do
control v steal it
copyright thief, that’s not yours
rewrite new words; now it’s yours

tanka by M. Nakazato LaFreniere

It’s so easy to steal these days. Control-C copy, Control-V paste.  Remember the old days.  Rewrite, paraphrase, synthesize? Pull out the thesaurus, look up synonyms.  The teacher saying, “Use your words!”

A girl was pissed because I called her on the fact that her paragraphs were copied from various places.  She said “That’s not the point.  The point is it’s a list of the ten best places to honeymoon.” But plagiarism is the point.  Copyright belongs to the creator from the moment of creation. Publishing on the internet doesn’t nullify that.

Even though she didn’t credit the writers, it was obvious the paragraphs were copied because the voice changed from paragraph to paragraph.  Writing is not as generic as it may look. Paragraphs would refer to something previously said that was no longer there.  There is a voice and a flow to writing that when people copy and paste from various sources makes sentences jangle against each other as they no longer fit, crashing against the edges of their differences.

She thought it was ok to copy and paste and present the words as her own instead of developing her own voice, style.  As if creating a list of ten items was enough to claim the paragraphs about the said items as her own. The fact that she made the list was the important part to her. That list was the creative act. She also stole the photographs that went with the paragraphs. She is not alone.

Most people don’t say anything when they notice the plagiarism.  That’s part of why people think it’s ok.  If people commented more often that they’ve noticed the copy and paste or that the image was from xyz, then others might learn about copyright, might learn to ask and give credit.  Many people will be happy to give permission.  Right now many people are under the impression that if it’s on the internet, then anybody can have it and you don’t have to ask.  If one person tells them no, they think there is something wrong with the one person.  If ten people write a comment saying uh-uh, then they may begin to learn it’s not ok because instead of dismissing one person as a party pooper, it becomes a  community standard.  They’ll probably delete or disapprove the comments but it might give them pause when there are many. Might make them do their own writing, take their own photos.

The flip side is I feel like they hurt themselves.  By copying other people verbatim, they don’t develop their own voice.  They don’t even know they have a voice.  How sad is that?



from Curious Cat

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