Plagiarism is back in blog discussions again after another apparent piece of fat-fingered filching from Talbot street’s Indo group.
I won’t be taking quite the same line as the McGarr Solicitors blog (as it takes in such lofty matters as whether the People’s Republic of China has managed the previously unconsidered feat of plagiarising the Moon)
Rather, I thought I’d address (from my sickbed) the more mundane question of what you can do if you find your own work being passed off under someone else’s name.
The answer lies in what the work was worth to you.
There is no crime of plagiarism. Try to report an instance to the police if you don’t believe me. [UPDATE: TJ points out that in my muddled state I’ve forgotten S144 of the Copyright and Related Rights Act 2000, which does say that a person who make available in the course of a business trade or profession “a copy of a work which is, and which he or she knows or has reason to believe is, an infringing copy of the work, shall be guilty of an offence.”]So if you wanted to take a legal action (and I raise this as an option only because instances of plagiarism frequently prompt exhortations of legal action from bystanders not on risk) what could you claim?
Well, if you were Redmum, say, and found that your photograph had been taken from Flickr and used on the front page of the Metro daily freesheet you could reasonably expect some form of payment. Indeed payment, though not a published credit, for her work was a happy endingin that case.
The problem here is that if you wanted to claim damages they would have to be based on your actual losses (or at least losses you could convincingly argue arise from the event). Now if this article is reproduced, verbatim, in next week’s Evening Fleabite what income or monies have I lost? Sadly, none. I made these words available for free. I’m not selling them to you the reader, so I can hardly claim the copied article has undercut me.
Under these circumstances, all that bloggers have to fall back on to discourage plagiarism is naming and shaming. This has drawbacks.
Firstly, it doesn’t appear to be a major source of shame in many Irish newspapers to have published plagiarised material. Indeed, as this tale suggests, the paper will sometimes react to the information by merely attempting to hide the article from the original author, rather than taking it down and looking into how their reader protection processes failed so dramatically.
There is a secondary problem for a blogger who finds themselves wronged by a journalist from the Independant News & Media Group’s stable of newspapers. This is the open hostility of the O’Reilly family to the internet- and bloggers in particular. It can hardly be a coincidence that the newspaper group whose owners and controllers have the most open contempt for-and hostility towards-bloggers is the one whose writers feel most able to steal from them.
Some quotes from Gavin O’Reilly’s recent speech to the Society of Editors-“The USP of the newspaper of the future [will be] built upon journalistic skills that are not simply a God-given right of someone with attitude sitting in a garage in front of a computer, but rather is a skill that is learned and earned.”
“Over the past two years, we have radically restructured our internal work flows… The result is that our journalists are now better focussed on crafting content that truly makes us distinctive”
Crafting content takes time- it’s an artisan approach. Until that distinctive stuff is finished I suppose we’ll all have to make do with the blogswipes.