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Bloggers are the New Plagiarism 326

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the i-think-i've-heard-that-before dept.
mjeppsen writes "PlagiarismToday offers a thought-provoking article that frankly discusses concerns with plagiarism and rote content theft among bloggers. In the section entitled "Block quotes by the Dozen" the author mentions the so-called "gray area". That is PlagiarismToday's classification of the common blogger practice of re-using large blocks of text/content from the original article or source, even when the source is attributed."
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Bloggers are the New Plagiarism

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  • by Opportunist (166417) on Monday May 22, 2006 @01:52PM (#15382098)
    Nobody can read the whole internet. Nobody. So what people do is they rely on others to pick the interesting pieces worth reading and go from there.

    But there are 2 ways to do it: Summing up the content and providing a link, or ripping a few lines out of context and then mentioning in the fine print where they're from.

    While the first is something I do agree with, the second stinks of "I don't have content but I want visitors, but if I hand out my sources my visitors might go there instead of to me."

    So while I'm all for gathering info and making it available to your readers, I'm also very much against the "Readers Digest" approach: Snipping out what I deem valuable, copying it to my page and giving half-hearted credit to the real author. Linking is cool. Copy-paste-blogging is just lame.

    And I'd really wish this message could be sent to those who do it just that way.
  • How ironic (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SuperBanana (662181) on Monday May 22, 2006 @01:54PM (#15382124)
    How ironic this should be on slashdot, given that slashdot story submitters have a nasty habit of simply quoting an entire block of text for the article summary.

    For example:

    • the story directly below this one on Python programming
    • The story about nuclear reactors
    • The story about Wired Magazine's release of AT&T stuff

    Sometimes the block of text is preceeded by "from the article:", but half the time, it is presented as comments from the story submitter, and the Story Approvers (I refuse to call them editors) do absolutely squat to correct it.

  • Quoting is good! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Kelson (129150) * on Monday May 22, 2006 @01:57PM (#15382141) Homepage Journal
    Given the volatile nature of the web today, there's an excellent chance that the page you link to today will be gone 6 months from now. If you want your post to have any value in the future, it needs to be more than just "Hey, look here [example.com]!" (Although except in the case of the shortest source articles, copy+pasting the entire page is bad form.)

    Of course, for your post to have any value today, just quoting isn't enough. At that point, it may as well be a link. You have to provide some commentary, maybe your opinion, maybe additional information, or maybe you're just using the quote as a springboard to go off on your own topic.

    It comes down to a balance: are the quotes there to support and/or provide context for your own words? Are they there as a summary so that someone wandering by a year from now knows what people are talking about? Or is it little more than an unauthorized mirror?
  • The fix is silly (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Umbral Blot (737704) on Monday May 22, 2006 @01:58PM (#15382162) Homepage
    I thought the proposed "solution" in the article was just stupid. The idea that somehow the law should police millions of blogs by applying some kind of complex formula to determine if they are in the wrong is just not feasable. Even if blogs are the worst source of plagerism there is really nothing that can be done about it, except raise public awareness.
  • by briancarnell (94247) on Monday May 22, 2006 @01:59PM (#15382170) Homepage
    "But there are 2 ways to do it: Summing up the content and providing a link, or ripping a few lines out of context and then mentioning in the fine print where they're from. ...

    So while I'm all for gathering info and making it available to your readers, I'm also very much against the "Readers Digest" approach: Snipping out what I deem valuable, copying it to my page and giving half-hearted credit to the real author. Linking is cool. Copy-paste-blogging is just lame."

    Yes, some bloggers do the equivalent of e-mail threads where they copy an entire piece, blockquote it and then add one or two sentences additionally. That's stupid.

    But there are reasons to quote extensively from materials provided you're offering extensive commentary in return (and giving the proper credit up front to the author you're quoting from).

    1. Summing up the content is not always that easy to do. I've seen plenty of mainstream media reports where the two paragraph summary completely misrepresents what was actually said. Where possible, I try to quote as extensively as possible precisely to avoid the appearance of mischaracterizing someone's argument.

    2. Linking is great but my experience in about 10 years of writing for my own web site is that about 80% of the things you link to will be 404 within two years. Not to mention sites like the BBC's where if you go back to a story a couple years later it will likely have been completely rewritten without any sort of notice that changes were made post-publication to the text.
  • Less corruption (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Stephen Samuel (106962) <samuel@bcgree[ ]om ['n.c' in gap]> on Monday May 22, 2006 @02:01PM (#15382200) Homepage Journal
    Remember the game where a bunch of people would gather in a circle and then one person would whisper a phrase in the ear of the person next them, and then they'd repeat the phrase to then next person until it got all the way around the circle -- but, more often than not, completely changed from the original?

    Especially if the source is attributed, I have no problem with block quoting the predecessor source.

  • by dada21 (163177) <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Monday May 22, 2006 @02:03PM (#15382216) Homepage Journal
    I'm an anti-copyright advocate who sees more power in releasing my information for free to the ether of the Internet. Not only do I not copyright my blog posts, e-books and music, I openly request others to copy it and even put their own name on it. I've realized that once I put something into easily copied form, it will be copied. It might be partially used, fully mimiced, or completely turned upside down, yet I've also found that the more I am copied, the more people tend to find out that I am the original author.

    For me as a writer, I love to know that people are reading me and replying to me -- that is my "profit" in the short term -- reader input. I tend to make up my own words that I write with, in order to see who might be copying me fully. I then look at what people say about their "writings", too. One such word I created was unanimocracy, but I've invented a few other phrases that are easily searched, too.

    I believe the best way to "fix" plagiarism isn't to make it more illegal or immoral, but to work on a free market and open system where content creators can submit their creations to be cataloged as "the first." Let others copy it, but Google or another toolbar can easily flag a new creation as "very similar to another." Imagine if the Google toolbar had a "% of originality" for every site you visit (or every paragraph to highlight with your mouse). This could work for lyrics, guitar tabs, writings, opinion, news articles, etc.

    Plagiarism is "OK" is some circles -- do a Google News search and see how many big named media outlets just regurgitate each others' news. Boring. Bloggers do the same thing, but many put a unique spin on the original writer's ideas.

    I love when people plagiarize me. In the long run it builds my credibility even if they don't reference me as the original writer. I'd rather find free market solutions (such as the one I outlined above) rather than find penalties for the copying. If someone discovers that the person they respect didn't write the content on their own, the market fixes this by making the reader not read the plagiariser anymore. Easy solution.

    In the long run, trying to protect your creative works will be a losing process. I use my previous creations to gain new customers who appreciate the information that I don't share. That is the product/service I sell, and I use my years of writing to show a history of original opinion and beliefs. Anything I write for public consumption is merely a marketing tool to get people to hire me for real face-time -- I could care less if someone else found a better way to make money with my thoughts. Most of my thoughts are based on a lifetime of reading and thinking about what others say.

    My blog network forum is based completely on the comments of others -- I even pay my readers who give me the best comments. Their input on my writings is what gives me MORE information to sell at a higher price to those willing to pay for my knowledge. Why should I stop others from using my works to create new opinions that I can learn from?
  • Blogs (Score:5, Interesting)

    by linvir (970218) on Monday May 22, 2006 @02:13PM (#15382308)
    This is how my usual Google trail goes, using a research session for my university course as an example.

    First site:

    http://www.boingboing.net/2005/05/19/cuba_switchin g_to_gn.html [boingboing.net]

    Cuba switching to GNU/Linux
    Cuba is switching away from Windows to GNU/Linux. I have to say that I was a little surprised when I was last in Cuba and saw many of the PCs running Windows.
    Cuba's director of information technology, Roberto del Puerto, says that Cuba already has approximately 1500 computers running on Linux, and is working towards replacing Windows on all state owned computers.
    Link [slashdot.org]
    Which leads me to: http://linux.slashdot.org/ [slashdot.org]
    Tony Montana writes "According to several [yahoo.com] news [cio-today.com] sites [theinquirer.net] the government of Cuba is dumping Windows in favour of Linux. Cuba's director of information technology, Roberto del Puerto, says that Cuba already has approximately 1500 computers running on Linux, and is working towards replacing Windows on all state owned computers."
    And the only link out of those that's still up is http://www.theinquirer.net/?article=23300 [theinquirer.net], which contains only:
    ONE OF the last bastions of revolutionary socialism, Cuba is to switch all its computers over to Linux to counter the influence of the Evil Capitalistic American lackey Microsoft.

    According to the government daily, Juventud Rebelde, Roberto del Puerto, director of the state office of information technology, said his office was working on a legal framework that would allow the replacement of Windows through-out Cuba. Cuba already has 1,500 computers using Linux. Although what flavour is not clear.

    More here [yahoo.com].

    So all this plagiarised summarisation bullshit leads me only to http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20050517/tc_afp/cubaco mputersitlinux [yahoo.com]
    Sorry, the page you requested was not found.

    And before I know it, 15 minutes are gone and all I've learned is that 1500 computers have been switched. Thank you plagiarism. And the beatiful irony of it all is that I'm contributing to it with this post!

  • Self Plagiarism (Score:3, Interesting)

    by gatzke (2977) on Monday May 22, 2006 @02:33PM (#15382483) Homepage Journal
    You can even steal from yourself, although it is more like unethical publication.

    http://facpub.stjohns.edu/~roigm/plagiarism/Self%2 0plagiarism.html [stjohns.edu]

    Even if you are the author, you may not own the copyright. This is true for journals and major publishers, so you are not supposed to recycle text.

  • Re:Bzzzzt! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Haeleth (414428) on Monday May 22, 2006 @02:37PM (#15382518) Journal
    its not plagiarism if you cite the source - passing off the work as your own is one of the things that seperates copyright infringement from plagiarism.

    You are right to say that it is a question of presentation. You are wrong to say that citing the source necessarily stops it being plagiarism.

    For example, the following paragraph would be an example of plagiarism:
    In this comment [slashdot.org], Whiney Mac Fanboy explains one difference between plagiarism and copyright infringement, namely whether you are passing the work off as your own or not. It's not plagiarism if you cite the source, though it may still be an inappropriate use.
    Why is that plagiarism? I cited the source, didn't I? Yes, but I didn't identify which words were my own and which were a paraphrase of what you said -- and that might be a deliberate attempt to make the reader assume that some of what I wrote was a commentary on or interpretation of your comment, when in fact it is simply a straight copy of your words with only minimal rearrangement. In other words, plagiarism.
  • by fishbowl (7759) on Monday May 22, 2006 @02:54PM (#15382666)
    The larger issue is the information monoculture and the single point of control that is an artifact of the scheme.
  • by emamousette (871456) on Monday May 22, 2006 @02:55PM (#15382678)
    Firstly, I think part of this trend is that people mistake copying and pasting for scholarship. It's not. Just because you copied the juicy parts of an article into a "blockquote" tag does not mean that you've helped your reader understand an issue. All you've done is shown them what someone else said. Their interpretation of it might be completely different from your own--in fact, by removing the quotation from the context, your readers might interpret the quotation in exactly the opposite fashion that you intended when you posted it.

    In the lead up to the presidential elections on 2000, I tried to get my friends to start an on-line discussion group of issues heading into it. I found that for many of them, their notion of what a "discussion" was consisted of copying and pasting articles they agreed with into the forum, with no additional commentary. I gave up after 2 weeks, because no amount of explaining that I was looking for their input on the issues not what other people said verbatim sunk in.

    In looking back, I attribute that to a lack of belief that their opinions were important. These folks, (most of them younger than me, I might add) have been robbed of the belief that their opinions mattered--that their writing on a subject of interest to them was just as valid as someone writing an Op-Ed for the New York Times.
    [Please note, Eliel did say valid, not well-written, not well (or even cogently) presented, just valid--Ed.]

    This seems to be a disturbing trend. More people are participating in on-line dialogs, but fewer are expressing their own thoughts: choosing instead to regurgitate what they heard from someone else.

    It makes me sad.
  • Not so sure (Score:3, Interesting)

    by slashflood (697891) <flow@h[ ]low.com ['owf' in gap]> on Monday May 22, 2006 @03:21PM (#15382892) Homepage Journal
    My blog network forum is based completely on the comments of others -- I even pay my readers who give me the best comments. Their input on my writings is what gives me MORE information to sell at a higher price to those willing to pay for my knowledge. Why should I stop others from using my works to create new opinions that I can learn from?

    In the long run, trying to protect your creative works will be a losing process. I use my previous creations to gain new customers who appreciate the information that I don't share. That is the product/service I sell, and I use my years of writing to show a history of original opinion and beliefs. Anything I write for public consumption is merely a marketing tool to get people to hire me for real face-time -- I could care less if someone else found a better way to make money with my thoughts. Most of my thoughts are based on a lifetime of reading and thinking about what others say.

    I love when people plagiarize me. In the long run it builds my credibility even if they don't reference me as the original writer. I'd rather find free market solutions (such as the one I outlined above) rather than find penalties for the copying. If someone discovers that the person they respect didn't write the content on their own, the market fixes this by making the reader not read the plagiariser anymore. Easy solution.

    Plagiarism is "OK" is some circles -- do a Google News search and see how many big named media outlets just regurgitate each others' news. Boring. Bloggers do the same thing, but many put a unique spin on the original writer's ideas.

    I believe the best way to "fix" plagiarism isn't to make it more illegal or immoral, but to work on a free market and open system where content creators can submit their creations to be cataloged as "the first." Let others copy it, but Google or another toolbar can easily flag a new creation as "very similar to another." Imagine if the Google toolbar had a "% of originality" for every site you visit (or every paragraph to highlight with your mouse). This could work for lyrics, guitar tabs, writings, opinion, news articles, etc.

    For me as a writer, I love to know that people are reading me and replying to me -- that is my "profit" in the short term -- reader input. I tend to make up my own words that I write with, in order to see who might be copying me fully. I then look at what people say about their "writings", too. One such word I created was unanimocracy, but I've invented a few other phrases that are easily searched, too.

    I'm an anti-copyright advocate who sees more power in releasing my information for free to the ether of the Internet. Not only do I not copyright my blog posts, e-books and music, I openly request others to copy it and even put their own name on it. I've realized that once I put something into easily copied form, it will be copied. It might be partially used, fully mimiced, or completely turned upside down, yet I've also found that the more I am copied, the more people tend to find out that I am the original author.
  • by zen-theorist (930637) on Monday May 22, 2006 @03:27PM (#15382956)
    In the long run, trying to protect your creative works will be a losing process. I use my previous creations to gain new customers who appreciate the information that I don't share. That is the product/service I sell, and I use my years of writing to show a history of original opinion and beliefs. Anything I write for public consumption is merely a marketing tool to get people to hire me for real face-time -- I could care less if someone else found a better way to make money with my thoughts. Most of my thoughts are based on a lifetime of reading and thinking about what others say.
    well, then the trouble might occur when someone plagiarizes what you do in "real face-time" ... and for less.

    to put it in a different light, let me introduce you to Kaavya Viswanathan [wikipedia.org]. are you saying you would like to be Megan McCafferty, and lose a paycheck that should have been yours?

  • Re:RepublicanBlogs (Score:2, Interesting)

    by critical_v (878418) <[ude.tsro.dino] [ta] [camelliv]> on Monday May 22, 2006 @08:04PM (#15384590) Homepage
    Bloggers are not the new news media, they are just a bunch of people who have found out a place were people will read their opinions, nod their heads, and help them mentally wack themselves off at how awsome they are and how many people they can get to agree. And how is that not like the mainstream media?

13. ... r-q1

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