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Plagiarism, free stuff, and intellectual property

May 11, 2012

If you’re a romance fan, you might be also be a fan of a blog called Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. I stumbled across it a couple years and was immediately attracted by the name. (I don’t read romance. I’d lose my license to watch Three Stooges shorts. ‘Cause I’m a guy, dammit.)

Of late, a discussion has come up about alleged plagiarism by a popular book blogger named Kristi, who allegedly lifted a series of articles about blogging, made minimal changes to them, and called them her own. When caught and called out, she allegedly deleted the allegedly offending posts and allegedly apologized for her alleged transgressions. End of story, right? I mean, plagiarism is wrong, right? Stealing. Something that can’t really be defended.

Right?

In the words of the great Lex Luthor…

You see, Kristi is apparently a very nice alleged plagiarist, and when a nice alleged plagiarist is called out, the only logical thing to do is to respond with flaming gobs of hate mail, including a few words we don’t generally use here. I get that you might defend your favorite Net-based writer, but some of the hate mail goes beyond that. Specifically…

…people often copy others (sic) works and don’t give credit, that isn’t plagiarism…”How to create a better blog” or “How to blog better” is never original anymore….The fact is these bloggers were not happy after she gave them what they wanted so they demanded more, complete take down of the content…The only thing wrong is that she tried to handle the matter quietly which apparently is a crime. (Blogger’s note: I would give credit for this high-quality online commentary, except the name was redacted on the original I saw.)

Actually, uhh, yeah. It’s called STEALING.

As content has become digital and has moved away from the physical CD or book, somehow it’s ceased to be valuable for many people. Because there’s no tangible thing created for a book or a song, there’s no intrinsic monetary value. If you doubt this is a problem, look at the reaction of many when Megaupload was taken down. In response, the “hactivist” group Anonymous targeted the FBI, Department of Justice (DOJ), White House, Universal Music, the Motion Picture Association of American (MPAA), and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) with distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.

Megaupload was well-known for hosting free versions of people books, movies, and other intellectual property. That is, for STEALING.

When someone creates something and you reproduce it as your own, or you make money from it without their making money from it, you are–in general–STEALING. It’s really not that hard. And whether you get your bestest online friends or an bunch of nameless hackers to support you, it’s still wrong.

And if you don’t like digital rights management (DRM), then you have the people who STEAL others content to blame, as much as you do the companies who employ the DRM.

(For the record, I obtained permission from Sarah Wendell, head bitch at Smart Bitches Trashy Books before reproducing quotes from her website.)

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