A Post Without Context

I don’t want to get into the details, so I will rely on vague generalizations:

Plagiarism sucks.

I have never been plagiarized before but it recently happened on another website (a non-political, non-science one where my contribution is anonymous). An article I posted several years ago was recently reposted by someone else with modest changes. Fortunately, the webmaster cottoned on and deleted it.

Words can not describe what I felt. I had never given plagiarism a second thought before now. I knew it was bad and avoided it myself. In my professional life, plagiarism is a career-killer and I am very thorough in sourcing my papers, almost to the point of absurdity (my bibliographies tend to be very long). But I was never that moved when I heard about it, even in prominent cases like Doris Goodwin, Stephen Ambrose or Ward Churchill.

But being the victim of it has wrenched my perspective entirely. This was just an article on some free website maybe eight people have heard of. I can’t imagine what it’s like for people who get words stolen out of books and papers and see someone else make money off of it.

Plagiarism is not just stealing someone’s words. It is stealing their mind. It is a cruel violation. The hard work and original thought of one person is stolen by a second. The people who have lost their careers because of plagiarism have deserved everything they’ve gotten and I am now determined, more than ever, to make sure I quote people properly and always give credit where it’s due.

One of the reasons I started this blog was precisely because of this sort of thing. It wasn’t plagiarism, exactly, but I had e-mailed pundits and writers only to see my ideas turn up in their articles — never with any credit, often with my exact wording. Now I always post my thoughts here first and addend my e-mails with “posted at”.

Because if I don’t look out for my intellectual property, who will?