Forget locusts, the Bible's version of a plague. There is a new plague in town...plag-iarism. Well, it's not new and probably is as old as time itself. The old joke is that Moses brought down three tablets from the mountaintop but one broke. I can't help but wonder if that broken tablet had a THOU Shalt Not Steal the Words of Others as an addendum. IF not, I wish it did.
Article One, Section Eight of our US Constitution protects our property and that includes intellectual property. Some authors suspect a violation and do something about it... others choose to do nothing. There those of us who follow our authorial obligation to inform our publishing house of the "takings", there are others who don't.
One author told me --after sharing that a short chapter in one of his books was lifted verbatim by an author getting much publicity--- that he "didn't want to focus his energy on something that would drain the reserve". Makes sense. But it also makes for bad behavior because the plagiarist learns that he or she can get away with "heavy lifting" and that allows the copycats to continue to copy, lift and in effect, steal.
A lesson I learned in a Sunday school class at age twelve and relearned in a class at UC Berkeley called Functional Racism in America is that "silence is approval". Those that know wrong has been done are obligated to speak out or the wrongdoers flourish. That has been proven historically.
During a recent trip to New York, I heard numerous stories of people who were caught doing the IPI Dance (intellectual property infringement). One friend told me of an author who, several decades ago, was caught taking the works of several known authors. All books were pulled of the shelves and several other forms of amends were made. And she was never published again! Another major magazine was about to publish an article when the fact checker (kudos to magazines for having them) noticed that the article 'sounded familiar'. After more intensive checking, it was discovered the article had been lifted from a book that was not mentioned as a source.
Several years ago I was interviewed a major national publication and I was thrilled. It was about the topic of networking and I had written the seminal: The Secrets of Savvy Networking. We talked for 45 minutes and most of what I said appeared in the article. I received calls from people who knew me and were read it telling me that it sounded just like me or that they had read the material in my books, etc. But my name was no where to be found. She used my information as the narrative and quoted other authors. I said nothing... knowing the politics of the publishing world. In retrospect, I was wrong. I should have spoken up. Apparently, that was this journalist 's m. o. and she did the same to other experts. A few years later, she was fired for her methods.
Perhaps the cut and paste nature of the internet has made stealing way too easy. There is a program designed to 'catch' the cribbed term papers via the internet. There is one we have used to locate articles on How To Work a Room. Plagiarism is now so easy, that we don't equate our heavy lifting as something that is actionable. The legal departments of publishing houses contribute to the mix because they don't assign corporate time to handle these issues either editorially or legally.
An education program needs to be in place where the rules of journalism, research and ETHICS are reviewed and drummed into the heads of those who write papers, articles, books or blogs. Only then might we conquer this plague.
And your thoughts??? firstname.lastname@example.org