Monday, June 6, 2011

“A thief passes for a gentleman when stealing has made him rich”

DISCLAIMER: Plagiarism is one of those topics over which I get really heated. The following opinions are mine and mine alone; I don’t speak for my colleagues at Romancing the Muses. Please, if I offend you, let me know and I will apologize.


"You're like the thief who isn't the least bit sorry he stole, but is terribly, terribly sorry he's going to jail." - Rhett Butler

I honestly don’t understand what satisfaction a person gets by being commended for words they didn’t write.

There are times, admittedly, when plagiarism is somewhat understandable, even if you don’t agree with it. For instance: I can grasp why a lazy student wouldn’t want to write a twenty-six page thesis on the Roman Empire (though I think that sounds fascinating). I wouldn’t endorse it, by any means, but the appeal of the easy assignment is one thing. Plagiarism for the sake of…what? Recognition? Praise? That I don’t get.

Recently, a publisher discovered one of its authors had plagiarized a recently released book, and hadn’t done a very good job of concealing it. Were it a need for money, there are plenty of more obvious things to steal…like money. It likewise wouldn’t explain why plagiarism is prevalent even in communities where royalties aren’t a part of the equation. It strikes me more as a need for recognition and popularity than anything else. Otherwise, Internet fandoms wouldn’t need communities like Stop Plagiarism, where plagiarism of fan-fiction works (fictional works written by fans of a show, movie, or franchise) is reported. Before I decided to play in my own fictional backyard, I wrote fan-fiction, and I never got a dime. I never WANTED money for it because, hey, I was writing (which I love) and I had fun doing it. No one I knew was ever paid for what they wrote…so why steal someone’s derivation of someone else’s work and put your name on it?

Again, we’re back to recognition and praise. Yet here, I simply don’t understand why plagiarists do what they do. What possible satisfaction can they get from being told someone else’s writing is amazing? The level of WTFery boggles my mind.

I just don’t get it.

Recently, a book blogger was identified as a plagiarist. I have read her follow-up post wherein she confessed to her crime and offered half-hearted acknowledgment to the wrong she committed. And again I ask—why? What are you getting out of this? Free books, I suppose, but to not even bother to come up with three or four sentences summarizing your reaction to a book without copying someone else’s homework is appalling in its blatant disregard for writing itself.

So, friends, Romans, countryman…why do plagiarists plagiarize? I’m not being facetious; this has been something I’ve wondered for years, and I welcome all responses. If you are a plagiarist, go ahead and create a sock to tell me why you did what you did. I’m all ears…because from where I’m sitting, you’re an ego-maniacal thieving blowhard, and a lazy one at that.


Sharon said...

I think people do it because it is the easy road. Writing is hard, whether it is a full novel or a book review. I don't understand how people think they can get away with it. Someone is going to recognize the work eventually. You will get caught!

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