Monday, March 27, 2006

Plagiarism is stealing even if you're the AP

This story about MSM plagiarism (via Glenn Reynolds) hits just too close to home. I know a bit about how this feels and it's maddening. You work hard at becoming knowledgeable about a topic, you put it out there for folks to utilize and then you discover that someone bigger than you has snagged it and published it as their own without so much as a 'how do you do'.

Larisa Alexandrovna writes:

We contacted an AP senior editor and ombudsmen both and both admitted to having had the article passed on to them, and both stated that they viewed us as a blog and because we were a blog, they did not need to credit us. What we are or are not is frankly irrelevant. What is relevant is that by using a term like blog to somehow excuse plagiarism, the mainstream press continues to lower the bar for acceptable behavior. It need not matter where the AP got the information, research, and actual wording from. What matters is that if they use it in part or in whole, they must attribute properly. A blog or a small press publication or grads students working in the corner of a library all equally deserve credit for their work, period.
And that's really all I ask. About the only payment I get is letters of thanks, a bit of notariety (yes, I'm a legend in my own mind) and an occasional Google ad check.

I can't recall when I ever denied anyone permission to reprint my stuff if they'd just do the decent thing and let folks know it was my work product. Usually I do that because if there is a mistake I want to be responsible for it. Or if someone needs more information they can check back with me. And I heartily welcome the use of snips and links.

Every now and then it's some newbie who doesn't have a clue about basic copyright rules and I'm willing to provide a primer. But lately it's been publishing professionals who ought to know better. Last week I wrote a publisher and got a long diatribe asking why was I being so selfish and uncooperative. It took most of the day but they eventually got word from their lawyer that I was right. It was my stuff. I'm still waiting to hear back from another publisher. I guess they'll just blow me off assuming I don't have the means to fight for my words.

I certainly hope that the AP doesn't waste anymore time being high and mighty. They need to own up to this, change their policies and profusely thank and pay Larisa for her work.

UPDATE: If you've had any trouble with this sort of thing on the web I've found Shawn Hall's tips at to be very effective.

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