22 April 2007

Authorship gets lost on Web

Around the time the Pew Internet & American Life Project released their research report on bloggers last year (see my previous post), hailing bloggers as the Internet’s new storytellers, USA TODAY published an article by Del Jones commenting on the rampant plagiarism that is visible on the Internet.

“The Internet is becoming a cesspool of plagiarism,” writes Del Jones in ‘Authorship gets lost on Web’, presenting several examples of how Internet users have shamelessly copied material from others and passed them off as their own. One example cited by Jones, an article on advertising by advertising professional Steve McKee, apparently, was picked up and posted in 36 blogs, 13 of which “took credit for writing it as their original prose.”

It was enough to anger the original author of the article, Steve McKee, who is quoted by Jones as having said, “They’re like cockroaches… Ideas are our assets, and it’s frustrating when people take them from you without shame.”

In another example, Del Jones cites India’s own Arindam Chaudhuri, who, apart from being one of the directors of IIPM, a privately-owned management institute headquartered in New Delhi, is also touted to being an economist, a business guru and a best-selling author. Here’s a reference from Jones’ article:

“A July 3 column written for BusinessWeek by former General Electric CEO Jack Welch and his wife, Suzy, was posted on the Indian Institute of Planning and Management (IIPM) site from New Delhi. There was no attribution to either BusinessWeek or the Welches, only a photo that appeared with the column of professor Arindam Chaudhuri, a business guru and best-selling author in India who works for IIPM.”

But what can one do to prevent plagiarism? According to
www.plagiarism.org, a website that creates awareness about plagiarism and offers software resources to scholars to help prevent their work from being plagiarised and protect their rights as original authors,

“The internet now makes it easy to find thousands of relevant sources in seconds, and in the space of a short time plagiarists can find, copy, and paste together a term paper, article, or even a book. Because the material online is produced by writers of varying levels of quality and professionalism, it is often difficult or impossible for educators and editors to identify plagiarism.

Additionally, the seemingly ‘public’ nature of online content blurs the distinction between publicly and privately owned information. Electronic resources, by nature easily reproducible, are not perceived as ‘intellectual property’ in the same way that their material counterparts are.”

Laments Del Jones: “In some quarters, plagiarism remains a serious offense. But where it involves the Internet, an acceptance of plagiarism is taking hold, and when confronted, offenders often shrug it off as hardly newsworthy.”

[Citation: ‘
Authorship gets lost on Web’ by Del Jones, USA TODAY, 31 July 2006. Forgive me for using the title of your article as the title for this post without seeking your permission.]

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