Thursday, 15 April 2010

Plagiarism - The Silent Crime

The one thing I believe strongly that I have going for myself is my integrity. Book reviewing was never something I aspired to do. I honestly didn’t believe that I had the skill set for it. But my students needed books and it seemed like a good idea. It was a means to a book-end. Very quickly I grew to love it. Many things have changed but I still have my integrity.

I reviewed Rachel Hawkins’ Hex Hall yesterday and she tweeted this:
Honest is a word that I am used to hearing about my reviews (although the “brutally” did make me wince). Honesty is my aim. To be truthful, to represent my thoughts as a reader and share why I feel a specific way was always what I wanted for Persnickety Snark. The second I start softening reviews for the sake of friendship or interviewing an author whose work I don’t enjoy it is the end for me.

We don’t make money for our work on our blogs. We spend every night reading, reviewing, posing questions and tweeting excessively because we love YA. I love this community; it has provided me with cherished friends in all corners of the globe, given me some faith in my own writing and introduced me to some amazing stories. But when it comes down to it...my words are all I have to differentiate me from any other blogger.

Someone took that from me this week.

Correction...someone stole that from me this week.

Someone decided my review was good enough to claim as their own.

Someone thought that switching up sentence structure a little and using a thesaurus excessively was going to make my review theirs.

I am choosing to not go into any more detail than that as I have dealt with this issue privately and it will remain so. I don’t wish to become a complete hypocrite after my post last week extolling the ways to avoid blogger conflict. (Though I do recognise the irony in being plagiarised two days after I posted that discussion.) This is in no way meant to be a finger-pointing exercise but make people reconsider pursuing this action in the future. I don’t believe for a second that someone who plagiarises thinks that a) they will get caught or 2) consider the originator’s feelings ...or ownership.

I felt angry. So angry that I was shaking. They were my words, my thoughts, my reactions to the book and someone took them because they were too lazy to write a review of their own. Too lazy to write when they have time to contact publicists to get review copies in the first place.

I felt betrayed. Though I have heard of event stealing spiking of late, I haven’t really ever heard of content plagiarism. This is my community, my peers and my cherish bookworm buds. Why did one poor excuse of a reviewer do this to me? Why did they make me doubt my 99.99% wonderful book brethren?

I felt hurt.

Very hurt.

Here’s the deal - whether subconsciously or not, paraphrasing someone else’s thoughts is plagiarism. Why? You are presenting someone else’s views as your own. This is an untruth. It is even worse in review blogging as we are provided review copies to give our own opinions on the books. Not only are you stealing thoughts, you are stealing product. You are accepting goods with no intention of meeting your part of the deal.

That’s why it is wrong.

It is also wrong to use subconsciously copying as an excuse. I have been on both sides of the classroom – student and teacher. Students from an early age are told to use “their own words” and are taught to do so. No one, of any blogging age, can use subconsciously “borrowing” as an excuse.

In fact, if you are subconsciously “borrowing” (I hate this term, I didn’t give you permission to take and I don’t get my words back so why use “borrowing”?) means you need to change the entire way you review. Actually...paraphrasing isn’t reviewing...it is cutting and pasting with a fancy synonym replacement function.

So how can you avoid the whole subconscious angle? Sarcasm aside, reading someone else’s review can sway your original thoughts. The simple solution – write your review before reading others. I know! How difficult does that sound?

The only positive in this whole debacle is that I knew instantly that the review was mine. I read it and it sounded exactly like me even though sentences had been upended and words substituted. Courtney Summers once wrote that I possessed “a voice” and I scoffed*. Now I think that could be true...or my plagiarist is really crap at what they do.

I don’t host contests. My followers are readers that like reading my reviews. They like my voice and my opinions and my honesty. So to have someone rip off the one thing I have going for me - that is me - was extremely hurtful.

I would like to discourage people from piggybacking on the work of others and instead devote their time to bettering their reviewing skills. Find your voice. Make your blog unique for your written content, not the splash and flash.

Find some integrity.

*Re-reading this guest post this week has been my saving grace.

46 comments:

bermudaonion said...

Wow,that is just awful! How did you discover that your work was plagiarized?

Daisy Whitney said...

I am behind you, Adele. I'm glad you wrote this post. Well said, well written.

Adele said...

BermudaOnion - I just so happened to read a blog that I hadn't stopped by before. Their newest review was written in my voice. I didn't recognise the text so much as my style and with a comparison, I could tell it had been plagiarised. Good for me, very unlucky for the blogger.

Daisy - thanks Daisy, I appreciate it.

Janicu said...

Well that's not right (I came here from a RT from StephXSu on twitter). Plagiarism is one of my pet peeves, and it's bad enough that there are spam sites that steal book blogger posts without BLOGGERS stealing from other bloggers. I once caught someone doing this in a review (I think they stole lines from Kirkus). I said something and the review was removed. I never saw them do it again. I hope this blogger has learned not to do it since you caught them. And that this post stops others from doing the same.

Wen Prior said...

Oh Adele, I really feel for you. When I was an artist full-time, someone stole a huge bunch of my online images and lessons that I'd done and posted them on a forum. I was furious and it really ruined things for me. It's a horrible feeling and such an invasion.

Before it happened to me, I really didn't get it. I thought "well it's flattering if someone likes your work enough to try and claim it, isn't it?" But boy did I learn a lesson when it happened to me. It's a horrible, gutting feeling and I'm sorry you've had to experience it :(

Holly said...

I am so sorry that happened to you! What a violation! It takes away some of the innocent fun we have with our blogs.

Becky said...

This is so very timely. I can completely understand how you are feeling. Reviewing is a real skill. Anything worth doing requires effort. It is sad but easy to believe that this happens. I agree with Holly. It is a complete violation.

Mollie said...

Working in higher education it's astounding to me the amount of plagiarism that goes on. I don't understand how people DON'T know that taking someone's work is WRONG, it's illegal; it's stealing. We have a helluva time trying to get our students, some of which are 30 & 40 something adult,s to grasp this.

Blogger's should know better!

emilyandherlittlepinknotes.com said...

If it make you feel better I read your blog purely because I really enjoy your reviews,your pics and your write style (it also helps that I don't like contests! and I love discussions) don't feel bad, being a cheater it's the worst possible attitude in life, eventually they learn their lessons

Mel said...

So sorry that happened to you. We all put a lot of effort, time, and love into what we do on our blogs. It isn't fair when someone steals that from you. I love to read what other bloggers think about books especially when they had a different take on a book I have read and reviewed. I am a newer follower, but I love your reviews. Thank you for taking your time to write and post your reviews.

Lu @ Regular Rumination said...

I can't believe this. This is the second post on plagiarism I've seen today and I'm shocked! Well, okay, to be more accurate, I *wish* I was shocked. I really wish people had more respect than this. I don't even understand how you plagiarize a book review... isn't it how you felt about a book? Good lord I feel like blogging has totally gone to shit this week.

I'm so glad you found this person and have been able to handle it. I also applaud this post. Thank you for sharing your story, even though it must have been painful. There need to be more posts about this.

Aubrey (AKA Stacey) said...

Ug! I am so sorry you had to deal with that!

Great post and it is so true. I hope whomever that was apologizes to you! And anyone who might have read that post for that matter.

Jami said...

I just found this from a retweet from The Story Siren. I had the same thing happen to me last month. I found a review that was exactly my words, just moved around a little bit. It made me really mad, but I was too scared to say anything. I am very sorry this happened to you. I just browsed your blog, and I can tell how much hard work you put into it. I am following you now. Keep up the awesome work!

Pam said...

here here! find some integrity. I had a post about this for a mini challenge for bloggiesta. Cheers to you for not taking a more vindictive route.

Lahni said...

I like to read other reviews before I write mine. But if I find myself "borrowing" an idea, I'll always credit the other blogger and post a link to their review and I would never ever copy an entire review. To be honest, I don't really understand the motivation behind that. What's the point? I blog solely because I enjoy it and I don't really see the point in copying someone else's work. What would a person stand to gain from this? It just doesn't make sense to me! I'm sorry it happened to you but on the bright side - they consider your work good enough to copy, right? Nobody's ever copied me (at least that I know of!).

ZoeAlea said...

I heard about this happening last night. I'm terribly sorry! Any book reviewer who copies another reviewer's words isn't a true reviewer. That is a mean and shallow thing of that person to do.
I hope the person that did this has at least a hint of guilt.

cat said...

I'm behind on my google reader because work is kicking my bottom well and good and am only now reading your post. I'm terribly sorry that this happened to you. There are some fantastic snarky and sarcastic blogs out there and you all have your own voice in the snark-world. I enjoy yours and these other blogs because they are fun and original.

If someone wants to be sarcastic and snarky they can find their own manner of doing so. Not just taking someone else's work and rewording. Cripes.

I have been having my own issues with people this week and their lazy, entitled, stupid ways and your post just fits right in with my week. I am so tired of people like this. Lazy ones. Entitled ones. Just stop with the stupidity already!!

*hugs*

Megan said...

I didn't even know this sort of stuff went on.

I guess I assumed, whenever I read a review, that it was the writer's own opinion! is that too much to ask?! clearly!

I hope it never happens again, and we're all behind you 100%:)

The1stdaughter said...

Wow! I'm shocked! I mean, I know I've heard of things like this happening before, but never to anyone that I actually read. It's incredible to me that some people have such an extreme low self-work ethic that they feel okay by stealing someone else's effort and time. I'm so terribly sorry this happened! And sorry I haven't commented much before too...I love your reviews and your site, just brilliant. I truly hope whoever did this has learned their lesson.

GreenBeanTeenQueen said...

Oh Adele-I am so sorry!! I have a love/hate relationship with the internet and blogging for this reason (and the reasons you stated in your blogger post a few days ago). I think your reviews are amazing and I'm behind you! You rock!

Sarahbear9789 said...

I was so shocked to hear about this last night. You are such an amazing person. I love your reviews and post in general. I am totally behind you.

Lizzy said...

First I'd like to point out that if this were college, the person who stole your reviews would get expelled (and probably not readmitted anywhere else).

The idea of plagiarism scares me a bit. As someone who wants to publish work in psychological studies, I'd have no idea if someone were to rip me off. All those months of work, analyzing data, and someone could take what they wanted and I'd be none the wiser.

How do you handle a situation like this in the blogging community? My posts were copied and pasted onto a blog, along with the posts of some other bloggers a few months ago. I emailed the "contact" on the site, but heard nothing. Eventually I contacted the host of the site. I was just wondering what your advice is. Email first and contact the host?

Julie--I am Reading Without Restraint! said...

Wow--I am not a follower, but I found out about this from The Story Siren. I am a new book blogger, so I haven't really been exposed to the negative yet. I just wanted to tell you that your words touched me, and that I am sorry that it happened.

Manda (Manda's Movements) said...

I'm so sad that this happened to you and glad that you called them out on it. Maybe this will make any future plagiarists think twice.

Shweta said...

Looks like people are finding it hard to write something on their own.I think they ought to quit reviewing because if you are going to copy off someone else's review then what's the point in reviewing.

Adele , you are an awesome blogger and your reviews are honest and we love reading ur reviews for that. If some one copies ur reviews then they should be made to realize that this is NOT OK..

Good you got it out in the open Adele..

Lynsey Newton said...

You know what? I'm sad to say that I'm not in the least bit surprised that people plagiarise reviews. I am sorry that you had to deal with it though! I would be very upset if it happened to me. I have to say that I don't read a review of any book I haven't read and reviewed myself. My thoughts and opinions are MINE...as are yours, and it appears you write well. In some ways, you could take it as a compliment that someone thought your writing was so good, they took it.

Anyway, all that being said I'm glad you dealt with it privately and I hope the offender does not do it again!

Ladybug said...

I was so angry on your behalf while reading this post, what a mean and selfish thing to do! I'm so sorry that one (or several?) of your reviews has been plagiarized.

I know this is a mean thing to say but I do hope this person will be blacklisted among the publishers. What is the point in mailing a review copy to a person who steals somebody else's reviews instead of doing their own.

blueicegal said...

omg that is just so horrible how do you get the nerve to do that i mean how can you be a true blogger and not love to write your own reviews, gosh hope your feelin ok

Rebecca :) said...

I am so sorry to read this! I don't understand why someone would just blatantly steal your work. I don't have the most articulate reviews in the world, but at least they are my own reviews. I've read the book, I take notes, and I write what I think. I mean, this is obviously not a case of just saying the same things but you said they had your style. I hope you were able to talk to the offender and get some resolution.

Blodeuedd said...

I came here via twitter @reading this book.

This is just so wrong! Who would do that, can't they just post one of their own?!

I can't help wondering, if that could or have happened to me

Emily Cross said...

Wow - whatever about plagarising a book/poem, but plagarising an actual review of a book?!?!? That's just mental.

Why would you that!?! The mind boggles . . .

Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

Oh no! Any tips on how to handle it?

Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

PS I know it's wrong but I wish the plagiarist was "outted" so we can all keep a look out for our reviews.

Mundie Moms said...

I am constantly shocked that people think it's okay to steal other people's ideas and reviews. Do they think they won't be caught?!?! That's pretty stupid if they do. Personally, I have a huge issues with liars and thieves. I am sorry you're having to deal with your reviews being stolen. It's not right and good for you, for taking a stand!

People who do this, not only lose support and respect from the publishers and authors, but from those in the blog world.

misskallie2000 said...

Adele, I come over from The Story Siren's post about plagiarism. I agree this is theft, not borrowing. I know when I make commnents and I have the same idea as someone else that commented, I try to use my own words and not repeat what someone said, or say this was said " ". I am sorry that someone is doing this but just rememer that they do not have words of their own and have to "steal" someone elses words in order to write.
I hope this will be stopped by the person using this technique to write reviews out of shame for what they have done.

misskallie2000 at yahoo dot

Katiebabs a.k.a KB said...

You're a bigger person than I am because I would state their name, blog and publicly state my opinion about them with their name and blog, over and over in the post to make them look like the low down dirty fink that they are.

Lori said...

I agree with Katiebabs a.k.a KB I too would have been pissed off enough to list their name, then I probably would have felt bad after the fact.

Michelle said...

I'm so sorry this had to happen to you. :( It's terrible.

Kat Hooper said...

At FanLit, we've been affected by this, too. After speaking to Adele by email, I find that it's not the same person. There must be several culprits out there, which is very upsetting.

I wish I had time to start some sort of group where bloggers/readers could report and discredit bloggers who plagiarize. If someone would be willing to do that, please let us know.

Literary Feline said...

I am so sorry you had to go through this, Adele. It makes me angry--and sad--that people would steal our words and use them as their own. I admire the way you are handling the situation.

Suzanne said...

Adele, what a wonderful & important post. It's so true that we review books for the love of reading, not for the reward of a paycheck. Without proper credit, it's stealing, even if it's not word for word we all have our own "style" of writing. thanks for sharing your thought and starting a good discussion.

Library Cat said...

This is the second post I have seen regarding plagiarism. It is absolutely maddening. I teach at the college level and this topic is very important to me - although the students often don't see it the same way I do. But we call them on it, every time.

Sorry that you had this happen. I often wonder if I read enough reviews to even know if this has happened to me - of course, like you, I cannot imagine anyone wanting my words.

Serena said...

I'm sorry that this happened to you. This is exactly why I don't read reviews of books I'm reading until after I write my reviews. I don't want to inadvertently take others' ideas or opinions as my own.

That's the advice I would have given -- write your review before reading reviews of others.

Callista said...

That's terrible. This is my first visit to your blog and I like it so far.

I make it a point to NOT read reviews of books I got for review until after I write mine. The only exception is if i'm at a complete loss for words, I may SCAN another review just to get a topic to write about but I don't read their text and rephrase it. It's usually if I read the book weeks ago and just now got around to writing the review and forgot to make notes so I can't remember what I wanted to say.

Once I see a certain thing mentioned somewhere else, I write my OWN thoughts on that thing.

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roro said...

i'm extremely late ha ha
sorry it happned 2 u
added u to my google readr