Truth and Consequence

First off…I have no desire to roast any author that is either suspected of plagiarism, been found guilty in the past, or any that might currently be involved in huge online dramas.

I simply want to state my opinions. Consider this fair warning that there is a long, probably rambling post ahead.

Plagiarism is wrong. Taking somebody’s words and flipping a word here, there, and then claiming it as your own is wrong. Over at Dear Author, Robin commented,

I mean, would you be okay if I wrote a Romance novel comprised entirely of five or ten sentences from other Romance authors’ books, passing it all off as my own? Is that “fair use” in your view, too?

And that is an excellent example. I work hard on my writing. I write stories as they come to me. I bust my tail on my work and I try to make it as interesting, and as original, as I can. I’m protective of my writing. I don’t want to think about somebody taking my words, my ideas, flipping around a few words and then calling it theirs.

I’d imagine that a writer of academic texts also takes pride in their work. I imagine they work hard. I can’t even fathom the amount of research, how many years, how much sweat goes into writing some academic tome. Every little thing much be checked, must be researched. It doesn’t matter if it’s a one page article in National Geographic or a history textbook. It’s a lot of work. They deserve credit for that work.

Fair use exceptions aside, if whatever you’re writing can’t be written so that you include whatever research you use in your own words, you’re not writing an original piece of work. Any writer worth their royalties ought to be able to figure out how to take something like….

(using medical because… hey… I know medical)

info found here Rohypnol (flunitrazepam)

Rohypnol (flunitrazepam), most commonly known as a date-rape drug, continues to be abused among teenagers and young adults, usually at raves and nightclubs. The drug remains readily available, mainly through pharmaceutical operators located in Mexico, especially Tijuana.Rohypnol is marketed by Hoffman-La Roche Inc., and is legally sold in Latin America and Europe as a short-term treatment for insomnia, and as a preanesthetic medication. One of the significant effects of the drug is anterograde amnesia, a factor that strongly contributed to its inclusion in the Drug-Induced Rape Prevention and Punishment Act of 1996. Anterograde amnesia is a condition in which events that occurred while under the influence of the drug are forgotten.

And make it their own.

“Hey, there kids. I’m Nurse Suzy Q and I want to talk to you about date rape drugs. A common date rape drug is Rohypnol. It’s a legally prescribed medication that is often abused by teens and young adults.

When legally prescribed, Rohypnol is used on a short term basis for treating sleeplessness, and it can also be used prior to anesthetic.

Back in 1996, it was included in the Drug-Induced Rape Prevention and Punishment Act. One of the main reasons it was included was because of anterograde amnesia, which causes a person to forget things that happened while the drug was still in their system.

They pretty much say the same thing. I did my research, I got the facts I needed, but I didn’t use somebody else’s words.

Whether or not the current issue happened because of a poor understanding of plagiarism/fair use/copyright, I don’t know. Now God knows the law can certainly be confusing. For all I know, I’m misunderstand the ‘fair use’ part. I dunno.

But regardless of why it happens, intentional or otherwise, there should be some sort of personal responsibility when it’s made clear that an author has plagiarized. I’m not looking to tar and feather a person. I’m not looking to make somebody walk the plank. More, I don’t necessarily think an author should be banned forever from any and all publishing houses forever and ever and ever. People can mistakes and learn from them. Not all will, but some do.

The plagiarism deal back in April when a 19 year old plagiarized a popular young adult author, for instance. Now in all honesty, I don’t see this girl ever doing something like that again. From what I’ve read, the girl does have a talent for writing. So do I think the appropriate thing is to punish her, for the rest of her life, for a mistake she made at 19 and insist that publishers never, ever consider anything from her again? No…I don’t think it’s appropriate.

Are there authors out there who’d get caught, turn around and do it again? Yep. I’m sure there are. But I’d imagine most wouldn’t, not once they’ve been caught, at least. Is that an overly optimistic way of looking at it? Eh, entirely possible.

But I do think there should be consequence. There should be some level of personal accountability. If there isn’t, there is little deterrent.

My questions there, though… what should be the consequence? Fines? Canceling the current contract and requiring the advance be returned? Pulling the books and making the author rework the questionable content? In all honesty, I have no idea.

One thing I see seriously lacking is a matter of personal responsibility. I, myself, would be mighty impressed with a simple statement from the author stating that he/she made a mistake, either out of a poor understanding of the law or laziness and some attempt at making amends. Amends… in my opinion would be offering a formal apology to readers, publisher and the people whose works were plagiarized.

A real apology… not something along the lines of I’m depressed and I just couldn’t help myself. I’m having a hard time and didn’t think things through well. My dog made me do it.

Nobody likes to screw up. Nobody likes to screw up in a way that is huge and public and comes with a lot of fanfare, blog dramas and articles picked up by some major news sites. I’d imagine admitting to a mistake in such a public venue … the memory of that would be one hell of a deterrent and most people wouldn’t ever do it again, if for no other reason to spare themselves the humiliation.

But again… maybe I’m overly optimistic.