I recently met a famous journalist at a local function. She and I discussed to current business, and how it's increasingly cut-throat with decreasing wages, and greater company control over the ownership rights and intellectual property rights of writers and authors.

Then we moved over into discussing the world of blogging.

She told me that it's no secret that journalists often use a special feature in google, where they can be notified about new articles, essays, blog-posts on certain subject matter. She said that many journalists actually like to look at blog-posts, because they often have limited copyright protection, and use them as "inspiration" or as the "spiritual and substantive" scaffolding upon which serious essays and articles in leading national magazines are based. As journalists, they are very careful to not actually plagiarize stuff, line by line. But they use the basic ideas and premises of these articles, as well as rehash the basic arguments with new dressing. She said it's very common and that bloggers are often unaware of how their writings are being "harvested" so to speak by leading journalists. She went on to say that in the field of journalism, intellectual copyright law only protects the big newspapers and publishing companies from encroachments by (a) other big companies or (b) small time writers. She said that one almost never encounters a situation where a small-time writer sues a big company or journalist for plagiarism, because the IP lawyers are far too expensive.

In this light, she said that blog articles on the internet are seen as "low hanging fruit" and that "more people lift stuff from blog articles" than you know.

Although this causes me some discomfort, knowing how dishonest many people are, I don't really care if my ideas are picked up by somebody else. It just means I was on the right track, even if I don't get credit. My only concern is a reverse claim of plagiarism, where if a writer writes something in 2010, and let's say it's semi-plagiarized by a newspaper or magazine in 2025, and said paper sues the original 2010 author for republishing his 2010 article in 2026, or something in that manner. This sort of thing happens often in IP law, as I learned in law school, and it will only become more common as IP protection and IP attorneys and suits remain the province of the very wealthy and powerful.

Views: 144

Comment by vzn on November 16, 2017 at 10:40am

MSM has some aspects of a "monoculture" and this tends to reinforce that...

Comment by koshersalaami on November 16, 2017 at 10:42am

I think I'd be flattered to know my ideas were out there if they were harvested, though I'd want to know. 

Comment by Jonathan Wolfman on November 16, 2017 at 11:53am

I think you ought to care if you are plagiarised and deeply, bc it's not simply abt your writing and what you may be on to. More than that, it's about the writing community's ethics and decency in general and we all are obliged to care abt all of it. 

Comment by koshersalaami on November 16, 2017 at 2:07pm

Are the ideas more important than the author? Is it more important to get the ideas out than to take credit? I agree, it's an ethical issue, and it's the usual big v. small, but where should our priorities be? 

Comment by Ron Powell on November 16, 2017 at 2:59pm

The only way you can catch plagiarism is to read what others are writing and listen to what others are saying. 

TV news ' journalists' are reading what the news writers/editors have prepared and downloaded to a teleprompter.

The other day I heard the lead talking head on a round tabke discussion raise a question about a matter phrased exactly the way I had raised and phrased the matter here 

Plagiarism?  Maybe , but not actionable.

The 1st Amendment and technology has exploded the market place of ideas exponentially to the point where the 'law'no longer is concerned with where a concept came from or how it is articulated, but who gains and/or 'profits' from the articulation orc expression of it.

If there's no profit or monetary gain, there's no okagiarism.

Here's the rub, if you are certain that you've been plagiarized you must 'prove'it in much the same way as a prosecutor is required to prove each element of a case against a criminal defendant with the additional element of Profit thrown into the mix.

Your original idea my be considered intellectual property but unless and until someone stands to profit directly from its  unauthorized use, reproduction, or publication with the intent of depriving you of the financial or monetary benefits derived from such unauthorized use etc nobody cares...

Except, of course, if the culprit is caught on camera before a national audience reading/speaking the words of someone else and purporting authorship.

That's plagiarism, and even if there's no money to be had from the fact of the actual theft of thought, I'm sure that Michelle Obama wouldn't take a million dollars in exchange from the satisfaction she got from the world catching Mrs Trump with Mrs Obama's words in her mouth.


Comment by alsoknownas on November 16, 2017 at 8:28pm

I wrote a 3 part piece here a couple of years back.

I saw a bunch of it edited, of course, a tiny bit on Salon.

What are you going to do?

Comment by J.P. Hart on November 17, 2017 at 3:45pm

Anthony Burgess and Stanley Kubrick had a protracted intellectual property case over'Full Metal Jacket'; I was once accused of 'plot-out-lining' the Stations of the Cross in a prose-poem . . . but was too underread to appreciate the sarcasm. And, of course, there you go sparky!

Comment by Rodney Roe on November 18, 2017 at 3:49am

You never know who is reading you.  A number of years ago I was startled to see an email in my box from a newspaper in Louisiana asking if they could reprint a piece I'd written.  At least they were upfront and I said, "gladly given".

I have never thought that what I write is any more than my wife's description of it: mind droppings.

I'm flattered to think that someone would plagiarize me, but then I've never tried to make a living writing.  I would have a different attitude then, I suspect.

Comment by mary gravitt on November 22, 2017 at 12:44pm

In this time of short attention spans, or so they say, sometimes it is important to reinforce ideas.  I do a lot of outright plagarism because I have been told in the past that I have weird ideas.  So that when I find writer who express exactly what I have been thinking I have to give them an airing on my blog.  I am always careful to give them the credit and well as show where I find the ideas via youtube and goole images.

There is an expression in the Bible: To a making of books there is no end; but in America today there is a making of books, but no reading of them.  This reading and understanding is important because in US education history does not matter; nor does geography.  If we don't know our history nor the importance of geography, it is too easy to dehumanize ourselves and other humans as having their lives and places in the world matter.

The only way to keep a secret in the age of the internet is to write it on toilet paper and flush it down the toilet.  So someone stealing you idea is a thing of the past.

Comment by mary gravitt on November 22, 2017 at 12:45pm

Since when do comments have to be approved?  Art James fills my blog space up with nonsense, and he seems to need no approval.


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