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Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Youer Than You- Thoughts on Plagiarism

My school teacher once told me, "Copying is the sincerest form of flattery. They copy you because they like what you do so much."

That answer didn't feel good back then and it certainly doesn't fly with me now, but I have words for it as an adult that I couldn't say when I was in grade school--

BULLSHIT.

Where did that adage even come from? I Googled it. 

Oscar Wilde's quote feels a little more satisfying because of that last part that people just leave off. The people doing the imitating are so mediocre, they have to borrow someone's greatness and pass it off as their own. Meh. Imitation still doesn't feel flattering and there's nothing sincere about it. This quote doesn't address how imitation feels.

The real sincerest form of flattery is respect. Respect people enough to praise them for their own, specialness and creativity. Let them have what is their own.

In the grown up world, we don't use the word "copying" anymore. People are not "Copy Cats" that is far too cute of name for what is actually going on. The legit word is plagiarism.

According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, to "plagiarize" means:
  • to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own
  • to use (another's production) without crediting the source
  • to commit literary theft
  • to present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source
All of the following are considered plagiarism:
  • turning in someone else's work as your own
  • copying words or ideas from someone else without giving credit
  • failing to put a quotation in quotation marks
  • giving incorrect information about the source of a quotation
  • changing words but copying the sentence structure of a source without giving credit
  • copying so many words or ideas from a source that it makes up the majority of your work, whether you give credit or not (see our section on "fair use" rules) --Plagiarism.org
Why am I writing a blog post about this today? It's because my book reviews and the reviews of some of my friends have been plagiarized and it feels like hot garbage. 
While I'm reading a book, I have a notebook next to me and I'm feverishly writing down my personal and unique feelings/experiences. I also do frequent status updates on my Goodreads
Then, I sit down for about two-three hours and compose my review using MY experiences. MY thoughts. MY feelings and most importantly MY words in the way that I talk. My reviews are extremely conversational. I write like I talk. So when I read someone else's reviews and I see/hear my own voice coming out of someone else's mouth, it literally feels like someone is stealing my identity.
Identity theft. Straight up. 
And it's not word for word because obviously, the people who steal other people's thoughts have the wherewithal to know that copying something word for word is stupid and they'll be found out. So they piece together a review and borrow from multiple reviews and then replace certain identifiable words with words of their own and at the end of it all, their review doesn't EXACTLY sound like anyone else's it just looks like this:

A patchwork of stolen identities stitched together to make a monster.
And I'm sorry if this sounds like I'm making a mountain out of a molehill. I mean, you could be thinking, "Big deal, Sadie. So someone copies your words a little bit in their review. Maybe they just like the way you write stuff and they want to be like you. Maybe they're just practicing and when they mature, they'll write their own reviews with their own words and you can forget this ever happened. Feel flattered that you gave them a stepping stone of success."

BULLSHIT.

I'm sorry but it's not right. If someone wrote a book and published it and then someone else basically wrote the exact same book, they just changed most of the words around, wouldn't that be grounds for suing the imitator? Plagiarism is a real legal offense. So is copyright infringement and so is intellectual property. All legal words, my friends. And my words are published in print--which makes them the property of myself and the magazine:
"Copyright infringement is reproducing, distributing, displaying or performing a work, or to make derivative works, without permission from the copyright holder, which is typically a publisher or other business representing or assigned by the work's creator.

I don't understand why anyone would want to pass someone else's ideas and words off as their own but my warning to anyone who has done it, is doing it or has desired to do it...
...reconsider.
Think about why you don't feel confident writing with your own voice. Think about how it makes others feel. Think about how the praise you're getting belongs to someone else and think about how you feel like you've gotten away with it, but you haven't. We see it and we don't like it. 

My suggestion is this:
If you like the way someone writes reviews, ask them how they can help you. Ask them for tips and tricks. Practice using your own voice and send it to people you admire to get feedback. There are so many other ways to be YOU. Please be you--everyone else is already taken.



1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this, and I am sorry that you and your friends are being plagiarized. I recently had some of my content lifted and it feels very violating to say the least.

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