Sunday, 13 April 2008

Plagiarism

This is my first proper post (or should that be 'rant'?) on this blog since I decided to change its direction... and it is a doozy...

I have discovered the first case of what looks like plagiarism of one of my posts. Last week I wrote a post as part of my 'On this day in history' series on my Modern Historian blog about the launch of the fateful Apollo 13 mission to the Moon. While I was chain dropping entrecards I noticed a post on another blog that bore a striking resemblance to mine, but there was no link crediting me as the original writer. On closer inspection I noticed that the poster had made a few cosmetic changes to the text.

Here is the text of my post:
On April 11th 1970, A Saturn V rocket launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida carrying the crew of the Apollo 13, James A. Lovell, John L. Swigert and Fred W. Haise, on what was intended to be the third manned landing on the Moon.

Two days into the mission a faulty oxygen tank caused an explosion that damaged the spacecraft's oxygen supply and electrical systems. The astronauts and ground crew faced a race against time to find a solution to the life threatening situation and achieve a return to Earth.

By using the Lunar Module as a 'lifeboat', reducing energy consumption and making repairs to the oxygen supply system the spacecraft managed to splashdown safely on 17th April.

This is the text from the other blog:
April 11th 1970 — A Saturn V rocket launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida carrying James A. Lovell, John L. Swigert and Fred W. Haise, on what was meant to be the third manned landing on the Moon.

Two days into the mission a faulty oxygen tank caused an explosion that damaged the spacecraft’s oxygen supply and electrical systems. The astronauts and ground crew ran a race against time to find a solution to the life threatening situation.

By using the Lunar Excursion Module as a lifeboat and making repairs to the oxygen supply system, the crew managed to splashdown safely on April 17th.

The blogger has since changed their post so that it no longer resembles mine so much. This happened after I messaged them via entrecard (because I couldn't leave a comment on their post) to point out that it was customary to credit the original post with a link, otherwise it looks like plagiarism.

As it was, they decided to make a counter-accusation that I was the plagiarist in the amended post. They assert 'some sentences and sentence fragments in the complaining blogger’s post were lifted word for word from' the Case Western Reserve University astronomy site (their emphasis).

Of course, this is simply not the case. A quick read through my post and the information on the CWRU site will show the falsity of this claim. The fact is that I used the information on the NASA site that I mentioned within my post, and even then I composed original text and didn't copy and paste anything from it.

I had not seen the site that I am accused of plagiarising until today. Although, it is worth noting that if you search on the first paragraph of my post in Google then the site I am accused of plagiarising appears after my post at the top of the list.

It is also interesting to note that the blogger still hasn't included a link to my original post so that the readers of that site can judge the validity of the accusations for themselves. Admittedly, the blogger's failure to mention my blog means that the accusations are aimed at an anonymous party.

This whole episode has made me think about the business of authorship on the web. I have absolutely no problem with anyone quoting my sends verbatim, as long as I get some credit. There are many hard-working blog authors out there who share the fruits of their labour with the world, and there are many bloggers who simply regurgitate the work of others or just post the latest cool video they have found on YouTube.

So, I say a hats off to those bloggers who create original texts (you know who you are) and a salacious gesture to those that leech the work of others.

2 comments:

Jon @ Wordout said...

I remember the 1st one of mine that got lifted... This guy used one of my posts as his very 1st post.
After leaving a comment that pretty much stated what you said, this guy decided to do the right thing and put a blurb there citing me and linking to my site.

Nowadays it's mostly robots scripted to come and scrape my posts and there are so many I really don't know how to handle them all. Most of them have no obvious human to complain to. There are legal avenues, but who has the time and cash to pursue them all?

Like the look you've created here, btw...

Stepterix said...

Jon

I would have been happy if the guy had just popped a link back to my article in his send, but *shrugs*.

Thanks for the kind words re look... still tinkering with it a little.

K