Let’s Think About This Calmly

by Joshua Foust on 11/20/2007 · 10 comments

Unlike Karimov, We’re interested in a legitimate polling to determine something. We’ve railed many times in the past about plagiarizing content from Registan.net (see here, here, here, and here). We think the rules covering what counts as plagiarism and what does not were fairly clear, at least with a good dollop of common sense. We could be wrong, however.

Our question to you, dear readers, is this: does copying a post in its entirety, verbatim, count as plagiarism if they take the trouble to “source” the post at the end? We think is does. What do you think?

Also, why don’t we hear about other bloggers facing plagiarism with similar frequency? What is it about us?


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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net. His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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{ 10 comments }

Brian November 20, 2007 at 6:53 pm

I’m tired of the plagiarism complaints. My suggestion is you take it up with those whom you feel have borrowed from your work improperly. I can hardly see how bringing it up again and again here has helped anything.

John Angliss November 20, 2007 at 7:07 pm

I will sometimes copy whole posts if they’re a paragraph or less and it makes a good point, but I try to link the whole thing back to the source (i.e. make the whole of the text a link). At least that way people know it isn’t my work from the start.

Is that acceptable? Is your objection to plagiarism that someone is copying your work without adequately attributing it to you, or is there something else? I suggest you put up a “fair use” policy of sorts, so if people want to link to you and use some of your words, they know when you want them to stop.

David Dryer November 20, 2007 at 7:13 pm

I think copying a post in its entirety is fine, but only if the copied text is preceded (and followed for good measure) by an introduction that includes the author’s name and the name of the blog, in addition to a link. I also agree with John that they whole text should link to the original.

I can understand being frustrated by another blog pilfering readers by taking your content, but if it’s clear who wrote what before the reader is impressed, the uncreative poster will end up losing readers to the real author quite quickly.

Nathan November 20, 2007 at 9:04 pm

Down at the footer, it says:

© 2003-2007 Registan.net & Respective Authors

Even if it didn’t, the default is that it is copyrighted.

If one wants to quote long passages, I think that’s OK, but it’s nice if some kind of substantive commentary is added to it. If it’s really short, then it’s not as big of a deal.

Brian, bringing it up here does work at times. Not always, but sometimes…

Narcogen November 20, 2007 at 9:47 pm

Reposting something in its entirety, with proper attribution, is not plagiarism by definition. It’s only plagiarism if they claim authorship.

What this is, is unathorized duplication, which is a violation of copyright. Most ISPs will issue a takedown notice to a site administrator for such a violation if you provide a written notice detailing the content that is violating copyright with documentation that shows where it appeared originally.

Having said that, I’ve had mixed results with that approach. There are still sites out there that have the full text of articles I’ve written, without a link or attribution.

Péter November 21, 2007 at 2:05 am

I’ll comment on this concrete example Josh mentioned. I would say it’s clearly not fair use. The source isn’t named, there is only the word “source” at the end for a link, and one may argue that even that is put there so that not everyone will necessarily notice it.
What is puzzling about this, is that the post in question was a typical blogpost, written in a personal tone. Which means it can be all the more misunderstood. A non-referenced source saying things like “I think”, “I believe.”
The weird thing is the guy tends to name sources in other blogposts, some of them taken from daily papers and elsewhere.
So if he made an exception in this case by not being clear on the source, it may be he simply shares all your views, Josh. Putting irony aside, sure he could express that in a legally more correct way.

Matt November 21, 2007 at 7:52 am

Imitation (and plagiarism) is the highest form of flattery. As annoying as it might be, look on the bright side – you’re obviously doing some very good work.

peter jackson November 22, 2007 at 12:14 pm

Coming at it from an informal blogosphere ethics perspective, it’s not plagiarism, but lifting a post in it’s entirety without citing with a named link either the author or publication at the top of the post (like you link the Conjecturer when you cross-post at ASHC) qualifies as post-jacking in my book.

peter jackson November 22, 2007 at 12:14 pm

Coming at it from an informal blogosphere ethics perspective, it’s not plagiarism, but lifting a post in it’s entirety without citing with a named link either the author or publication at the top of the post (like you link the Conjecturer when you cross-post at ASHC) qualifies as post-jacking in my book.

Lindsay Beyerstein November 23, 2007 at 8:04 pm

Plagiarism involves passing off someone else’s work as your own. Is that what these sites are doing? Are they inviting the inference that your content was produced in-house? If so, I’d call that plagiarism.

It’s unethical for to lift works in their entirety and repackage them without the author’s permission–especially when a commercial site uses a blogger’s work to make money. Sounds as if these sites are engaging in something more akin to theft (copyright infringement/intellectual property violation) than intellectual fraud (plagiarism).

That said, I think it’s fine for bloggers to occaisionally quote each other’s posts in full, with attribution, as long as the quoter adds some substantial commentary and links back to the original source.

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