Come, sit. We will talk.
I'm not going to yell at you, promise.
I won't call you names, I won't swear at you. I won't claim you're a bad person.
I do want to have a few words. If you have plagiarized, if you're thinking of plagiarizing, if you don't think it's a big deal.
This spurred this post but it's not the only reason I have strong feelings about it. It will, however, be the focus.
Guess who found SquirrelTerror was being plagiarized? Yes, chickadees, that would be me. My mad Google Fu is well documented, and I was working on the book, poking around the old posts (which were lost when her site was hacked but can still be found via the Wayback Machine and caches) when I stumbled across--
Wait, I can't show you, because the plagiarist deleted her posts (without publicly apologizing, from what I can see).
Oh, hold on, I *can* show you. Because nothing disappears from the internet.
This is a cache. Notice the date.
Screenshot for those who don't want to click links:
Wow, that looked almost exactly like what I was just copyediting. Which was this post.
So there I was. In the rain. Digging a grave.
OK, OK, let me back up. This was about a week or so ago, the day after Squirrel!Neo and Juliet!Jay had their little interaction and Mercutio!Jay entirely lost his shit. Anyway, for some reason I hadn’t had coffee with my oatmeal that morning, I was just going to deal with caffeination after I ran some ungodly number of miles. Just…remember that the series of events I am about to relate happened while I was completely uncaffeinated.
So. Kids were off to school, it was raining, I went out to put my freshly-charged IPod on the treadmill before I changed into my running togs. I yawned, glanced out into the back yard…and paused. And stared.
There was a dead squirrel in my back yard. He lay on his back, little paws curled up, soaking in the rain and covered with what looked like mud. I couldn’t tell at that distance. I just saw his white chest and his little spattered belly, and he was so, so still.
“Oh, Christ Jesus,” I actually breathed. “Neo!”
I considered just doing my morning run and then dealing with the, ahem, crime scene. But then I thought of running six miles and staring at a dead rodent, and it just didn’t seem appetizing.
So I went to fetch a shovel.
This was the straight-edge shovel I bought when we needed to scrape moss off the roof ages ago. It’s practically new, and it’s a Serious Effing Shovel. Red and black and heavy-reinforced enough to be deadly in the right hands. You could seriously whap someone with this shovel and then use it to dig a grave in rocky soil. I believe in quality.
If you follow me with any regularity, you likely follow Lili because she is my Bad Horse and I shared links to SquirrelTerror whenever they went live.
So just imagine my horror for a moment as I scanned that post from DailyKos, initially looking for Lili's name or a link to her post. I mean, I wasn't only currently staring at those words in a Word doc--I remembered reading them two and a half years ago. Then I took a closer look and realized names had been changed. Neo was Sarge (Sarge? Seriously??), for example. Wait, what?
That's not a randomly scraped blog post. That's not quoting and forgetting to source.
That's trying to pass off someone else's work as your own.
First instinct: attack like a yappy, rabid chihuahua. (The visual is all the more humorous if you know I'm a giant Amazon woman.)
The second...break the news to Lili. Because (and I'll get to this in a second), I have seen the kind of damage done by plagiarism and this should be nipped in the bud before she releases her book. She's the content creator; she's the ones with rights. So I let her know. And the more digging I did, the more I found. No fewer than twenty posts, word for word--with names changed--were available by the same user, starting this past summer and continuing as early a s February of this year, all based on Lili's posts from 2010-2011.
And let me tell you something about Lili. You know how you and me are all like, "WHERE IS MY SHOVEL, SOMEONE GET ME A TARP--I ALSO NEED AN ALIBI AND A TRUCK"? Lili is the very definition of grace and restraint. She politely asked the person to remove the posts and blogged, making it clear this is her work should any trouble arise when the book is published. She worried about being a dick about this even though she had every frickin' right to be.
But here is the real thing I would like to get across today, Plagiarist.
What you are doing--or have done--hurts people.
It hurts the content creator.
That person you plagiarized? She (or he) feels incredibly violated by what you've done. It's a horrible, sick feeling in the pit of your stomach. Doesn't matter if it's blog posts or novels or art or anything else. It's a awful sense of betrayal that never goes away.
It means that SquirrelTerror book might not even see the light of day, because despite being the victim in this scenario, the content creator is the one who will get scorn heaped upon her. It means other content creators cut back or stop writing altogether. It means books by the original author get pulled from Amazon because someone reports it as being a copyright violation, creating more headaches for the victim.
It hurts the people who trusted you.
I have personal experience with this in a few ways, but most notably was a year and a bit ago when a friend and colleague, someone I thought highly of and trusted, turned out to have plagiarized a book I helped work on. I spent all weekend trying to find proof she was in the right, believing her, helping her, to find out it was a lie. And not only did her publisher lose money as the book was pulled immediately, but her friends--who had known her years--were crushed. They'd critiqued her book. They'd encouraged her, believed in her.
In the end, they didn't know what else she'd lied about. They lost someone they cared about, and that sense of betrayal continues to this day.
It hurts you.
When you are found out--and you will be found out--it's going to hurt you. Everything you've ever written will be questioned (at the day job, if it's proven one book by an author was plagiarized, our policy--and that of many small pubs--is to pull all the work by that author). Everything you write in the future will be questioned. After the initial shock wears off--and it will--the people who supported you will stop trusting you. They will feel betrayed by you.
Look, nothing is so important that you have to steal from others. I get it--you're swamped and feel like you need to take a shortcut. Well, actually, the fallout from relinquishing some duties or asking for an extension pales in comparison to the shitstorm once your plagiarism is discovered. Or maybe you're insecure and you want people to like you, so you repurpose someone else's work in order to impress others. Honey, all that effort goes out the window when your lies are discovered.
No matter how hard things are, it's gonna be worse when you get caught.
So don't do it. Come clean. And for fuck's sake, apologize (note: apologies include the words "I'm sorry" and don't include "but"). You're not a terrible person for making a mistake. Plagiarizing doesn't have to ruin you, but it requires a real effort on your part to make things right.
And, specifically, to the person who plagiarized Lili: You have taken something that might've seemed silly or unimportant that was not yours to take. You have possibly prevented a book from being published that readers have been clamoring for (and that she paid money to put together). And you did this to a generous, thoughtful, highly creative and wonderful writer who in no way deserved this, and you owe her a public apology for what you've done. You owe your readers a public apology. And you need to make things right.
To everyone, please, as a person to another person with thoughts and feelings and everything: think twice before you do this kind of thing and come clean if you already have.
P.S. For internet content creators who may be reading this post, I encourage you to follow Plagiarism Today to keep up to date on content theft and how it impacts you. (This is a totally unsolicited plug--I just really dig the site and have followed it for years.)