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MARCH 23, 2010 1:43PM

Open Letter to the Editors of Open Salon (updated again)

Rate: 53 Flag

Hello Judy (or Thomas or Kerry or whomever monitors the open.editor email account),

As I'm sure you're probably (unfortunately) aware, there has been a bit of a plagiarism scandal on Open Salon these past couple of days.  Scanner posted a piece that was largely cut-and-pasted from Wikipedia, and when this was pointed out in his comments a royal fracas ensued.  There were lively debates in the comments, counter posts, counter counter posts, and so on.  Knives came out on both sides.  Comments became vicious.  It got personal and ugly and I hope you didn't waste too much time reading  it, because some of the comments were among the ugliest stuff I've ever seen on Open Salon.

Normally I avoid these little community squabbles when they occur, but since I work at a University Writing Program I felt I had a dog in this particular fight.  I feel that it should be common sense that you can't cut-and-paste something that someone else wrote and pass it off as your own, yet that is what happened, and a disheartening number of people stepped up to aggressively defend it.  Besides the obvious issues of intellectual integrity--to which I could speak at great length--both the Open Salon and Wikipedia Terms of Service forbid this type of "borrowing" without proper attribution:

From the Open Salon Terms of Service:

15. COPYRIGHT Salon respects the intellectual property rights of others. We prohibit users from uploading, posting or otherwise transmitting materials that violate the intellectual property rights of others.

And from the WikiMedia Foundation Terms of Use:

You can re-use content from Wikimedia projects freely, with the exception of content that is used under "fair use" exemptions, or similar exemptions of copyright law. Please follow the guidelines below:

Re-use of text:

  • Attribution: To re-distribute a text page in any form, provide credit to the authors either by including a) a hyperlink (where possible) or URL to the page or pages you are re-using, b) a hyperlink (where possible) or URL to an alternative, stable online copy which is freely accessible, which conforms with the license, and which provides credit to the authors in a manner equivalent to the credit given on this website, or c) a list of all authors. (Any list of authors may be filtered to exclude very small or irrelevant contributions.) This applies to text developed by the Wikimedia community. Text from external sources may attach additional attribution requirements to the work, which we will strive to indicate clearly to you. For example, a page may have a banner or other notation indicating that some or all of its content was originally published somewhere else. Where such notations are visible in the page itself, they should generally be preserved by re-users.
  • Copyleft/Share Alike: If you make modifications or additions to the page you re-use, you must license them under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0 or later.
  • Indicate changes: If you make modifications or additions, you must indicate in a reasonable fashion that the original work has been modified. If you are re-using the page in a wiki, for example, indicating this in the page history is sufficient.
  • Licensing notice: Each copy or modified version that you distribute must include a licensing notice stating that the work is released under CC-BY-SA and either a) a hyperlink or URL to the text of the license or b) a copy of the license. For this purpose, a suitable URL is: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/

There was one comment that I found particularly illuminating, and really illustrated the problem here.  In the comment, 1_Irritated_Mother compared the Open Salon fight to an unreasonable student in an academic setting:

Here's the scene:
TEACHER - This is not original work.
STUDENT - Yes it is.
TEACHER - No, it's not. See this?

(consequence - STUDENT fails and is possibly expelled)

STUDENT - Moooommmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!
MOM - What?
STUDENT - My teacher hates me. She picks on me. I didn't do it.

(consequence - Mom becomes enraged)

MOM - TEAAAAAAACHERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRr!!!!
TEACHER - What?
MOM - You're a horrible shrew and you bully my child.
TEACHER - Your kid cheated.
MOM - No he didn't. And I know he didn't because that was an accident - an oversight, an omission - and if you don't give him a passing grade, I'll go to the principal and I'll go after your job.

(Consequence - Teacher has to choose between moral obligation to society and edicts of professionalism or avoiding conflict)

OK - it doesn't always go down like that, but it does sometimes. The fact is that plagiarism is unacceptable. Regardless of how you get found out, it is never ok.


It's a good example, but the problem with it is that in the Open Salon corollary, there is no teacher.  It's just the students fighting with each other, and because of the lack of an authority figure the student who can rally the biggest gang and fight the dirtiest wins, regardless of who's in the right. 

Because this issue was such a large focus of attention in the Open Salon community, and since so many members of the community have demonstrated their willingness to aggressively defend plagiarism, I feel an editorial intervention should be made.  Ordinarily I'd say a quiet intervention would be best, but due to the massive amount of attention this issue received over the past couple of days I don't feel a simple note to Scanner informing him that the offending essay will be removed will suffice. There should be a public statement from the editors.  And while I feel the editors should remain well above the fray when there are personality clashes on Open Salon, this was no mere personality clash or legitimate difference of opinion.  This is an issue of intellectual integrity and the integrity of writing on Open Salon.  At my University, a student caught plagiarizing is usually required to withdraw from the school for a year.  The issue is that serious.

I hope you will be making a definitive announcement that clarifies Open Salon's position on plagiarism, stating in no uncertain terms that passing off another person's work as your own is unacceptable. Open Salon should make clear that it is a venue for original work.

Thank you,
Shaggylocks

--------------------

UPDATE: Here's a bit of food for thought for those of you interested in avoiding plagiarism in your work.  A couple of times already I've seen the question asked of whether or not you can plagiarize yourself.  The short answer is yes.  In the academic world, for example, if you write a paper and include a paragraph or two from another paper you wrote for another class, that is plagiarism, and is still a seriously punishable offense, even though you were the author of both papers.  What does this mean in the blogosphere?  D. Selke Bouffard wrote a short piece that explains it very well here.  If you cross-post on another blogging platform, you might be interested in checking this link out.

--------------------

UPDATE II: Wow.  I never add "updates" to my posts, and now I've added two.  I feel like Glenn Greenwald, except without the monster Constitutional knowledge.

There are several things that came up in the comments that I'd like to acknowledge and address, but first I want to make a quick note about my first update.  Another user PMed me and suggested I add the D. Selke Bouffard link, and since  I thought it was an interesting perspective on the issue of plagiarism in the age on the Internet, I quickly wrote an update, thinking others might find it interesting as well.  I was running between classes and I didn't have a chance to read any of the newer comments, so I didn't realize it was already being discussed.

First, I'd like to address a point She Blogs raised.  She said:

I do want to point out, though (because well, we all have to point something out, don't we?) that while you and others keep insisting that this is about plagiarism, why does everyone then go on to say something like what you said in a comment here:

"a large part of this specific problem was Scanner's reaction." 

 Now it's no longer about where he got his info and whether he was researching and compiling facts about the song or if he was copying and pasting... now it's about his reaction, which is certainly not plagiarism.

 If I say my only concern is plagiarism and creative integrity, then why would I make a statement like this? Well, let me reiterate: my main concern is plagiarism and creative integrity.  Scanner and I run in different circles here on OS: I've come across a handful of his posts, and he's probably come across a handful of mine, but we're not friends or enemies or frienemies or what have you.  I've also never heard of or read anything by Bonnie, and I have only passing familiarity with the other main players in this drama.   Like I said, my concern here is, first and foremost, plagiarism.

Yet it impossible to ignore the fracas that ensued or Scanner's (and others') pivotal role in fanning those flames, especially when there were so many comments made that suggested the problem lay in the way the accusations of plagiarism were made.  To borrow and slightly alter Cartouche's metaphor, the troublemakers aren't the people who point out that you've stolen a bike (although they can certain exacerbate the problem), the troublemaker is the bicycle thief.  If the thief fights back when confronted with his larceny, well, that just makes things worse.

Which leads to my next point.  Scanner, I perhaps could have given you a bit more benefit of the doubt, but that's difficult when you squander that benefit with ugly and childish attacks.  Julie and Ablonde (and others) have also provided a fair amount of evidence of a history of plagiarism, which was ignored in favor of these attacks.  Perhaps they have some sort of vendetta against you, like you claim. It's possible, but it's not really the issue. 

 It's also important to note that "cut and paste" plagiarism is but one kind of plagiarism.  Going through with a thesaurus and changing a couple of words but keeping the structure of the original idea in place is also plagiarism.  This plagiarism actually tends to be dealt with more severely, since it is often done with the intent of obscuring the original theft.

Perhaps nothing will come of any of this.  Perhaps the editors are too busy, or perhaps they don't care.  Like Kierkegaard struggling to infer the intentions of God, the Editors' silence on this matter leaves us with only our own interpretations.   If I steal a bicycle and God doesn't punish me, does God care? Does he condone my theft?  We are left to construe morality as we see fit, and I, for one, find the world to be a better place when less bicycles are stolen. 

--------------------

And I'm in the desert in my avatar picture.  I'm looking at sand.

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Indeed. Indubitably. Indisputably.

Amen brother.
I couldn't agree more.

Thank you.
I haven't finished reading it, but coincidentally the NY Times has an article up about how the web is eroding people's sense of the value of original writing, attribution and authorship, etc:

NY Times Texts Without Contexts
I've had the ability to email/privately correspond with Open.Salon technical staff.

I'm sure the same ability is available to the editorial staff. In fact, I believe I've seen the editor here as an avatar which affords one the opportunity for a PM.

I'm curious to know the reason for bloggin' this if it's simply information you seek.
Kate, this has nothing at all to do with "discomfort." You cannot equate plagiarism with disliking Obama.
Good luck with that, eh?
Proud to stand right beside you on this one. :) Well your others, too, but you know what I mean.
This isn't a shades of gray issue.
As long ase adding a to-dol list....can anything be done about the people who supposedly have a blog site and then, when they are supposed ro br making a comment about someone's work use the site to sell shoes, tee shirts, socks, Vege-matics etc. Isn't it possible to weed these people out?
Great post.
You have laid it out clearly, without rancor, and what you say is critically important to the integrity of this site. This is a black and white issue -- you either condone plagiarism or you don't, you steal or you don't steal.
You said it, Shaggy
R
This is so totally wrong and you are a poopy-head, ca-ca breath, because like Scanner is somebody's friend and stuff. And he's like this totally old motherfucker and shit and so it's like not his fault.

And what about the dog, did you forget about the dog? Uh-huh, thought so (poopy-head!).

Or what if like aliens or something took his family hostage and stuff and they like made him do this. What about that? You think you so smart, did you even take a minute to consider this possibility?

And besides it's not like he published this on some public forum or something.
Rated for highlighting an important issue: plagiarism
and.... for sending Scanner a bunch of traffic to his blog!

He is such a great man and he learned a great lesson from this experience!
Well said. I hope it gets ome attention from the Eds.
CrazeCzar,
I did send this to the editors. Their email address is open.editor@salon.com, in case you need to contact them in the future. I was busy this weekend and came across the "dust-up" a little too late to fully join in. I did notice, however, that there was an interesting gender divide, which lead to some unfortunate names and accusations. I wanted to post this openly to demonstrate that men can be plagiarism-hating hootchie skanks, too. It's not just the "same old troublemakers" trying to stir up trouble: this is actually a legitimate legal issue and, perhaps more importantly, an issue of integrity.
As Stephen Ambrose and others have demonstrated, this isn't just a problem with Open Salon. When intellectual property is rendered community property, it eventually ruins intellectuals and communities.
For Kate Yeager -

Well, it was something you were SUPPOSED TO READ when you signed up here; after all, you had to ACCEPT IT before you were allowed to create an account:

http://open.salon.com/support/terms

Funny, you must have JUST done it too? Only two comments and no posts. Wonder why that is?
Shaggy: That is an excellent point. Everyone seems to conveniently forget the men who were there in the middle defending those hootchie skanks. It always conveniently becomes them vs. those bitchy wimmin. There wasn't actually a gender divide at all - it's just that Scanner and his posse jumped on the woman thing, ignoring everyone else involved... And of course, there were a whole bunch of women defending Scanner, which I find mind-bogglingly absurd...
Thank God the editors have you to explain how "serious" plagiarism is.
As a proud male hootchy-skank, I thank you, my curly-headed friend. Well said.
@University Writing Program Worker (blog author)

So, correct me if I'm wrong, but your reason for blogging this is because you felt that there was a "gender divide" and that you wanted readers and OS editors to know that men abhor plagiarism too.

I'm curious -- is "background/research" part of what is taught at the University Writing Program? I ask because it seems to me that plenty of the weaker sex (males) wrote a range of blogs condemning plagiarism in the past 72 hours. Doing some research would have yielded this to most readers, I believe.

So is it that the other male bloggers condemning plagiarism didn't do a good enough job or are you bringing out something unique in this post? Or, didn't you realize that other men blogged condemning plagiarism?

I just askin'.
Thank you for this excellent information. Too bad you came late to the game and weren't able to offer these well-written and reasoned observations to our friend, Scanner. Perhaps then, he may have seen the errors and with a few quick strokes corrected them and all the name calling and bitterness that ensued might have been avoided. This post along with a couple of the others on the subject have raised my awareness of this important, sensitive issue.
Amanda: I am really curious as to what 'great lesson' you say Scanner learned here...

If it was a lesson on plagiarism, he has learned nothing.
Did you copy this from somewhere?
Shaggy himself did this with me just a little while ago when he said I could not compare two things.

Well, damn! You're right, aren't you?

You said "While you're at it, please do away with anyone who does not use his/her real name, who uses lists, who dares to violate good rules of grammar, who makes typos, who doesn't like Obama, who DOES like Omaba, who deletes comments, who deletes posts, who has naked avatars, and who wear purple on Fridays and/or giggles in church."

And shaggy's reply was Kate, this has nothing at all to do with "discomfort." You cannot equate plagiarism with disliking Obama.

How silly of me not to see that.
Good idea and accurately said.

Editors,
Shall we cross our fingers and/or hold our breath or is there hope for some action here?
shaggylocks, well considered and clearly articulated post! You are right. If this is a place for original work then original work on ALL websites must be honored and protected.

When the consequences to any TOS violations are consistently inforced, there will be little room for lynch mobs. Lynch mobs are notoriously "right" in principle, but wrong in tactic.

I am dismayed and disappointed in seeing plagiarism. I am also dismayed and disappointed in seeing verbal bloodshed.

Thanks for your wonderful post. ~r!
If we could privately and politely make bloggers aware of the proper use of content like wikipedia, I think the nasty quotient would be greatly reduced.
Well said, with reason and diplomacy. Sounds like the kind of thing my kids are learning at school - do your own work, pure and simple.
People defend plagiarism and make specious distinctions betw blogging and writing when they have personal reasons to lower the bar. It sullies us.
When a person is new to the whole idea of blogging (such as myself, for an example), it should be perfectly CLEAR at outset that what will be expected of them may be enforced.
That being said, tho' some of us THINK we understand our roles here, we are all operating on sufferance from a staff which had been overbooked longsince.
I myself had been confused about a number of things at the start of my time blogging on OS. Sometimes I found a standoffish tone. It became clear our roles were divided along lines of social strata as in any other walk of life. Our treatment of one another had better take on a further respectful tone. I for one prefer to avoid fighting. But I do believe in standing up for the right principle.
Being mindful of what we do for the public at large here is a tricky thing to keep up with. Here we are, that others may come read and reread at will whatever you and I choose to say here.
It limits us to think we are watched over or bulldogged into toeing a line that is drawn by our staff. It may further limit the way we think to have our voices shrunk back from their most pertinent points.
But I can see where staff are headed here, in that we all must be careful and watch over our beloved OS together, and with the common goal that it's all right to share, not so okay to disparage the work of others or their views, feelings, or life experiences. Certainly NOT okay to post before checking one's sources, along with giving credit when credit is due.
If we are an OPEN forum (emphasis on the OPEN of Open Salon, here) then I think we had all better be generally as true to the bylaws of this organization as we would like the general public to think of us as being.
I myself did complain bitterly quite recently over a type of advertising which it had never occurred to me I would find in my own column. But I did this openly, and without profanity or rancor. While I do still find these pop-up style ads (what is their technical term?) corrosive to the ideas I intend to get across, and do admit I may not have gleaned everything I should out of an agreement clause we all must agree to, I will continue to support our site as tho' it reflected on the character of us all. That includes my own part here.
We are to be mindful how our impact has reached others before. In any recent quarrel, there was a lull of the thorough discussion of those ideas put forth. If we are not careful of ruining one another's reputation, much less in viewing ourselves as superior via any one person's effort or this general use, then it is to this our public might refer. We must watch that the general reputation here isn't scarred for the long haul due to the quarrels of the past.
To be fair, I've studied some copyright law before myself. I, however, found it misleading, in that there are so many terms and clauses that seem nearly if not almost completely contradictory as to cause a greater confusion for a reader not well versed in legalese.
As a modern collage artist, whose work had been in a number of shows, I was soon dismayed to find I couldn't fathom all of what I had to learn.
Perhaps there is someone here with a degree in this subject, or with prior knowledge to afford us all a better idea of what is real?
Even online, I found there to be many conflicting viewpoints on copyright law or what must be obeyed. The people writing of this issue may well have meant their observations in a tone of good faith. That does not make their answers (or personal conjecture) truly cogent for this situation. As too many cooks spoil the broth, perhaps someone with authority here at OS could make a general page for one and all to freely access at will, with copies freely available, that each might study and then proceed with care.

As to Scanner's blogging, I make no pretense as to knowing the facts, being timed out for the most part due to illness. Our shared blame could be in not simply drawing aside our dear friend here and helping him to see what was at stake to his reputation. Where blame is put, defenses soon arise. This blocks progress. And it can create more problems than it may correct
Next time, I vote we take care of the situation by means of factual info with the uses of tact. After all, did Scanner not provide us before with his own commentary? I can tell by the style this has generally been his choice. Let's stop quarreling, then, and start with a fresh perspective. All of us. I look to staff to clear this up via their clarity for us all.
I was in a meeting for the last hour, so sorry I didn't have a chance to respond to some of these posts earlier.

First, I want to thank everyone for keeping it sane. I appreciate that.

Kate: drawing the line is pretty easy, actually. We have the right to say reprehensible things. First Amendment, baby! We don't have the right to pass off others' work as our own.

CrazeCzar: oh sure, there were plenty of testicles swinging on my side of the fight, but most of the staunchest fighters were wimmin, and they took the brunt of some real vile verbal arrows. I post in solidarity.
(copied from myself elsewhere with permission):

I do not believe in degrees in this instance. I'd be hard pressed to agree that situational ethics is a moral response in any but the most dire life and death situations.

Quite simply, the person in question accused of plagiarism printed matter that was written by someone else, and for all intents and purposes, intended that they be ascribed to him. That is plagiarism. That's black and white, there's a wrong side and a right side.

The whole dust up could have been avoided, or died down quickly with honor and respect restored if he had simply acknowledged it and said something to the effect of "my bad, I should have credited the sources and I will do so in the future, thanks for pointing it out."

It would have ended (largely) at that moment.

Instead he said he did not plagiarize when it was demonstrated over and again that he in fact did. His response was "Fuck you." He has a right to say that, of course, notwithstanding a general prohibition in the Terms of Service to "not be that guy." But he owned that response by making it, and thus owns part of the reaction to it.

The OS TOS says

You agree that you will not use the Service or the Site to post, transmit, or share User Content that you did not create or that you do not have permission to post. You affirm that you own or have all intellectual property rights (including without limitation copyright and trademark rights), licenses, and permissions to the User Content you provide that are needed to use and to authorize Salon to use that User Content in the manner described in these TOS.

That is simple to understand.

The phrase "that you did not create" couldn't be simpler. He claims to have written the words, others have demonstrated that it was written verbatim by someone else.

So, then the second clause might come into effect. "...[O]r that you do not have permission to post."

Wikipedia can be used in a similar way that creative commons for photography can be used. You can use it in your research and in your writing. BUT YOU MUST ACKNOWLEDGE THAT THE WORDS YOU USE ARE NOT YOUR OWN. (Excuse me for raising my voice.) Someone else wrote those words on Wiki. Simply say it. "The preceding is from Wikipedia and can be found [here]."

Words on other sites, that have copyright restrictions are a different matter. Unless you can provide as a defense the premise of Fair Use as found in the US Code section 17 that explains how Fair Use can be implemented. Fair Use is simply the method by which copyrighted material can be used by someone other than the copyright holder. Fair Use is NOT a means by which you can paste something and pass it off as your own. Fair Use, further, is a defense to be used in a court of law, it is not permission. Fair Use issues are decided in court when the copyright holder objects and brings suit, and they are decided on a case by case basis because the statute is intentionally vague. Lose on a Fair Use case and you will be paying big bucks.

Listen to the professional teachers on this site. Not to how they say it, but as to what the substance of their comments are. They say that we need to teach our kids the right and wrong on this issue. There is never a defense for plagiarism. Never. It is theft. There are no degrees.
Poor Woman: thanks for sharing your thoughts here.

To all: I think a lot of blame is being heaped upon those who point out plagiarism and the way they go about it (comments? PMs?) but I think that blame is misplaced. Yes, we could all do to be a little more civil (didn't you see my previous post on manners?), but a large part of this specific problem was Scanner's reaction. He responded with a rousing "fuck you" to those who pointed out that he had copied his post from another source, and was relentless with condemning them for... for what, exactly? For being harpies, I think. That was my impression.

Then he posted an "apology," where he sort of apologized to everyone else EXCEPT the three women he had called "fishy smelling cootchy skanks" or something in a post that he pulled down. This whole affair could have been much quieter and handled much better, but it wasn't the fault of those who pointed out the infraction. Let's make sure we're clear on that.
bbd: very well said. Folks, bbd said it. He also found a much better snippet of the OS TOS than I did...
1. I don't understand plagiarism on a blog. It's not like we're getting paid or on a deadline. If you want us to read something, just post a link.

2. The nastiness of some of the comments, even without the plagiarism scandal, can be embarrassing. You can disagree with the content of a post without belittling the author. What's so hard about that?
Absolutely Shaggylocks, plagiarism is indefensible. It's black and white and the evidence is clear. Nothing gray about it. Plagiarism is wrong. It is stealing. Even when someone you like does it, it is still wrong.

It wasn't just stuff from Wikipedia, I really wish the focus would change to the more egregious examples of plagiarism that were identified. There was another, clearly copyrighted article he used from a web site called straightdope.com. Whole paragraphs from that one, and then there was also parts from another post scanner wrote called "2,750 yr. old stash found - no papers. Material for that post he lifted from an article written a few years ago on a Canadian national news site, also clearly copyrighted and protected.

IF standing up for what is right results in me being labelled one of the "stanky fishy smelling cootchie bitches" (says scanner) then so be it.
Hadn't heard of this.... Hmmmm
To tell you the truth, I can't imagine anyone caring what happens in a reader blog. I guess I forget how wrapped up in these little worlds people get. Try not to take Open Salon and yourself so seriously. It's a good html editor. A good way to see what you write as an object in the world. Except for that, not much. Salon itself is a third-rate tabloid. Open Salon is the Sunday supplement. Lighten up.
"A good way to see what you write as an object in the world."

I think that's the crux of the whole issue, Billy.
I will not enjoy this but, I think that the whole thing got out of hand. If I use directly another's work I will attribute it as such. If research leads me to use facts gleaned then what is my responsibility? Do I spend an hour leaving a trail of notes to the titles, authors, and copyright dates of any and all materials? I will not and have never intentionally plagiarized any one else's work I want to be able to avoid the accusation that I have should the need arise.
This thing was unnecessary, if the people involved at first had just tried to not assume the worst about each other and then go hunting with sharp knives for revenge. I apologize to anyone who thinks that I mean this to support either side in the mess. I think everyone made mistakes in judgement and resorted to grade school behavior. My problem is that I have valued friends on both sides and I would rather not lose any of them if possible. I've likely cut my own throat for weighing in here. I will say that in the case of an error of ignorance or in the proper attribution of others work that not springing for the jugular would do much more good than making accusations about intent. Likewise, name calling and hurtful things do no good and often do permanent damage in relationships even those as ethereal as the online variety.
What is posted here would have been much better than the ugliness that followed the original post. I have probably cost myself some valued friends with this comment. I will also add again that I will not and have not ever intentionally tried to take the work of any other writer as my own. I do not condone it and will not ever condone that.
Maybe. But I never get beyond "diary." I don't imagine anyone else really reading what I write. Looks good on the "page." Not that many user diaries around, actually. TPM and Kos have usable ones. Taylor Marsh has one that's hard to use. There's always Blogger. But this editor is actually richer.
ohh so now we don't like scanner either thank god I didn't put him in my favorites. Every first year college student is told not to rely on information from Wikipedia. plagiarism is usually rewarded on OS with a prominent place on the front page Stella is the only one who habitually lists her sources. Ablonde are those really your tits or did you plagiarize them
bobbot, you're still my friend. ;-)
What is posted here would have been much better than the ugliness that followed the original post. I have probably cost myself some valued friends with this comment. I will also add again that I will not and have not ever intentionally tried to take the work of any other writer as my own. I do not condone it and will not ever condone that.
Plagiarism is stealing and it's not only wrong, but it's against the law. But let's consider this: If your next door neighbor stole your bicycle and you confronted him/her publicly, do you think your entire neighborhood would take it upon themselves to start pointing fingers and calling each other names even if the thief didn't admit or apologize directly to you the way you would have wanted or expected? Intent cuts both ways. But just in case I didn't make myself clear, I'll say it one more time. Plagiarism is wrong. So was a lot of the behavior that it created and that followed.
Jack: I'm glad you were able to read my heavily-veiled subtext that we all de-friend Scanner. So Let It Be Written, So Let It Be Done. Most people (erroneously) thought I was trying to address and confront the actual issue.

All right, folks, I actually need to head out for the afternoon. I may be back on later tonight, but definitely tomorrow morning. If there's any verbal wrassling, please try to keep it civil.
Another ugly reaction that is going on is that the same people who defended their friend's plagiarism are now bent on "outing" the people who pointed it out, and also those who spoke out against it, for THEIR plagiarism. In other words, it's not enough to steal; you also have to prove that the people who caught you stealing are also plagiarists. The whole thing makes me feel literally ill.
I also think it's ridiculous that those who defend plagiarism in this case are focusing ONLY on those who pointed it out and how they did it -- which is laughable for anyone who actually bothers to read Scanner's original post. Two mild comments resulted in a volley of fuck yous and sexual slurs, which any jury in the land would construe overkill, not to mention probable guilt.
Problem is the avatars. People start acting them out. Some old guy picks "The Dude" to represent himself. Pretty soon he's channeling a bum. But this entire flap reminds me of the homeless people who used to ride my bus in Seattle. They'd argue endlessly about whose job it was to fold the sheets at the shelter. After a while, you realized why these particular people were homeless.
"'Kill the pig! Cut his throat! Kill the pig! Bash him in!'"
Lord of the Flies
I showed this posting to Festus, a likeable but simple-minded friend of mine and asked him what he thought it was about.

“Why it’s about stoppin’ them plague-erists from what runinin’ the internets, that’s wot!”

Then he looked at me as if I were stupid so I, who have actual reading comprehension skills, translated what this post really says: “Dear Editors, You people are morons. You don’t know what plagiarism is. You don’t know how to run a web site. You even need your own TOS copied back to you! What you really need is a genuine university writing project participant to save the day and protect the integrity of Open Salon. You can thank me later!”

Festus still looked a tad doubtful so I explained, “See, man, it’s all about self-aggrandizement and impugning character to make your own seem better. Nothing to do with plagiarism at all!”

“I dunno, Harry,” scoffed my reluctant friend. “He mights got a point there.”

“How the fuck is that!”

“I done seen the cover before.”

“Oh…touché.”

So can we get off our plagiarism crosses now and stop pretending we’re saving the internet or the rain forests or whatever the fuck. This is not fooling anyone.
Why do people keep trying to turn this into a witch hunt?

And why hasn't anyone tried to sell me shoes yet?
Well said! An issue I encounter, sadly, on occasion as a teacher. Nothing is more frustrating.
Also, I missed Harry's comment before I posted mine. People keep saying things like "we all know this isn't really about plagiarism. "

Actually, it really IS about plagiarism. Really, I swear.
I want to hug bobbot.
I've got a hug for bobbot, too.
While I agree with what you are saying, I must honestly say that this whole thing was, and continues to be, very painful.

There are blogs here that I will no longer visit because they don't seem to want to shut up about it and I don't really come here for this particular discussion. I come here because there are some damned good writers and I like to write from time to time myself. Hearing what some respectable, good writers have to say about my efforts is encouraging and helps me shape my own inner critic. I'd like to see us get back to encouraging one another.

In case anyone missed any of my prior comments about plagiarism: it's illegal and it sucks. I know I said a lot more before, but that is all I can say now. More is a waste of words, you've said it all succinctly. Thanks.
In the interests of open attribution and full disclosure, and in response to Mr. Jack Heart's query above: I have not ever, did not ever, in any way, plagiarize my breasts. I own full rights to my breasts and possess sole ownership of their copyright.
I like the idea of taking a 10 foot poll [sic]:

How do you feel about plagiarism on Open Salon?

a. Let's kill the plagiarererer!

b. It's wrong, but people who disagree with me overreacted.

c. It's okay if your sob story is good enough, but people who disagree with me overreacted.

d. I just set my hair on fire to make the conversation about me!

e. All of the above.

If you answered "e" - please be sure to sue someone for loss of life, property, pubic hair and the ability to get a date.

May The Force be with you.

(thumbified - Clique, Clique BOOM!)
Thanx for bringing that point up, Billy. As Jonathan Winters might have put it, "Oops, gettin' to believe my own avatar!" In that vein I should note that my cape's lost its special power, so no one need worry about me flying around knocking heads together. Good thing there's no one playing Max Headroom on here, I reckon.

I'm sorry this thing came down as it did. It's saddened me, as I've no doubt injured some cyber-friendships, and I know it has taken a heavy toll with others in this community. And it is a community, and that is part of the problem. It's also one of the attractions of this place.

As a community, I think we've learned a good lesson about the importance of integrity with our writing, and maybe even about how we behave toward each other. Ours is a rich and varied stew of talents and personalities. I can't imagine not being a part of it. (r)
Hey, Clark. I was watching a movie last night -- The Big Sleep, maybe -- and one of the streets was "Primrose Lane." So there I am watching whatever it was -- something famous -- and thinking of your diary.
Shaggy, thank you for the calm, factual letter to the editors, sincerely.

I do want to point out, though (because well, we all have to point something out, don't we?) that while you and others keep insisting that this is about plagiarism, why does everyone then go on to say something like what you said in a comment here:

"a large part of this specific problem was Scanner's reaction."

Now it's no longer about where he got his info and whether he was researching and compiling facts about the song or if he was copying and pasting... now it's about his reaction, which is certainly not plagiarism. I'm sure he didn't copy "smelly coochie bitches" from anyone. He's allowed to say "smelly coochie bitches" all he wants, if people don't like it, they don't have to read it, ya know?

Another thing that takes away from the heart of the issue is when people start saying this had to do with men vs. women. Yes, it happened to be women he lashed out against (I think they were probably the most vocal, but I can't attest because I didn't read the original comment string) but men can be smelly bitches, too. And even if he is being harsher on the women, that's not plagiarism, either.

If it's sincerely about The Big P, then we can let the editors enforce their rules (maybe your letter will call attention to the issue) and we can all decide for ourselves if we want to read scanner's blog or not.
Shaggy, kudos to you for laying this out as straight forward as possible. Plagiarism is morally wrong, illegal and, if the owner of the copyright coughed up the bucks and time to register the material with the Copyright Office, it could get rather expensive if the owner decides to sue. See your local IP attorney for details.
Wading in: This is my beef with the women vs. men thing. From what I read in the initial blog, three different women posted different comments about plagiarism. It bothers me that that is always construed as the lynch mob, the harpies, the bitches. Could each of these women please have the right to be considered as individuals? In fact, could three women making similar comments on any blog please be considered as individuals? Once you start saying "them" you have construed "us", and it always gets ugly.
(My little point; sorry, shaggy, that it isn't pertinent to your post.)
The fact that it turned so quickly into the men vs. women just shows the mentality of the participants, and how close to the surface their misogyny is.

It was not the women who said "stupid, smelly asshole men", even after it was said to them...
@SheBlogs: if you can't be bothered to read Scanner's original post, then you really don't understand what happened and probably should refrain from commenting until you do read it.

The main defense of Scanner and the people who defend his plagiarism and his immediate vile reactions, is that it was the WAY the plagiarism was made known that is the real problem. In others words, the plagiarism was OK, it's just the people who pointed it out who are at fault. The old "the best defense is a good offense mentality."

You, and they, can't have it both ways. In his original post, the comments made by the people who noted the plagiarism were very mild until he reacted with extreme nastiness. He then created a post with a title calling people out by name with their various body parts. There is no doubt in my mind that he would NEVER have treat a man, or men, in that matter.

I don't want to be on a site where people feel free to post titles calling specific people disgusting names. And it's kind of hard not to read it when it's the title of a post. And full disclosure: I have been the target of several posts with titles calling me vile names too.
I hope everyone got to say what they came here to say. It seems that instead of looking at the evidence, which I just spent a long time putting together, you listened to the four women involved, and took their word for it. Did any on you go and put the posts side by side and see if they were "Cut and Pasted" that shaggyhead bragged about. I thought not. Their are only two sentences that are the same. I have it. It was unintentional on my part, but believe what you will. I have the time-line, when all three girls came to the site, loaded with information. Three of then, Julie, Ablonde and Bonnie, were in concert with this, but that wouldn't matter to you people. Emma says Bonnie and Ablonde didn't even know each other. I got proof. Emma says that Bonnie had no grudge against me. But when she first came here, we had a big fight and I kicked her off my site. No grudge, huh? In the entire post of Ricky Nelson, their are two sentences that I somehow copied. Oh, and one word. Fruition. Yes, I used the word fruition. I had the whole thing written down. I know this wasn't about plagiarism, it was to get my ass. I did not start cussing these women until the third time they called me a liar. Yes, I regret putting up that stupid post for a few minutes, and I am sorry I did it. But I am not a liar, or a cheat. Now, shagghead, you want to De-friend me. You or anyone else that came at me without studying the facts aren't my friends anyway. I could care less shagghead if you jumped off a building. I don't know you, and you damn sure don't know me!
Oh, and for you self-righteous people, here is link from a real person who has no dog in this fight! Maybe you all commit plagiarism everyday, especially Ablonde!

http://open.salon.com/blog/dselke_bouffard/2010/03/23/self-plagairism-_a_must_read
Scanner: I never said Bonnie and Ablonde didn't know each other. I said they weren't friends. There's a difference. I didn't know about your spat with Bonnie, so I am wrong there, but Bonnie has had spats with a lot of people so you are hardly unique. I don't spend my life here you know and I don't monitor every issue. I agree with lots of people on things but that doesn't mean I talk to them every day and spin conspiracies. Weeks go by here when I don't have contact with Ablonde, Julie, Bonnie and all kinds of other people.

What possible reason would Bonnie, Julie and Ablonde have to want you out of here? You and all your friends constantly spew conspiracy theories and yet not once has any reason ever been offered. So what is the reason? A lot of people here have known you and others were plagiarizing for a long time but nobody did anything about it.

What happened is that your cheating was so flagrant that someone checked it out and decided to call you on it, others saw it and joined in. If that's a conspiracy in your book then you need to look up the meaning of the word.

People who plagiarize accidentally do NOT do it regularly, nor do they react with the kind of venom that you did. It seems that you still don't get it, do you? You are looking more and more foolish as you try to make it about everybody else. You are seizing on details that are utterly meaningless such as I said that you and Bonnie had no issues. So what? You had a fight. That hardly means she was "after" you. It does mean tho, that you have that kind of mentality. You and your friends have tried everything in the book to smear the people who caught you. You have tried to make it about them, and me, when YOU, and only YOU, were the one who stole. Until you face that, your reputation isn't going to improve around here.
And that link you posted? It would be laughed out of court, not to mention every reputable school. It's one person's opinion and has NO legal standing whatsoever. All your posting it proves is that you still have no understanding of what you did and why it was wrong. That actually saddens me. At the very least, I would hope that you can learn from this but it appears you do not want to do so.
Emma, old girl, my reputation is fine with my friends, Ya' see, my friends don't come around you so called elitists, who are really just hiding in your room drooling over your keyboard waiting to cut people down. Everyone, and I'm talking dozens, say you are nothing but a busy body-no it all piece of cow manure. (wouldn't want to cuss on old shaggyheads site. Has he ever found what he's looking at out in the ocean?)
Scanner, if you want to make that "accidental copying" look more accidental, you might need to change the font codes inside the html of that post.
You're just digging yourself in deeper and deeper Scanner. Calling me names just shows how desperate you really are. For your "educator" friend to say Ablonde's "self-plagiarism" is as dastardly as yours because she and every other OS blogger who writes something here that has appeared elsewhere doesn't put that at the top of everything they blog is beyond ridiculous. Here's a clue for your not-too-bright "educator" friend: Ablonde LINKS to her blog on her site. LINKING to YOURSELF is not "plagiarism." Jesus wept.
Bingo! We have a winner.
Why not privately write the editor when you see what you feel is plagiarizing. Why not let them handle what is their business to handle. The rules are plain. IT is wrong. They have removed people from this site before and can do it again. Then LET IT GO. No one need to be involved. You can create essays, humor, poems, cartoons and recipes. Then there will no PM's, no blog attacks, or personal things about it. It is our of your hands. You have done your duty.
Thanks to the education I just received on this site that scanner's friend did, featuring me me me (THANKS!) I learned that I may indeed be guilty of self-plagiarism and have been told that if I don't stop I may go blind.

After I read it (http://open.salon.com/blog/dselke_bouffard/2010/03/23/self-plagairism-_a_must_read) at first I despaired. But then an idea flashed in my mind, a way to make lemonade out of these lemons.
Goodness! I am considering going back to school for my JD, because then I can be kept busy suing myself. The more I write and crosspost the busier I'll be. I won't have to look for any clients. All the lawsuits will have to be settled out of court, it would be tough trying defend and prosecute myself at the same time.
No, wrong number. I can't let you get the last word in, your husband would kill me. I promised!
At this point it seems to me that the proprietors of this site have silently sided with Scanner. With the divisions so strictly drawn impotent mewling by peer-fish in the pond has zero effect except to heighten animosity in this community. The degree to which the post in question fits the definition of plagiarism has long since become moot. The post stands and no one with any authority to do anything about seems to give a good gosh darn.
Continue to whack away if you wish, but that train has left the station and ran over the dead horse you are beating.
#out of your hands, sorry.
I'm laughing so hard Ablonde I can hardly see straight to type this. We can ALL get rich quick this way! Scanner's friend is really onto something!
Emma, I no longer acknowledge your existence. You are just a fat ghost in a leather suit. I Band Thee! Hah!
Ablonde, I no longer acknowledge you, your just a ghost with some flabby tits. I Band Thee! Hah!
Tell the other two idoits that I Band them too! hah!
Yep, that's your style Scanner. Don't address any of the issues raised, call people names, because making fun of how women look and smell --- not that you have ANY clue of how I look -- is the BEST way to prove your point. You never disappoint. And just think, only a few short days ago, I actually liked you. I am still shocked that you have turned out to be the person you are.
How can you "band" me? Banding like in banding a bird?
Maybe he means banish?
As someone who teaches at the post-secondary level I am always on the lookout for plagiarism, and for students who recycle their own papers. But I absolutely fail to see how writing a blog post at OS and linking to another blog that is your own where the same piece is posted is plagiarism. No one is writing for marks here, or payment in most cases. I think this is a false argument in the context of OS.

If it is true, then nearly everyone here is "plagiarizing" themselves. I'm also not giving credence to the argument that people shouldn't post work here that has appeared elsewhere as their own because people here think that it is written strictly for OS. I think it is polite to tell people that, but it is no way "plagiarizing" not to do so.
Cool. Lies and liars win all the prizes on OS. Be the first to lie and cheat, call anyone who asks a skanky coochie bitch, and get the highest ratings.

Now THIS is a writer's site. I see a lot of shows coming from this.
Considering that OS actually has an application to assist members in uploading posts from their other blogs, the self-plagiarism accusation makes even less sense.
Emma and Ablonde - I call Tambourine. Julie's probably gonna want to play the drums.
shaggy, I can understand the concept of self plagiarizing in an academic setting when someone is resubmitting work for credit in two different settings or classes. I don't believe that cross posting one's own work in blogs rises to a comparable offense. There is some controversy over the matter in academic circles. See Section 4.3 on Self-Plagiarism: Factors That Justify Reuse as described by Pamela Samuelson, Professor of Law and Information Management at UCBerkeley, found here.

Note especially that one of the instances she mentions that permits it is that the audience is deemed to be different in each venue in order to get the information (or blog) to respective audiences.
First, I'd like to address a point She Blogs raised. She said:

"I do want to point out, though (because well, we all have to point something out, don't we?) that while you and others keep insisting that this is about plagiarism, why does everyone then go on to say something like what you said in a comment here:

'a large part of this specific problem was Scanner's reaction.'

Now it's no longer about where he got his info and whether he was researching and compiling facts about the song or if he was copying and pasting... now it's about his reaction, which is certainly not plagiarism."

If I say my only concern is plagiarism and creative integrity, then why would I make a statement like this? Well, let me reiterate: my main concern is plagiarism and creative integrity. Scanner and I run in different circles here on OS: I've come across a handful of his posts, and he's probably come across a handful of mine, but we're not friends or enemies or frienemies or what have you. I've also never heard of or read anything by Bonnie, and I have only passing familiarity with the other main players in this drama. Like I said, my concern here is, first and foremost, plagiarism.

Yet it impossible to ignore the fracas that ensued or Scanner's (and others') pivotal role in fanning those flames, especially when there were so many comments made that suggested the problem lay in the way the accusations of plagiarism were made. To borrow and slightly alter Cartouche's metaphor, the troublemakers aren't the people who point out that you've stolen a bike (although they can certain exacerbate the problem), the troublemaker is the bicycle thief. If the thief fights back when confronted with his larceny, well, that just makes things worse.

Which leads to my next point. Scanner, I perhaps could have given you a bit more benefit of the doubt, but that's difficult when you squander that benefit with ugly and childish attacks. Julie and Ablonde (and others) have also provided a fair amount of evidence of a history of plagiarism, which was ignored in favor of these attacks. Perhaps they have some sort of vendetta against you, like you claim. It's possible, but it's not really the issue.

It's also important to note that "cut and paste" plagiarism is but one kind of plagiarism. Going through with a thesaurus and changing a couple of words but keeping the structure of the original idea in place is also plagiarism. This plagiarism actually tends to be dealt with more severely, since it is often done with the intent of obscuring the original theft.

Perhaps nothing will come of any of this. Perhaps the editors are too busy, or perhaps they don't care. Like Kierkegaard struggling to infer the intentions of God, the Editors' silence on this matter leaves us with only our own interpretations. If I steal a bicycle and God doesn't punish me, does God care? Does he condone my theft? We are left to construe morality as we see fit, and I, for one, find the world to be a better place when less bicycles are stolen.
You have made some really great points here.
Great post, nicely spoken too.
As an academic, I take incidences of plagiarism seriously. As a matter of fact, I caught several graduate students plagiarizing their term papers in the course I taught last year. In many cases, it was due to ignorance (please keep this in mind, folks), with the exception of one, which was deliberate (she had to redo the paper and a note was put in her file). (www.turnitin.com works very well!)

First, the issue that cross-posting blog articles rises to plagiarism is completely silly. As bbd indicated above, many authors use this approach to disseminate the information written in their posts to different audiences. In many cases, authors notify their readers that the article has been posted elsewhere. I know several bloggers, including Glenn Greenwald and myself, who cross-post here and at OpEdNews.

Second, I also find it ridiculous that taking one or two paragraphs from one paper for another one based on your own work amounts to plagiarism. When you prepare different papers on the same topic, say a statistical distribution or model, there aren’t twenty ways to describe the so-called distribution or model in the background section. I and many researchers in my area sometimes reproduce some (minor) parts of previous papers, when it is needed. When we review (or read) academic papers, we all understand why this done. In fact, this falls into the guidelines described in section 4.3 bbd referred to above (I do not believe there is a debate on this issue). Here, we’re not talking about preparing the same exact paper with two different titles and submit it to distinct journals.
Cheese and crackers, I totally missed the part where Scanner said that I was telling people to "de-friend" him. I know the dust is settling and no one's going to read the comments on this post at this point, but on the off chance Scanner stops by again, I do want to clarify that I never said anything of the sort, nor did I even remotely imply that. It is my own fault, however, for employing sarcasm, and sarcasm can come across the wrong way online. I was replying to Jack Heart, who wrote a response that had absolutely nothing to do with what I had written. I replied:

"Jack: I'm glad you were able to read my heavily-veiled subtext that we all de-friend Scanner." (Slanty bold added for emphasis)

"Heavily-veiled subtext," as in "What the heck are you talking about, Jack? I said nothing even remotely like that!"

So Scanner, you might think I'm out to get you, but I'm not. I don't have a very high opinion of you at this point, but that hardly translates into a crusade.
i am new to OS.

interesting squabble over the shifting definitions of original work. i skimmed shaggy's posts on the topic, but i generally concur with his points.

i has a similar experience with a blogger who cut and pasted wikipedia info without attribution. turns out she was an attorney. she thanked me, but she was obviously irritated and blocked me from reading her blog...

as some commentators suggested, the difference between blogging and, say, writing a term paper is not very clear. this is further complicated by the fact that an individual blogger's writing skill set and training can vary drastically. thus responses to an "offender" might be read by some as an intellectual conceit.

last, as an anthropologist i am compelled to note that the notion that an individual can own an idea is a curious western development. it's an odd idea, for example, for the average african (i do research in ghana). moreover, this odd notion has lead to all sorts problems including the corporate takeover of food production.

all that to say i would caution folks against taking "our" peculiar notion of intellectual property as some sort of sacred principle ordained by the Gods. GI
valuable discussion.....
Wonder how the new editor will feel about plagiarism on Open Salon?
Wish I had seen this when you first posted. Well said!
R