What Isn't Yours

I had started this post earlier and then went off to the other PC to do some work. When I came back, the laptop had “gone to sleep” and wouldn’t wake up! So what’s a girl to do right but start all over again!
Ah, technology! (Mentally screams)
Here’s a question: when is stealing permissible?
If you’re like me, you would say, whenever has stealing been permissible? I’ve been taught that stealing is never all right. No matter what the circumstances.
But I’ve been “stolen” from when I was younger.
In those days, I used to write like what I do now. The difference was, I didn’t have the Internet then. I contributed to Starchild in my tween years and then ahem, graduated to (the now defunct) Malaysian Post. I’d submit opinion pieces, writings about friendship, life as a teenager, and more. I’d be whooping for joy if they printed my article. I’d clip them out and save them in a folder.
One day I was flipping through Malaysian Post and chanced on a very familiar article. The words were mine. The style was mine. But holy moly, the byline wasn’t mine! Ooh, you should have seen how upset I got. My blood pressure went through the roof. This plagiariser stole my words and submitted them to Malaysian Post. Immediately I sat down to pen a vicious letter to the editor, howling about how this preposterous thing was happening and the audacity of the writer to steal my words, my thoughts, my article and make it into his!
That’s how we writers operate. We cling to our articles, our stories, our ‘babies’ like a fierce tigress. We find no solace in others’ flattery when they COPY our work.
Plagiarism is also abhorred in academia (and it’s quite a serious offence too!). You quote someone else’s research (yes you attribute that line, that idea, that paragraph to them) because you cannot steal what isn’t yours.
I had heard of a senior of mine whose dissertation was thrashed by an examiner who found that most paragraphs were lifted off other research, without proper attribution. She should have known better. It was that fear that drove our supervisors to drill into our heads that if in doubt, quote. Use quote marks. Or paraphrase and attribute. If you used more than 6 words from the original sentence or paragraph, you better do something like rewrite or find some fast synonyms! This drove us all crazy for a while because the fear of plagiarising unintentianally gave us all writer’s block. I couldn’t type a paragraph without fearing if I’d accidentally said the same idea in the same words as the original author.
Anyway, I heard of another act of plagiarism yesterday from a friend/client. His friend – a popular Star columnist – was being ripped off by someone who had set up a blog pretending to be her! As this columnist had her stories published in The Star weekly, the fiend (yes, and imposter and plagiarist too) who set up a blog under this columnist’s name just copies and pastes the weekly stories into the blog. Many of the columnist’s friends were first delighted to have found “her” blog and happily emailed her. The poor woman told her friends that she never had a blog. Imagine her surprise when she found the blog, using her name and her stories!
It’s really a Catch-22 for her. If she set up her blog now, SHE would be labelled the imposter (and who’s to prove who is who online anyway?). Maybe she should leave spiteful comments on the blog to point them back to her website/blog. Any ideas people?

8 thoughts on “What Isn't Yours”

  1. If the imposter posted the articles using the columnist’s name, then he’s not plagiarizing. At least he’s attributing it to the writer. Perhaps he’s just a zealous fan who wants all the columnist’s writings to be under one roof. Maybe he’s a schizo?

  2. Hi Lydia,
    Probably a schizo. But the zealous fan is using this poor woman’s name all over the blog, assuming to be her! That’s crazy isn’t it? On the other hand, of course, this columnist should have been smarter and set up her own blog/websites first. What would you do if a fan sets up a blog and puts all the Eh Poh Nim articles there and takes all the credit? Sakit hati right?

  3. It depends also on whether this fan is earning anything from posting these things on the blog. Like if it’s a fansite or something, I suppose it’s ok. But if they were using the exact words of the articles and then citing the author as someone else…that would make me really mad. REALLY REALLY MAD!!!

  4. Hi Alison: Just tells us that the world is becoming weirder and weirder day by day!
    Marsha – Not sure if they’re making money off the poor woman. They could be using Google Adsense and using her articles to tempt readers to come by the blog.
    Matrianklw – Yeah, I also think that those without a creative bone in their body would steal someone else’s work and deem it theirs.

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