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A little note on plagiarism
Feb 14th, 2012 by Dr Karma

I’m in the midst of writing a response to a student essay on plagiarism. In the essay, the student claims that few people actually steal, that students are “confused” by the accessibility of the internet (thinking that the internet belongs to them), that music sampling is certainly not wrong, etc. The students briefly mentions Malcolm Gladwell’s story about seeing a line he wrote used in play–at first he was angry, then flattered.

The student’s essay lacks focus, etc, but my comments (reprinted below) deal with the lack of counter-argument:

Many counter-arguments to this piece immediately come to mind. For example, as a teacher, I have seen many, many students “wrongfully claim credit and ownership for a project” (1). Students have bought papers online. They have copied off of each other’s papers. They have even claimed that they “had no choice” but to do so because they believe all students cheat, which is an insult to all of us who got through college without cheating. (Even if the cheating students were right about everyone cheating, which they aren’t, they would still have a choice). 

I have been the victim of plagiarism in another way. A paper I had published online was found posted on a cheat site. The site claimed that the author (me!) had given permission for this paper to be used by this site and by students. I had done no such thing. I threatened to sue the site if they did not remove my essay immediately. In a less dramatic example, a man copied an article I published for Mental Floss on his blog. He did not reference my name, the name of the original magazine, or anything else—except his own name. To anyone who didn’t know better, it would look like he wrote my piece.

The cheat site and the blogger were not “inspired” by my research, by my time, by my work. They were thieves. However vague some definitions of plagiarism are, some cases like these are unquestionabl

In terms of the more questionable cases, I don’t understand why these people with questionable cases can’t do what we do in academia. When I want to use another person’s words, I cite that person. If someone wants to use Malcolm Gladwell’s words, why can’t there be a line in the author’s notes about it? If someone wants to sample a piece of someone else’s music, why can’t that person mention it in the liner notes on the CD?

Weird Al Yankovic, for example, always tells you what artist’s song he’s parodying. He also gets permission from artists before using their work. Notably, he doesn’t have to do this, as his creations are protected under the copyright exception made for parodies. While one artist (Coolio) claims Yankovic didn’t ask permission (I don’t believe Coolio’s side of the story here), Yankovic still credited him fully.

The student’s point seems to be that “plagiarism” is too vague a term to pursue action against plagiarizers. In some cases, this is simply not true. In others, reasonable, easy steps can be taken to acknowledge how someone else has inspired us. If s/he has inspired us, doesn’t s/he deserve a respectful acknowledgement of that fact?

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St. Valentine’s Day
Feb 14th, 2009 by Dr Karma

So, I don’t have to celebrate this holiday, right?  I mean, I’m not Catholic, so I don’t have to do Saints’ days.  However, Jeopardy! just taught me that some believe this holiday was actually based on a Roman fertility festival.  So if I’m feeling pagan . . .

I’ve never been that into this holiday.  It’s not out of bitterness.  I’ve been partnered for more of them than I’ve been single.  And they’ve all been more or less adequate, as far as these things are supposed to go.  In fact, some of the times when I’ve been single have been better (as I used to have pizza and beer and watch The Hunt for Red October).

I think what mostly turns me off to this holiday is the bullshit expectation in heterosexual circles that this is the day men are supposed to go broke for their mates.  It’s about flowers and candy and cards and sometimes rings, but always about spending money on her (in rather predictable ways).  So, two things:

1.  If this is supposed to be a day about love, women should be contributing.  (And fine, if that means the guy wants a bj for all the money he spent, whatever, but that does bring up how close to prostitution this all is.)  In my perfect world, the couple should be equal, even on v-day.  (That’s why Ken and I bought each other a roomba last year).

2.  While I’m not knocking flowers and candy on v-day, I don’t think it’s the height of romance.  Because a day when that kind of thing is mandated is not about romance.  If your partner is only romantic on v-day and anniversaries, your relationship must suck.

Let me clarify, though.  Romance is not candy and flowers exclusively.  Ken washed my car inside and out this week because I complained about the dust aggravating my allergies.  That’s more romantic than holiday-nazi mandated flowers because the washing indicates that he listens and cares and is willing to take actions to make my life better.

On another note, I feel sucky this Valentine’s Day because I didn’t get out any cards or anything to my friends, though they made me cards and cookies and such.  In fact, am tempted to scan the card MD made because it was hilarious. 

I just hope they know I love them without the cards. 

Speaking of love, The Simpsons premieres in HD tomorrow.  I wonder if I’ll actually be able to tell the difference.

People who should get Valentines this year:

Obama (duh)

George W Bush (I love that you’re not President; many happy returns).

Creationists (I love that you give me something to write about).

Weird Al Yankovic, Eddie Izzard, Colin Firth, and many other crushes.

The forefathers (if only for Free Speech).

Panama City Beach, which Joy Turner on My Name is Earl declared “classy” a few weeks ago.  Hooray for one of my hometowns!

Margaret Atwood, but I already send her birthday cards, and it’s only my affiliation with the Atwood Society that doesn’t make that slightly creepy.

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