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Her Name is Ed Wilson

Thoughts, Anyone?

Gerald Posner, former Chief Investigative Reporter of The Daily Beast.

Naughty Naughty Posner…

Plagiarism is a problem.

It’s every writer’s worst fear. We have an epiphany that turns into an anecdote, and then from an anecdote into a concept, and then from a concept it transforms into a full-fleged narrative. Suddenly, out from the bog, trickles the word-burglars. They capture your “great American novel,” pull it apart by its pages, and slap their names across your mangled words.

Okay, word-burglars aside, I just read an article on the Slate about Daily Beast‘s Chief Investigative Reporter,Gerald Posner, “lifting” pieces from his fellow columnist’s articles and mixing them with his own.  According to the Slate, Posner has purloined from at least five different articles, including from news staple The Miami Herald.

Chief Investigator? or “Googler” in Chief?  You decide.

Now to be fair, he said the plagerism was inadvertent, but what mostly drew my attention was a statement Posner gave about his transgressions:

The core of my problem was in shifting from that of a book writer—with two years or more on a project—to what I describe as the “warp speed of the net.”

I can never look kindly on stealing the hard work of others, but I can at least sympathize with the above. I mean sometimes I wake up looking at my wordpress dashboard thinking to myself, “What the hell am I going to write about today??” I’m still a first time author and although completing a manuscript is a feat all of its own, the schedule is much more merciful. I don’t have to “break” the hottest story or be the first one on the scene. All I have to do is research, ruminate, and write down my story so it makes sense (and has few plot holes).

Walt Whitman is well known for having continuoulsy re-written his most perrenial work “Leaves of Grass.”Whitman wouldn’t last two seconds on twitter, having to text “O, Pioneers” in 140 words or less. I accept it though. Times are different meaning you not only learn to adapt, but you also need to be more media aware.

So, if you come into a situation where you believe you may have been plagiarized first understand your rights. There’s several great articles detailing this by here and here.

Know what rights you do have:

  • You can file a claim with the DMCA
  • You can use Whois to know exactly who pilfered your stuff (although this is a bit creepy to me)
  • You can send a cease and desist letter to warn the offender that if they do not remove your content further action may occur.
  • Anything written and organized in a particular form is under copyright you don’t need the “circle c” to protect your work.

Know what rights you don’t have:

  • You cannot copyright an idea. This is one of the hardest concepts for new writers to understand (at first, me included). Your idea is your baby, but anyone can come up with an idea. You have to formulate an idea in a specific way in order to have copyright protection status. This includes poems, movies, novels, artistic works and software.

If you would like to know more about the particulars of copyright there’s  a swell of information at U.S.  I apologize to international readers. I am not familiar with international intellectual property law.

Perhaps, Posner should have read some of the above.

Thoughts, anyone?


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