You think Halloween is scary? Try Plagiarism for real terror. 10-27-03
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Weekly Editor's Letter:
This was Starr* Rathburn ‘s week to do the newsletter, but the ghosts, goulies, and goblins are still haunting her computer. She graciously allowed me to do it. Thank you so much, Starr* Rathburn .
When I learned of the honor given me, I quickly went to Google and typed in ‘Halloween.’ The Halloween Edition should be about the holiday, right? That's what I thought.
A thousand sites popped up, so I chose The History Channel. I like the History Channel and it was at the top of the list. I needed information on the Halloween holiday and I got it. So I wrote a great article on the origins, and the different ways it was celebrated around the world. For instance, I didn’t know that in Latin American countries, people gather at the grave sites of their relatives to picnic and reminisce, and they sometimes include tequila and a mariachi band. They know how to have fun.
YOU THINK HALLOWEEN IS SCARY? TRY PLAGIARISM FOR REAL TERROR!!
As I read my prepared article, the word, Plagiarism kept inserting itself into the sentences. I argued with it, explaining I had given the appropriate credit to the site, but it wouldn’t listen. It is the most insistent and aggravating word in a writer’s vocabulary, it must be listened to.
I looked the word up in the dictionary for the exact definition.
plagiarize (also plagiarise) >verb take (the work or idea of someone else) and pass it off as one's own.
-ORIGIN from Latin plagiarius 'kidnapper', from Greek plagion kidnapping'.
So, I’m sitting here thinking of kidnapping someone else’s ideas. I want to know how a writer or anyone for that matter, can not use another’s ideas. Everything we learn comes from someone else. Everything. I understand about using the exact words of another writer and saying you wrote it, but the idea? Who says more than one person can’t have the same idea? A copyright? No, it only documents which one got it copyrighted first.
As I looked through different sites for Halloween information, I ran across two or three articles on a subject I was considering. They were almost identical; different authors, different sites, same information - told the same way. They were on a myth that has been told for hundreds of years; are they plagiarizing? If someone (me) who was so graciously allowed to write a holiday newletter and was desperate for information, read everything she could find on the myth, and subsequently wrote an original article using the information, is that plagiarizing?
Who was the originator? No one has the answer.
I heard of an author that was accused of plagiarizing. He denied it until he was shown the work. It turned out that yes, he had read it years before and had honestly forgotten. The thoughts were in the sub-conscious and came out in his work years later. Was that plagiarizing? The court said yes.
A writer has to be very careful what he uses, and he also has to know where his ideas come from. It’s difficult to write a good story while worrying about whether it’s an original thought too. In my opinion, there are no original thoughts. Someone, somewhere and sometime, has already been there and said that.
I decided I would not do the Halloween article after all, it was just too frightening. So instead, I learned a little more about the terrifying subject of plagiarism. It makes me want to padlock my keyboard!
Happy Halloween and Keep writing.
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Edited by: esprit