Gene Quinn’s Experience with Plagiarism

Gene Quinn
Gene Quinn

Gene Quinn has a problem. He’s found out that while the Internet is a great way to get your ideas to a wider audience, it’s also a great way to meet jerks.

What’s been happening is a certain percentage of his readers have been copying and pasting his writing from IPWatchDog without attribution. This isn’t unusual. We’ve all heard of the problems that major universities have with plagiarism. We’ve had politicians in both Canada and the United States who’ve been caught doing this, and had to resign as a consequence.

Plagiarism is common. Exactly how common no one really knows. The Internet is so vast, it’s impossible to really measure online plagiarism. Off-line plagiarism is even harder to catch. If I copied this entire article from some obscure journal that was only read by a small, specialized audience, who would be likely to know?

To combat the problem Gene decided to attempt to disable copy and paste on his site. In his announcement, he aroused a lot of animosity. I can understand why he decided to do this. Having someone grab your stuff, and present it as their own, is a major insult.

The problem is Gene made a huge mistake. By blocking copy and paste he moved the discussion from plagiarism to his own actions.

Because plagiarism is a huge issue.

Just think. You want to hire someone. That person provides you a bunch of documents that he/she claims to have written. They look really good, so you hire them.

But they really didn’t write them, they lifted them from Gene, or from me, or from Doctor Roy, or from Pamela Jones, or from… You get the picture.

Blocking copy and paste addresses the symptom, not the problem.

Gene should have written up a blog post explaining what was happening, and documenting as closely as possible the evidence that he had. This would have laid out the situation for everyone. The attention it would have drawn to the issue would have limited the ability of the jerks to plagiarize his writing.

Instead, by blocking copy and paste, Gene became the discussion. Becoming the discussion is never a winning gambit.


Wayne Borean

Monday February 4, 2013


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