Monday 6 October 2014

Opinion: You can't honestly celebrate plagiarism

The truth in hypocrisy
The use of moral equivalences to deflect justified criticism and possibly shut the critic up is a well-used attack strategy as much as is the use of argumentum ad-homimen to take ground from someone who posits or comments.
In some ways, hypocrisy is a good thing if we cut to the truth of the issues. Like the example in the bible whether a man had a speck in his eye and the other had a beam in his eye is beside the point, fundamentally, the truth is, both the speck and beam do not belong in the eye and they both need to be taken out.
Ethics and rules
Which brings me to an issue that came up on my Twitter timeline this weekend about the fight by a media analyst to have material lifted off his forum properly acknowledged and attributed when used by others.
The other being a very popular Nigerian gossip columnist whose penchant for plagiarism with impunity is without parallel.
Whilst the media analyst had none of the following or popularity of the gossip blogger, he knew the rules and had a number of times warned the gossip of infringements before following Google’s rules to have copyrighted material taken down from the gossip’s website.
Criminal lack of foresight
The looming danger was that the gossip could easily be proven to be a repeat offender and consequently have her popular money-spinning blog taken down by Google and that would be the death of the golden goose.
Sadly, there are too many narratives to this matter and the least of them is the influence or the commercial opportunity the gossip blog offered the owner. Success measured by how much you make by gossip and abusing copyrighted material might count for much in Nigeria, but beyond those borders, it is disreputable and reprehensible, nothing to be celebrated at all.
Beyond this, it is unfortunate that the gossip never developed her business model beyond the rudimentary once she began to make money that what she now has is put at great risk for what one might uncharitably term, foolishness.
Portability is security
For instance, I used to have my blog hosted by a small company and it was referenced by their own URL to which I prepended the name of my blog. 7 years into my running the blog on that site, I was given 18 months to take my material elsewhere because they were we no longer interested in the business of hosting blogs.
Probably by prescience, I had started an alternative blog elsewhere, some years before, but had not published much apart from an introduction. I then painstakingly moved each of over 1,500 blogs to this new location over the next few months.
At the same time, I published simultaneously on both blogs to keep the old going and introduce people to the new. One mistake I decided not to commit again was to leave the name of my blog dependent on the URL provided by my host.
I registered my own domain name and that is now the identity of my blog. If at any time the content collateral of my blog is threatened, I simply have to move the content to another hosting service and transfer my domain name to that location.
Foolish to a fault
It then really beggars belief that such a successful gossip blog never considered polishing their act and adding a touch of professionalism to their product. Something that non-commercial blogs like mine have done for years.
However, making your blog portable by being able to move the content and retain your domain name regardless of where the content is hosted does not excuse the fact that both clout and reach has been used to ignore ethical practice in commercial dealings.
Check your values
Being a blog does not exculpate the blogger from charges of plagiarism, if the content you are publishing is not originally yours, you must reference, attribute and acknowledge and the indictment of plagiarism is even worse if the blog has commercial value.
There are things to comment the gossip blogger for, but this particularly is not one of them and the lack of foresight to protect the blog from being yanked off the Internet for being an abuser and infringer of copyrighted material is damning to the point of being just plain stupid.
For those who find the gossip a role model of sorts, the only thing to caution is check your values and check your value system.

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