Last week, writing pal Carmen (not her real name) was surveying updates from her Facebook pals when she discovered a posting by a fellow writer she’d grown chummy with.
Let’s call him “Dirty Conniving Creep.”
Carmen was stunned to see that DCC had just published a poem that bore a startling similarity--key phrases and all--to a work she’d emailed to him for feedback not so long ago.
Horrified, Carmen followed DCC’s link and discovered that, yes indeed, DCC had plagiarized her work.
The next few days were a nightmare for Carmen. When she contacted DCC, he gave her the cockamamie excuse that, when surveying the elaborate web of his computer files, he couldn’t keep track of what was his work and what had been written by others. Not only that, but he could no longer recall all the publications to which he’d submitted Carmen’s poem.
Carmen got down to business. An internet search revealed DCC had published her poem in multiple publications. She emailed the editors to explain the situation. She included a trail of the emails she’d originally exchanged with DCC, proving her work had been pilfered.
The editors responded immediately, horrified and angry. They pulled the plagiarized work from their publications. Carmen felt better, but not healed. She was offended and hurt on many levels. As her friend, I was offended on her behalf. She still feels gun shy about sharing her work with other writers.
In honor of Carmen and all she’s been through, I decided to share with you the top 5 reasons I despise plagiarism. They are:
1) Plagiarism steals more than just a writer’s words.
Carmen’s poem was a lovely piece about a mother’s loss when her child grows up. DCC not only stole the words she’d used to express that, he stole the beautiful, universal and tender emotion Carmen felt for her grown son and called it his own. Since DCC is a parasite, I doubt he’d begin to understand such a noble feeling. He isn’t decent enough to claim it.
2) Plagiarism makes editors suspicious of innocent writers.
I’d bet money that the numerous editors Carmen contacted are embarrassed by publishing this fraud. No one likes being embarrassed. I’m sure they’ll be skeptical of work coming over their transom for a long time to come. That hurts hard working, honest writers like you and me.
3) Plagiarism robs authors of the right to publish their own work.
Now that Carmen’s work has been published, she can no longer viably publish it under her own byline. ‘Nuff said.
4) Plagiarism makes writers suspicious of one another.
As writers, we often operate in a fog of creative innocence. We never imagine something like this will happen. But Carmen is nervous now. So am I. I’ll be more cautious now about sharing my unpublished work. This saddens me. I always enjoyed putting my work out there for feedback. But I’m grateful for the trustworthy peers I’ve already found.
5) Plagiarism is the worst kind of grubby, back-stabbing behavior a writer can exhibit.
As far as I’m concerned, anyone stealing someone else’s work has no right to call themselves a writer. Writers create. Plagiarists steal. That’s not the same thing at all.