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Apr 06 2010

Christian Plagiarism

  Last night I was reading an article at a Christian news site.  In fact, it was a topic that I decided to blog.  I quoted a couple of sentences and included a link to the original source.  I continued reading and read all the comments.  As I was reading the comments to the article, I read something strangely familiar.  In fact, it was very, very familiar.  It was so very familiar because … I wrote it.  One of the commenters to the article had found an article on my blog and cut and pasted two long paragraphs and used it in his comment.  In fact, those two paragraphs were the sole content of his comment and he posted it as his own words.  The Christian took someone else’s work and made a choice to deceive anyone reading his comment that it was his original argument.  No mention was made of the source or even that he found it on the internet.

I have not been harmed by his deception.  My blog does not earn income of any kind off of any post.  I have no ads that I would earn any income.  In fact, I do not gain anything from my blog.  I blog simply to share what I have learned, my thoughts or views on my world from a Christian perspective and to interact with others who may give me insight or may gain insight from what I post.

Make no mistake, plagiarism is theft.  It is defined as:

  • “the unauthorized use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one’s own original work.” (Dictionary.com)

The origin of the word is:

plagiarism

  • 1621, from L. plagiarius "kidnapper, seducer, plunderer," used in the sense of "literary thief" by Martial, from plagium "kidnapping," from plaga "snare, net," from PIE base *p(e)lag- "flat, spread out."Plagiary is attested from 1597. (emphasis added) (Dictionary.com)

If I was not harmed in any way by that person plagiarizing my post, what’s the problem?    The problem is that it is theft, plain and simple.  Some Christian out there on the internet pasted someone else’s work as his own with the intent to deceive others that it was his own words.  Christians represent Christ.  Imagine someone running across his post and then later finding my post.  It’s not an impossibility nor even unlikely.  I know I have read something on the internet and decided I want to learn a little bit more on a subject so I do an internet search.  And there you have it – plagiarized work easily found out.  I found my work posted by someone else as his own work by sheer accident.  And it is NOT the first time.

If he simply had stated that he found the following (my work) on the internet, it would not have been a problem.  In fact, all he had to state is "author unknown" and it would have been obvious that it was not his original work.  I am not looking for credit for what I write.  However, the problem is that he lied by deceiving his readers that my words really were his own. It makes him a thief and a liar.

As Christians, nothing we write about our faith is original.  Christianity has been around for over 2,000 years and written work about theology has been written about by countless people.  Even the posts on this blog is not original.  I did not learn theology in a vacuum.  I’ve listened to sermons. I  have read much on the internet.  I have read many Christian books. Whatever I write is not original for I have learned it from somewhere.  However, if I take it verbatim from another source, I must cite my source.  If I do not, I would be guilty of deceit and eventually lose credibility and become known as a liar and a thief.

For instance, I know certain things about the Civil War.  If I were to state:

The Southern states seceded the union based on their belief that they had a right to do so.  However, this act was rejected by Washington.  As such,  the Confederate army attacked a South Carolina military site.

This is not considered plagiarism.  I am repeating common knowledge.   It is something that we all learned in history classes.

However, if I were to post the following:

  • Secession was followed by a constitutional argument regarding the right of a state to leave the Union. The United States administration rejected the secession, and termed it as a rebellion. The battles between the two forces began on April 12, 1861, when the Confederate forces attacked a United States military installation in Southern Carolina.

I would be required to cite a source because I cut and pasted the above.  It is someone else’s work.  (source of the above taken from here)

I don’t have to cite a source if I were to write “George Washington was the first president of the United States.”  That information is common knowledge, written in those words in countless history books.

To those Christians who cut and paste someone else’s work as their own, SHAME ON YOU.  You are purposely deceiving your readers and that makes you a liar and a thief.  You may never be found out in this life.  You may continue to lie and deceive others.  But make no mistake, you have not deceived God.  He knows that you are stealing from another and passing it off as your own.

It’s shameful when you have been caught.  The person who stole my work and passed it off on his own, I’m waiting to hear what he has to say.  I’m not asking him to give me or this blog credit.  Really, I don’t care about that.  What I really hate is when Christians do something that hurts the Christian witness.  He probably won’t answer me because of his shame.  He should be ashamed of his deceit.  You lose credibility and your witness has been compromised when we lie and steal.  Is the theft worth your witness?

Photo:  Getawallpaper.com

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  1. Margaret

    Tishrei,

    Thank you for coming out with this….. My writings have been copy/pasted in their entirety on other web sites, without asking for permission or notifying me….. I was flabbergasted when I first saw it….. They take my whole post and put it on their blog site….. Sometimes they mention my blog address, and sometimes not….. Some time ago I looked into this and they are called “Splogs” when they take the whole article….. It appears that they are trying to take away from the stats for WordPress.

    I guess there can be some legal action that can be taken, but it looks like a real hassle…… One just feels violated….. But, like you, I know that God knows all about it and He certainly will be the final Judge over all.

    For those Christians who have fallen prey to this kind of wrong doing, it really would help your relationship with our Savior to fess up — that is to say, repent and do it no longer….. You obviously realize what is a good explanation of God’s word, so you are fully capable of putting it in your own words….. They will be similar words, but they will be your own words and they will make you feel better about yourself — drawing you closer to our Savior.

    We can be ever so thankful that God understands our weaknesses and is so ready and willing to help us through them….. He truly wants us to depend on Him.

    Margaret

    1. Tishrei

      Hi Margaret,

      The first time I ever saw one of my posts on the net, I was shocked. I’ve ignored it for the most part but now I’m being a bit more proactive in that I’m asking that it be removed.

      This one was deleted.

  2. angelbearoh

    What about the plagiarist’s site? Does it have lots of advertisements on it?
    Lately I’ve been frequenting a site called Freelancer.com, where freelance writers are paid as low as $1 per 500 words to nearly plagiarize other sites. The logic being that fresh, original, never before written material—according to the major search engines—can make any web site rank very highly in web searches. The more clearly plagiarized content tends to rank lower.
    High search engine rankings are kind of like the Nielsen ratings of the Web. Assuming that most people are lazy enough only to read the first one or two articles for which they search, ranking near the top of a search engine search means more eyes for whatever advertisements you’re running. My guess is some unscrupulous webmaster wants your fresh new article next to his ads.

    1. Tishrei

      Hi,

      There’s no problem with the site. It’s an above board news site. The problem was not the site but one of the folks that made a comment on a news article. The commenter cut and pasted a large section of one of my posts to support his argument.

      Fortunately, the comment is deleted.

  3. Repent Harlequin

    Hey Blog Lady T.,

    As Christians, nothing we write about our faith is original. Christianity has been around for over 2,000 years and written work about theology has been written about by countless people. Even the posts on this blog is not original. I did not learn theology in a vacuum. I’ve listened to sermons. I have read much on the internet. I have read many Christian books. Whatever I write is not original for I have learned it from somewhere. However, if I take it verbatim from another source, I must cite my source. If I do not, I would be guilty of deceit and eventually lose credibility and become known as a liar and a thief.

    Just my thoughts :-)

    1. Tishrei

      Kent, I can’t tell you how much I giggled over your comment. :) — that was a good one!

      BLT

  4. Loren

    Kent, I think you summed it up perfectly, although I must admit there is something strangely familiar about your words….I just can’t place it :)

    I like what J. Vernon McGee, the host of “Through The Bible” Radio Program, had to say in this regard:

    “It’s OK to graze on everyone else’s pasture, but give your own milk.”

    1. Tishrei

      Loren,

      I know you’re talking to Kent but I have to chime in and say I LOVE McGee’s “It’s Okay to graze on everyone else’s pasture, but give your own milk.” What a perfect analogy! I’ll have to remember that one.

    2. Repent Harlequin

      Loren,

      I couldn’t have said it better myself… In fact, someday I may and use the exact same words :-)

      I love McGee. At the nehest of a friend it took me about 10 minutes to get over his voice and just to him.

      On the subject: Plagiarism is not just common with college students and Joe Biden. I’ve caught people doing that on political blogs, and I’m sure if I were to do a search I’d find some of my own words out there. It’s disheartening to see Christians doing it, but given my experience with Internet Christianity, it’s sadly not surprising.

      Have a great day everybody!

  5. Rich Mun

    http://cheatgrace.blogspot.com/2010_03_01_archive.html. It happens in Singapore too. Pastors do it. look at this website…

  6. ronald marklin

    What about preacher’s who use the inter-net to get their sermon’s? Even if they use a web-site that offers them for free. Isn’t this deceiving their flock if they don’t acknowledge the human source? I have just found out that this has been happening at my church for a long time. I am very dissappointed. Am I alone in believing this is wrong? Let me know if I am. Thanks

    1. Tishrei

      I guess it depends. There are sources out there that offer sermons for pastors to use, change or tailor to their specific topic. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. My personal view is that there is no requirement that a pastor cite every single place he gathers information from. I think it becomes an issue if the pastor is doing it in such a way in order to deceive the congregants that the material is something he came up with all on his own.

      However, if the source has a requirement that they be cite and they are not, it’s definitely wrong and, in fact, is a theft.

  7. ashif

    My personal research shows that christianity is made up by the collusion between the persecutors of Jesus (i.e. the jews) & the political authority of his time(the romans). Today they are the best of partners as they’ve always been but cloaked in a different garb. They are the architects of christianity and time and again they “take”(?) interesting and well considered thoughts and speech of others to claim as their own in order to further the christian lie about the Godliness of Jesus.Jesus was definitely a special and unique person but did not claim to be God.Rather, the architects of the religion have punted this idea.

  8. Wyatt

    “Jesus was definitely a special and unique person but did not claim to be God”

    I do understand that if a person does not view the Bible as authentic, then nothing that Jesus is reported to have said has credibility…which makes me wonder a bit concerning just how someone determines that he was special or unique…it is the Bible that introduces us to Jesus and records his words…if he is special and unique, is he also credible?

    Speaking of credibilty, for those that embrace the New Testament writings as truth, it is evident to them that Jesus most certainly claimed to be God in a number of different situations.

    I would be happy to direct you to these instances if you have a genuine desire to explore for yourself.

  9. Amber Dover

    Hi :) I was wondering how you got your copyright for your blog. Did it cost alot of money? I have a blog I follow and the lady uses My Free Copyright but it just doesn’t sound legit to me. I thought a real copyright that will stand up in court has to be through the federal copyright office & that it costs $50 or so and takes weeks to go through. I’ve also heard of the poor man’s copyright where you mail the original to yourself….not sure how all this would work with a blog. Anywho, I’d love your help and I’m enjoying your posts. God bless! ~Amber D.

  10. Tishrei

    Hi Amber.

    When you write something on your blog, it is automatically copyrighted. You created it so you own it. What I mean is that the moment that it is “fixed in any tangible medium of expression” it is copyrighted (17 USC § 102). In other words, it is fixed due to the fact that it is stored on a server or your hard drive. Actually, even letters that you write by hand are automatically copyrighted. I understand that registering material with the copyright office has to do with how one recovers damages but I’m not a lawyer so I am not totally clear on this.

    As to my blog, I did not register it. That copyright language that I used was only because people were taking material from my blog and changing it a bit and making it their own work. In fact, I found one site where a pastor of a church cut and pasted a large part of one of my posts and inserted it into his post and used it as his own. He did not need to do that, he went to divinity school to become a pastor and I am simply a lay person who has no formal theological training. I didn’t do anything about it nor did I say anything to him. God knows what he did and so does that pastor. It was theft. However, had I chosen to do so, I could have had his blog shut down for copyright infringement. Had he made any money, I could have recovered all the money he earned from the theft and all this without having to register writings from my blog as copyrighted. The law recognizes that all material that I create as copyrighted as long as it’s “fixed in any tangible medium of expression.” My blog posts are not only recorded on my hard drive because I use LiveWriter to post, they are also “fixed” on the server that I use to host my blog.

    If you want, you are welcome copy the copyright language on my blog and use it.

    p.s. I’m not a lawyer. What I wrote is what I understand from my reading the U.s. copyright laws.

    pp.ss. If you want more help, we can do this by email. I don’t want to give you my email address here as spammers will see it and I’ll get inundated with a whole bunch of spam. You can email me by using the contact page at the top and I can help you that way.

  11. Amber Dover

    Thank you so much for your help :) . I completely understand why you’d do the copyright. I’m taking all this in. I’ll probably get an official copyright for my book but not worry about my blog. God bless! :)

  12. Chris

    This is a very serious problem on the Internet, and I’m glad you said something about it.

    People have done this with my own writings on many occasions. Some have even meshed my writings in with their own, without giving a proper citation, of course. In one case, someone who did this actually had a copyright notice on their blog! How hypocritical! There was another case where a woman admitted that it wasn’t all her own writing, but said it came from her heart. These people are shameless. They have no respect for the property of others.

    Where you will see a lot of this happening is on facebook. Granted, some people don’t know any better, but that doesn’t mean we should let it slide. How do I handle it? I file a DMCA against them. We need to call these people out. They need to be aware that they are breaking the law.

  13. Tishrei

    Hi Chris,

    So far, I have not filed a DMCA though in some cases I probably should have. The one that saddened me the most was from a pastor who had his own blog. I don’t recall how I found his blog but I was reading a post and a huge portion of his post was cut and pasted directly from my blog and inserted in the middle of his post. I couldn’t believe he did that. I never said anything but I was ticked off. It just seems so wrong to do that.

    I have a facebook account but I really haven’t become a facebook fan so I don’t log on that often. As such, I don’t know the problems that FB users face as to theft of content.

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