An Interrupted Post

The other night I typed up a long post about a freebie that was offered online.  It was homeschool related (generally offered for a price but free right now) and we’d enjoyed it, so I wanted to pass it on.

I had noticed immediately that the intro was very badly written.  There were typos (the type that are real words that pass spell-check but are obviously the wrong words) and many grammatical errors.

After the badly written intro, however, the sections were generally very well written.  That got me curious.

A quick google search of some of the key phrases turned up the reason.  Almost all of the unit study was lifted, word for word, from other web sites throughout the web.

I found this all out as I was writing up the freebie entry, so my entry morphed from a happy little notice of a cool nifty to a rambling post on the ethics of plagiarism.

I knew that most businesses use google alerts to be notified if people post about them, so I figured they’d read my post where I not only said they were bad writers but thieves, basically!  I wasn’t so sure I was up for the backlash from that.

And I didn’t really want to malign these people.  They’re homeschooling mothers trying to make some money.  I don’t want to mess that up for them with bad press or drama.   I try to assume the best about people.  In my post I said that perhaps they didn’t know the rules of copyright and plagiarism.  But really, shouldn’t they?

So I typed and typed, and ended up with a lot of words that I wasn’t ready to send out into the universe.  I don’t think I posted anything that night, and the draft has been sitting and waiting for me to come back to it.

I’m not going to post the freebie.  You can write me for it and I’ll send you the link, but it’s no great loss if I don’t pass it on.  Everything in it is available for free on the net anyway.  🙂

But I would like to open up the discussion because I think it matters.  What are we teaching our kids when we profit from other people’s work?  Is ignorance a good excuse?

I would not have had a problem with their lifting all of those articles, experiments and essays from the web if they had simply quoted the authors and the sources.  Technically, they should have gotten permission, especially since they were making money off of them (most of the time).  But just an acknowledgment:  I did not write this.  This person did the work.  That would have made all of the difference for me.

As huge as the internet is, I have noticed that we are generally a very respectful bunch.  We do hat tips when we pass on tidbits from other sites.  We use links so you can surf back to the great site where we got that art project.  We quote authors.  We give credit.

I think it’s a sign of good manners and good morals, and I think it’s an even bigger lesson to teach my kids than the ones in that freebie.

What do you think?

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4 thoughts on “An Interrupted Post

  1. I agree with you completely–don’t take credit for stuff that isn’t yours! And providing a link or reference to your source is insanely easy on the internet; there’s no excuse.

    The one thing the internet does is make it easier to prove plagiarism. When I taught at university, simply entering a suspicious phrase in quotes was often enough to find the original essay.

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  2. I always try to give credit for any ideas I use on my blog, although sometimes I have a hard time remembering where I get an idea haha!

    I think it’s common curtiousy to give credit to others for ideas or information. Sometimes it’s not always easy to do if it’s a pretty general fact, but if your going to be making money off something, it puts you in a whole different ball park!

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  3. The more I read of this happening, the more I think that some people just haven’t been told that to do that sort of thing is WRONG. Full stop. End of story, as it were.

    I know there are people who think if it’s only a bit, or if it’s for free, or it’s my own use, or or or…

    If you use another person’s written work in any context, except in a small quote with attribution, then it IS plagiarism.

    Go ahead and post it, and if anyone gives you a hard time I’LL come in and give ’em a smackdown. 😉

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  4. You have made some great points. Just like Erica, I sometimes have a hard time remembering where I found some information. I try my best to give credit. If I cannot give proper credit, I will say that I found it somewhere online.

    I know that I personally have always had a hard time paraphrasing. I struggled writing papers all through high school. I am planning on learning it all over again with my oldest. I am going to have my husband ‘grade’ our work.

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