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?