Thursday, January 5, 2012

Plagiarism: Just…Don’t

Plagiarism: Just…Don’t

I’m thirty-one, and I’ve been writing fanfiction on and off since I was eleven years old and scribbled out my first “self-insertion” tale involving myself and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Mind you, at the time I’d never even heard of fanfiction; this was 1991, so I’m not sure that the term had even been coined yet. Nevertheless, over the next couple of years I wrote my own Star Wars stories, and in 1996 I stumbled upon a magazine article about something called “fanfiction.” Ever since that first time I got online and entered the address for The X-Files Romantic Fanfiction Archive cited by the magazine, I have been hooked.

In my collective involvement in various fandoms over the years, if there’s one thing that makes my blood boil it’s shameless plagiarism. Getting a vague concept from another author, movie, or book is one thing; everyone does it, whether inadvertently or not, since there are very few (if any) truly original ideas, and everyone draws inspiration from something/someone else. However, there’s no excuse for shamelessly plagiarizing an author who’s put hours of hard work into their writing.

Firstly, you’re going to get caught eventually: If you “borrow” a fanfiction story that was previously posted by another author and post it under a new title as your own, chances are that someone out there will have read the original version—perhaps even if the original story hasn’t been updated in years—and will call you on it and then alert the site administrators and the true author. And if that happens, not only will your reputation be tarnished, but you will ultimately end up looking pathetic for the following reason:

Secondly, as fanfiction authors, the only form of “payment” we receive is in the form of feedback, so what sort of satisfaction could possibly be derived from accepting praise for work that even isn’t one’s own? After all, you know that you didn’t put the hours of hard work and effort into it, so therefore how could positive feedback benefit you in any way?

Lastly, while no one is perfect and we all make mistakes, where’s your sense of morality? Your personal code of conduct? If you’re young and have been tempted to plagiarize another author for whatever reason, I hope you’ll reconsider after reading this, and remember that authors—whether they write for money or sheer entertainment—put many hours of effort into their writing, so the idea that any random Joe Blow could shamelessly copy-and-paste it and place his/her name on it is not only disturbing to the author, but insulting.

And if you’re an adult who has plagiarized/been tempted to plagiarize, well, you should already know better, shouldn’t you? ;) Just…don’t.


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