Let’s Talk About Plagiarism with Sarah Cross

What do I know about plagiarism?

I know that when I was a kid, when it came time to write research papers for school, my teachers would tell us to read a bunch of books on the topic, and then “put the information into your own words.” So for years, I thought that writing a paper meant “paraphrase someone else’s ideas, or a bunch of people’s ideas.” I thought that as long as I changed the wording, it was okay. I know now that that’s not the case, but I wonder how many people still think that approach is not plagiarism. Because it is.

Plagiarism doesn’t just mean copying someone’s exact words and passing them off as your own. Copying another person’s ideas counts, too.

The Little Mermaid Ariel's Voice

The Little Mermaid © Disney

LEAVE THE VOICE-THEFT TO URSULA

My writing hasn’t been plagiarized–not that I know of, anyway. But there was a time when someone used a phrase from one of my books in a blog post–not as an excerpt, but as if it was their own wording. It was a weird phrase; no one would put those particular words together by accident. I figured the person had probably read my book, absorbed that wording, and then forgotten where it had come from. It was just a phrase, sometimes that happens, and it wasn’t a big deal.

BUT … I felt like someone had stolen my voice. Those were my words, and someone else was using them. It was a really creepy feeling.

When you plagiarize, and you steal someone’s words or ideas, you’re not only doing yourself a disservice, you’re erasing the creator’s contribution. When we put things out into the world–a story, an article, a piece of art–it’s because we have something to say and we want to be heard. If you’re speaking with someone else’s voice, not only is YOUR voice not being heard (which hurts you, in the long run), you’re preventing that person from connecting with their audience.

If you want to share someone else’s ideas, do it right. Link to that person’s post, or their website, or their tumblr–wherever you found the thing you want to share. Give credit.

And speaking of credit …

ARTISTS ARE PEOPLE, TOO

Words are not the only things on the internet that require credit. I think it’s easy to view photography, illustration, etc. as decoration, especially with sites like tumblr, Pinterest, and weheartit making it so easy to share images that you find online. And I know that a lot of people think that adding a line like “copyright belongs to whoever made this” or “I don’t own any of these pictures” is sufficient, because so long as you’re not claiming ownership, your use of that art is harmless.

It’s not.

The artist deserves credit. If they’ve posted their work online, chances are they’re trying to build an audience for that work. So if you like what they’ve done, why not help them out and include their name and a link to their website or deviantART, flickr, blog, etc.?

If the picture was uncredited when you found it, you can still figure out who the artist is, since Google allows you to search by image. You can upload the picture, or paste the image URL directly into the search box, and Google will show you where else on the internet that picture appears. You might not always be able to identify the artist that way, but there’s no excuse not to try.

IN CLOSING: GIVE CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE

The most hurtful thing about plagiarism is that when you steal someone’s work, you ignore their contribution and you erase them. When you use art without credit, you erase the artist from the picture. You’re saying that the work has so little value, the person who made it doesn’t warrant acknowledgment. And that’s not the way anyone wants their work to be treated.

From the Official Author Site of Sarah Cross: 

Sarah Cross is the author of the fairy tale novel Kill Me Softly, the superhero novel Dull Boy, and the Wolverine comic “The Adamantium Diaries.” She loves fairy tales, lowbrow art, secret identities, and silence.

If you want to know more about her, read one of her books. Her soul is in there somewhere.

Current art inspirations & obsessions can be found at tumblrFairy Tale Mood, or pinterest

For more info on Sarah visit her website: www.sarahcross.com