The Devil’s Experiment or How Anachronist Has Turned into a Brazen Plagiarist Hussy

No, rien de rien, no je ne regrette rien…”

You know I can turn into a proper she-devil when stirred properly. This little experiment of mine might shock you but I feel it’s the time to reveal the whole truth. I have been plagiarized. Many times over. I don’t search for the culprits because I don’t give a damn. I am of the opinion that if you publish something on the Internet sooner or later you might find a copy or two on somebody else’s site and no, your name or nick won’t feature on a prominent place. Deal with it or don’t publish anything at all. Plagiarists are like mosquitoes: you can deter some of them if you are lucky but you’ll never eliminate the problem.

Still after a while I grew curious what can actually be done to people who copy and paste from your blog without giving due credit or any credit at all. I had a huge problem with my research, though – my own laziness and a complete lack of any visceral feelings toward plagiarists were two effective stoppers. As I said earlier I really don’t mind whether anybody publishes my whole reviews, essays or particular sentences taken from them. It didn’t bode well for my project because I simply lacked motivation to push those people in any way, let alone threaten them in a serious manner.

Then a devilish thought crossed my mind and stuck there: what if I turned into a plagiarist myself and done a bit of first-hand research? What would happen to me and my blog? Would I be punished, ostracized, taken to court even? Would my blog be suspended, closed, made to disappear forever? Overall I wanted somebody to answer a simple question for me: what can be done online to teach you a lesson that ‘thou shalt not steal’ other people’s words without their permission?

I needed somebody motivated and irate. I needed an innocent victim. I am a rogue, I know. I admit that I’ve tried to bait several bloggers but nobody seemed to be inclined to raise the hell and hit the roof for me. They were as laidback as me and I feared my little experiment was turning into a complete disaster until one day I finally saw a light in the tunnel. I found a very nice blogger, Heather, and her blog which was named Obsessed With MyShelf . Very close to “obsessed with myself” don’t ya think? I didn’t doubt a blogger who calls so his or her more or less private place in the blogosphere would guard his or her reviews like dragons guard their hoards. I was fortunate enough to be proven right.

After publishing my review of Cecilia London’s delightful book ‘Dissident’ with some stolen paragraphs I got the following e-mail.

My name is Heather and I run the blog Obsessed With Myshelf. I saw your review of Dissident by Cecilia London when she RT’d it and I’m really glad that you liked the book. I happened to love it too and love supporting new authors, like I’m sure you do.

However, I couldn’t help but notice that a couple of lines of your review were incredibly familiar to me…so much so that I went back and looked at my own review of Dissident and noticed that a couple of sentences from your review seem to come directly from my review. 

See below:

My review: “Mostly, I’m in love with the fact that this book wasn’t dumbed down. It’s unapologetically an intellectual smut novel, which made me all warm in all the right places. There’s suspense, danger, anger, love, and (most importantly) delicious sex.”

Your review: “Mostly, I’m in love with the fact that this book wasn’t dumbed down that much. It’s unapologetically an intellectual smut novel, which made me all warm in all the right places. There’s suspense, danger, anger, love, and sex.”

My review: “I don’t even know what sub-genre to really put this book in, but if I had my way it’d be political dystopian intellectual smut. Sound enticing?”

Your review: “I don’t even know what sub-genre to put this book in, but if I had my way it’d be political dystopian smut. Sound enticing?”

If this is a coincidence, it’s a really really crazy one. I absolutely do not mind at all when people quote my reviews – I find it to be a huge honor. However, I really dislike when people take my words as their own. It’s not only inappropriate, but frankly, it’s plagiarism.

If you could please provide an explanation for this, I would appreciate it. In the alternative, please feel free to quote my review, or change the language to your own.

I love this community immensely and hope to only foster good relationships. I hope that this is just a crazy mistake of judgment and that we can move on from this.

I look forward to your response.

Thanks,”

I have to say the quotes were not exactly accurate because I did edit my review slightly but apparently Heather was in such a hurry to contact me and inform about my malfeasance that she failed to notice it. I understand her zealotry and I don’t criticize her for it. Anyway after reading her mail I hooted and cheered – I knew I have struck gold, real pure gold: I found a blogger that truly cared and would react to my nefarious plans as I wished to but never had enough motivation. Now I would like to thank and apologize profusely to Heather and Ms. London whose review and book was cruelly used by me in that experiment. The choice was out of my control, and I am entirely to blame that I decided to follow my mad scheme through. So, blame me. Unfollow me. Call me names. My behaviour for those four-five days was deliberately despicable. Yes, I deserve punishment. Thank you.

Let’s return to my project. Before I started it I had thought about the whole premise long and hard; yes, it was premeditated as hell. As a result of these deliberations I decided to behave in the most infuriating and insufferable manner possible – so do not react at all. Whatever Heather (or anybody) would have thrown my way I was to keep mum. I didn’t want to cause more damage than it was planned. Accordingly, when people unfollowed me on Twitter and expressed their disgust I said nothing and waited. I admit it was the worst part. Fortunately I didn’t have to wait long.

The second e-mail from Heather was written in a much more gung-ho in tone and very rightly so, taking into account my cheek combined with my lack of reaction:

“Portia,
I’m incredibly dissapointed that not only have you not responded to my email or edited your post but instead you are encouraging comments on your blog that complimented MY WORDS that you have used as our own.
Please be advised that if your post is not edited immediately that I intend to write my own blog post about your actions. Because I believe in giving credit where credit is due I will be quoting your blog extensively.
I also intend to review your blog host’s terms of service as I’m fairly certain that your actions are in violation thereto.
Again, I implore you to edit your post immediately. As you seem to respond quickly on social media and your blog, I will hold off on taking any action until 1pm EST today to allow you to do the right thing.
I don’t look forward to any of these actions and I don’t relish in writing this email but I cannot sit idly by while another person takes my words and uses them as her own.
I look forward to your cooperation.
Heather”

Oh dreary, dreary me. I must give it to Heather: she can really sound intimidating, doing a much better job that I would have been able to do.  ‘In violation thereto’ made me simply  squeak in my boots! Legalese pure and simple!  Still, like a real brazen hussy I did not answer at all and did not change my post any further.

A result?

Three people unfollowed me on Twitter (and I returned the favour but without any comment just in order to stay in my chosen role for the time being).  Heather wrote her piece and her friend I guess sent me a very nice notification which you can admire below. So far two people liked her tweet, one of them being Ms London herself. One person criticizing me for my misdeed even somehow managed to follow me, making my poor head spinning a bit. So you want to follow a known plagiarist, a person who you are criticizing publicly? Ooookay, no problem, thanks I guess.

My Twitter notifications as on Friday, last week.

My blog wasn’t suspended or anihilated; during as many as four-five days, an eternity in digital era terms, I weren’t contacted by anybody from the host or asked any questions at all even though the plagiarized review was fully visible all the time and Heather did try to make a fuss, bless her. I got more hits than usual on the blog but it’s only understandable – people always want to see the misdeed with their own eyes. Nobody’s resigned my blog e-mail subscription (as on Sunday I mean). For some hours I even had more followers on Twitter than I had begun my experiment with.  As much as I deserved it I wasn’t practically punished – I got off with just a very slight slap on the wrist. My conclusions?

You might despise plagiarists but they won’t disappear because of your hatred. You might feel they are filthy thieves but you can do little to prevent your blog content from being filched. You can always make a fuss, call them names, drag them through mud, but be prepared: few people would notice. Or care. Personally I won’t be changing my own laidback policy toward plagiarizers any time soon. I simply don’t see any point.

ETA: the cherry on the top of the cake. My notification board as on today – enjoy.

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18 Responses to The Devil’s Experiment or How Anachronist Has Turned into a Brazen Plagiarist Hussy

  1. blodeuedd says:

    0_0 Ana you are so strange

  2. Melfka says:

    I have to say I disagree with you on the view on plagiarism. I don’t think “get over it” is a way to go. Many people don’t realize it’s “wrong”, while others try to profit on somebody else’s work.
    The problem with your experiment is that both you and your victim have relatively small reach, and there’s little to be done in such case. But I’ve recently read about two Polish books (printed by traditional publishers) that have turned out to be plagiarised from popular blogs, and in both cases law suit is in place.
    Yes, the heavens did not collapse and your blog wasn’t annihilated: and it won’t be if we all keep quiet and treat such people as “just mosquitoes”. We can’t do much (if I plagiarised someone, you can’t even send a request to a WP admin to take my site down, since it’s hosted externally), but we should speak about it. I hope for the day when plagiarism will meet the same reaction from the community as sexist and racist comment. We not always have the means to fight plagiarism (a law suit over one review that didn’ bring real profits seems a waste of time), but at least we should try to make everyone aware that it is not acceptable.
    But I ranted enough about it last year on my blog.

    • Oh do provide a link to your rant! Pretty please! I am all for a meaningful discussion.

      I agree with your ‘limited range’ argument. Still it’s like with real crime. If you don’t employ ‘no tollerance’ policy plenty of people out there would cross a limit after a limit. I wanted to show how much leeway is allowed on the blogosphere. I managed to do that with the unintentional help of Heather. It’s better to be aware what might await your posts out there than not.

      • Melfka says:

        As you said, it’s like with crime: people who want to do it (or feel compelled to do it), will do it anyway. But only by talking about it, by saying it’s wrong, etc. we can make sure we’re creating a deterrent factor for all those who just don’t think it’s all that great deal (and don’t understand it’s a crime).
        Many people will not do it, if they are constantly reassured they will be ostracised for doing so. It’s the feeling of lack of consequences that makes the problem bigger.

        And my rant is here: http://melfka.com/archives/713
        (That was last year, and last week another case of a blog plagiarised into a book surfaced in Poland. I can send you links to the cases via PM, didn’t want to point fingers in the actual post.)

      • That was my intention: to turn your attention to the plagiarism problem. I didn’t want to’ tear anybody apart’, although I am not surprised by visceral feelings and nasty comments. Still sometimes without a scandal there is no discussion and without discussion there is no awareness and/or changes

      • Melfka says:

        I didn’t catch that then. Maybe I shouldn’t have read it before my morning coffee, but your post read to me more as “It’s going to happen, and I prove you can’t do anything about it, so just get over it” versus “Umm… Guys? I think we have a serious problem with plagiarism. Let’s try to do something about it.”

      • It seems the lack of morning coffee didn’t hinder your reasoning. Yes, the post has a more fatalistic than ‘let’s do something about it’ overtone. I am pretty sure that low-profile plagiarizing is here to stay and either you learn to live with it or you quit posting on the Internet anything whatsoever. Still personally, as lackadaisical as I sound, I wouldn’t be offended if there were strickter policies implemented.

  3. Paulinemross says:

    Ana, just because nothing bad happened to you or your blog doesn’t make it right. You upset a complete stranger, who’d never done you any harm, and that’s not right, either.

    I’m shocked.

    • I agree that the whole project was brushing against a no-no area. Still I feel I wouldn’t have got a real, honest reaction if I behaved otherwise. No, just asking (as suggested in those quite rude tweets presented above) is not the same. I apologised. I do it again. I DON’T regret it. My victim had every opportunity to defend herself and she took it willingly, with a little help of her friends.

  4. owmyshelf says:

    Other than my tweet this morning, this is likely to be the only response you’ll receive from me. Although I intend to share your post because as I stated earlier, it speaks for itself.

    However, be clear that I did nothing “willingly” other than write an amazing review for which you decided to plagiarize. I have never met, spoken to, or heard of you prior to your “experiment”.

    I completely disagree with your actions, your methods and your character, but as I won’t be able to convince you, I’m not even going to try.

    I am taking the very high road and I will continue to do so, because this is not what the blogging community should be about. We should be supporting each other – not tearing each other down for the sake of, what, because you were bored?

    I’m glad you wrote this post because it shows your true self. My emails and tweets also show myself. And at the end of the day, I’m proud of my actions, my blog and my friends. If you’re also proud of yours, then that says more than I ever could.

  5. heidenkind says:

    Well I do declare, I am shocked as well. *fans self* lol I remember that review, and thinking it was a bit strange from you, but I was like, Whatever! Little did I know stranger shenanigans were in the works. 😉

    Honestly, stopping plagiarism on the Internet is like playing whack-a-mole: a total waste of time. I send an email asking the plagiarist to remove their posts if I come across them, but honestly I don’t have the the time or energy to go looking for such things. Morally, do I believe it’s wrong? Yes. Practically do I think that matters? Unfortunately, based on personal experience, no.

    You, however, are a treasure. I’m totally going to plagiarize this post. 😉

  6. Briana says:

    Despite the length of your post, I’m not quite sure what you’re trying to do here. If you want to know what the consequences of plagiarism could be this was a poorly designed “experiment.” Nothing happened to you because the bloggers you plagiarized decided not to pursue the issue further than sending a polite email and then publicly outing you as a plagiarist when you continued.

    This doesn’t mean that they couldn’t have done something else or that something “worse” won’t happen to other people who read this and decide that plagiarism must be okay or safe. Plagiarism could have both personal and legal consequences. People could stop following your blog. You could lose author and publisher contacts. You could lose friends. If potential employers or other people find your blog and find you plagiarized, you could be fired, or not hired for a job you otherwise would have gotten.

    The fact that plagiarism is hard to stop from a practical viewpoint doesn’t make it right. It hurts the people you plagiarize and it could hurt you.. I don’t think there’s any point in taking even a risk of being sued or having your blog shut down when it’s easier and more moral just to write your own posts.

    If really want to know what “can” happen to bloggers who plagiarize, you can find plenty of examples just by doing a Google search. Claiming that you’re doing an experiment to see what happens to people who break laws and hurt other bloggers is not a great or even a logical explanation. And if this experiment is over now, are you going to remove the plagiarized posts, or credit the original authors, or at least cross link to this post from the plagiarized ones?

    • Briana,
      I really don’t know what was so unclear to you. Let me quote myself here:
      “Still after a while I grew curious what can actually be done to people who copy and paste from your blog without giving due credit or any credit at all. ”

      If it is not clear enough then really I can’t explain it simpler. I wanted a first-hand experience which counts the most in any research.

      If really want to know what “can” happen to bloggers who plagiarize, you can find plenty of examples just by doing a Google search

      It is NOT the same. Being still in the devilish mood I might say that following your simplistic way of thinking you might also state that if you really want to know what “can” happen to girls who have sex you can find plenty of examples by doing a Google search. 😀 Good luck with persuading anybody.

      Claiming that you’re doing an experiment to see what happens to people who break laws and hurt other bloggers is not a great or even a logical explanation.

      I still don’t see what great ‘hurt’ has been done to Heather. Has she lost ANYTHING? Friends? Job? Contacts? Good opinion? Her blog? I revealed my misdeed. I apologised. I quoted her polite e-mails verbatim. I apologised again. She found her high way. She asserted her rights. Where is the ‘hurt’ part I beg you? Oh wait, I know. Her friends had to post so many snide comments on their blogs and on Twitter that their little fingers hurt. Right.

      And if this experiment is over now, are you going to remove the plagiarized posts, or credit the original authors, or at least cross link to this post from the plagiarized ones?

      It is a rather insolent question. Are trying to be judgemental? Anyway I don’t feel I have to anwser you but I will. The other posts have been changed/removed long ago. Heather didn’t ask me to remove hers so it will stay as it is. It is a part of my experiment after all.

      I don’t think there’s any point in taking even a risk of being sued or having your blog shut down when it’s easier and more moral just to write your own posts.

      It seems to me that you are being deliberately obtuse and simply DETERMINED not to see my point. Fine. None as blind as those who don’t want to see.

  7. Anna says:

    Just like to point out that nothing being done beyond the person nicely asking you to remove the information you copied probably has more to do with what information WordPress.com would hand over to you in fighting the case after a DMCA notice is filed and the fact that you’ve already demonstrated that you have a twisted sense of amusement.

    A lot of hosts, were you self hosted, would have taken your site down completely and given you no say in the matter. Either permanently or until you took the information down – the lack of something happening is more about where you’re hosted rather than the person you stole from not wanting to do anything further.

    Just something to think about for you and anyone else who thinks it’s cute or funny to steal someone’s hard work.

    Furthermore, apologizing does not grant absolution, especially since from the get go you knew you were doing something wrong, admitted it and then continued to do it – even sought it out. Despite your lengthy and somewhat intelligent sounding article, you’ve proven nothing beyond the fact that you’re really good at acting like a child.

  8. Carole Rae says:

    Yeah, she personally emailed me to complain about you. I was honest and said I did not have your ear, so my words meant nothing and that I was sorry. It is funny how quickly people turn and abandon someone they “followed” and “liked” instead of hearing both sides of the story.

    Fun experiment and you make an excellent point

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