Theft by any other name…

Some readers may not know that I also write a gardening blog: – soon to become “West Texas Gardener.”  I work really hard to write informative posts about raising vegetables in our challenging conditions (dry climate, alkaline soil, wind, and these days triple-digit heat).  I also read and subscribe to other organic gardening blogs. More and more I am seeing something that, when I was teaching, would have earned my students an automatic failing grade: plagiarism.  The practice of stealing someone’s research, writing, etc., and posting it in your blog without giving credit is reprehensible.  It’s simply another form of theft.

Recently, I read a blog and realized that the contents probably couldn’t have been the words of the blogger.  So, I took a suspect phrase, entered it into Google and voila!  There it was under the original author’s name.  Further digging revealed that several bloggers had made unauthorized use of the same article!  I re-read the blog I had opened just to make sure I had not missed the reference or the credit and, regretfully, it was not there.

To write informative blogs, we all have to do some research.  It is only right, however, to give credit to the sources of research quoted.  In the above case, the thief merely cut from the original author and pasted into his post as if it was his own work…no quotation marks, no footnotes, no nothin’.  I call it dishonest and lazy.

I read voraciously about organic gardening, especially if it deals with gardening in hot, dry climates and alkaline soils.  Information gleaned from years of research gets stirred up in my little gray cells, blends with my own experience and comes out in my writing, sometimes within the hour, sometimes years later.  But one thing I will promise you: I will not knowingly quote someone’s research without giving credit.  And, I certainly will not “cut and paste.”  That just wouldn’t be right.


Filed under Blogs & Blogging, Good & Evil, honor, Integrity, morality, Quotations, Respect, Trust, Writing

5 responses to “Theft by any other name…

  1. I’m with you on the stealing deal.

    Whatever I had left in the garden that I had struggled to save from the late frosts and now blistering heat has now been chewed up by the grasshoppers. Hope the gardens in Texas are faring better!

  2. You’re absolutely right, Dwight. (Right Dwight – that has a certain ring to it, don’t you think?). It’s theft of intellectual property, and technically (though don’t quote me on this, it’s not my field) it’s protected by copyright.

    The Web, though is very sloppy in that regard. It’s so easy to cut and paste, and it’s very unlikely that one will be caught lifting someone else’s work. But a quick email to the offender often times will get you some attribution, which is usually all that is needed, since you probably earn little or no money from it.

    I once used a cartoon I liked, without attribution, and the owner contacted me, and I then gave him the credit and a link. It was easily resolved, but I was embarrassed, especially as a lawyer, for having stepped in that hole. I should know better. As it is, I probably still use non-public domain graphics, though I try to link them back to their source where I can.

  3. dwhitsett

    Regrettable about the grasshoppers! So far, I have not seen a single one in the garden. It may be that the birds like them almost as much as they like pecking and chomping on my tomatoes and Swiss Chard. My garden seems to be doing well. See a photo on my latest post at
    I have read a bunch of your blogs…most enjoyable…I’ll put you on the blogroll.

  4. dwhitsett

    Hi John. Writing on this subject provided me an opportunity for some introspection. I probably have been guilty of using illustrations without proper attribution until about a year ago. I’m guessing that most of what I used was public domain but it is so hard to tell that now I either create the graphic myself or at least, as you do, tell where I got it.

  5. Thanks for reading and your comments. I’m honored to be on your blogroll.

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