Friday, June 28, 2013
Why Plagiarism is a problem
Then there was an unrelated Facebook posting about reporting plagiarism and piracy when you see it (I am not at liberty to link that though).
And this one has been sitting in my drafts now for a bit.
Then to top it all off I got a renewal notice today at work that my subscription to Turnitin was updated.
One thing we should do though is talk about what plagiarism is and what it means to the gaming community.
Look, there is no why to gloss this over, plagiarism is theft. It is the theft of ideas, or expressions or words and it still theft even if you can't touch it or feel it. It is intellectually dishonest and frankly arrogant.
Turnitin actually has a nice infographic on the various types of plagiarism and how prominent they are in academics (the data they have). http://www.turnitin.com/assets/en_us/media/plagiarism_spectrum.php.
The types of abuse we see most often are of the CTRL-C and Mashup variety (and I can think of a few cases of the 404 Error type).
We have had our share in the RPG world of late. So for the Tracey Alley types she used something and then tried to pass it off as her own. If you are smart you there two things going on here. There is the willful use of someone else's ideas AND the arrogant presumption that it was ok to do so because no one was watching. Somewhere below that is the Mykal Lakim types that try to pass of someone else's work as their own and then stubbornly and arrogantly defends their rights to do so. Where you might argue that in the first case she "forgot" (which I don't buy) where the map and names came from, in the second there is art and text lifted right out of other peoples work. The Jim Shipmans of the world might be the worse, taking the material from multitudes of others and passing it off not only as his own, but selling it as his own against the repeated requests of the IP owners.
Now bringing these to light is never a good thing really. It causes animosity and even ends up putting money in the pockets of the people selling stolen goods. Hell I have to admit I have wanted to shell out the bucks for a copy of Lakim's Vampire book just to see how bad it really is. But I am loathe to give him any money.
The accusations of being an "internet bully" also come up. To that I say, what else do we have? Getting the word out is the only recourse a fan has. If the above linked authors (and more I know personally) are to be believed they are very appreciative of the negative attention thrown on the thief. Plus I have purchased books from authors and game designers because their material had been stolen as a show of support. I have this blog and a little bit of cash to throw at the problem.
But people around here will say, but what about the OSR? Haven't they based their entire existence on plagiarism of one level or another? Well I do believe in Intellectual Property (and Intellectual Capital) but I also believe in community. The OSR as a whole is a community using a set rules release specifically for the purposes of sharing and publishing your own materials based on it. This isn't a contradiction. Now I do feel that some products out there are a little too close to the source material. I also feel we simply do not need another retroclone to play the exact same game we have been playing for years. But I also know market realities. I could have released my Witch book for example using a proprietary game system and my sales would have been about 5% of what they were. The OGL does the heavy lifting it also brings in an audience.
Sometimes I feel this is often more Quixotic than some of my other crusades or activism. And I am atheist that grew up in the bible belt, so you would think I'd know a hopeless cause when I see one.
I don't know. What are your thoughts?
Do I have a point or should I just go back to my windmills?