Call It Please "Research"

May 21, 2010
Posted by Jay Livingston

The Internet seems to be a mostly copyright-free zone. Norms about using other people’s material are still evolving, and even when there’s consensus about the norms, who can enforce them?

Two weeks ago, in a post about political rumors, I took some information put together by another blogger, J.L. Bell, who had gotten it from Snopes. I turned Bell’s numbers into a simple bar graph, checked Snopes myself, and added a few comments. I linked to Bell’s blog. (I figured everyone knows Snopes, so I didn’t bother with a link.)

About ten days later, Lisa at Sociological Images, posted my graph along with a few sentences of mine and a few of Bell’s. along with a few brief comments of her own. She gave credit where due and provided the links.

Now a political blogger, Digby has pretty much copied Lisa’s post wholesale (including the links to me and Bell).

She has deleted one or two brief sentences and added one of

her own. Other than that, it’s Lisa’s post. No link to Sociological Images, no hat tip, nothing.

(Click on the image for a larger view.)
See for yourself. Lisa’s post is here ; Digby’s is here.

Digby is usually more careful. His Her posts often consist mostly of quotes from other sources with his her own brief comments interposed and links to the original sources. It’s the kind of borrowing and linking that many bloggers do. Bell borrowed from Snopes, I borrowed from Bell, Lisa borrowed from me.

But what Digby did with Lisa’s post goes beyond borrowing.


mike3550 said...

Jay -- Digby is a woman, not that it has anything to do with plagiarism. I wish English had gender-neutral pronouns.

Jay Livingston said...

Mike, thanks. I assumed "Digby" was a man's name, probably because the only other Digby I know of is E. Digby Baltzell, Phildelphia Gentleman, Penn sociologist, and coiner of the term WASP.