On Plagiarism and Linkage

I’m disturbed by what seems to be the very common practices on today’s Internet of copying another’s work without acknowledging the source, of quotations without attribution, and of quotations pretending to be one’s original work. I suppose this could be, to some extent, ignorance of polite behavior; in some cases, however, it appears to be out-right theft: inserting someone else’s work in one’s website in order to grab advertising revenue without effort. Some folks — ahem, Gawker — tread a very thin line here, and offer no value to the original author other than the barest mention of a link, while the world thinks that they arrived at some insight on their own.

Is one of these websites the original recipe? Did the same person post twice, forgetting to use a byline at one of the sites? Or is SeriousEats a thief?

  1. Food52: Potato Leek au Gratin
  2. Serious Eats: Potato Leek au Gratin

This behavior should be discouraged, and, if culpability can be determined, punished to the extent possible. I’m not overly concerned with copyright enforcement here, except as a means to an end, but with polite society, and so think shame and disgrace are just as important.

In cases where I suspect plagiarism, I will link with a rel="nofollow" attribute and an asterisk. In cases where I think one is the original, I’ll link to it instead of the first result on Google. One day, perhaps, the plagiarist will not rank as high, and the original author will get some respect.