A friend of mine recently sent me this list of the “9 Things That Will Disappear In Our Lifetime.”
In brief, the list is: Post office, checks, newspapers, books, land line telephones, music, television, “things,” and privacy.
I was going to write about these massive social and cultural changes, and their affect on science fiction writing. For example, in my upcoming novel “Stellarnet Rebel,” phones, TV sets, mp3 players and computers no longer exist. Everything — conversations, books, music, vids, news — happens on the net. Personal devices are worn like clothing. Access is available via table tops, walls, and other surfaces.
But then I changed my mind.
Instead, I want to add a 10th item to the list: Plagiarism.
Because when I went to track down a link to the “9 Things” list, I found not only Charles Scott Kimball’s March 11, 2011 post, but also several other posts at later dates… with the exact same text… posted to various blogs by other authors, and presented as if it was original content… without attribution to any original author. As Charles notes, he is not the originator either, but his was the earliest entry I could find in the Googler.
I love the Internet with its social networks, blogs, memes and rapid sharing of information. I think this is an amazing development for humanity. And I am a big fan of Creative Commons. But every single one of those CC licenses includes a requirement to give credit where credit is due.
The source of the plagiarism scourge can also be its solution. Plagiarism is made easier by the Internet, but it also allows us to throw a block of text into a search engine and discover where it’s being reproduced.
What we need now is for someone to invent an application that will save time by searching for instances of an author’s work and automatically posting a comment on every offending website, to the effect of: “This work appears to be a copy of an original post by (your name here) on (date).”
The application might also compile a database of possible offenders, for follow up by the author… or a lawyer. Which could turn into bigger business than ambulance chasing. That might be an interesting premise for a SF novel: A dystopian future where copyright laws have become ridiculously oppressive and corporations own everything from the word “love” to the phrase “Happy Birthday” to the color blue, and lawyers scour the net for offenses… But, that’s a topic for another time. lol