Unattributed paraphrasing as unspoken flattery?

From time to time I read bloggers who complain that there work is stolen by MSM “repeaters” and repackaged under the repeaters’ by-line or in a story under their name. This form of plagarism is hard to prove conclusively because unless the repeater uses phrases word for word, s/he can claim that fortuitous intellectual coincidence rather than malice was involved.

Then I read Kerre Woodham’s column in today’s HoS. The tone is similar to the thrust of my post earlier in the week about the rise and fall of Paul Henry. That’s OK, as a number of people have taken the view that TVNZ management is as much if not more responsible than Mr. Henry for the debacle that his “insensitive remarks” has turned into.

But what are the chances that she and I would both use the phrase “bullet proof” in paragraphs specifically referring to the moment at the Qantas Media Awards when Henry decided he was invulnerable? Since her version appears five days after mine did, is it a wonderful coincidence and example of great minds thinking alike or an example of the type of repeating that other bloggers have complained about? In other words, is this Kerre’s “Noelle moment” or am I reading too much into it and being too possessive of a widely used argument and phraseology?. Readers can compare both essays and decide for themselves.

Either way, I guess I should be flattered–except that she gets paid to write things that I dole up for free.

8 thoughts on “Unattributed paraphrasing as unspoken flattery?

  1. Homepaddock:

    it is not the phrase per se but the context in which it was used: a paragraph specifically dedicated to the QMA and Henry’s supposed reaction to the reception of his speech. As far as I can tell I was the only person publishing that particular angle as part of a discussion of the larger affair (in a paragraph specifically dedicated to it) before Woodham provided us with the benefit of her uncannily similar thoughts on the matter.

    But you could be right: its just a case of hackneyed cliches coincidentally converging on the same subject content.

  2. It is suprising the number of times it happens. I always put a link back to newspaper articles. Quite often a blog I read makes me stand up and go wow. Bernard Hickey wrote one today I thought was out standing. I in effect rewrote it for my MySpace blog but I dumbed it down a lot and took away some of the New Zealand emphasis. There is no way I could claim this as my own work and I certainly used some of his phrasing but not in a way I could quote him. I adopted the Kiwiblog Hat Tip solution with a link back to his blog. When Farrar comes out with one of his gems I just steal it with a link back to Kiwiblog saying usually nicked from Farrar. I don’t think I have nicked anything from this blog yet but I assume that either a hat tip or or a link just saying ” nicked from Pablo ” would be acceptable ?

  3. I had to go back and check which blog I was thinking of stealing from you it was the Argentina / Mexico one. I still might if you have no objections it was a fantastic blog on a part of the world I have very little idea about.

  4. IHStewart:

    TBH, Until I read the HoS piece today I had not really paid much attention to the phenomenon other than to note other bloggers disgust at the “repeaters” practices of stealing bloggers work without attribution. Nor do I have as much of a concern about inter-blogger rephrasing without attribution simply because most bloggers are not journalists or academicians who have professional understanding of plagarism as a grave ethical transgression (it is after all intellectual fraud).

    I think your practice is fine. My approach is to generally attribute things I have read elsewhere even though I may not recall the specific author or source, and to specifically attribute when I do.

  5. I only ever think that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
    I have felt similar twinges of deja vu, but Pablo, that’s the price of being right(ish) most(ish) of the time.
    Atribution where due, but there’s no copyright in ideas.

    That is the property rule of capitalism and we’re stuck with it for now.

  6. EM:

    Thanks for the comment. I am not getting my knickers in a knot over this because even if it was deliberate it shows that my blogging is not just a self-absorbed intellectual circle-jerk.

    But I do now have more sympathy for the complaints of other, mostly right wing bloggers who feel that their thoughts or material have been poached without credit.

  7. My main business rival plagiarised a few sentences from my website and used them in his own site, word for word. Only I would notice because I recognised my own style of writing.

    I was furious but now I use it to my advantage by mentioning the plagiarism to would-be clients if they happen to mention my competitor.

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