Friday, May 31, 2013

Armchair BEA 2013: Ethics

You can find links to other blogs taking part here.

I can just hear you thinking: “Ha! What on Earth do bloggers have to do with ethics? We are all just lovely people chatting about books. We do not need to even consider being ethical!” When I first began my blog I would have had those very same thoughts, but then came . . .

This was the mother of all scandals and it hit the blogging community shortly after I began blogging seriously. At the time, I was blissfully unaware of The Story Siren and her website, because I was not reading much YA fiction, and I would never have thought that plagiarism could be such a problem. If you somehow missed this online version of World War III, then this post from Cuddlebuggery is a good place to start (you will need to scroll down to get to the article).

To condense the story into its barest bones, The Story Siren found some interesting advice for bloggers on the web and copied it without crediting the original authors. She then made the whole mess much worse by refusing to acknowledge her plagiarism and the whole community fell into a form of nuclear meltdown as the lines were drawn between those for and against her behavior. I have to admit that I was shocked by her attempts to avoid apologizing for her plagiarism, something that I do not think she has done sincerely, even now. I was even more surprised by the countless people who thought that what she had done was not a problem and who would proceed to mercilessly persecute the bloggers who had asked her, quite politely, to acknowledge their hard work.

It was a very unpleasant event that left me wide-eyed and wondering if I was ever going to survive in such a vitriolic and amoral community.

As I mentioned in my introductory post, I have a background in education and have spent many years studying at university level. This means that I am very familiar with the issue of plagiarism, but it also means that I know how very simple it is to avoid it. There is nothing hard at all about not being a plagiarist.

All you have to do is give other people credit when you use their work!

As I said, this is not rocket science, and so I was amazed that someone would be impressed enough with a post that they would copy the ideas by rewording them and not simply quote them with links to the original. If something is worth copying, then why not acknowledge it? It seems simplest to share the love and say, “Look at this great article that I found!” Even more unbelievable was the attitude that The Story Siren could basically take anyone’s work and pass it off as her own, with no need to apologize when she was called out. The idea that she was somehow the victim of this whole debacle would have been laughable, if that had not been the opinion expressed by her and many of her supporters.

So, do we book bloggers have to be concerned about ethics? The simple answer is, “Yes!” If you decide to make use of anything that has been produced by someone else then you should really credit them and their effort. This applies to anything that you can transmit on your blog. Was that graphic available for use free of charge, or did you simply copy and paste it? Did you see someone else’s idea and adapt it without asking them or acknowledging where your inspiration came from? If you are in any doubt at all, give credit where it is due: nobody is going to complain that you are adding too many credits to your posts!


  1. Apparently, from another post, with images, it's not enough to just credit them. It's bizarre how tight all these rules are getting now.

    1. I think that depends on the licensing requirements of the original artist: I have only used free stuff, which sometimes comes with a request to post a credit, so I have no experience of actually paying for anything! :)


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