Monday, September 16, 2019

More problems with plagiarism and book piracy

The New York Times has talked about academic plagiarism before (from online), especially with respect to fake books, but it has two recent important op-eds.
On Sept. 7, Farah Stockman and Carlos Mureithi wrote about the “term paper writing” business overseas, of course checked for by sites like Turnitin. 
Today, Richard Conniff touched the pirated book copy business again, with “Steal this Book?  There’s a Price”, where there are a few hundred copies of his own books.  
I think about 15 years ago, I heard from a couple teachers that a couple of my own sidebar essays on the legacy “do ask do tell” site had been plagiarized and turned in – that was before I became a sub myself.  I never really did anything about it.  It seems well for persons who turn to writing at mid-life to express their own analysis of something like “the draft v. gays in the military” because they had lived it personally.  Then that expands out.  And especially in the early Web 1.0 days with search engines favoring amateur content because of simpler HTML format, a lot of armchair pundits could do a whole generation’s thinking.  It sounds cool to pretend you’re in the elite – but as social media algorithms come along, the masses get dumber, and fall behind, and we get Trump as president, who does nothing good for integrity.
True, the most gifted kids love learning and science and reading for its own sake (take John Fish 101 on YouTube) and sometimes make spectacular contributions (like in the “Science Fair” movie for NatGeo). 
But the dropoff is quick, and a huge majority of today’s young adults understand only tribalism, not abstract thinking about principles.
Conniff makes the point that consumers have gotten used to content being free (despite the paywalls).  That raises the point that an author who offers content free because he can (and has enough assets from others sources) may be distorting the debate – and may be lowballing the entire system.
I’ve been personally concerned with this for some time, the last two years especially, as a problem close in importance to the better understood problem with clickbait.  Both can lead to more radicalization – a concern we never thought about ten years ago.  But now, indeed, we have Trump.
I do wonder if we could face a day when books won’t stay listed (as on Amazon) if they don’t maintain some kind of sales performance benchmark, even when POD.  It would make many would-be writers think twice entering the speech world on their own and avoiding conventional “partisan” and “identarian” activism. It sounds all too logical.  The radical Left would love this.

 Update: Sept 17: 

 I would also call attention to the IT Jobs blog (Sept 15) about the effects of California's AB 5 on freelance journalists, who could be "forced" to become employees and be so tethered if they write over a certain volume of articles for one publication.  It would be interesting to wonder if having your own separate blog(s) as I do would become an antidote (I don't live in CA, but could work with a CA publication, conceivably.) 

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