In the early days of the internet, everyone gave everyone else credit for the teeniest little thing. Information was still being passed the old fashioned way — by word of mouth, by ink on actual pieces of paper — and each new fact was something to be treasured, along with the person who found it for you. Pages intended to share information were peppered with italicized notes: Thanks to C for this information! W is always an amazing and generous resource. D tracked this down for us.
Now information is so easy to come by — just Google, cut, and paste — that "borrowing" it has become just as easy.
But the fact of the matter really is, you're not saying anything by plagiarising, other than perhaps "I'm not bright enough to dredge up an argument of my own."
Our culture seems to be losing its ability to think. Far too many people are flummoxed by the idea of having to find information when Google or Wikipedia don't provide them with a preformatted answer.
And that scares me. It really scares me.
Because when we forget how to think for ourselves, we're helpless.
There are lots of reasons people plagiarize. They do it because it's easier than writing a paper they don't care about writing. They do it because there's pressure to produce more and better stuff. They do it because they don't know how to say it better than the author.
But no matter what your reason is, you're not a writer if all you're doing is stapling together others' stories. At least, that's what the publishing industry decided during Harvard's Kaavya Viswanathan disaster. Even when uncited material stays on the market, like that in Ann Coulter's book, it reduces your credibility. If you can't make the argument with your own words, maybe you should sit down and let someone else do the arguing.
I really do believe that old adage that nothing under the sun is really new, but at least come up with a new way to talk about it, you know?
Listen, writing is hard work. The Muse is fickle, and sometimes writing stories feels less like magic than punishment, but the willingness — and ability — to ask questions that make other people uncomfortable, to plumb the abyss of the human Shadow, to find meaning in what might otherwise drive one mad...that makes it all worth it.
Fortunately, the Blog explosion and sites that encourage people to post original fiction have reminded people that churning out ideas — original ideas — is fun.
In June of 1993, there were 130 websites online1. By 2000, there were over 7 million2. As of November 2006, over 100 million3. As of this writing, the web is growing at more than 3.5 million sites per year3.