Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Plagiarism: The Crime of Literary Theft

by Dr. Lillian Glass

Taking Your Car Or Your Intellectual Property - You Still Feel Violated

If someone takes your car and tells everyone they bought it when they actually stole it, you would feel violated and devastated. You would feel that way because someone took something of yours that was not theirs. You would feel upset because you worked so hard to earn the money to buy that car, and now it is gone.

If someone takes the exact words from a book you have written without giving you credit and places your material in a book they wrote, telling everyone that it was their material when they actually took it from you, you would feel violated and devastated as well. You would feel upset because you worked so hard to create that material.

The first example, the theft of a car, is a criminal matter in a court of law. The second example, someone taking what you have written and passing it off as their own, is a civil matter pursued in a court of law.

Whether a criminal or a civil matter, the resulting emotions that arise from both of these actions are identical. When you discover that someone has taken something of yours, especially something for which you have worked so hard to acquire or to create, you are angry, upset and feel violated. It doesn’t matter if it is a material good, like a car, or intellectual property, such as text in a book or lyrics for a song.

Marsha Petrie Sue, Copyright Infringer, Also Accused of Plagiarizing Intellectual Property

When I discovered that Marsha Petrie Sue, a professional speaker from Arizona, took the exact words I wrote in my 1992 book He Says She Says and put them in a book she wrote in 2007 called Toxic People, I was upset. I discovered what she had done because I was doing an Amazon search for one of my books, also titled Toxic People, which I wrote in 1995. When I discovered she used the same name as I had for my earlier book, I purchased her book. I was even more shocked to see my material in her book.

Marsha Petrie Sue also had the audacity to post the material from He Says She Says on her websie without attributing it to me. Instead, she gave permission to others to freely use and freely disseminate my work, but only if they included her website address to help promote her business.

So, I took the matter all the way to a United States Federal Court in Los Angeles where a unanimous jury of eight last month found Petrie Sue liable of copyright infringement. Now she will forever be known as a copyright infringer.

As this case became public--with every television venue picking up the story from ABC, CBS, NBC, CNBC, FOX, to Bloomberg, Businessweek, Yahoo! and Breitbart--I received supportive feedback and comments, and even questions like this one from crime reporter and radio host Levi Page, who asked, "Wonder who else she ripped off?"

Apparently Marsha Petrie Sue may not be a stranger when it comes to copying other people's materials without attribution and claiming them as her own. Stanford University Professor Robert Sutton back in 2008 openly assuced Petrie Sue of plagiarism in a post he wrote on her Amazon blog (which has hence been removed).

He wrote to Petrie Sue that she "took nearly word-for-word from an article." In addition, he wrote, "There are some words ommitted, but there is no attribution to original source and note below how you have pretty much simply removed some of the words from the opening of the original article. Note that I am a professor at Stanford, and directly taking text from a source without providing any attribution fits our definition of plagiarism."

The professor concluded his admonishment of Petrie Sue by writing: "Perhaps Amazon blogs don't need to follow the Stanford honor code, but I would never use so much text from another source without attribution, and I think that nearly all other universities--and authors--would agree that acknowledgment of the source is appropriate."

Fighting The Case For Everyone Who Writes Or Creates

I not only fought this legal battle against Marsha Petrie Sue for my own rights, but for the rights of anyone else who creates--any writer, songwriter, composer, artist, photographer, sculptor, architect, or designer.

No matter if someone takes your car or your intellectual property, know that you have rights through the legal system. No one has any business taking what is rightfully yours, and they must be stopped at all costs.


Anonymous said...

Good for you! What Marsha Petrie Sue did was deplorable and I am so glad she was held accountable for it.

My son is a writer and had the same thing happen to him.

There should be strict penalties including high fines for those who are caught doing this.

Catherine Rezza, ASU said...

Thanks for writing providing this example of some of the real-life effects of plagiarism. I will be citing/linking to this article on the syllabus and course website for my English composition class.

Catherine Rezza, ASU said...

Meant to write, "thanks for writing/providing"!

[Teachable moment w/r/t the importance of proofreading your work, which, in this case, means hitting the "Preview" button. Yeah, that's it, everybody-all part of the plan. ;)]

Kathy Da Silva said...

I just wish more women, could write about this crime, against their genius, I feel particularly vulnerable, because if you are just at the beginning of your publishing career, then the 'men' and or plagiarising offender, think, that the writing doesn't count....I've published a few poems..but, am in the middle of short stories, a novel, a couple of would be screen plays...I shared my work through email to personal friends, but the emails look hacked, or stolen..!