April 23, 2016 is World Book and Copyright Day. Thank goodness our creative work is protected by copyright laws! Some people will, of course, find ways to use another’s work and claim it as their own. The author does, however, have recourse through the court system when infractions are discovered. I’ve never had to go that route. I’m sure it’s a hassle. Expense is always involved when you have to sue someone.
The closest I’ve come to such a problem was after my sister and I published three genealogy books in 1996. A religious organization based in Utah asked us for permission to put all the information from our books online. We were floored! We had just sunk thousands of dollars into getting 500 hardcover copies of each book printed and knew it would take us years to recoup our money, so our answer was an unequivocal, “No!” We were just glad they asked us before they acted.
There was also a case a few years ago when I was asked to write an article for a genealogical society’s quarterly journal. I was flattered and thrilled to do so. After preparing the journal for printing, the editor was kind enough to send me a copy of my article to proofread. Imagine my shock when I discovered that she had added sentences here and there without indicating they were editor’s notes. It wouldn’t have been so bad if the information she had added had been true, but none of it was! When I called her on it, she said the content she had added had been assumptions. Since she did not see that she had done anything wrong, I pulled my article from her publication. It is a respected journal, so it saddens me now to know that nothing in it can be trusted. The editor was not claiming my work as her own, but my credibility as a writer and a historian would have been tarnished if the misinformation she inserted in my article had been published.
On April 5, 2016 Janice Wald of the blog, MostlyBlogging.com, shared a guest post by Kathleen Aherne. Ms. Ahearne’s website is called “The Blogger’s Lifestyle,” and her blog’s address is http://www.kathleenaherne.com/the-blog/. Her April 5 blog is a good source for the basics about copyright and plagiarism as those issues pertain to writing a blog. The post addresses images as well as the written word.
Unless an article or book is identified as fiction, we trust the author or editor. Once that trust is broken, it can never be completely restored.
Until next time,