So the article titled “Authorship Gets Lost on Web” in USA Today has somewhat of a connection to the very interesting discussion from a few days ago about taking work that others do and publishing it on your own sites, commercial or otherwise. (Let me just say, btw, that I found that whole thread to be immensely thought provoking, especially the back and forth between Tom and Stephen, who both made my brain hurt. And, interestingly, that the publisher of the site in question took my feed out of the mix. It would have been even more interesting to get his/her thinking on this issue as well, but…) The article is a recap of some of the more blatant stealing that is going on as an author of a piece found his work had been published under the names of 13 other authors on the Web.

But here is the money-quote, I think, that describes the bigger shift “out there:”

In some quarters, plagiarism remains a serious offense. But where it involves the Internet, an acceptance of plagiarism is taking hold, and when confronted, offenders often shrug it off as hardly newsworthy. Pew Research two weeks ago said it found that of the 12 million adults who blog, 44% say they have taken songs, text or images and “remixed” them into their own artistic creation.

So, what to do? Certainly, there is a central ethic that is involved here, that of owning your own work and attributing the work of others. Putting your name on someone else’s stuff is theft, plain and simple, and should not be tolerated. But as the article points out, much of the problem is simple sloppy work in terms of sourcing and attribution. And the bigger problem is that it is being tolerated.

This is fundamental, third grade on work that we have to start doing with our students. But it’s also a challenge to us as educators to model the process and make it transparent. Tom caught me just yesterday not citing a source. (He’s good at that.) And it was a good reminder of how careful I need to be. In the grander scheme of things, we need to have some much broader discussions of how this all impacts our process, our curriculum and our teaching.

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