Book Blogging 101Two topics have come up in conversation just recently that have Book Blogging 101 written all over them. One of which affected me directly.

Topic #1: Copying & Pasting another bloggers policies

Topic #2: Meme Mockery is it Plagiarism or an Etiquette Issue?

How about it readers? What would you do if you found your Review Policy copied word for word on another blogger’s blog? This happened to a friend of mine and she asked me if it was something that she should worry about.

My response. “Um yeah.”

Let us go over what is not protected under copyright law, I actually gathered this information from plagiarism.org1:

  1. Widely known facts and figures, i.e. Earth is a planet, seven seas, etc.
  2. Mass distributed compilations of information
  3. U.S. Government published information
  4. Public Domain with proper citation

Your personal review policy, FTC disclaimer, giveaway/privacy policy, is it public domain? It’s not widely known facts (your review policy is not common knowledge to me!), it’s not published in a compilation, like a phone book or something and unless you are redistributing government policy info it wouldn’t fall within those lines. Therefor those words that you wrote out for your policies are your own and as such, protected under copyright. Technically. You might not care as much, but if it’s your own words, it should not be redistributed and painted as their own.

After a very heated discussion with the blogger that had her policy ripped we came to the conclusion, that 1) the blogger that copy and pasted her review policy was foolish, especially in light of recent events and 2) it was the offending blogger’s responsibility to remove the policy and replace it with her own original text

It, luckily, was removed, with of course some lame excuse in lines of “The Dog actually posted it instead of me, because he knows HTML and I don’t.” But, the end result was a desired one and now we can all learn from this.

What did I learn? To check my own policy. Guess what? Google was stock full of my words all over the place. It was so much that I doubted myself. Did I inadvertently rewrite something common? It does make you think, because yes it is POLICY and there are going to be a ton of similar phrases. There is only so many ways you can say “I accept books in exchange for an honest review”.

But, it was my writing. It had my OWN spin on a common thought. The FTC Disclaimer was the big one, so much so, that I had to email multiple recipients…because it was the whole thing, not just parts…and you can’t claim coincidence on a whole paragraph.

“On checking my blog for possible discrepancies, it has come to my attention that we all seem to have the same exact FTC Disclaimer…”

I thought hard before I sent that email, I really did. It’s an FTC Disclaimer! Again — what is the big deal? And really everyone has something similar. Yet, again though, I had my own spin on. My bit of humor that I like to weave into everything I write. I used big words like “bribery or cajoling” (I was proud of it). It might not be as dastardly as taking someone’s review…but to copy and paste anything is really not a good practice to participate in.

My main reaction from the bloggers, besides the one that claimed pure innocence and coincidence, was that they didn’t think taking Policy and Disclaimers was wrong. They figured it is just policies, it’s like re-posting Pool Rules or something. Which can be true if they were common facts and rules. Say, if you were reciting copyright laws or the FTCs actual rule.

The main rule of thumb when crafting anything for your blog, no matter how small – put it into your own words and if you are gathering information from somewhere, cite that information. The only times you don’t have to cite your sources is if it’s a compilation of works — like say new releases that you gathered from publisher’s sites.

Just say no to Copy & Paste

Use other blogs as inspiration not as your actual source. If you use their policies as a go-by – email them and let them know, as their permission – because even if you rewrite their words, but have it set up similar you might be stepping into an etiquette issue if they stumble upon it and make assumptions. In this case it is not easier to act first and ask forgiveness later.

The memes that have popped up as alternatives to IMM (In My Mailbox) are all plagiarizing IMM, right? Hypocrites*.

This is fueled by the same argument as topic number one. But, in this argument we are talking about a concept or idea, whereas with policy it was actual copy and pasting of words and sentences.

It breaks down to one question. Can you plagiarize an idea?

You can plagiarize an expression of an idea. Technical, I know! But concepts can not be copyrighted, if not we would be stuck in the courts for everything. There would only be one fast-food chain that could sell hamburgers, or one PC. There would ever only be one vampire story. Superman would be in litigation with Wonder Woman for taking his colors, cape and hero status…

Makes sense right? So, how do you know when the expression is too close for comfort? If a claim were to be made in the courts about copyright, the courts would look at all the elements. If you couldn’t distinguish between the two, then yes, this is a plagiarized idea. Superman being a man — and Wonder woman being a woman are similar yet you can distinguish them. (They are members of the same comic family so who knows how this would go in court — but roll with me people).

The fact that people are claiming IMM is being plagiarized, well for one IMM wasn’t an original idea to begin with. The whole time IMM ran, Mailbox Monday was also running. So, that throws the whole “Original Thought or Concept” status out the window.

But, hey, let’s give IMM the benefit of the doubt. The name of “In My Mailbox” is the original part of the equation and the graphic that you display in the meme is original content.

If others were coming up with memes like My Mailbox or similar titles, with a similar graphic, yes I would claim that as plagiarism…but if they have original graphics, original titles…the claim of plagiarism is only to distract from the real issues. The real issue being it’s a matter of etiquette.

So, know the difference and it’ll make us all happier people. There is bad behavior and etiquette and there is actual plagiarism.

In a happy, cohesive book blogger world, if I were to create a meme called Mailbox Mayhem and pass it off as a Book Brag meme, I would probably be called on the table for being rude and thoughtless and someone already has a similar meme, but I probably would not be called a degenerate perpetrator of plagiarism (say that ten times fast!).

Yet, in light of the recent events that have led to these new creations of memes … the creators have chosen to breach the usual blog etiquette, forgoing usual niceties because their trust has been broken. Respect is lost and etiquette goes out the window. It is what it is and what it is not is theft.

And in a final summation, touting that a certain meme belongs to you is fine — “Mailbox Mayhem is hosted by Parajunkee” etc — that is your original idea. The name is the original part…the expression of the concept. If someone takes the name, then that is theft.

Burger King touts that their Whopper Jr. is a Burger King specialty. They are not claiming that they came up with the hamburger. If someone made a hamburger and sold it Burger King could care less. If someone made a hamburger and sold it is a Whopper Sr. the lawyers would descend.

It would be like me claiming that everyone that has Book Blogger Tips (no matter what they called them) on their blogs were plagiarizing my Book Blogging 101s. Would that be fair?

Also, if you think I’m just taking this stance because of my thoughts on the degenerate perpetrator of plagiarism that runs the popular meme in question — think again. Don’t believe me, check out this older BB101 on a similar topic.

A Book Blogger Easter Egg, well not really, but something that I thought was freakin’ hilarious. The former BB101 article I linked above…take a look at the last last question. Guess what blog I deleted from that grumpy anon’s statement. You betcha — it was The Story Siren. I had completely forgotten about that. I wonder what they think of her Blogging Tips now?

XO – Happy Thursday, Talk Less, Read More.

1 “Plagiarism.org.” Plagiarism.org : Learning Center : Plagiarism Definitions, Tips on Avoiding Plagiarism, Guidelines for Proper Citation, & Help Indentifying Plagairism. Plagiarism Dot Org. Web. 09 May 2012. <http://www.plagiarism.org/plag_article_plagiarism_faq.html>
* Inspired by: Felicia. “Livin’ Life Through Books: In My Mailbox/The Story Siren Backlash.” Livin’ Life Through Books: In My Mailbox/The Story Siren Backlash. Livin’ Life Through Books, 06 May 2012. Web. 09 May 2012. <http://dream-wish-live.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/in-my-mailboxthe-story-siren-backlash.html>.

I can’t get to all the questions, but please ask your BB101 Questions here…bring it on.