Plagiarism’s a big, bad word on college campuses. As an Executive Career Mentor at Butler University College of Business and an English Tutor at Ivy Tech Community College, I hear a lot of talk about preventing – or punishing – plagiarism. Then, last week the Indianapolis Star carried a fascinating story about “plagiarism” of a different sort. The St. Louis Art Museum acquired a 3,200 year old mummy mask. Now Egypt’s antiquities authority is claiming the mask was stolen and transferred illegally to the U.S.. Our Department of Homeland Security is looking into the case. While academia and the arts wrestle with plagiarism issues, in business, protecting “intellectual property” has become a concern of monumental proportions.
Since, as a professional ghost blogger, my arena is the World Wide Web, I can’t help but be awed by the fact that the Internet has become the largest repository of information in human history. Trillions of words are added to it daily, and literally anyone with access to a computer or cell phone can add content to the mix at any time. Blogging activity has become a rapidly growing part of this oceanic information swell.
Remember the old “Telephone” game we played as children? Kids would be seated in a row. The first child would be given a phrase or sentence to whisper in his neighbor’s ear. That child, in turn, would whisper what she heard to the next child, and so on down the line. The object of the game was to faithfully pass on the message so that the last child could repeat it exactly as the first had whispered it. Never happened that way, did it? By the time that message had traveled down a line of ten or twelve kids, it was unrecognizably distorted.
Blogs, as I stress in Blogs – Between Crafted and Cranked Out, are more casual and conversational than other marketing pieces. The fact is, though, people read blogs to get information. My college students are taught to use citations and reference pages to show where they got their information. That way, they avoid plagiarism by properly attributing statements to their proper authors. In your blogs, you can give credit to the sources of your information as well. The blogging equivalent of citations is links. So even if you’re putting your own unique twist on the topic, link to websites from which you got some of your original information or news.
On the Internet, the rewards for honesty are both psychic and practical. Electronic links actually enhance search engine rankings for your blog by creating back-and-forth online “traffic”. And, of course, doing the right thing is always its own reward.