Plagiarism or "Freedom of Speech"?

There’s a guy on another message board I post to who is considered a bit of a “Mr. Wisdom” by folks frequenting the site, and they always lavish him with praise for posting such “thought-provoking” material. :rolleyes:

I have noticed that when he’s just responding to a post, he makes all kinds of grammatical errors and misspells many of his words, so on a whim I decided to take one of the sentences from one of his originating threads and run it through GOOGLE, to see what comes up.

Well lo and behold, he’s been taking stuff off the internet, not using quotes and not giving attribution and basically just claiming the stuff as his own writing! Copying and pasting, really, and cleverly misspelling one or two words in the copied material to give it his “down-home” flavor (or make it difficult to trace), I guess.

What makes this whole thing even more bizarre is that in real life, this guy would jump from his own shadow. Very quiet, very reluctant to engage anyone in conversation and quite content to lurk in the background.

If this were done here , I know he’d be gone in a heartbeat, but what about a site that isn’t the property of a major newspaper? Is he protected under the right of Freedom of Speech?

Gentle hints have done no good, and the last thing I “busted” him on was a passage from Dale Carnegie’s How To Win Friends and Influence People!

Nothing has been said “publicly” to this guy. Yet.

So what do y’all think?



Plagiarism. That’s the proper term for someone who passes off other peoples ideas as his own.

There’s no constitutional right to plagiarize.

Copyright violation?

It’s plagiarism. I don’t know how these kinds of laws apply to the internet, but regardless it’s unethical.

Next question: Can the owner of this message board be held accountable for this guy’s plagiarism if the original author decided to sue?



That’s difficult to say, like many things in the law. I know one case where this happened, but it was once where the MB owner openly and blatantly defied a “cease and desist” order after having been given proof the copyright violation existed. If the MB owner believes it is a copyright violation, they should remove the posts, and most likely the poster if they are a persistent problem child.

Plagiarism is unethical, but not illegal. And whether there’s a copyright violation depends in part in how much was copied; a single paragraph from a website or book could be considered fair use.

Personally, I’d just quote the person’s plagiarized comment and then quote the comment from the original source. He’d be busted.