Plagiarism is usually a problem confined to school students working late at night to finish a term paper. But it is rarely found in the professional world for three powerful reasons:
1. Eventually the plagiarism will be discovered and the perpetrator will be publicly shamed.
2. Most professional people have a strongly developed sense of fair play to realize that stealing someone else’s work is just plain wrong.
3. Every new work that you produce, even when done completely on your own, will have the stigma of plagiarism associated with it. People simply cannot trust your material to be your own.
In my own case, I worked literally hundreds and possibly more than a thousand hours on SQL in a Nutshell, 2nd Edition. Add in the first edition and you probably have one thousand five hundred hours of work. Imagine if I’d spent an equal amount of intellectual brainpower, energy, and time away from my family to carve a sculpture. Then, while driving down the street a week later, I see it in the shop window of another local artist. You can imagine that I’d call the police immediately! This person has clearly stolen my work! Apparently, certain individuals in the SQL Server writing world have not learned this lesson.
This first came to my attention on SQL Server Central when columnist Steve Jones found that an individual named Kalpesh Thaker had plagiarized material from one of Ken Henderson’s texts. (Read more here.)
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More plagiarism was found in this article: http://www.awprofessional.com/articles/article.asp?p=28787&rl=1. Not only does Mr. Sharma plagiarize material for Web articles, he also directly profits from plagiarism in written books. For example, the retrieving XML section(s) in Chapter 3 of his book (Microsoft SQL Server 2000: A Guide to Enhancements and New Features) were taken from the SQL Server 2000 Resource Kit. The pattern is really quite stunning.
Even my own work (SQL Server: Blocking Problems), co-written with my friend Baya Pavliashvili, appears to have some appeal to copyists (http://www.informit.com/articles/article.asp?p=351608&seqNum=2). Although these two articles are different, the author is already suspect and the articles are close enough for me to question the authenticity of the authorship.
Somehow, plagiarists think they won’t be discovered. But it’s not true. Consider this quote from MVP Mickey Williams:
I had a guy (Saleem Ansari) rip my entire Visual C++ 5.0 book and post it online as his work. Several times. He apparently downloaded an HTML version of the book and stripped out all of the identifying bits (like my name), but left the code samples that included my family members, pets, cities, etc. I still see it from time to time online.
If you google Saleem Ansari, you can still see props from people congratulating him on his great work. I'm sure it was really tough to Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V all those HTML pages. A couple of times I year I google for the text, send off notes to webmasters and then get on with my life ;)
What is your opinion with this issue? Is plagiarism thievery (as I posit) or is it something less? Should we do more than just post notes to Webmasters that the content is plagiarized, or is a simple slap on the wrist adequate?
I look forward to hearing your opinion.