Open Letter to the Editor of Slate

April 23rd, 1999 at 12:07 pm by Mark
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     I have enjoyed the perspectives of many of Slate’s articles because they often mirror my own thoughts. However, over the last two years, I have also become dismayed on several occasions to see a sentence here, or paragraph there, from my own, or someone elses, works thrown into the fray by any given writer.
     I don’t want to come down on Slate, specifically, for this sort of behaviour. On the contrary, several New York Times and Los Angeles Herald writers have proven to be the culprits of some of the most unsavoury reprints, copies and unnaturally similar paraphrases. To be honest, it worries me that this sort of (what I categorise as) plagiarism is so rampant, and goes unnoticed when spoken from newshounds and editorialists.
     There are many of us out in the world who would be considered “hobby writers,” as we don’t do this “for a living,” thus our “opinions” and work do not “matter” so much as the “work of professionals.” Even with Copyright papers in hand, it is extremely difficult for the small, independent writer to pursue any form of legal recourse against a medium or large company, or even to a specific writer who has “made a name” for him or herself. Most often, there will be nothing more than a barrage of abusive retorts and character slurs, a few threats, and then, finally, the countersuit for — you guessed it — plagiarism.

     It annoys me to notice that the only people who I’ve ever seen complain of it were the very same “hobby writers” who are continually being screwed over time and again. I suppose it’s no wonder, really. Who on Earth would actually buy a newspaper or magazine if they knew that it often printed stolen material?
     I suppose the worst thing about it is this: Many of us write, giving to the public some viewpoint which we feel is important, not asking for ratings, not asking for advertising revenues or even, many times, recognition for our work. We write because we legitimately care, we want to inform, and perhaps, deep down, we have a desire to be heard…
     …and to see someone else capitalise off of our work is absolutely sickening.


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