Thursday, November 02, 2006


If you hadn't noticed I got "jeffooied" this morning which resulted in this blog getting several hundred more visitors than usual. I meanwhile was trying not to keep looking at my blog or my sitemeter because I needed to get some work done, especially as a bad throat infection this week has meant I'm behind with all the "have to" stuff. (Sorry, Renee.)

I've been drawn once more into the fray to blog and vent a little righteous indignation about plagiarism. And as usual when things go weird on me, it's all Amir Hafizi's fault. (See here and here if you don't believe me.)

See, there I was late last night thinking I'd just have a quick glance at his post because I needed a laugh. And then his post led me to Rocky's blog where I found a discussion in progress about NST's Brendan Pereira's plagiarism of an article by Mitch Albom, which had been exposed by Rocky and Jeff.

Plagiarism interests me ... a lot (as readers of this blog will know), and I couldn't resist jumping in with my tuppence worth (a philosophical meandering about where the border between plagiarism and satire is drawn) which then got picked up by Jeff in a post this morning somewhat edited (though he left in the ouchy spelling).

Brendan Pereira's plagiarism was clear cut and the blogging community has pronounced his guilt. Still, had Brendan acknowledged the source of the framework he pegged his article too, I think he could have legitimately borrowed the form. It's the non-attribution that makes it plagiarism.

I wrote:
...if the article he had taken had been known to the wider malaysian public and if he had used it as a basis for a humourous or ironic piece which built in some sense on the original article, that would not have been plagiarism.
(Have possibly been proofreading too many boring legal documents, to write like this!) Anyway, Jeff quoted me and I got a mini-break of fame.

Brendan Pereira has now been replaced as the Group Editor of the NST. Jonathan Kent of the BBC picked up the story which he saw as
... a clash between the old and new media about the basic standards of the profession.
As indeed it is. And bloggers appear to have the higher moral ground. Let's see what happens in the NST.

The outing of plagiarists by bloggers is not just happening here. Consider the case of Anne Coulter:
Universal Press Syndicate investigated the plagiarism allegations and concluded that "minimal matching text is not plagiarism" stating also that "Universal Press Syndicate is confident in the ability of Ms.Coulter, an attorney and frequent media target, to know when to make attribution and when not to ("Sorry harpies--syndicator sees no Coulter plagiarism", Chicago Tribune)
I leave you with the following happy thought - also from the Famous Plagiarists website:
What is a Plagiarist ?

A Plagiarist sucks the lifeblood right out of a text for his own selfish nourishment. He cares not that the life of the Author is forfeited through his bloodthirsty textual savagery-ravagery and asserts blasphemously that a text has somehow attained “the right to kill, to become the murderer of its author”. [2] The Plagiarist siphons off the life giving crimson fluid as ink for his own pen, without a thought for either the Author, or for the Reader. And he splashes this stolen red ink freely on the pages of his own textual plagiarations. To the Plagiarist, the words are there for the taking. After all, whose words are they really anyway? Who can rightfully claim ownership of the discourse that characterizes human communication? The Plagiarist justifies his plagiarisms through pseudo-philosophizations and self-justifications as he happily helps himself to your blood, my blood—anybody’s blood, as long as that red ink remains life-givingly fluid, un-encrusted, as yet un-congealed. A Plagiarist is a textual vampire . . .

(Nice pic of Jeff Ooi pinched from Oon Yeoh's website)

Further Thoughts:

Has anyone yet asked Mitch Albom how he feels about his work being lifted? Now that would be interesting!

Something no-one seems to be talking about ... there are actually degrees of plagiarism. Take a look at this table of threat levels and think about where you would put Brendan Pereira in this case.

Has anyone considered that Brendan Pereira might be a cryptonesiac?

Latest news on Jeff''s site this morning, the NST is threatening to sue the BBC!

And goodness, here's a lesson in just how far a comment left casually on a blog and not particualrly well formulated can travel - I'm quoted in Singapore's free newspaper Today Online.

Related Posts:

Index: A Rogues Gallery of Fakers and Plagiarisers

And also about plagiarism in the Malaysian press:

Cut and Paste Review - The Murder of Macbeth (15/9/05)
Plagiariased Reviews - She's at it Again (17/9/05)


midnite lily said...

being jeffooied once in a while is fun! heheh..

btw, working on a banner/button for "bloggers against banned books" ^_^

bibliobibuli said...

that would be wonderful midnight lily!!

we want t-shirts too ... and bumper stickers ... and book marks.

Greenbottle said...

ai hai...some guy with a big nose somewhere must be tickled pink (or lighter shade of brown) by this news of brendan pariera is finally being kubang pasu-ed (to plagiarize the word originally coined by hishamudin rais)...

how ironic ..him trying to "kubang pasu" the big man and it boomeranged straight right back to his face...

midnite lily said...

LOL... okay, one at a time...

the button is here please join us, Sharon.

Alex Tang said...

midnite lily, these buttons looks nice.

Plagiarism has also been with us but has become more serious because of the ease of word processors and its cut-and-paste function.

There are various types of plagiarism:
(1) idea plagiarism- changing the order of words but keeping the same idea and not giving the source.

(2)key term plagiarism- using key terms or terms used by someone but not giving the source.

(3) word for word plagiarism-copying the exact words of the source but norusing quotation marks and failing to identify the source.

I wonder which type of plagiarism is Brendan Pereira is guilty of?

Kak Teh said...

sharon, you got jeffooied?? wow! a few months a ago, I was rockyied and that jolted my sitemeter a bit. Yes, what a development at Jalan Riong. When you pointed out some plagiarised work by a writer from the same establishment some months ago, my 16 year old showed me how to go tracking plagiarised work. You'd think people would get wiser but apparently not.

amir said...


*takes bow*


acid burn said...

The drama hasn't ended apparently

' far as the NSTP was concerned, on the allegations of plagiarism "our position is very clear; it is not. The other piece did not revolve around the Prime Minister of Malaysia or former Prime Minister. Our content was original."'

bibliobibuli said...

thanks all. yeah you may well just bow and leave, amir

kak teh - i got good at tracking plagiarism as a lecturer

alex, acid burn - a further thought or an elaboration:

it's interesting but there is a fun writing activity i love to play at called "po-jacking" - where you take a poem, keep the framework (rhyme scheme, number of syllables, and general shape) but impose your own words on it. that is not plagiarism, especially where the reader might know the original e.g when spike milligan writes:

i must go down to the seas again
to the linely seas and sky
i left my shoes and socks there
i wonder if they're dry

he is taking masefield's famous poem and making it his own for a humourous purpose. (parody) he doesn't need to say "this is from masefield" because any western educated person of a certain generation can tell you.

but how many of us knew mitch albom's column? unless it can be assumed that the educated person in the street knows it well enough to smile at the similarity (though in this case nothing clever or amusing is done with the piece) then it is plagiarism, i believe

but it is not as serious as if content were lifted ... as in the cut and paste case i highlighted

will refer this case to an expert in plagiarism in the US and see what he comes up with!

i don't think this case is actually as clear cut as it seems at first glance

Anonymous said...

The similarities are striking, Sharon, even though the subject of the content is different. I would agree with you - if it had been properly attributed and credited, the plagiarism element would not arise. The BBC, meanwhile, has modified its original article, presumably to NST's threat to sue. Anyway, on the term "textual vampire" I'm tickled pink. Textual is not a word commonly used - I have used it before and got all sorts of queries. Textual vampire is very clever.

Chris said...

Sharon, but even Albom's piece doesn't sound original. Does it remind me of one of those irritating chain e-mails that 'friends' send you? To diverge slightly - I too discovered your blog via Ooi yesterday and I am pleased that you write it. Re Ooi: I just love his English, it's worth reading him just to see what he's mangled today. I have been collecting his little sayings over a period of time, perhaps with the intention of turning them into a book (The Sayings of Jeff Ooi)(Only joking!) Now I think I've found someone to share them with! Sorry Sharon!

Some examples:

The bucket passed on

Gasping for fresh breath

As I lay invalidated trying to...

Cheers, Chris

bibliobibuli said...

the great advantage of being jeffoied is that it's brought me a new crop of readers. you're most welcome chris.

and those are fun examples!

yes, the original piece does sound like one of those e-mails, you're right!

Lydia Teh said...

Alex, ideas can't be plagiarized. But I'm not sure about key terms.

If a new term has been coined by someone, does using it mean that you've plagiarized if you did not attribute it. (In that case Steven Covey would be rich from suing all those people who use the term 7 Habits of...) Then we'd have to attribute all those new words and phrases which have made it into the dictionary.

Sharon, I'd like to hear what the plagiarism expert has to say on Brendan's case.

I think copying the structure is not plagiarism. If so, there'd be few original poems and essays. Lifting text word-for-word is plagiarism but if it's only for a few phrases here and there, does it count as 'fair use'?

For people who write factual pieces such as medical articles, say, what constitutes plagiarism when they end up reusing phrases or a sentence here and there from their research.

lil ms d said...

this reminds of the time i lectured at a... ah.. local uni. (did i ever tell ya the time i accidentally flashed the kids? didn't wear petticoat beneath the jubah so everyone saw my happy knickers. yeah the one with dancing sheep).

anyway lah. there was a mature student who kept sending in creative writing assignments. from the first i knew that she could not have written the work. one, she couldn't even articulate a sentence in English. but i thought never mind la, mebbe she can write well. but somehow i knew i had read it somewhere...

come the second and third essay i pounced on her. I KNOW MY JAMES HERRIOT ok??? I went and studied in Lancaster just so I could live out my James Herriot fantasies. so i failed her.

wahhhhh. she spoke to the admin of the uni, i got a call, and needless to say that three months i worked there - i received RM800 SIX MONTHS later and was told off for 'threatening to fail a student'. kesian lah dia, dia dah tua. kepala otak tua.

they made me pass her. i refused. needless to say i was never asked to teach there anymore. it is okay, i wasnt impressed with the uni either.

so if uni you're already encouraged to cut and paste...

i've seen this in tv also. waaaaaah. the stories i could tell you. ever seen a flying tong sampah? ask visitor he knows the story. and the plagiarist? went on to make an award winning doco. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA. gets overseas grants.

and writers like us?

must sell body and soul to pay mortagage, car loan... for a pittance.

afetr this i will go to 4 D and try to tikam. never know, my luck will change. if i hit the jackpot we all go book shopping ok?

Lydia Teh said...

Dina/Sharon, my eldest son got a B for his English, because his teacher thinks that he spitted out an essay which he had memorized earler. He was to write an essay with the ending of "finally they surrendered", so he wrote a piece based on the Band of Bros series which he had watched countless times. The teacher marked "Memorized!" and gave him 25 out of 50 marks. I told my son to explain to the teacher and stand up for what he has written but he has yet to do so. What do you think?

lil ms d said...

he should! he needs to make a stand for his case. explain nicely to teacher, and if all fails tell him the Biblio Mafia will come to his school and puncture the teacher's tyres (big huge grin)

bibliobibuli said...

lydia - you avoid the charge of plagiarism by simply quoting the source. researchers do this all the time. academics have to quote the work of others because knowledge is built up in layers - each researcher is building on the work of those who have explored the field before.

a title can't be copyrighted btw - but your example is a good one.

re. your son - don't really know what to advise beyond talking to the teacher and explaining the situation. maybe he should be given a different test to do if there is any doubt.

ms d - nice stories esp. about the knickers! glad you stuck to your principles. i was involved in a plagiarism case - really blatant lifting of most of a thesis - and was disappointed that her punishment was only to start again with a new topic. she should have been failed outright and barred from all academic courses.
but again - the universities don't like to fail people.

all Brendan need have said was 'to paraphrase Mitch Albom in his wonderful piece ...' or something like that and he'd be off the hook.

Lydia Teh said...

Dina, Sharon thanks! So, both of you are part of the Biblio Mafia to puncture the tyres or scratch the teacher's car? To paraphrase... That's a good way to attribute.

bibliobibuli said...

biblio mafia! love it!

Lydia Teh said...

Job specs of Biblio Mafia (must be garbed like Men in Black) :

1. If you don't read more than 1 book a month, will send warning letter.

2. If you don't read more than 1 book a quarter, will make house call to warn.

3. If you don't read more than 1 book in half-year, will confiscate whatever books you have and donate to Biblio Mafia's library of non-read books.

4. If you commit plagiarism, will black list you till you grovel and beg for forgiveness.

5. If justice needs to be served to book-readers, will be there for support, whether it's to puncture tyres, confiscate books or whatever.

bibliobibuli said...

v. good. we will also swoop down on all those who abuse books physically.

amir said...

(recovering from headache)

Ah, I'm glad that we're having so much fun from this.

Plagiarism used to make me cringe.

Just a thought: If I was Johnathan Kent, I would adopt a son and name him Clark. And possibly marry a woman called Martha.

amir said...

"i've seen this in tv also. waaaaaah. the stories i could tell you. ever seen a flying tong sampah? ask visitor he knows the story. and the plagiarist? went on to make an award winning doco. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA. gets overseas grants."

Wah. Award-winning doco? There's only a few...

Ah. The phone's ringing.

simon said...

wah jeffooied! but on a sidenote, i think NST is now at its lowest point in terms of editorial and content. so tabloid-ish.

Alex Tang said...

lydia- using someone's ideas and key terms or "apt phrases" can be regarded as plagiarism. However some terms that have come into common usage (such as Covey's example) are allowed if you can produce 5 other sources that uses it without attribution :)

A researcher using his own material is not considered committing plagiarism. Can one steal from oneself. Hmm...

As for your son's case, I know you addressed the question to Sharon/Dina. However I would like to add my two cents worth. I think your son and you should discuss with the teacher about the accusation of memorising the work and being marked down. Firstly, being marked down for something that he did not do is not fair. Provided he did not memorise the essay. Secondly, it will do well for his own self-esteem to confront his teacher about this injustice. Thirdly, allow the teacher to have an alternative way to assess him, maybe another essay. If he is capable of writing well, then he can write well again. (hey, I am a paediatrician, I am used to giving advice).

Dina, thanks for telling your story. It is a sad state of affair,isn't it?

I like the idea of Biblio Mafia. Can I be the enforcer? Please. Especially to book abusers.I shall go and splash ink on their front door. Wait. That's taken by the Ah Longs. Ok, write nasty things about them on my blog.

Power to the Bloggers! (is this taken? cannot attribute)

lil ms d said...

sure alex!

who wants to be the Godfather? and the mafia moll?

bibliobibuli said...

you mafia moll, ms d. alex sounds like he'd shape up nicely as a godfather. amir's superman so he doesn't count becasue he'll be too busy saving the world.

what is all this about flying tong sampahs? i don't like it when i don't understand what's going on.

Sufian said...

Plagiarising mitch albom?


Can NST sink lower?

Lydia Teh said...

Alex, thanks for your advice re my son. I'll get him to speak to his teacher, or maybe I'll write a letter to the teacher about the grave injustice :)

Yeah, I oso don't know abt this flying tong sampah story. Pls enlighten us.

Amir, how come I didn't think of the Kent connection ah? Ah, I know, I'm not superman, you are.

bibliobibuli said...

sufian - lol!