Policing plagiarism over the Net

One of the raging discussion in one the blog site that I normally log on is the issue of plagiarism. As it happened, Utusan Malaysia on the 27th Dec 2007 published an article sent by a writer by the name of M. The article was about a difficult life of a doctor and his/her family. As soon as the article was published, hordes of netizens who have been following the Ustaz Hasrizal Jamil blog, SaifulIslam.com, commented that the article was a copy of the piece posted by our good Ustaz way back in May 2007, only the name of the actor has been changed and it was too close to the original article to be of a coincidence. Ustaz Hasrizal duly sent an email to the column’s editor asking Utusan to at least acknowledge that the article was reprinted from his blogsite. The editor replied that the article was published in good faith and they had no knowledge that the article was the work of plagiarism.
From the legal point of view, the right definitely belongs to SaifulIslam.com since the copyright assertion was made in the blogsite. Definitely Ust Hasrizal can prove that the article was originally his since the original article is still there in his archive. The onus is on the “writer” who sent the article to the newspaper to ensure that article is his/her original work. But two things worth looking at by way of discussion.
1. Looking at it from the point of view of the editor, she must have received a lot of mails everyday and she had to sieve through them to see which are publishable. In this era of world wide web, millions of articles are posted in the net every second and it is almost impossible for the editor to check whether the article was taken from a certain blog spot. She had to rely on the good faith of the writer. I think, under the law, if she can prove that she had no way of knowing, the newspaper is indemnified. Having said that, if somebody later pointed out to her the real fact of the matter, she should be magnanimous enough to apologise. But obviously she did not in this case because, I think, apologising is an admission of guilt and that may proved legally disastrous, should the Ustaz decide to take legal action.
2. What if the said article was copied by somebody who read the blogsite and decide to circulate the article to others (in whatever forms and medium) . After all the article was a good piece of family story. So, copies of the article would winging around the www or discussion groups or lecture halls or whatever around the world. What if one receiver, who was clueless about the origin of the article, decided that it was a good family story, change the names in the article and submitted to the newspaper for publication. He/she actually is the guilty party. He/she should be honest enough to inform the newspaper that the article was not his/her original piece.
The whole episode brings to focus the issue of policing plagiarism or protecting copy rights with works from the internet. Are the current set of legislations sufficient to protect the owners’ right?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s