July 2013

Written by Elizabeth Eyre on 1 July 2013 in Magazine
Magazine

This month, "I wanna tell you a story". So sit back, relax and enjoy.

The Internet is a wondrous thing. It gives us access to many different voices, viewpoints and pieces of information. As a learning tool it is immensely valuable, and it has encouraged a culture of sharing and collaboration that has made it a force for good. However, it also has the potential for evil, as I'm about to demonstrate.

Here at TJ we are very proud of the quality of our content. We work very hard to stay abreast of the issues that are important to you and to commission articles from L&D professionals that really add value for you. Our contributors, similarly, produce great content despite the fact that, usually, they are not professional writers and also have proper jobs.

We all aim to help people learn and develop and, in that spirit, I have no problem sharing TJ's content with others - we all need to get the message about the importance of L&D as far out there as we can - as long as they do the decent thing and properly credit TJ and the author. That's what the Internet is all about, after all.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I was phoned by a regular contributor a few weeks ago, to tell me that a training company had taken the article he had written for TJ last year and, with just a very few minor tweaks (changing "I" to "we" for example), had put it on its website minus the author' s name and any mention of TJ. Stealing our content and passing it off as their own, in other words.

I had a look at the website and, yes, there was the article in question. There were also seven blogs lifted directly from the TJ website, complete with profile pictures, plus an interview I did with a very well-known L&D name a couple of years ago.

I was angry, and disappointed that, in this day and age, a training company of all things hadn't even bothered to pick up the phone and ask whether it could use our content. Would you as an L&D professional use someone else's training model without acknowledging them? Would you be happy if someone attended one of your training sessions and then started delivering it, claiming to have designed it themselves? Of course not. So why is the hard work and professional acumen of everyone involved in producing TJ's content any less deserving of the proper acknowledgement?

After several phone calls to the company, I managed to get the offending content taken down. This was after both the MD and another senior manager responsible for the website immediately passed the buck to other, more junior employees and claimed not to know what went on their website. There's nothing quite like practising what you preach, is there!

People think that the sheer size of the Internet means their plagiarism will go unnoticed but, if you produce content, you can do something about it. Every so often, do a Google search for a phrase that is fairly unique to your article and you can find every instance of it on the web. It's a bit of a slog going through it all but, if you're serious about protecting your work, it's worth making the effort.

Eizabeth Eyre, Editor

 

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