Is It Borrowing Or Is It Something Else?

October 19, 2010 2 min read

It’s a funny thing about the internet.  An entire world of information is literally at your fingertips.  If you need information about any particular topic it is just a click away.  Which means that if you run a website or publish some kind of print media, you have a literal smorgasbord of information waiting for you.

The ethical issues that present themselves are complicated.

Can you take someone else’s writing that you find online and pass it off as your own?  If someone posts pictures online, are they fair game?

As a writer, I am amazed when I find my writing turning up in the most bizarre places.  More than once I have read something online or in print and realized that I was reading my own words.  Only they weren’t credited to me, or the client I wrote them for.  Someone else was trying to pass off those same words as original writing.

In the almost two years that I have been writing for JMR, the convention that I have come across seems to be this:  reposting information from another site is an accepted practice, provided that you credit the original source.

Taking someone else’s words, pretending that you wrote them and slapping on your own byline is not.

Taking someone else’s post and not crediting the original source is not okay.

Taking someone else’s photos and adding your watermark to it without their permission is not cool.

Is it legal?  Perhaps.

Is it ethical?  Certainly not.

The internet is a very big place.   But things have a way of coming to light and someone, somewhere is going to notice that you “borrowed” their work.

If you want to be respected as a mentsh and a ehrlicher human being either ask before you borrow or credit the original source.

Just my opinion, take it or leave it.

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