Meum et tuum
Regret the Error has pointed me to a Gawker report on the latest intellectually dishonest defense of plagiarism.
David Zinczenko, Gawker discovered, regularly copies articles from Rodale’s Men’s Health, removes the bylines, and republishes them under his own name on his “Eat This, Not That” column at Yahoo Health.
A spokesman for Rodale rationalizes this scummy practice:
Rodale owns all rights to the majority of the content that appears in Men's Health, Women's Health, Eat This, Not That! and other branded products. Our editors use that content to promote Rodale and its various properties across all media. As the editor for the Men's Health brand, it's Dave's job to promote the magazine and its extensions. The byline doesn't take credit for the work, but serves as an overarching tag used in conjunction with the logo to indicate that the material has been written, assigned or edited by the brand (i.e. Dave and his team) at some point.
So a byline does not indicate authorship, but merely branding, and David Zincaenko stands shoulder to shoulder with undergraduates who copy and paste from the Internet and authors like Stephen Ambrose who simply appropriate other writers’ work and fob it off as their own.
But, you may ask, isn’t this the same thing that newspaper reporters do in mining the archives? It is true that The Sun owns the rights to the material the staff produces.* And yes, it is common for reporters following up on a story to incorporate information from articles written by other reporters. But simply replacing another writer’s byline with one’s own is not done—and a veteran columnist at the paper who was discovered to have repeatedly incorporated other writers’ distinctive language into his columns, without attribution, no longer works at this paper.
The practice that Rodale approves of is no better than common thievery. If you have David Zinczenko to your house as a dinner guest, I suggest that you might want to count the spoons afterward.
*If I ever make any headway with my book on editing, I will have asked for and received permission from the paper to use material from the staff, including my own.