I often forget that the outside world is aware of Opus. I know that people visit the site. However, that realization exists in that quasi-abstract realm of monthly website statistics, and so it doesn’t always register with me. Since I don’t have advertising on the site and am not really dependent on the site in any way other than as a creative, emotional, and critical outlet, statistics are largely academic for me.
Even so, such statistics are often the only evidence I have that the world outside is aware of this website on any significant level whatsoever. And so, when something outside of Opus mentions or refers to Opus, I take note. I still get a thrill (and a slight scare) whenever some stranger calls out my name simply because they’re familiar with the website. Or when a person at church comments that they read one of my entries (which immediately makes me worry whether or not I wrote something potentially sacreligious or scandalous).
However, today’s event strikes me as extra-special. It’s not every day that a friend of a friend of your wife informs you that your writing was plagiarized by a reporter from the University of Michigan’s student newspaper. (More info here.)
On February 7, 2007, the reporter in question, Devika Daga, posted a review of Bracken’s We Know About the Need that contained several segments which were lifted either wholesale or with minor modifications from my own review, which was posted on January 27, 2007.
It’s almost surreal to put the reviews side by side and flip between them, to see what was changed and what was not changed. And it’s rather amusing to note the extent of Daga’s changes, to see what she apparently thought would be enough to differentiate her review from mine. Obviously, it wasn’t enough.
To be honest, I’m not really all that offended or angered (though this, in no way, absolves Daga from the wrongness of plagiarizing someone else’s material — stealing is stealing, after all). I suppose that, had the article in question been something of a more personal nature or something much more involved (such as an interview), I’d feel differently.
I’m more fascinated than anything else by this “debacle.” It should be obvious to anyone who has spent any time on-line that, given the amount of information on-line and the number of people sifting through that information, any such theft or underhandedness will eventually come to light. There are simply too many eyeballs looking at too many websites for that to not be the case.
And to be honest, a part of me is flattered, in a somewhat odd sort of way. As my wife’s friend’s friend put it, it’s kind of neat to find out that you’re cool enough to have your stuff stolen by “hip college students.” It’s always nice to know that folks consider your words good enough to use as their own, but it’s even nicer to get credit where credit’s due. The next time you want to pinch a little from the Opus, just ask. Chances are, I’ll say “yes.”