October 10, 2010

Is it merely "academic" to cite your sources?

This one is pretty frustrating. Michael David Murphy (MDM) is a photographer who runs the site "2point8," which focuses mostly on street photography. It's a pretty great site, and it's one of the places that I like to check in every now and again when I want to see what's going on in the photography world. In this post, he talks about a new book that was recently published called "Street Photography Now." Murphy writes that he was really looking forward to the publication of this book--but then he noticed something that seemed a little TOO FAMILIAR about it. When he ran some text through the search engine on his site, he realized that the editors/book publishers had directly lifted text from a couple of interviews that he did and published them without any attribution.

So MDM wrote about this on his site. Interestingly, two people involved with the project responded in the comments section by basically dismissing the whole idea of giving proper credit as mere academic issues. If you're interested in these sorts of issues, take the time to read how they dodge the issue and ultimately tell Murphy, in a nice way, that they don't really care about the issue that he brought up. Both comments insinuate the idea that giving proper credit would somehow get in the way of the creative spirit of the project (or something like that), which is one of the lamest excuses for plagiarism I have heard in a while.

MDM writes:*
I’m all for the free and open Web, but when you freely copy text from websites, and use that content in a published book for sale, it seems uncool (at best) to not cite your references, and illegal (at worst). The quotes used in the book have the appearance of being created in direct interviews that Howarth and McLaren conducted with the included photographers, and that’s just not true — they copied-and-pasted passages off the Web and failed to cite their sources.

I’m sure there’s some “explanation”, right? How many other sources are quoted and not cited?

In these days of copyright grabs, when photographers are the first and loudest to rightfully declare theirs as theirs, it’s interesting that in a book about photographers, the accompanying text isn’t treated with the same care.

I completely agree. Too bad the people behind this book--which actually looks pretty cool--didn't take the time to do things right.

*Apologies for interrupting the creative flow by referring to the person who actually wrote the words that I quoted. I know, I know! The whole zen of this post has been thrown off by these terribly restrictive academic conventions.

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