Friday, January 20, 2006

What is Plagiarism?

It's a fair question, but boils down the the misappropriation of other's work and passing it off as your own. There are degrees of this, Justice Learned Hand's commentary, "No plagiarist can excuse the wrong by showing how much of his work he did not pirate." (Sheldon V. Metro-Goldwyn Pictures Corp., 81 F.2d 49, 56 (2d Cir), cert. Denied, 298 U.S. 669, 56 S.Ct. 835) notwithstanding.

In Through a Howling Wilderness the only genealogy not cited is mine. Specifically "Colburntown, after the family of Reuben Colburn" and "From Fort Western to Colburntown." This comes from my research paper and the History of Kennebec County Maine. No citation for this obscure local term is a bizarre slip up, but would almost have to be intentional.

Our genealogy is well-known yet not cited by Dr. Desjardin. No other historian has ever referred to Gardinerstown by our name. It is strictly a local term from 1761 when they first settled the town that later became Pittston. While I support the usage, I'm outraged at the lack of attribution. I've told Arnold Expedition Society leadership about this. I even have the reference online at the AEHS website so there is no excuse for this except to further ignore the Colburn family and my efforts to publish their story. While I'm appreciative of what Tom Desjardin is trying to do for the Colburn House Historic Site, that I nominated, insofar as getting it painted and restored further, that is his job after all. He gets a paycheck to do it. So you'd think he'd be falling all over himself to credit Colburn history in his book since he makes his living off the old homestead? I really don't get it and invite his answer. At best this is academic plagiarism: lack of citation of a source. It's real nonetheless.


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