The Maureen Dowd Plagiarism Defense, or ‘I thought I was copying my friend, not you!’

Craig Silverman has coined a term for a new kind of excuse popular with writers caught plagiarizing. It's the Maureen Dowd Plagiarism Defense. He explains:

In 2009, Dowd used close to 50 words from a John Marshall post on Talking Points Memo. She didn't offer any attribution. The words were presented as her own, and that led to accusations of plagiarism, and to a correction being issued. The Dowd Defense emerged when she reached out to a variety of websites to explain how it happened. This is what she told Huffington Post and others:
"I was talking to a friend of mine Friday about what I was writing who suggested I make this point, expressing it in a cogent — and I assumed spontaneous — way and I wanted to weave the idea into my column. but, clearly, my friend must have read josh marshall without mentioning that to me."

So yes, the words weren't hers. But she thought she was just copying the words of a friend.

Craig notes a more recent use of this defense. A piece by Josh Linkner on Fast Company was found to contain parts of a blog post by Chris Dixon, unattributed. Linkner apologized to Dixon and explained:

A friend of mine sent me that excerpt and I had no idea it was yours or anyone else's so I didn't attribute it when I wrote my post. As an author, VC, and entrepreneur I hold myself to the highest standards and I'm deeply sorry this happened.

Bad Excuses Journalism

Posted on Tue Apr 10, 2012


Yeah.. to be fair, it's getting harder and harder to say something that someone hasn't said before. Add in the wash of material that we find ourselves in on a daily basis, and it may be that clever idea you just had was actually somethng you heard a long, long time ago.

I wonder, with search engines as refined as they are now, if there could be some way to toss an entire article/paper/whathaveyou into the works and have it pop up possible sites based on amount of similarity.

"Ok, this quote is from Wilde, and you have it misattributed to Stevie Wonder. This whole paragraph was lifted verbatim from Wikipedia. This bit is from Freud, with the word order changed, but that last bit about the toenail clippers appears to be all you."
Posted by Robin Bobcat  in  Californian Wierdo  on  Tue Apr 10, 2012  at  04:58 PM
"I had no idea it was yours or anyone else's so I didn't attribute it"
Well, he knew SOMEBODY wrote it. It didn't just appear, fully written. If it was an excerpt, it was excerpted FROM something, right?
Posted by Meringue  on  Mon May 07, 2012  at  01:08 AM
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