LETTER

Plagiarism across languages

I just saw your piece on plagiarism in the NUJ Freelance. There is an issue I'd like to bring to your attention, if you haven't covered it already. It concerns plagiarism from English to other languages.

I can't of course speak for other countries and languages, but in the case of my native Sweden it has for many years been far too common to see pieces lifted from English language media, both print and online, both UK and US.

It's particularly common in financial and arts journalism. In the recent past I've seen pieces lifted from literary magazines such as New York Review of Books, as well as believermag.com and longform.org (the latter seems a particular favourite...) When I say "lifted" I mean borrowing without acknowledgement, and as such it ranges from "mildly unprofessional" (such as borrowing ideas and angles for articles), via the "seriously questionable" (re-phrasing text to avoid accusations of plagiarism, but at the same time using other writers' research and direct quotes without acknowledgment) to plain copyright breaches - word-for-word plagiarism.

Even if there are quite a lot of cases where there is strictly speaking no direct breach of copyright laws, it is still a phenomenon I believe is a real problem in Swedish journalism. What's worrying is that it seems to have become more and more accepted on the editorial side too, i.e. there's no particularly horrified reaction when examples are brought to editors' attention. This type of plagiarism is of course very tricky to discover, but perhaps a start could be made by co-ordinating efforts - at least in terms of awareness and vigilance - with the NUJ's sister organisations abroad?

Last modified: 02 Sep 2013 - © 2013 contributors
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