Does copyright mean nothing?

Here in Australia we are covered by copyright laws that mean as soon as you create something you own the copyright. This means that unless you explicitly assign copyright to someone else, whether they be an organisation or individual, your creation is your own. Over the past six or seven years that I’ve been a journalist I’ve seen this law abused by companies and editors, but they’ve been in the minority and usually in the case of individual editors, it has been more a lack of understanding that their publication hadn’t negotiated copyright transfer than an intentional theft of intellectual property.
To abuse copyright in journalistic circles means taking away potential income from the journalist, not something that they would be willing to accept lightly given the paucity of revenue that most earn. For a publisher to do this is inexcusable as it means they are diminishing the value of their writers, and lessening the chances that said writers will work for them again. Certainly this was the case with me and one particular publisher who reused my work without permission on a number of occasions.
However, plagiarism that copies work from one publication or website and reprints it on another, claiming it is the work of someone else, is even lower. It is an outright breach of copyright but is compounding that evil with another by denying the original author their status as creator of the work.
It appears that both copyright infringement and plagiarism are alive and well in Australia’s publishing sector with SmartHouse’s latest copy of an article that first appeared in Sydney Morning Herald by respected journalist, Asher Moses. The original article was posted online last week and can be found here:
While the copied piece appears on SmartHouse here:
In the event that either of these links expires, I’ve also included screenshots of the pages below.
Unfortunately this is not a simple lazy "one-off" exception. A quick search by a fellow journalist dragged up these other discussions about the efforts of the editorial team at SmartHouse.
How can journalists be expected to continue to strive for excellence when others simply ride their coattails without acknowledgement nor permission? I realise that this is a particularly sensitive topic for me given my own previous experiences but any journalist, whether they be full time, part time, freelance or permanent, should be concerned about making sure their rights are inviolate.
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5 Responses to Does copyright mean nothing?

  1. Rob says:

    Well, given how easy it is to publish online these days, it\’s not hard to forsee this kind of thing happening.
    It\’s bad for someone\’s reputation to take essentially credit for another\’s work.  I think as a community we need to provide disincentives for such behaviour.  Though it fails to work in terms of dealing with spammers 😦

  2. Damien says:

    I love it Andrew! This has been bothering me so much as a former journalist. I didn\’t realise the plagiarism was so rampant – and leaving such an easily searchable trail across the net. I think reputation still holds for something and somebody\’s online reputation is going down. Willit have any consequences? WTime will tell.

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