The Ugly Face Of Internet Plagiarism - WeCite Busted!

June 01, 2007
Zainub Razvi

The Internet is such a diverse and easy to use medium. It expands our horizons for communication like few others in the history of mankind have. The effect this has had on the publishing industry in particular is worth looking at. While on one hand it has given everybody and anybody a means to become a publisher (it takes less then five minutes to start your own blog), on the other hand, this mass amateurization of publishing has virtually opened the floodgates for one of the industry's biggest evils - plagiarism.

A few days back one of my fellow bloggers at the Karachi Metroblog joyfully disclosed the newest edition of WeCite, a fairly new and on the face exciting ezine (online magazine for those who're not familiar with the term), that represented to us, the changing face of journalism. The rise of "new media" as its called. But little did we know then what an ugly story this ezine had hidden under its core of modernity and flashy-ness.

One of our readers Salman, initially pointed us to the possibility of one of their articles being plagiarised, a possibility that he later confirmed him self by contacting the original author of the article, who verified the article was indeed copied. The same day, I send a stern email to their editorial team, demanding attribution for two of my images (this and this) that they had used in one of their articles (see this). And despite apologies, both in the comments section at the Karachi Metroblog, and via email, which reassured me, that the images would be attributed and re-licensed as necessary "as soon as possible" but three days went by and nothing was done.

It was not out of a quest for publicity that I demanded proper attribution. Most images on Flickr, from where they lifted my images too, are either all rights reserved, or some rights reserved, under Creative Commons Licenses. The license I used (CC Share-Alike Attribution 2.0) allowed reuse, adapting and distribution, under the condition of proper attribution and re-licensing under the same license under which the image was first uploaded. Any use of the images that does not fulfill this criterion was illegal. It was a matter of principle, and I expected, that an ezine that was seemingly proud of its open-mindedness and liberality, would respect and abide by laws, that it would know better then the ordinary Joe on the street what copyright was and why it was important.

It was this frustration that led me last night to dig deeper into the matter. I initially discovered that the article they had used my images for, was it self an adapted version of an article that appeared in The Hindustan Times, but as I searched more, using Copyscape, a fantastic plagiarism-detecting search engine, the research presented some shocking discoveries. Out of a total of 27 articles published in this month's issue, at least 11 were plagiarised, either exact copies of other articles on the web, or with major chunks copied from other sources. Vis-a-Vis and Slant Magazine in particular faced the brunt of the copy-attacks, with 5 and 2 of their articles respectively being copied word for word.

Other content was lifted from our very own Blogcritics, Rediff News and even random blogs of ordinary people, like Jtom's In The Family House, were not spared. And if you thought it was merely the staff and guest writers that were deceiving and misleading their editorial team, let me tell you that everyone from the editor in chief, to the associate and executive editor, had at least one plagiarised article under their names.

Hastily I sent emails to some of the many authors whose work had been copied, not surprisingly, some of them are now responding back saying their attempts to get in touch with the magazine staff are resulting in bounced back emails. Indeed much of their website is now becoming inaccessible, with "server upgrade" maintenance messages coming up with apologies. Urooj Zia, fellow Karachi metroblogger and one of the guest writers there, has expressed her disbelief and asked her article to be removed from their website. Urooj's article was one of only 16 articles in the magazine which was original.

Pakistan at large remains a society where piracy and copyright infringement are viewed as an acceptable practice, an invariable product of inflation and where leading daily broadsheets, names like Dawn and The News, occasionally don't mind lifting copyright content from the web and incorporating it in their owns publications without attribution, it is perhaps not entirely surprising that a budding Pakistani ezine should also resort to such tactics. But it is the extent to which they have plagiarised is what is truly shocking. It shows how deeply ingrained indifference, cheating and dishonesty are in our society.

Below you'll find a complete list of all their plagiarised articles along with links to the original authors they were copied from, they links might not work, but I am trying to get snapshots of their copied article via Google Cache and I'll add them to this article as soon as I find them, in the meanwhile, as attempts to get in touch with WeCite keep resulting in futility, I urge you to publicize this issue your self as much as you can.

Plagiarism is a hideous crime and it should be not condoned at any level. Perhaps, if we, the readers, show a strong response to it this time, it will send a strong warning to all those out there to guard against it heavily in the future. And whilst you're at it, don't forget to check out Copyscape and put some of their banners on your blog or website. And you might as well check if your own content hasn't been copied by someone else too, in this day and age, you never know.

1. Go Go Go Pakistan - by Head Biter
Copied from: Cricket and the Blue Billion - by Vir Sanghvi, The Hindustan Times

2. SpiderMan 3 Review -By Head Biter
Copies from: Spider-Man 3 -by Ed Gonzalez, Slant Magazine

3. Madonna - Erotica -By Kiran Bokhari
Copied from: Madonna-Erotica -by Sal Cinquemani, Slant Magazine

4. Mullah Power! - by Ayesha Fazli
Copied from: Why The Mullahs Will Win In Pakistan - By Sushant Sareen, Rediff News

5. Tango-The History of Love -By Kiran Bokhari
Copied from: TANGO: The History of Love...for Three Minutes -By Lisa Cigel, Vis-a-Vis, Magazine

6. Underestimating Your Self-worth -by Ayesha Fazlip
Copied from: THEN AND NOW: Never Underestimate Your Self Worth -By Neli Lalanne, Vis-a-Vis Magazine

7. Way of the Mommy! -By Sumbal Aziz
Copied from: What To Expect When You're Not Expecting -By Sala Elise Patterson, Vis-a-Vis Magazine

8. Just Another Blog on the Wall -By Rabia Manzoor
Copied from: Why Most Film and Music Blogs Have No Voice -by Tiffany Leigh, Blogcritics

9. 300: This is Sparta -By Omar Saleem & Miss WeCite
One huge chunk copied from: 300 - the movie - "guy flick" - from a chick's perspective -By Jtom, In The Family House

10. Those bonds -By Ayesha Fazli
Copied from: FEMALE FELLOWSHIP: A Celebration Of The Bonds That Exist Among Girlfriends -By Sala Elise Patterson, Vis-a-Vis Magazine

11.Till Death Do Us Part: Is monogamy more prevalent than we thing? -By Christina Anderson
Copied from: TILL DEATH OF LOVE DO US PART: Musings On Monogamy, By Shashoua, Vis-a-Vis Magazine

Zainub is an opinionated dreamer, intermittent blogger, massive sports fan and aspiring journalist recently liberated from studying boring dentistry. She blogs at Kaleidoscope, freelances for Spider and Sci-Tech World both part of the Dawn media group, and also writes at ezines Desicritics and Chowk. She is currently majoring in General History and minoring in International Relations and Mass Media Communications/Journalism at the University of Karachi.
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June 1, 2007
12:47 PM

good work, Zainub - shows the power of the net and the importance of keepin' it straight!

June 1, 2007
12:56 PM

HOLY SHIT... as the former editor of a monthly print magazine, this is my worst nightmare. of course, i had a team of fact checkers and a staff of competent authors, so...

it still amazes me that even here in India, copyright seems to mean "my right to copy" to many people. I have had to educate my peers at my current job that you cannot simply cut and paste something that someone else has written, change 3 words and claim it is yours. SHEEEESH

good job. what a nightmare.

Deepti Lamba
June 1, 2007
01:01 PM

Zainub, I am mighty proud of you. You rock!

June 1, 2007
01:04 PM

hehehe :-> Thanku Deepti and everyone else

June 1, 2007
01:21 PM

I especially like the one that copied the title as well :D damn, Z, this is an eyeopener. I'm getting on the copyscape wagon. thanks

June 1, 2007
01:23 PM

I like that the site says it is down for server maintenance now... hee. looks like they got the message....

June 1, 2007
04:20 PM

You wuz robbed!!(try and get the Edward G Robinson drawl right). Nice work and keep on busting those plagiarising chops.

Ken Edwards
June 1, 2007
05:32 PM

Great work! bravo.

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