Nate Thayer, the writer who touched off a debate this week about how freelancers are compensated, found himself embroiled in another controversy on Friday when he was accused of plagiarizing large parts of the piece that The Atlantic wanted him to re-work for free. In his defence, Thayer and his editor said links weren’t included in the original version due to an editing error, a mistake they later corrected. This failed to satisfy some of the writer’s critics, however, including the author of the piece that Thayer based some of his reporting on.
If nothing else, the incident helps reinforce just how blurry the line is between plagiarism and sloppy attribution — and also how the the web makes it easier to provide attribution via hyperlinks, but at the same time makes it harder to define what is plagiarism or content theft and what isn’t.
To Jeremy Duns, who first blew the whistle on what he said was Thayer’s plagiarism, the case seemed open and shut: chunks of the article about North Korea and basketball, including a number of quotes, appeared to have been lifted straight from a piece by San Diego Union-Tribune writer Mark Zeigler on the same topic in 2006. And there was virtually no attribution of any kind in the original version of Thayer’s story, which appeared at the NKNews.com site, apart from one oblique reference to the Union-Tribune — and no links.
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Via Chuck Sherwood, Senior Associate, TeleDimensions, Inc