10 May 2010

Perkinsgate and why plagiarism never pays

During the past few days a minor scandal has rocked the net based film critic community. A British video blogger called Tom Perkins, operating under the alias “filmXTRATOM” was busted for mass amounts of plagiarism, the cardinal sin of web based criticism. Perkins had sneakily leached content from terrific critics like Matthew Turner of www.viewlondon.co.uk and sites like joblo.com, passing their work of as his own. Obviously at this juncture several days on, Perkins has officially apologised (not that saying sorry will do his reputation many favours now) and the incident has been widely reported and damned on twitter and various other geek havens. Perkin’s YouTube channel has been placed on lockdown, and his content removed from the film blog www.heyyouguys.co.uk. Various blogs have (including a rather excellent one at www.the-following-preview.blogspot.com) reported widely on this specific issue, and that’s all fine and dandy. However what fascinates me isn’t “Perkinsgate”, but rather the idea of plagiarizing film reviews at all.

I write film reviews because I love movies. Sure I get free access to screenings occasionally and am provided with a few free DVD’s every month, but ultimately it’s my love of cinema that keeps me doing it. It’s not a lucrative business for me, in fact I earn next to nothing for my film reviews and movie articles. To be honest I’m going to assume 99% of my fellow critics (no matter if they be a fresh faced amateur or Roger Ebert himself) feel the same way. So why on god’s earth would you take somebody else’s opinions and passion and proceed to pass them off as your own. It’s a fucking mystery. Film criticism requires a true affection for cinema in order to have any impact, and if you don’t care enough to write your own reviews, you clearly don’t care enough about films to be considered a respectable voice within the internet community. Tom Perkins may indeed cherish cinema, but when he goes around stealing other peoples work; he’s keeping such feelings bottled up inside of him. In honesty what shocks me most isn’t the theft or sheer laziness, but rather the lack of zeal or genuine excitement for a post he’s lucky to have. Every year so many great fans and eloquent writers loose faith in film criticism because they can’t find an audience, something Mr. Perkins clearly possessed in a credible stature. I’m lucky to be a writer for three sites and am incredibly proud to be affiliated with them; being forever thankful that the editors of these web spaces have allowed me to be a part of their writing family. However so many far superior film lovers never even manage to cut a break and find a good place to air their opinions. So it saddens me that anyone on Tom Perkin’s platform and with such a supposed affinity for film could waste their chance so utterly; especially when so many burgeoning talents never hit the heights they deserve.

Of course one also has to assess the moral implications and artistic depravity of legitimately thieving another person’s work, this being the most obvious problem with plagiarism. This is an abhorrent path to tread, but surely it’s also a hugely dissatisfying and stupid one. Firstly it’s hard to see any proper person with journalistic integrity feeling happy within themselves when all their output is stolen, it must create a truly dirty and sour relationship with your craft. Your opinion and reputation is never something to be proud of, even if your thieving stays forever hidden; because the work and views don’t belong to you. It’s a fairly worthless state of affairs for sure. One of the most startling things about web based plagiarism is that the offender ever thinks he’ll be able to get away with it. We live in an era with search engines (where simple phrases can be turned up in seconds), and in a time where thousands upon thousands of film obsessive’s move through reviews at a ferocious rate. These folks will report back to writers when they see evidence of theft, making them just as efficient as Google when it comes to tracking and terminating plagiarism. How these larcenist dummies think they can get away with it is stunning, and as evidenced by Mr. Perkins, they rarely do.

If my writing was stolen I’d be 30% flattered and 70% annoyed, in the end it’s ultimately a warped compliment. However having your hard work thieved is never a good feeling, and it’s sad to watch a fellow movie fanatic steep to such pathetic lows. Plagiarism has no real benefits in this age of the internet film critic, and the sooner people realise that; the happier the web will become. To all fellow writers and bloggers I urge you never to commit this deed (for your own reputation’s sake above all else), and to those who are hiding behind a wall of literary theft; damn yourself to oblivion.

An article by Daniel Kelly, 2010


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