Ah, plagiarism, lovely

I found this article about the disappearances of Cynthia Gooding and Teresa Alfonso. They found a few bone fragments that might be from one of the girls, though besides the location there’s really no indication that it’s Cynthia or Teresa. Anyway, in the article I count three sentences that were copied word-for-word from their Charley casefiles:

Investigators initially believed Gooding and Alfonso had run away from home, as one of them had a history of such behavior.


The police file for the girls was destroyed in a fire sometime after they vanished.

and, just from Cynthia’s file:

She had moved from her mother’s Portsmouth, Virginia home to Florida to be closer to her father and older brothers.

No attribution, of course. Hrmph.

17 thoughts on “Ah, plagiarism, lovely

  1. Princess Shantae October 14, 2010 / 9:33 pm

    Maybe not, those three sentences are pretty generic (sp?) they look like they could of come from any place. And you had to get your info from somewhere, right? Wherever you got your info probably had those sentences or clsoe to them.

    • Meaghan October 15, 2010 / 3:46 am

      Oh, I’m willing to give the benefit of doubt, but THREE sentences worded exactly the same in a short article seems a bit much. I always try to make sure not to let this happen in my casefiles (that is, I write everything in my own words).

  2. Justin October 14, 2010 / 11:20 pm

    Feel flattered. When it comes to U.S. missing persons online, the press is almost certainly going to check your site to see if you wrote anything about them.

  3. Zoe October 15, 2010 / 12:57 am

    Yeah, feel flattered ;o) You wrote it so well they just ran with it.

  4. Kat October 15, 2010 / 9:22 am

    Er, yeah. If that other site rips you off ver batim, what’s to stop anyone else? Laziness, that’s what it is. I’d give YOU the benefit of the doubt any day. They googled the names , got the site, and it’s like a term paper thing now. Sheesh. If only you got paid for the write ups! Can ya tell I hate plagiarism?

  5. Princess Shantae October 15, 2010 / 9:56 am

    Come on. How many different ways are there to say somebody had a history of running away? Or that somebody else moved from her mom in VA to her dad and brothers and FL.
    This isn’t creative writing its just the facts.

    • Meaghan October 15, 2010 / 11:24 am

      Offhand I can think of a dozen or so ways. Probably a hundred or more if I sat down and thought hard.

      My father’s a college professor who sometimes has to deal with plagiarized papers. I think he once told me that, statistically speaking, an identical string of six (or maybe it’s eight) words in a row means someone almost certainly copied.

      Due to the internet and things like Google, you really can’t get away with that stuff anymore. Just Google a phrase and you’ll find exactly where it was used. Recently I wanted to find a citation for the book and I couldn’t remember the title or the author or anything at all, just one particular six-word phrase from one particular page. So I Googled it, and Google Books found that very page for me. And ONLY that page. No other link in Google’s indexes had strung those particular six words together.

  6. J.A. Scrambles-Ashmole, Bart. October 15, 2010 / 10:52 am

    Imitation isn’t the sincerest form of flattery; outright theft is, when talking about words.

    Also, Charley – the best and most deserving missing persons site on the internet – would get, I think, lots more hits via such forums as WebSleuths, and many more mentions in their pages, if people could copy and paste from here. Instead, sub-standard write-ups get quoted from.

    The goal is to spread the word and find the missing. In this context, that is the ultimate value of the prose on Charley.

    • Meaghan October 15, 2010 / 11:18 am

      By making it more difficult (but not impossible by any means) to copy-and-paste my casefiles, I was trying to keep certain sites from stealing huge chunks of the site wholesale like they were doing. There is one site in particular I can think of that’s really badly written, and any decently written casefile on it, 90% of the time, was stolen from Charley.

      It didn’t really work, I’m afraid. Probably when the upgrade happens, you’ll be able to copy-and-paste again. I bow to the inevitable.

      • Kat October 15, 2010 / 11:56 am

        Uh huh. That’s what I was talking about. Isn’t your stuff covered under the copyright? I know little about legal matters, but you would think, like with the papers thing, it would be enforcable somehow.

      • Meaghan October 15, 2010 / 12:09 pm

        Yes, it’s covered under copyright, but I would have to hire a lawyer to enforce my rights and it would be a great deal of trouble and cost a great deal of money to me.

      • J.A. Scrambles-Ashmole, Bart. October 15, 2010 / 2:34 pm

        WebSleuths enforces a “no more than 10% of content” quotation rule in keeping with copyright standards.

  7. Kat October 15, 2010 / 12:50 pm

    Oy vey. That sounds like fun. Can’t you just threaten them or something?

    • Meaghan October 15, 2010 / 6:08 pm

      I could, but I hardly see the point. This problem is endemic. If I get someone to stop copying me, someone else will turn around and do it. Thus is the nature of the internet. It’s like fighting fog.

      On the other hand, the same way it’s easy to copy me, it’s also easy to figure out that I am the original source.

      • Kat October 15, 2010 / 6:27 pm

        I guess that sure is true. You have a much more laid back attitude then I would. However, you can take credit for being the trailblazer! And I meant threaten in the nicest possible way lol.

      • Meaghan October 15, 2010 / 6:39 pm

        My “laid-back attitude” is one of resignation from many years of this problem. This sort of thing used to make me furious, but it’s happened so many times now that I just sigh and shrug.

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