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Plagiarism in the Digital Age

by Darren Smith, CFII/MEI

I am constantly amazed by the audacity of folks who outright steal my material without credit, reference, or permission.  For years some idiot named Ryan Davis out of Orange County California has linked to my material as if it were his own and without my permission.  It's not the biggest sin as his links end up at my home page, but it's still a violation of what belongs to me.  Then I had this guy send me a book he is writing, competing with my own book, and asks me to review it.  No problem, I'm always about helping the aviation community even if there's no money in it.  On page two, I find material I wrote in 2006 lifted word for word from my website without credit, reference, or permission. 

I've found phrases that I wrote -- uncommonly phrased sentences -- on websites all over the place.   People have just stolen, poof, completely lifted entire articles from my website without credit, reference or permission.  Over the last ten years I have devoted to sharing information on this website, no more than a handful of people have written to me to ask permission to use my material.  I've FREELY granted every request with the provision they include my contact details and copyright. 

I know how hard it is to write completely new material, in your own words, generating something the aviation community hasn't already read 50 times.  I labor on this endlessly to the point I almost give up.  I've got several dozen articles that I've started for the website ultimately to go into a publication that I never finished because I can't find the unique angle which makes it informative yet interesting reading.

Every week I get a request for a PDF copy of one of my books.  Yeah right.  That's what I'll do -- that will make it easier for me to earn an income off my work.  NOT.

As I reflect on the role of "creator of media", I think about the evolutions I've gone through. 
There was a pathway that made it harder to duplicate things.  The books are easy to photocopy I guess.  Although I don't know why people would when I sell them near my cost to produce.  The gadgets were much harder to bootleg because they were manufactured items.  No one bootlegs a plastic plotter.  But now I'm on a path to create aviaTV - a website devoted to free online learning where some extended video will be available for purchase.  Hopefully enough will sell to make the effort worthwhile. 

The standard joke I tell is this:  "What's the difference between a pepperoni pizza and a CFI?"  Answer: "One feeds a family of four."  It's so hard to make a living as a CFI.  The work is irregular and fluctuates with the gas prices.  Honestly not many folks are flying or learning anymore.  Flight schools are not nearly making money as they did in years past because the students aren't there.   Who has $20k to buy your private pilot certificate anymore?   And a Cessna that might have cost you $50-75/hour to rent back in the day now costs $150/hour.  Phew, times are tough.

So now that you've heard the rationale, please consider my request.  The work I do as a "Creator of Media" helps support me and my family.  It puts food on the table and pays the mortgage.  So please... please don't steal my stuff. 

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