A couple of days ago, I registered with LadsLads.com – the “world’s fastest growing free gay community”, no less.
Despite my pseudonymous registration information and honourable motives, I still felt a little bit soiled as I scrolled through the terms and conditions and built a profile describing my taste in men. Do I say I’m single and looking for love? Am I “Gay” or “Bi-curious”? The site seemed keen for me to get amongst it – prompting me (a little salaciously, I thought) for an “appealing” profile picture and asking me for my “exact location” so I could “get in touch with local guys” straight away.
I should probably cut to the chase at this point. I have not (as I believe the popular parlance goes) “turned whoopsie” (though I maintain a healthy interest in quiche-eating and cake-baking, and have been known to resemble a slightly camper version of Kenneth Williams during my short-lived and ill-advised career as a smoker.)
No. I have gone undercover into the dark, forbidden world of man-dating to wheedle out a cocky plagiarist who has posted one of my stories without permission. “Lost”, he calls himself - an effete young gentleman from the West Country who evidently thinks that illegally reproducing a spoof news article on Midsomer Murders and passing it off as his own will provide him with sufficient kudos to secure a real-life meeting with some hard-bodied local buck, after which they will skip merrily through the fields making daisy chains and twittering about John Nettles. This will not do.
Lost - A copycat
I am immediately suspicious of chatroom denizens of all orientations – mainly because I’ve always been baffled by acronym and emoticon-driven communication. I’m the guy who spells out text messages in the Queen’s English, and has been known to pull out a thesaurus if I feel my missive’s original wording is a little drab. Today’s youths could no doubt arrange and execute a crack deal in the time it takes me to find a synonym for “intravenous”.
So web forums and blogs are not my natural habitat. Past experiences in dallying with these clandestine communities have been met with indignation and even outright hostility. Breaching a forum with the spurious intention of publicising my website is enough to provoke accusations of spamming and espionage from the long-standing members who believe firmly in “newbies” (urgh) earning their stripes before being so bold as posting a link. If you are not initiated into these cyber-gangs, then you will be shown the virtual door. It’s a bit like a skinny white boy sauntering into Compton and asking the residents to look at his swastikas – only less dangerous and quite a lot nerdier.
Strangely however, the comments from LadsLads.com users on the stolen article were earnest and frankly a little coquettish. “Thanks for making me smile!” said the playful “HertsGuy” whose profile picture is a faceless shot of him sitting in his pants (possibly watching Midsomer Murders – who knows?). Either way he looks up for some locker room action with Lost.
My initial idiotic pride at this positive feedback on what was essentially my story, was swiftly replaced by something approaching anger, and it was at this point I decided firm action was required.
Upon joining the swarming masses of ardent boys, I was able to access user-profiles and post messages. Time to reprimand my villainous copycat. “Lost” looked typically pallid and geeky in his profile. Clearly he can’t pull one of these faceless, muscle-bound hunks in tightie-whities with his own trite material, so he nicks a gentle pastiche of an ITV drama in order to appeal to their sense of humour - which is, I suppose, a sadness, more than anything else. Get yourself to G.A.Y., chief. And anyway - how do you know HertsGuy isn’t just some portly middle-aged accountant from Hemel Hempstead?
I’m not proud that I’ve taken to Googling the headlines of my articles to see if they’ve been picked up by somebody else. Usually they haven’t and I’m confronted by one lonely link back to this site. Occasionally I might see a link on a blog and the odd favourable comment and I feel a warm glow and a feeling that the whole thing is worth it after all. A bit pathetic really.
And I was only moved to do it in the first place when I read about Michael Kelly’s plagiarist (and believe me – “Lost” is a minor irritation compared to this psycho). I guess (whether they realise it or not) anyone who’s ever had a half-original idea and posted it online, has been plagiarised at some point.
Pants - HertsGuy likes my work. Great
But copying and pasting your way to Internet popularity is at best lazy and at worst highlights a distressing (and not inconsequential) breakdown of honesty and integrity among authors. In a world of a trillion webpages it appears easier to filch someone else’s work than to craft your own. And there is very little chance of getting caught. I doubt many of the LadsLads.com members have Amateur Scribe in their Favourites folder (and with around only a handful of regular visitors to this site – most of whom are friends or family members, the odds are slim) – So I have to resort to headline searches to catch the perpetrators.
And I should add that I’m flattered and delighted when somebody picks up and comments on my articles - they just need to stick my link or my name at the bottom and I will be forever in their debt. A kind word and a “LOL :-)” and I’m anyone’s (though I will have to punch you if the emoticon use is unironic).
Did “Lost” feel the warm glow of professional pride at the thought of like-minded folk gently chortling at their computer terminals? After all, he has chosen to write a blog, so you would have thought he was reasonably confident people would enjoy what he has to say. Writing online (or anywhere else) tends to suggest you want to get your message across – to share your thoughts on life and all its amusing side-shows. What possible benefits to his soul to steal the thoughts of a stranger?
Maybe I’ve got it wrong and it is perfectly acceptable to flaunt the work of others. Maybe it’s a new craze of information-sharing and I’m the one with the problem – the Luddite with the chip on his shoulder.
I didn’t know how to pitch my comment, and maybe I was a trifle too polite to cause the shame and guilt I was intending to inflict.
Dear Lost (I wrote) This is a great story. You are a really talented writer.
Actually - you aren't. I know this because I wrote it. I'm pleased you thought it worth plagiarising, and even more thrilled that it appears to have received some positive feedback from the users of this site. But I'm not sure what sort of person you have to be to resort to stealing other people's work and passing it off as your own.
I am delighted when I find people have republished articles I've written to get them in front of a wider audience - but in future, please provide attribution or a link to the original source. Even better - come up with your own content - It will make comments like the ones above mean that little bit more...
All the best
Of course, what I should have said was:
Oi you thieving git!
Stop with the plagiarism or I will tell HertsGuy you have syphilis.
Naturally, I have received no response. No doubt “Lost” is enjoying a Frappachino with HertsGuy as we speak, and they are both chortling at my ridiculous rant as they hold hands and gaze lovingly at one another.
Well I’m sorry, Lost, but that should have been me.
Er… I think I’m going to shut up now.