Plagiarism Is One Very Ugly Word!

Welcome Back, Everyone!

This post was not the one I was intending to write to you all about. That article will be posted later, as the article I am going to post for you today, is about something that’s just occurred in the past 72 hours, and is at the heart of what my blog is about – horror film journalism – and it’s a sordid story that needs as much exposure as possible! Thank You to Alan Simpson of the website  Sex, Gore, Mutants  for the initial Facebook posting on which this article is about.

If you are a horror film fan residing in Britain or the United States, then you may well be aware that a few years back, there was an issue over plagiarism creeping into articles and reviews for the British horror film magazine THE DARK SIDE, which was edited and published by one Allan Bryce.

To cut a long story short, articles allegedly written by one “rogue author” (known only by the pseudonymous Gordon Booker) were wholly or almost-wholly stolen from other people’s original works, either from online blogs, reviews from other magazines, and/or a mixture of the two. Some were stolen from other well-known journalists’ work – people who are paid to write for a living. Occasionally, the plagiarism was just one paragraph. On other occasions, entire reviews running to 1000-plus words were stolen blatantly, with just the most minuscule of edits to try and hide the original source.

Bryce stated that this was just an accident, a mere oversight, and the blame was put on one temporary film reviewer interning at the magazine, at the time – October 2009. Yet, the problematic plagiarism took place over several years, between Issues 87 through to 115 of THE DARK SIDE, thus it seemed that the one “rogue author” response was not entirely honest. (Issue 87 came out at the end of 2000, and is cover-dated October/November of that year!) I should point out that the discovery of plagiarism wasn’t noted until October 2009. It was at this point, that Callum Waddell’s name was brought to readers attention thanks to Mirek Lipinski, and it was asserted that Mr Waddell had something to do with the plagiarism, though nothing was ever proven.

As such, we have to assume Mr Waddell is innocent of any claims being made. (You can read the whole sordid story – and it’s a very, very long one – at American Film maker and journalist Mirek Lipinski’s  The Latarnia Forums  over some 60-odd pages. All of the details, including screenshots are there for you to peruse. Just be aware, though, that many posts are no longer available, or have had to be removed for various legal reasons. However, the main body of content is still viewable. If you want to see just how many articles and reviews were “appropriated”, see this link  here  for all of the extensive details and notes on who the original articles were written by.)

But the story does not end there…

Oh, no. This is the same Mr Waddell who works for Arrow Video. Arrow Video use his company, High Rising Productions (HRP), to make the featurettes for many of their titles. According to Mirek’s Laternia Forums site, Mr Waddell used a personal photo of his, in one of HRP’s featurettes, and credited that photo to one Allan Bryce. See  Calum Waddell Copyright Theft  thread, for the details.

Mr Waddell then blamed Naomi Holwill – another HRP “staff member” – for using the copyrighted image, and she claimed that the image was sent to her, via social media, by a fan wanting to help her out.

Sound a tad fishy?

Exactly!

Ever heard of the saying “Shit rolls down hill”? Well, this is what seems to be happening here. The person at the top, blames the person beneath them. Who, in turn, blames the person beneath them. And, who then goes on to blame the person beneath them, until you get to some poor, blameless grunt at the very, very bottom of the corporate ladder who loses their job, for doing absolutely nothing wrong whatsoever! It’s never anyone’s fault, just a humble, accidental oversight!

These plagiarised articles were then being published, in magazines bought by the very people who work in the same industry, and/or by horror film fans. A nasty, little cycle of people paying for stuff to people who were stealing from others who did the work for nothing in the first place! As such, the magazine haemorrhaged readers – myself included. I stopped buying it, refusing to subsidise a company that let plagiarism go through unchecked, and that which I was paying hard-earned money for, for material that wasn’t even the magazine’s to publish in the first place, and which was available for free online. If I buy a magazine, I expect to get original work, not available elsewhere in the exact same format.

The plagiarism at THE DARK SIDE eventually stopped, but at the time, this hit the horror film journalism industry hard, as it seemed that there were people happy to duplicate other people’s hard work, and worse still, these were journalists (doing the work often for free and purely because they loved writing about horror films) being downright ripped-off.

I count myself amongst those same journalists. I write what I do, because I love writing about horror films and extreme cinema. I do it for free. It can take me several hours or more, just to research then write-up my longer blog posts. It may not sound like much, but I take pride in my work. I want it to be the best it can be. But I would never knowingly steal anyone else’s work. It’s just plain wrong! In fact, it’s one of the very first rules about writing you get taught. You never, ever, EVER crib, poach, steal or duplicate someone else’s material without their express permission, or unless you state whose work you are using, so that your readers know exactly which parts of your work is yours, and which is that of others, so that everyone gets due credit.

Sadly today, July 2013, another plagiarist has been discovered, and it’s just as interesting and shocking!

A lady, by the name of Lianne MacDougall, who I had never heard of until today, who also writes online and in magazines under the name of “Lianne Spiderbaby”, has been unmasked this weekend just gone. What makes her work even more devastating than the previous plagiarist, is that Ms MacDougall, is none other than Quentin Tarantino’s current girlfriend, and a woman who has worked for some of the biggest horror film magazines in the world – namely Video Watchdog, Famous Monsters Of Filmland, Fear.net, and Fangoria. Again, publications I have personally paid hard-earned cash for!

According to her, the plagiarism is just one “rogue intern”, and alas, this is the response Ms MacDougall posted on her Twitter account (@liannespider). Alas, her Twitter account seems to have gone through a case of severe editing, and a lot of posts she had originally made, including the “rogue intern” apology have now gone to Twitter Heaven. (Nice one, Lianne!) For what it’s worth, this intern was (allegedly, supposedly) known as Raven Cousins, another almost-certainly completely fabricated creation – much like most of Ms MacDougall’s writings.

Her plagiarism can be seen over at Impossible Funky’s blog, which you can access  here  for the details. More of Ms MacDougall’s plagiarism also came to light at Flick Filosopher’s blog, located  here  and which includes further information for you to read through.

As you will see from Impossible Funky’s blog page, Ms MacDougall is about to publish a book called Grindhouse Girls, courtesy of St. Martin’s Press. I do sincerely hope that the book is dropped completely, and that Ms MacDougall is forced to return any and all fees she may have already been paid for her “work”, because she absolutely does not deserve it. If her book does get published, and even one review or part of an article is found to have been plagiarised, then they will be opening themselves up to a massive lawsuit! One, that could force them under!

No one wants that, but credit is due where credit is due! All writers, bloggers and journalists, no matter what area of the film industry you write about, should ever have their work stolen. I have to hope that no one has taken any of mine. I doubt anyone has plagiarised my work, but you never know. Plenty of other bloggers have had their work stolen by “Gordon Booker” and Ms MacDougall!

What makes this whole sordid saga worse, is that Mr Bryce, and now Tim Lucas, editor of the respected Video Watchdog magazine, never apologise. They simply try and wash their hands off of things, and shout that there’s nothing to see here.

Tim Lucas even posted comments over the weekend. This is what he wrote (I’ve shortened the quote, but the full account can be seen on Mirek’s site, as shown  here  ):

In regard to my own working relationship with Lianne, she has written two features for VIDEO WATCHDOG – the one Mirek cited above, and another about the Emmanuelle and Black Emanuelle films, which is forthcoming in our next issue. About the first: the SKIN I LIVE IN piece was quite lengthy, and if Mirek was able to find only two parts that show evidence of cribbing in Lianne’s research, I would say the word “plagiarism” doesn’t really apply. His findings show that the great bulk of her lengthy feature was original work, and it was excellent work. My own years of experience as a writer make it easy for me to understand how something like that could happen, in all innocence. It looks to me like Lianne may have copied that material into her document with the intention of making use of its information and, as she juggled several too many things over a period of time, somehow lost track of what material she had and had not written herself. This is the very real danger of using any internet material as research material.

Ever since Lianne arrived on the scene I have noticed that she projects an image that certain fans hate on sight. She’s young, beautiful, affluent, educated, athletic and seems to be living a charmed and golden, bicoastal life, now with one of our leading writer/directors on her arm. (What’s not to hate, right?) When she and Quentin went on a sailing trip after his Oscar win, a paparazzo took stealth photographs of the two of them in their swimwear to mock their physical condition. And this was after she had starved herself for three days to fit into her Oscar dress. I am only going into this aspect to point out that she has always attracted trolls online, and that not everything you read about her or her works online is automatically to be trusted. A certain bias seemed to be dripping from the headline of the article that first broke this story.

The word “plagiarism” is poison to a writer and his/her reputation. I’ve gotten to know Lianne slightly since we began working together and, though evidence suggests otherwise, I don’t think it’s in her nature to have done this with the deliberate intention to cheat or deceive — those traits that make plagiarism the ugly word that it is. There are other ways for this sort of thing to occur, but I’m not going to discuss it. I don’t intend to prolong this episode’s discussion, just to make a statement on her behalf. What happened (and I think she would agree) boils down to a stupid mistake, repeated out of simple convenience until it caught up with her, and made in the first place because she’s still young and fairly new to the rigors of professional writing. And in this day and age, when even our leading newspapers contain preposterous errors and feature stories picked up from the internet, the bar that defines professional writing seems to be getting lowered all the time.

Lucas’s assertion that…

Lianne may have copied that material into her document with the intention of making use of its information and, as she juggled several too many things over a period of time, somehow lost track of what material she had and had not written herself. This is the very real danger of using any internet material as research material.

… is complete hogwash! Any half-decent journalist writing anything, and using the internet to gain information from for research purposes, knows exactly how to quote the right parts, and remove those that aren’t pertinent. You shouldn’t lose track of anything, if you’re good at your job.

As an author, I know exactly what I write, and which parts I’ve used from other people or other publications or works, and I never publish anything, until I’ve fact-checked it at least twice. If errors do creep in, then you should remove them at the first available opportunity. However, if your work is being published in a magazine, to which people pay, then you have an even stronger duty-of-care to make sure there are no errors in it, and nothing remains within it, that shouldn’t be there!  The whole “juggled several too many things” is garbage! What Lucas is saying, is that she can’t keep tabs on what work she’s doing, if it involves more than one article/piece of work she’s working on, at the same time!

To then say that…

Ever since Lianne arrived on the scene I have noticed that she projects an image that certain fans hate on sight. She’s young, beautiful, affluent, educated, athletic and seems to be living a charmed and golden, bicoastal life, now with one of our leading writer/directors on her arm… When she and Quentin went on a sailing trip after his Oscar win, a paparazzo took stealth photographs of the two of them in their swimwear to mock their physical condition. And this was after she had starved herself for three days to fit into her Oscar dress. I am only going into this aspect to point out that she has always attracted trolls online, and that not everything you read about her or her works online is automatically to be trusted.

… is firstly putting the blame on us, the public, because we like looking at an attractive woman, and secondly, blaming us in perpetuity, for her starving herself to fit in a dress.

Sorry, Mr Lucas, but you can go fuck yourself right there!

The only person to blame for Ms MacDougall’s downfall, is Ms MacDougall!

She chose to date Quentin Tarantino.
She chose to write film reviews and articles.
She chose to plagiarise from others, to bump-up her own word-count.
She chose to wear that dress for the Oscars.
She chose to starve herself.

Not us. Not the Oscar voters. Not anyone else in the world. Just her!

To most of us, her sex, her (perceived) looks, and who she was dating had no reference to how we saw her. As I said earlier, I hadn’t heard of her until today. I don’t care if she’s beautiful or not. I don’t care that she is dating Mr Tarantino – a guy who has made some good films, some okay film, and some stinkers too. She is wholly to blame here, and for you, or anyone else, to dare insinuate that we the public are to blame, is both gutless and disgusting, and I’m not taking any ounce of blame for what she did! Not. One. Single. Bit! I am judging her purely on what she has done – plagiarised from other people’s works, to create her own film reviews. Nothing more, nothing less! To my mind, and many others, she is nothing but a thief! Everything else is utterly irrelevant!

So, what does this all mean?

Essentially, that where there’s dollar and pound signs to be found, someone, somewhere, may be willing to rip your copyrighted material off, and get paid for it in the process! That no one, famous or not, is against copyright theft, if they think they can get away with it. That, ultimately, film journalism is a free-for-all, and anyone can find themselves the brunt of it.

Jimi Hendrix once said:

I’ve been imitated so well I’ve heard people copy my mistakes.

That seems to fit Ms MacDougall and “Gordon Booker” down to a tee. See you back here soon!

ADDENDUM #1 – Tuesday 16th July: Tim Lucas has posted another, sort-of apology for Ms MacDougall’s plagiarism, as shown  here  which I’m less than enamoured by.

ADDENDUM #2: The L.A. Times has the story  here  as does Gawker  here !

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Plagiarism Is One Very Ugly Word!

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