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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Plagerizm is Stoopid

From the Edmonton Journal, we have the story of a Kent, Ohio police officer, Det. Jack L. Herman, who was quite a thief, apparently buying a series of Canadian plays and slapping his name on them. A blog post has an extended transcript of David Staples' interview with this literary vampire, some quotes of which are particularly revealing:

Staples: "How do feel about it having done what you did, plagiarized it?"
Herman: "Horrible. I talked to Mr. Belke myself and I apologized profusely. I feel horrible about what I did. It’s not something that I’m proud of. As I said, it didn’t seem bad at the time. It didn’t seem like it was going to affect or hurt anybody. Of course, looking back now, I realize now it was completely the wrong thing to do. I wouldn’t appreciate it if someone had done it to me.”

Staples: "Did you realize that it was fraud and theft when you were doing it?"
Herman: “No, I didn't really think about it at that time, and I should have, because of the position I am in.”

Of course, in the interview, Det. Herman insisted that this one play, The Unexpected Return of Sherlock Holmes, was the only one he plagiarized. An assertion that was simple enough for Mr. Staples to check, since there are records of Det. Herman's script purchases from the Canadian playwright's union. . .

It goes to prove that direct word-for-word plagiarism is rare because it is an incredibly stupid practice to engage in. Especially for serial plagiarists like Det. Herman. The fact that your crime will remain on public display until someone figures out you stole it means that potential for eventual discovery is about as close to 100% as you can get.

To compound the stupidity, Herman was particularly conscious of his own intellectual property rights, to the point of stapling to the front page of his stolen script a note saying;

"Copyright, 1999 Herman Plays & Publications. Caution: Professionals and amateurs are hereby warned that The Unexpected Return of Sherlock Holmes is subject to royalty. It is fully protected under copyright laws."

Well, if this sick little sleaze was looking for recognition, he got it.

ADDENDUM: Here's the Plain Dealer story about this character; apparently being smacked with his own stupidity by the Canadian press left him reluctant to talk to any more reporters.

ADDENDUM 2: Another local paper, the Record-Courier has a story about our plagercop. Apparently the Portage county sheriff's department has him on "paid administrative leave."


George said...

Hey there Steven. George Sulea here, ghost of the Hamsters. I have something to say here. Believe it or not, I know Jack; he used to be my martial arts instructor and a friend years ago and actually, at one point, saved me by letting me live in our dojo until I got on my feet. I was nearly homeless, but thanks to his help at the time, I was spared for a time and survived.

I, as a person who writes, will NEVER condone plagarism in any form; stealing someone elses work is despicable. Thing is, I know this man isn't all bad. He helped me long ago, and I know he's lied before, but I feel worst for his family; he has three kids and a wife. They must be hurting something awful right now. I hope they get through this okay.

I was sorry to read this whole story, but my feelings are mixed. He and I lost touch after a sort of indirect falling out. Later I discovered his penchant for telling things his own way, but I knew he was doing a decent job with the Sherriff's department. I thought maybe he had found a better way.

I am shocked by this, and in no way condone his actions, but I want people to know he's not all bad; if it hadn't been for his decency at the time, along with the help of another friend, I might be in a very different state.

Thanks for listening,

S Andrew Swann said...

Strangely enough, I'm not that surprised. This kind of crime often seems to stem from mental illness rather than maliciousness. It’s clear that this kind of plagiarism isn’t done for profit, and it is so inherently self-destructive that the plagiarist is probably psychologically similar to a alcoholic than, for instance, a mugger.