iMediaEthics wrote about the ethical repercussions of plagiarism in this story of how the Hartford Courant had been copying stories from other newspapers in the region. Now it looks like there could be legal repercussions for the Courant as well; Wednesday, the Journal Inquirer, of Manchester, Conn., sued the paper for financial damages, the New York Times reports.
“The suit, filed Wednesday in Connecticut Superior Court in Hartford, cites 11 Courant articles it says were largely taken from The Journal Inquirer in August and September, and The Journal Inquirer has cited other examples taken from other papers,” Times reporter Richard Pérez-Peña writes.
The Inquirer began noticing their work (and that of several other papers, including The Bristol Press, The Herald of New Britain, the Register-Citizen of Torrington, and the Waterbury Republican-American) appearing in the Courant last summer, at which time they published a story detailing the plagiarism. Some articles and sentences lifted by the Courant were attributed to the original authors, but some were not, they reported.
According to the New York Times, Richard P. Weinstein, The Journal Inquirer’s lawyer, said that online copies of Journal Inquirer stories were largely credited. But in print, many of the attributions were dropped with a Courant writer’s byline added. “The articles were rearranged and rewritten to some extent, but some phrases from the originals remained intact,” Pérez-Peña writes. “The suit addresses only examples when no credit was given to the Journal Inquirer, but Mr. Weinstein said that even with attribution, the extent of copying violated the law.”
It certainly violated journalistic ethics. As StinkyJournalism reported at the time, the Society of Professional Journalists responded to the issue September 2, writing,
The Code of Ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists plainly exhorts newspapers and journalists, ‘Never plagiarize.’ When a newspaper invests reporting and editing time to produce a story, that story should not be used by another outlet without permission and without informing readers who actually did the work.
However it happened, the Courant violated fundamental standards,” said Andy Schotz, the chairman of SPJ’s Ethics Committee. “This was theft.”
Failure to follow that guideline results in plagiarism, taking credit for someone else’s work, as it did in this case.
Prospects for the Courant in this lawsuit look grim considering that they might have continued to plagiarize after apologizing for their plagiarism:
In a September 4 apology statement by the Courant’s publisher–quoted on Craig Silverman’s RegretTheError blog–the paper admitted, “we have determined that over the last several weeks The Courant plagiarized the work of some of our competitors. This was not our intent, but it is in fact what happened. We are taking corrective action to prevent it from happening again.” Now the Times reports that the Inquirer suit alleges that at least one example of plagiarism by the paper took place after that apology.
According to the Times, the Journal Inquirer is seeking unspecified damages.
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