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March 27, 2006

AP plagiarises The Raw Story

Larisa Alexandrova alleges that the Associated Press stole her investigative reporting about changes in security clearance guidlelines. When Alexandrovna confronted the AP, the officials admitted to using the information without permission, saying:  "We don't credit blogs."

The two articles: The Raw Story, AP .



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» AP = Admitting Plagiarizing? from L'Ombre de l'Olivier
This is an amazing tale (H/t Majikthise). It seems that when the AP is caught cutting and pasting huge chunks of blogger original research into its own story on the same subject the response is "we do not credit blogs": [Read More]


This kind of thing happens more often than you think.

This kind of thing happens more often than you think.

This kind of thing happens. Sadly, more often than you think. But should it?

But will anyone talk about it. No media outlet can afford to piss of the AP after all. And if no one knows it didn't happen. Simple as that

Gabriel quoth: "But will anyone talk about it. No media outlet can afford to piss of the AP after all. And if no one knows it didn't happen."

Instapundit knows and so do other bloggers (Roger L Simon for one) so I think this will get more coverage than AP would prefer. AP may indeed not lose any media outlets but it is likely to lose readers, as are its media outlets. The "right" has already given up on AP for one piece of cruddy biased editoral dressed as news journalism after another. Eventually maybe the "left" will give up because of its other ethical issues.

Instapundit linked here. I'm shocked.

The best outcome would be for the AP to change its ridiculous policy about blogs and other online news sources. They will have to change it soon. It's totally unsustainable in the modern world.

It isn't just online news sources and blogs that don't get attributed. And it isn't just the AP that doesn't attribute.

Do the alt weeklies complain when the AP cribs off of them? Surely the AP has rules against stealing from other print sources, if not from blogs and online magazines(yet).

I should clarify that I personally know of no instance where specifically the AP cribed off an alt-weekly. I have heard numerous accounts from alt-weekly editors over the years of other media re-purposing stories from alts without attribution.

Okay, here's one example:

Read the third LTE, entitled "We Deserved Credit."

Oooh. If it's straight-up plagiarism (as in, copying phrases) the AP could be in trouble, because current copyright law says that you have copyright the instant you write something down, even if you didn't register it.

This comment is copyrighted. Actually, I think Lindsay owns it. I need a lawyer.

If AP won't credit bloggers for their original material [and there is more of it all the time amid the stream of mostly re-commented news that makes up most posts] doesn't it seem like justice for bloggers to ommit crediting AP. We little people [who, it appears, now enjoy the basic press freedoms of the establishment news sources] generally add to the credibility of our posts by citing sources.

I may make up a page listing all the haughty plagiarists and instead of citing any of them properly just link to the page and label them as "plagiarists". They have provided all the evidence.

If AP wants to call up RIAA's lawyers and ask how to sue little people, they will probably only help our hit counters.

Not that this is the final word, and I certainly sympathize with those who go unacknowledged for their work, but I've read both articles and found them significantly different in form.

Also based on the following, I'd say it was neither copyright infringement, nor plaigarism, although if AP are admitting to reading the RAW story before writing their article, it certainly makes them look arrogant and not a little petty that they got scooped by the little guy.

It may be of little consolation to the writer, but clearly, whether acknowledged or not, you did a great job.


Fair use

Additionally, the fair use defense to copyright infringement was codified for the first time in section 107 of the 1976 Act. Fair use was not a novel proposition in 1976, however, as federal courts had been using a common law form of the doctrine since the 1840s (an English version of fair use appeared much earlier). The Act codified this common law doctrine with little modification. Under section 107, the fair use of a copyrighted work is not copyright infringement, even if such use technically violates section 106. While fair use explicitly applies to use of copyrighted work for criticism, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research purposes, the defense is not limited to these areas. The Act gives four factors to be considered to determine whether a particular use is a fair use:

1. the purpose and character of the use (commercial or educational, transformative or reproductive);
2. the nature of the copyrighted work (fictional or factual, the degree of creativity);
3. the amount and substantiality of the portion of the original work used; and
4. the effect of the use upon the market (or potential market) for the original work.

The Act was later amended to extend the fair use defense to unpublished works.

There is some difference of opinion over how much credit must be given when preparing a newspaper article or historical account. Generally, reference is made to original source material as much as possible, and writers avoid taking credit for others' work. The use of mere facts, rather than works of creative expression, does not constitute plagiarism.

Legally, AP may be within its rights, but morally the syndicate way out of line. I don't think there's much room for disagreement on that score. First, they stole another journalist's story. Also, they were dishonest in their own reporting to cover for the fact that they weren't crediting their real source. The AP passed the information off as coming from a gay and lesbian advocacy group. True, the group was spearheading the public outcry that followed changes in the rules for security clearance that make it more difficult for gays and lesbians to be cleared for high security jobs. However, the only reason the group knew the rules had changed was because Alexandrovna spent two solid weeks doing line-by-line comparisons between the new rules and the old edition. The group cited Alexandrovna's article when they complained about the rules changes.

If I ever plagiarize this post I'll make sure to change "plagiarises" to "plagiarizes."
Come on, Lindsay; you're in America, not Canada. Write American, dammit.

Let me put it this way.

The RAW article isn't really a source, or more specifically its not a primary one.

When *I* went looking for information about the 'legal' end of things I went to wikipedia. It listed some 'law' that defined the status of both words. (however you want to spell them.) Now, I did for wiki what the RAW writer would have liked done for her. I referenced Wiki. Even if I hadn't quoted wiki, thats where *I* got the info.

However, wiki is not a primary source either. If I was a professional reporter, thats little better than reporting a rumor. What I needed to do was go to the source document, the law, or in the AP case, the actual government documents. AP did that.

At that point, that is the only story, not the fact that I went to wikipedia. And they could have left it there.

As you said, Gay/Lesbian activists were spearheading the outcry. An 'outcry', thats also news. I'd interview them. Where did 'the angry lesbians' get their second hand information? Who cares? Lesbians make better print.

Would I interview the RAW reporter, probably not. Its a boring secondary source, and I already have the 'activist reaction'. I don't need the RAW article, its extra work and extra print.

And the latter is a real consideration. Did AP snub Alexandrova on purpose, maybe, but they might not have. Its conceivable they just followed the story. Does it still suck, yeah, it still sucks.

What do you mean the RAW Story version isn't a primary source? Alexandrovna says that she got the tip that the rules were changing, consulted experts on security clearance, obtained copies of the new and old versions of the rules, conducted a line-by-line comparison of the two, enlisted colleagues and editors to double check her work, and then wrote a story about how the security guidelines were changing based on her authentication of the source document and her line-by-line comparison of the new document with the last version. How is that not a primary source? The story is that the guidelines had been changed to impede gay and lesbian security clearance and that the government was trying to avoid attracting attention to the move. Alexandrovna broke the story and the AP stole it from her.

The Raw Story's article is based on original investigative reporting by Alexandrovna and her colleagues. The RS broke the story and did the authentication to make it news. AP had every right to put its own people on the case, too. The AP writers probably did their own legwork to double-check the RS's synopsis of the rules changes. However they also violated journalistic ethics by refusing to acknowledge their debt to the reporters who broke the story. I don't know whether that's illegal, but it's certainly reprehensible. It's reprehensible because the AP acknowledged the source of their information but high handled dismissed the idea that the authors deserve to be credited simply because they publish in an online format. That's just making excuses to steal.

Why should we bother reading the news if they're just going to steal from the blogs? Sheesh/ And they worry about their declining circulation!

Sorry if this upsets people, but 'breaking a story' gives you bragging rights, not property rights. Anyone else is free to report it as they like, and even put whatever spin on it they like. Very rarely do newspapers acknowledge when a competitor got there first... thats just advertising for the competition.

I think everyone has to understand that newspapers are a business, this is not academic writing. If it was essential to the story they'd have to include it, otherwise... its just extra ink. Ink costs money.

And no its not a primary source, its not because its not the government documents, those are the only primary source. A 'report', by AP or RAW, is by definition, a secondary source.

Alexandrovna did a great investigative job in my opinion, but her report is her report, and AP's is their report. They have an obligation to report news, nothing more.

Now the 'We don't credit blogs' thing wasn't nice, but imagine if someone is falsely accusing you of plagiarism... how polite would you be? I think there'd be hell to pay.

No one owns the 'news'. Alexandrovna published it first. Good on her. That doesn't mean every newspaper is then required to mention her name.

It just doesn't work that way. It never has, this is not a blog thing, its a news thing.

If AP had quoted her without attribution or reprinted her article without permission, that would have been unethical. All they really did was ignore her because she wasn't necessary for their story. Not nice, but not really unethical.

The AP has a policy of crediting other news outlets for information. Their officials didn't say "sorry, fair use." When asked why they didn't credit The Raw Story, even though they used the article, the officials said "We don't credit blogs." That's ridiculous. The implication is that they would credit a "real" newspaper if they had written the article.

AP is giving itself a license to steal from online news sources. That's wrong. In academia, we'd call it plagiarism. I don't know what the technical term is in journalism. I don't care what the legal status of AP's behavior is. It's unprofessional, uncollegial, and just plain wrong.

"On March 14, 2006, the AP did their own article, left out any attribution to me or my publication and lifted not only my research but also whole sections of my article for their own (making cosmetic changes of course)." Larisa Alexandrova, March 28, 2006

Sounds like the big boys at AP did a bad thing. I have to say that I find the moral integrity of the big money media a trifle lacking but plagiarism seems to be a running theme lately. She needs to find either a lawyer who wants to play against the big boys or some financial backing and sue their asses as far as she can go. Tedious and time-consuming, yes, but she could keep a running diary about the pathetic excuses that the 'legitimate' media make to justify their actions. Perhaps if we all make enough noise students, jounalists and just plain folk will get it through their heads that it is WRONG to steal other people's work, even when you think that you can get away with it.

I'd certainly be interested to see if a lawyer would take her case.

Does anyone else agree that there are only "cosmetic changes" that differentiate the articles?
I'd say that is highly inaccurate.

AP did not claim to have discovered the story, either implicitly or explicitly. What they didn't do was identify a 'specific' source of information they then researched themselves. They did however attribute sources.

AP story:

"The Bush administration last year quietly rewrote the rules for allowing gays and lesbians to receive national-security clearances, drawing complaints from civil rights activists.
Gay rights activists expressed concern that the new guidelines could lead to a chipping away of safeguards obtained in the 1990s for gays and lesbians seeking security-related government jobs."

Also freely available public information is not generally thought of as an 'exclusive'.

An AP staffer who reports and writes a story must use original content, language and phrasing. We do not plagiarize, meaning that we do not take the work of others and pass it off as our own

But in some respects, AP staffers must deal with gray areas.
Also, the AP often has the right to use material from its members and subscribers; we sometimes take the work of newspapers, broadcasters and other outlets, rewrite it and transmit it without credit.

There are rules, however. When the material is exclusive, controversial or sensitive, we always credit it. And we do not transmit the stories in their original form; we rewrite them, so that the approach, content, structure and length meet our requirements and reflect the broader audience we serve.
We apply the same judgment in picking up material from members or from news releases that we use when considering information we receive from other sources. We must satisfy ourselves, by our own reporting, that the material is credible. If it does not meet AP standards, we don't use it."

The latter being their policy on 'blogs'.

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