March 21, 2010


Julie Tarp is not a Plagiarist

I know. Who is Julie Tarp? She's a writer. She writes screenplays.

She's a good writer. With work in production, she is still at the point many writers are - baby steps towards realizing a dream, working hard and armed with talent, faith, perseverance and belief.

Julie and her husband own a ranch in Oklahoma. They're young and work their butts off, with Julie's dream never far from hand. In fact, one feeds the other - her work is flavoured with her Texas upbringing and her rural world. Which is kind of fun, because Julie is a bit of a princess. I'd love to say that this stuff just writes itself, but that wouldn't be true.

Nothing writes itself. Unless of course, you just rip someone else's work off. Which happens more than you know, even though you would think with the Internet it would be nearly impossible to pull off. You would think.

Am I going to tell you that someone ripped Julie off? No. That would have been rude, but hardly novel. It happens. And ripping off less-known work is actually the wise course of action for thieves - someone might recognize Hamlet, after all.

No, it's worse than that. You may be familiar with blogging sites. The circus comes to town, sets up tents, and tells everyone in the world they can set up a table. It's like a big ol' swap meet, but with stories instead of brake shoes and valve kits.

Some people write political pieces; some write the day to day events in their children's lives; some write poetry. It goes on and on, with varying degrees of success. Most sites end up so nasty and deteriorated that anyone with an ounce of intelligence or compassion would cut a wide berth. The Internet brings out the beasts.

The sites with the most activity - and the worst behaviour - are typically the political ones. You only have to dip your toe in once to recognize the futility of it all: anonymous cowards flinging around so much shite they sit there at the end of the day covered in it themselves from head to toe, wondering what that smell is. Not the most enlightened houses of debate.

I guess it serves a need. And on any site, much of the debate falls at one time or another to the fact that 'real' writers don't get paid anymore. Because the Internet doesn't pay, and people only want to read the Internet. Fair enough. There are more than enough arguments to bolster that. But something gets a little missed in there. The people bemoaning the loss of 'real' writers are more often than not those who were never paid in the first place. There are some terrific people who have been bounced out of journalism over the past few years, but you'll usually find them writing on better sites, their own sites, or creating collectives. Higher brow stuff than the poo-flingers.

But because I'm a Darwinist at heart, I would be remiss if I didn't note a sad fact: many, if not all, writing sites, regardless of where they begin, tend to bloat under the sheer weight of all those free tables, and devolve into a snake pit of personal attacks. I'm a spectator in most sites, I contributed to one for awhile, but the attacks take their toll, even when they aren't directed at you. Usually the attacks blow over; but look into my eyes as I say this: the damage to someone is just as real as if you punched them in the gut.

The only sites that seem to remain successful? Those that have some form of editorial control. Places that realize it's not cool to libel and slander someone else, that ripping off images and video and newswire filings and other's work is, I dunno, illegal. And while Terms of Service and all those other sections that nobody reads and nobody enforces are there to play CYA for the powers that be (cover your ass), they don't work if nobody cares and nobody enforces them.

Anyway. My friend and writer colleague Julie Tarp is working on a screenplay. She workshopped a scene on a reputable blogger's site. It was pretty neat to see the work in progress, nice to see writing from another angle, and it brought depth to a site that can easily tip over into a glorified Facebook page. Doesn't matter what site; many are guilty of the same nonsense.

Did someone steal Julie's scene? Nah. Well, not that she knows of. I mean, that's the other problem with the Internet. As a writer, it is impossible to keep track of who is ripping you off. I know this from experience. And people bank on you never finding it.

Nah. The problem this time out is that some anonymous blogger called Julie a plagiarist. Now, let's weigh both sides of this statement. One, the liar is an unknown, unidentified blogger, and Julie is a real person. Two, the liar lobbed out that incendiary statement, with no proof. Three, many others waded in to disprove the entire farcical statement. Julie Tarp no more plagiarized a screenplay than someone else wrote the column I just filed for tomorrow with my editor. Not a chance.

But the upside to the Internet is that we could *instantly* feed Julie's screenplay through several checkers. You can do that on the Internet. Presto. Instant proof that is original work. Now, you ask, if this liar had concerns, wouldn't the liar have done the same test? The downside to the Internet - it doesn't matter. The liar posted it, and now it is there, hanging in the ether until it gets shoved off the front page.

Access and exposure is a dual edged sword for writers, amongst others. And the only lesson to be gleaned from this episode is to realize that blogging sites with no oversight, no standards, and no civil protocol will only lead to more of this. Yes, you can blog under a fake name. But for people who write under their real names, it should not be incumbent on them to do anything but stand by their own words. Ungoverned sites that give rise to unethical and illegal behaviour should clearly state that on the front of their tent. The fact they condone such behaviour with their inaction should send shudders down the spine of real writers, everywhere.

Julie will be fine, because she's good, she's original, and she is no one-hit wonder. She will also be fine because she has learned the statements of those with no names are worth exactly zero. Nada. I've said it repeatedly on my own site: come out of the corner or shut your mouth.

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18 Comments:

Blogger Lucrezia B. said...

Indeed Ms. Tarp is NOT a plagiarist.

March 21, 2010 1:42 PM  
Anonymous JK Brady said...

Julie Tarp is NOT a plagiarist. She's a wonderful writer. I love reading her stories about life on the ranch. I wish she would write more.

March 21, 2010 1:47 PM  
Blogger barry said...

I take this as affirmation and support for all writers who are abused by online cowards who hide in their anonymity. Online communities have risks and rewards. We can promote our art and abilities at the risk of miscreants damaging our reputation. I'd like to see more individuals finding legal recourse and compensation for such behaviour, but the first step should be that the sponsoring sites and hosts of community blogs should be responsible enough to police their own with strict enforcement of their own Terms of Service.

A CYA approach to TOS is reprehensible and irresponsible.

Sadly, Julie Tarp is not alone in being maligned or victimized on the net. As a professional photographer with a web presence, I've had to deal with theft of my copyrighted material by people presenting it as their own and in not getting permission or attributing correctly. Letters have been sent from a lawyer friend to some on my behalf with good results. It's my opinion that her case is actionable and I hope she pursues it.

March 21, 2010 2:03 PM  
Blogger Deven said...

Beyond just the vexation of lunatics getting to say whatever they want about you on the internet, there's the real problem of non-internet savvy potential employers feeling the power of "The Google."

Please, please spread the word that one lone crazy voice in the wilderness of the internet shouldn't be given equal weight in someone's assessment of another. That's where the real harm is done, people still in the school of "well I read it online, it must be true." Now there is a bit of selection of the fittest that goes with that. The people that will wholesale believe whatever blips up in a search feed, will also end up clicking to win a sweepstakes, get malware, and never been seen online again.

March 21, 2010 2:46 PM  
Blogger Chris Brown (not the felon) said...

This is why I would never take our baby sitters home by myself when our girls were young. All it takes is someone saying something... and poof! it becomes true. Even once it's proven not to be. You will always be pointed at and people will whisper "there goes the guy who was accused of...."

This is why I have given up on those writers blogging sites. As fun as it was there was too much snarking from anonymous folk.

Too bad. It was fun for a while.

March 21, 2010 9:12 PM  
Blogger marcelleqb said...

Julie is an original writer with a wonderful voice. It is beyond frustrating to see this happening. Not only is it irresponsible for tptb to say and do nothing, but it bleeds over and damages their image over at Salon as well.

March 22, 2010 1:45 AM  
Blogger jeff said...

Julie's a solid writer and a good person; the blogger who made the accusations against her on the other hand is a borderline lunatic. The crazies are on the verge of taking over the site.

March 22, 2010 2:29 PM  
Anonymous buzzwhack said...

One can successfully argue that there are indeed no more original plots or storylines available. Rather, the charm and individuality lies in how it's told. That said, a quick stumble through a random plot generator (yes they exist, just type that in the search engine) for story ideas reveals that just because it is unique, does not mean it is worth telling or retelling for that matter.

March 22, 2010 2:48 PM  
Blogger Lorraine said...

Hey Buzz, nice to hear from you.

I've read her script. Love it. Definitely worth being told;)

March 22, 2010 2:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nicely-written.

The unidentified, anonymous accuser-of-Julie is mentally unbalanced and an internet novice, as was evidenced by this latest episode (hits on plagiarism-checker but to the author herself! -- duh!).

And in another instance where she put up a link to what she believed was an unidentified photo of her ex, a hardcore criminal. Too bad she didn't realize that the URL contained the felon's prisoner ID number. A 5-second Google search and viola!

Will miss your calmness, kindness, and wit "O"ver "S"omeplace else.

I hope to visit here every once in a while. "Hi" to JK too.

hugs, Wacky Monarch (you'll figure it out)

March 22, 2010 4:08 PM  
Blogger FibCarver said...

I've joined a number of online writers' sites over the years. Backed out of them all (except for the one hubby and I now run) precisely because there are too many wannabes who can't keep the stupid in their pants and insist on pulling it out when they have nothing intelligent to share.

There's a good overview of this kind of 'mob internet behaviour' here:
http://redwing.hutman.net/~mreed/

Use the pull down menu and see how many of them you can recognize.

Hang tough, Julie Tarp!

March 22, 2010 8:27 PM  
Blogger OmemeeOzzie said...

A pox on the scurrilous, scabby scoundrel scoundrel who dared to malign the integrity of a fellow scribe; one can only hope that their next bowel movement be a sideways hedgehog!

March 22, 2010 10:36 PM  
Blogger OmemeeOzzie said...

Forgive the above Duran Duran moment!

March 23, 2010 9:38 AM  
Blogger Ranjit said...

Yes, the same thing happened a couple of days ago on that same website: Somebody posted an entry whose title was "On being plagiarized by X", with X being the actual name of a particular blogger on that site (not Julie Tarp).

I read the post, and what was described there was not plagiarism or anything close to plagiarism.

But there it is, a headline saying that so-and-so is a plagiarist.

Very damaging to the accused and to the whole community of writers, and I said so in a comment. But Lorraine, you have made the point much more eloquently here.

March 23, 2010 1:34 PM  
Blogger Trilogy said...

I'm likin' this Lorraine. Good to see you sticking up for a friend and great writer.

March 28, 2010 4:12 PM  
Blogger Lorraine said...

Nice to see you here, trilogy!

March 28, 2010 4:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wish the monkeys at OS would quit flinging shit at each other.

We miss you, Cat. Come back sometime.

-Leeandra Nolting

April 05, 2010 4:51 PM  
Blogger Ranjit said...

I know, Leeandra. OS is definitely not the same without Lorraine.

April 05, 2010 8:44 PM  

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