My SL profile hasn’t changed much since the day Whiskey was created in ’09. In fact, the Real World tab is the same as my original SL avatar, created in ’06. I am an avid profile perv, and a carefully crafted profile says a lot to me. I enjoy the clues and signs that people leave in their profiles, and I’ve always felt that mine accurately represents my virtual self, and in turn, who I am in any world. Our profiles should be a one-of-a-kind representation of our personal face to the world. Each one a special unique snowflake.
Which is why I was so shocked when a friend accused me of having an alt, because he saw someone with a profile identical to mine.
By the time I opened her profile, she had already changed the wording of the first tab a bit (after being called out by my friend), so that it was no longer word for word a copy of my own. But SL doesn’t change things right away in search, so I could still see part of her profile there and sure enough, there were my own words in her profile. The first life tab, however, was still an exact replica of mine.
This isn’t the first time someone has swiped my words, I’ve been writing long enough to know that the internet is rife with people who think it’s all up for grabs, theirs for the taking. After all, it’s a just a few words. Most people think that if they change a word or two, it’s no longer plagiarism. And besides, it’s just a profile. It’s not as if she’s stolen great literature, right?
It doesn’t matter. Whether it’s a tweet of 140 characters, a line from a profile, or an entire article- plagiarism is stealing. Period. There is no grey area here.
Plagiarists hate being called out on their thievery. My profile thief was no exception. In fact, her strange defense was that she found it on a website, so really she didn’t steal it from me, she took it from them. So how can I be upset by that? Out of curiosity, I googled my profile, and it is not on any website except for Second Life. But I already knew that. When confronted by the person they’ve stolen from, thieves rarely come clean and admit their wrongdoing. They’re instead defensive and upset that someone would dare question their integrity.
Because let’s be honest, that’s what stealing someone else’s words does, it shows a lack of integrity and honesty. And even someone who lacks those hates being reminded.
I wasn’t going to blog about this. It seemed petty and over-reactive. I asked her to change her profile to her own words, and despite fiercely denying any wrong on her part (and in fact threatening me with public shame for calling her a liar), for a week or so she did change it. But I looked today and she has again changed her profile to something very similar to my own. While it’s no longer word for word, it’s close enough (especially after her complete copy before) that it really irked me.
Over the years I’ve had tweets, parts of blog posts and even my photographs stolen. Each time there are plenty of people who are quick to offer up that old, stale saying about imitation being the best form of flattery. That’s bullshit, and this wasn’t imitation. Flattery is when someone shows your work to their friends and gives you credit. It’s not flattering to have someone disrespect your hard work so much that they think it’s okay to use it as their own; in fact it’s the opposite of respect. It’s offensive and disrespectful on every level.
And I find myself, each time this happens, doing some deep soul searching to figure out why it bothers me so very much. But I shouldn’t have to defend myself, to explain why it makes me angry to have something that’s mine pinched and used without my knowledge or permission. I have every right to be upset, and the amount of work stolen has no bearing on how angry I should feel. Stealing is stealing. You can pretty it up and make it less shocking by calling it appropriating, borrowing or pirating, but in the end they all mean the same thing: stealing. Claiming ownership of something you’ve no right to.
So it doesn’t matter why it bothers me. It’s not up to me to try to work through my feelings on the matter.
If anyone needs to be doing some soul-searching, it’s folks like Callie Mocha who think that what they’re doing is okay. People who can’t come up with an original idea, and so they must steal the ideas of others.
I haven’t contacted Ms. Mocha again, and I probably won’t. At this point it’s useless, I believe. I tried to be at least civil when I originally asked her to change her profile, but her defensive and accusatory response shows me that reason isn’t chief among her repertoire of social skills.
Tomorrow that could all change. But not the part about the reason.
Real life woman. Virtual World avatar. Likes top shelf vodka, dominant men, blues, sunsets and playing darts. Dislikes insecurity, rap, small children and clowns. I'm either behind the bar or under it.