Source Warns Site to Cease and Desist Plagiarism

We all know the saying, "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery," but outright plagiarism and copyright infringement are a whole different ballgame.

The Virgin Islands Source announced Thursday that it is considering legal action against a purported V.I. news blog that has been violating our copyright by taking stories from our website and, with minor editing, running them as their own.

"This will not be tolerated," said Source publisher Shaun Pennington, who has been touch with attorneys over the matter.

Advertising (skip)
Advertising (skip)

One of the first things you learn, not just in journalism school but in life, is that taking someone else’s work and trying to pass it off as your own is wrong.

The offending website, which goes by the name V.I. Connections, does not list any personnel, staff or reporters, nor does it provide contact information. An email sent to the only address on the website was returned as undeliverable, with the notice, "No Such User Here."

Source stories that appear on their site list as their byline "V.I. Connections," and at the end of the text, have a box that says "About the Author" that again lists V.I. Connections. There is no credit to the Source, creating the impression that they did the work of reporting and writing the story, which they did not. All Connections did was cut and paste, juggling the words just a bit to make it appear as their own work.

All work on the Source is copyrighted, Pennington pointed out.

A copyright is legal protection for authors of “original works of authorship,” according to the document, Copyright Basics, from the U.S. Copyright Office. Writing is protected by copyright at the moment it is created. It does not need to have been published to be protected by copyright, nor does it require the copyright symbol to be displayed.

However, the stories in question were published by the Source, and each page of our website contains a copyright notice.

Ironically, the Connections website also contains such a notice.

U.S. copyright law gives the owner (us) of copyrighted material exclusive right to its use.

In fact, Connections has used photos from the Source and credited us, putting a "(c) stthomassource" under them as if that somehow makes it OK. It really just compounds the problem. It shows they know the photos belong to the Source and yet they used them without permission, without even asking for permission.

The most egregious case of plagiarism occurred last month when they lifted the first third of our story that broke the news that fugitive Ishmael Ali LaBeet, convicted of murder in the 1972 "Fountain Valley Massacre," has been living in Cuba since 1984. That story was based on interviews publisher Pennington had with a Canadian friend of LaBeet. He talked to no one else, yet the Connection’s version of the story quotes him, and nowhere mentions the Source.

Below readers can see several examples from stories that we published, and corresponding sections from the stories as they appeared on the Connection website.

– From the Source story on Ishmael LaBeet by Pennington.

Ishmael Ali LaBeet, one of five men convicted of murder in St. Croix’s 1972 "Fountain Valley Massacre," has made a home for himself in the Holguin Province of Cuba – north of Guantanamo on far the northeast side of the 700-mile country.

As far as anyone knows, he has been in Cuba since hijacking a plane in 1984 to the island nation.

According to a close Canadian friend of his, LaBeet did serve some time in a Cuban prison for the hijacking, but has been free since then.

“He’s Cubanized,” says Bill Chester. ‘He’s got his ration book and apartment.”

Here’s how it appeared on the Connection’s website, with a byline crediting the story to them.

One of the five men convicted of murder in St. Croix‘s 1972 “Fountain Valley Massacre,” Ali LaBeet is now residing at Holguin Province of Cuba, north of Guantanamo on far the northeast side of the 700-mile country as a free man.

According to sources, LaBeet has been in Cuba since hijacking a plane in 1984 to the island nation.

A Canadian friend of LaBeet said he served some time in prison after the hijack but is free now.

“He’s Cubanized,” said Bill Chester.

– From our coverage of the St. Thomas Carnival Adult Parade, a story by our reporter David Knight Jr.

A cool breeze blessed Main Street on Saturday for the 63rd annual St. Thomas Carnival Adult Parade in Charlotte Amalie. Majorettes, calypsonians, Carnival royalty, pan bands, single entry floats and troupes in full pageantry delighted revelers as they made their way from Western Cemetery to Lionel Roberts Stadium.

And here’s the story as it appears on the Connections website.

The Main Street was filled with colorful costumes, excitement and busy people, vendors and supporters last Saturday, May 2, for the 63rd annual St. Thomas Carnival Adult Parade in Charlotte Amalie.

Majorettes, calypsonians, Carnival royalty, pan bands, single entry floats and troupes in hues enchanted delight to all attendees as they marched and danced their way from Western Cemetery to Lionel Roberts Stadium.

– From the Source story by reporter Carol Buchanan on the St. Croix Food and Wine Experience.

The Food Network’s Chef Duff Goldman was the "Icing on the Cake" at the annual St. Croix Wine and Food Experience, as his cake-icing class was a sold-out hit.

Goldman, whose show "Duff Till Dawn" is his latest Food Network foray, shared tips and tricks with 52 professional and amateur cake decorators Wednesday on St. Croix.

Sylvia McGregor, a Goldman follower who bakes for pleasure and a small business, said she was excited and happy to get in the class.

“It was a challenge getting in and getting registered since it was such a popular class,” McGregor said as she busily puts the icing on cake with the Chef’s help.

As it appeared on the Connection, grammatical errors and all, and accompanied by photos taken by Carol.

Chef Duff Goldman, host of The Food Network’s “Duff Till Dawn” was the pinnacle of the annual St. Croix Wine and Food Experience where he shared some tips in his sold-out cake-icing class.

Wednesday, April 15 was the day of event where Goldman and other 52 professional and amateur cake decorators gathered in St. Croix for a ‘sweet’ session.

One of the attendees is Sylvia McGregor, pastry buff and small business owner was noticeably excited.

“It was a challenge getting in and getting registered since it was such a popular class,” McGregor said as she busily puts the icing on cake with the Chef’s help.

– And this from another Buchanan story, on the V.I. Government’s fitness day. These are Buchanan’s first three paragraphs.

Power was out all over St. Croix Saturday, but there was plenty of power on display at D.C. Canegata Park where the first Battle of the Agencies Fitness Challenge took place.

The Water and Power Authority team was short a few members as they were called in to restore electrical service, but they still managed to pull a team together.

"We’ll let people take pot shots today. It’s all fun and games here," WAPA spokeswoman and team member Jerain Fleming said.

These are the second and third paragraphs of their version, again with a curiously identical quote.

Though the power was out across the island, energy flowed all over D.C. Canegata from participants who arrived to convey competitiveness. The Water and Power Authority team lacked some team members as others needed to fix the electrical service but they still managed to form a team.

“We’ll let people take pot shots today. It’s all fun and games here,” WAPA spokeswoman and team member Jerain Fleming said.

A cursory scan of their website found story after story that had been given the same treatment. Sometimes the stories were accompanied by photos credited to the Connection, but often enough they were the Source’s original photos.

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, on its website, advises, "Avoid using large segments of someone else’s expression verbatim – this could be a blatant copyright infringement. The radio news announcer who broadcasts stories from the local newspaper word for word is asking to be sued."

It will be interesting to see if this story appears in the next few days on their website, with the byline changed to say they had written it.

Now that would be ironic.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Support the VI Source

Unlike many news organizations, we haven't put up a paywall - we want to keep our journalism as open as we can. Our sites are more popular than ever, but advertising revenues are falling - so you can see why we could use your help. Our independent journalism costs time, money and hard work to keep you informed, but we do it because we believe that it matters. If everybody who appreciates our reporting efforts were to help fund it for as little as $1, our future would be much more secure. Thanks in advance for your support!