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Would You Call This Plagiarism?

Friends and readers, I come to you today with a legitimate ethical question that I would love opinions on.

As I’ve mentioned before, I love this blog.  I love writing. I have a great stream of traffic and could probably make money off this blog if I tried.  I’ve never chosen to go that route because I write for the love of the craft.  Also, I’m a lazy heifer who’s easily confused by businessy stuffs.

Anyway, last year I had a freaking blast writing The Hater’s Guide to Daniel Tiger.  I was #blessed with a lot of fantastic and hilarious feedback on it, including from the writer of the show herself.  (Which was simultaneously flattering and mortifying.)  The other day I stumbled on this piece: Why Your Children’s Television Program Sucks: Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.  The blog is part of the Gawker publishing family, a $45 million company.

I was excited! DT snark makes my heart sing.  I settled in for some hilarity.  As I started reading, I got a sick feeling in my stomach.  By the end, the sick feeling had evolved  into the kind of rage you can’t soothe away with a Daniel jingle about counting to 4.  While nothing was copied word for word, it was obvious the author had partially relied on my piece to write her own.

I calmly emailed the editor, introducing myself and linking to both pieces.  I expected some kind of grand response involving remorse! Embarrassment! Punishment!  I was told they didn’t see a problem.  The kind of “broad similarities” to be expected when two people “independently” write about the same thing.

I am seething.  I am in the middle of a huge personal hissy fit.  While this is not a glaring, egregious act of cut and paste plagiarism, there IS an issue if you look.  It’s true that a lot of my material was untouched, and a lot of her material was original, but if we were to be eighth graders for a minute and put both into a Venn diagram, there would be a definite shady overlap.  THERE IS EVEN AN APPROPRIATE JINGLE FROM DANIEL TIGER: In some ways we are different/but in so many ways we are the same.  LOL sob.

People, here is what I am asking.  I really need to illustrate this entire thing with a side-by-side comparison.  Could you read this and tell me HONESTLY if A) you agree there is a serious issue here or B) you think the issue is minor or nonexistent and I need to let this go.

Now, the case is really not very strong when you look individually at the offenses.  Look collectively at them though, and I think it’s obvious and disgusting.  There’s also a smoking gun moment that just takes any possibility of coincidence off the table, so please bear with me til the end if you can.

I’ll put my stuff on top, and then hers:

1

First off, out of 59 DT episodes all focusing on various crises in Daniel’s life, how did we mention the same ones? ALSO– and seriously SERIOUSLY please find me and hit me with a large piece of lawn maintenance equipment for knowing this much about Daniel Tiger– but in no episode does he break his watch.  He loses his watch because his room is so messy he can’t find it.  So this was either a copying error, or an accidentally incriminating attempt to slightly change wording.

2

Minor, yes, but so much side eye.  Please stick with me.

3

Well we love to snark, but the reason why they love vegetables and vegetable soup is just because the show has a hilarious nutrition agenda.  To illustrate this, you could also mention:

  • Their equal love for oatmeal.
  • They order soup and salad from the neighborhood restaurant.
  • They eat effing fruit kebabs for every special occasion, including Thanksgiving.
  • Daniel and his dad go to the market for vegetables, Daniel sobs for cookies, his father shuts him the eff down.
  • The neighborhood exchanges stickers for trick or treat.
  • They eat spiraled vegetables instead of spaghetti noodles like a bunch of paleo freaks.
  • They eat frozen, pureed banana for desert.
  • SWEET JESUS YOLO JUST LET THE POOR CHILD HAVE SOME SUGAR

But she mentioned the exact observation as I did.  And again go to Lowes right now and get the biggest rotary tiller you can find and bludgeon me with it until I unlearn this pathetic and vast amount of information I have accumulated about Daniel Tiger.

5

Well there’s not much substance on Mom Tiger beyond this, but again, my exact observations. Another fact to nitpick: Daniel has never cried about nap time. I know this because I have prayed to the Gods of PBS to send me a nap episode. My child is the most belligerent napper in the continental United States. But with fifteen minutes of gentle musical guidance from that animated feline, he would be out with the force of 14 Lunestas.

6

Different wording, same observation.

O the owl

I’m only offended by this because it’s just hilariously factually inaccurate! Girrrrrrrrl if you think O the Owl “isn’t constantly having emotional breakdowns” then you don’t watch this show. (And for that I commend you, trust me.) O makes Daniel look like the picture of emotional resilience.  Daniel is George Patton compared to O.  Just more evidence that she is not writing from subject knowledge.

4

This to me is what clinches it.  Maybe you could write everything else off as a big fluke, but there’s no way we’d coincidentally quote the same dialogue snippet.  (There’s syntactic similarity in the preceding sentences too.)  I mean, we’re talking about an entire TV show’s worth of possible dialogue to quote.  And that is the entire joke we are making: THOSE MEOWING CATS NEVER STFU.  This proves she definitely saw my post and from there, used it to cut corners instead of creating fully original content.

7

 

This is the one and only time we both reference something off-topic: Elmo.  I know Elmo is like a ubiquitous deity for toddlers and preschoolers, but again, looking at everything together I don’t find this a coincidence.  This is the one observation she offers under the heading “Pros”– a huge umbrella prompt that you could respond to with almost anything.

I am just so angry.  I know this isn’t the worst case of plagiarism ever, but this person used my work as a short cut instead of writing her own.  Even if she just kinda used my work a little, she and Gawker COMMERCIALLY BENEFITED FROM IT.  Any level of that is unacceptable to me. I mean, we’re talking about a $45 million company TAKING from a not-for-profit amateur.  AND blowing me off when I respectfully brought it to their attention.

Thank you so much for reading.  I appreciate all of you.  I would love to hear any opinions you care to share.

Edit: Update here.

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31 thoughts on “Would You Call This Plagiarism?

  1. There is nooooo way your post wasn’t used as a complete guideline for writing the offending Daniel piece. It’s like a lazy eighth grader paraphrasing the entire Sparknotes notes The Scarlet Letter chapter twelve. And what’s worse is they took your amazingly written piece and watered it down with crappier writing. Am seething for you. “Broad similarities” Gawker? Bish please!

  2. Wow!! YES that is out and out plagiarism! Like: didn’t-even-try-to-cover-it-up-plagiarism! And borrowed your style of writing. The layout of her whole blog is borrowed. UGH! I’m feeling a bit of rage, too! I specifically loved that blog post so much I started following you, and shared your post with many of my mommy friends who found it hilarious.

    I vote you post a link to the publishers contact and allow your followers to send feedback. A little healthy activism. That is so not okay. They owe you a giant apology.

  3. So I feel like you made your layout of the post to make it look like your whole post layout and words were plagerized. But in not buying it. And it’s extra lame that you are even trying to complain about this. Daniel Tiger. Really? Yeah you area mom but come on. waste of a GE degree. Jesus. Such a waste. Go change another diaper. Woof.

    1. Shari W. you’re a troll. You (hopefully) wouldn’t speak to people like that in real life so why do you think it’s ok to do it online? It doesn’t matter what the content was about, her work was plagiarized and she has every right to be upset. Maybe you should take a break from insulting strangers on the Internet and try connecting with someone real life. You probably could use a hug.

    2. Gawd I knew I’d have to explain this nuance to some nincompoop. The frivolity of Daniel Tiger is irrelevant. I could write about a clump of dust on the floor, you still can’t use it without permission for your commercial profit. And please don’t forget I’m also wasting a good career to raise children.

  4. It seems like there are enough commonalities to pursue this further. Possibly bring it to the attention of someone higher?

    Also, WTF is up with Shari W?!? A simple, “it doesn’t seem like plagiarism, in my opinion” would have sufficed. Don’t be a dick.

  5. Agree with other comments. Your post was definitely referenced while writing the Gawker piece. And their anti-Philadelphia sentiment is uncalled for.

  6. The author of that piece clearly isn’t forced to watch DT like the rest of us and knows nothing about the show. I would be mad. The dialogue thing simply couldn’t be coincidence either as there are quotes you could use in almost every single episode. Better quotes even with more meow meow ridiculousness. You have a right to be angry- they used your woooords, used your words!

  7. Hey Sarah!

    I’m no attorney do I can’t speak to how strong a case you have to make to prove plagiarism legally. Seems extremely likely the author used your work as an outline. Did the author have any original material added (references to show specifics you didn’t mention)?

    Honestly not sure it’s worth a lot if your time to pursue, but clearly your work was “heavily influential”, at a minimum. Good luck!

    Glenn

  8. Coming from a teacher’s perspective, if the opposing author turned this in as an assignment, there would be not only a parent teacher conference but some serious consequences. Not only do I smell laziness on the part of the opposing author, but it’s not nearly as well written and entertaining to read. While we do not watch DT in our house (the reference to stickers at Halloween and no cookies at publix made me cringe in horror) I feel awful that this person/company has made you feel so angry. I would be too.
    *please excuse any typos as I type this while being forced to watch Ninjago with my sick almost 5 year old while he requests ice pops every 3.5 minutes.

  9. Definitely plagiarism! If this happened in my classroom the kid would be in big trouble. It makes me wonder if Shari W could have a connection to the other blogger.

  10. I think you are correct. As others pointed out she blatantly used your post and was too lazy to change it up much. It’s worth pursuing if only because they were so dismissive of your concerns. This “writer” is a hack. Go for it!

    1. Thank you friend. Ugh, I have no idea, I just truly feel like I’m fighting City Hall and so outmatched. I’ll let you know if I think of anything ; )

  11. As a communications professional, I am totes with you on this. Elmo did it for me, but the rest seems quite “coincidental” to me too!!

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  12. Your original story/rant about Daniel Tiger was hilarious – and I so related to that! So glad my daughter is now 5 and has moved on from that show. Now she’s on to Paw Patrol… No wait, I don’t like that show either. You have a valid point – and people are ruthless online. And the inaccuracies in her story are what really stands out. As a teacher, I have seen countless students try to pass someone else’s work off as their own. Even if her story isn’t copied word for word, she’s paraphrasing you – which is just as bad!

  13. I just have to say that I’ve actually tried to write a blog post about Daniel Tiger, and I haven’t been able to because your post keeps flashing through my mind. Like, complete phrases. And that’s why I didn’t write it. Your post was spot-on, and I had nothing else to add, and I likely would’ve inadvertently plagiarized you…so I didn’t write it, much less have it published by an enormous company. I don’t know what to tell you about pursuing this, but I’d be so pissed. Actually, I WAS so pissed when something similar happened to me with a Scary Mommy article of mine. The similarities weren’t even as glaring as this, but I still get furious when I think about it. Anyway…sucks that this is happening to you, and I hope you can come out on top somehow. Love your writing!

  14. I also hate Daniel the Tiger, 5 episodes and I couldn’t take it anymore. Haha! I am lucky that my kid wasn’t entertained by it at all.
    Regarding the plagiarism, it does seem the other writer used your original piece as a strong guideline. The last couple of examples were a little to “spot on” for me. Why on Earth use the same Henrietta quote? There are many to choose from, even from the 5 episodes I’ve watched.
    With that said, in college, I had an Eng. professor bring me to the college’s student board of discipline because she felt like I plagiarized a paper on the movie Psycho. While there were some similarities, my paper was 5 points longer than the other. The other paper was written by a high school kid and had 4 points to it. My paper was for a second level Eng. course in college and had a total of 12 points, which I had to omit 2 points from a previous professor’s review. (She didn’t like them.) Anyway, we shared 3 major points about the movie, which were also big plots of the movie. Luckily, the board saw that my paper’s points were more developed and used different quotations and plot examples for those shared points. Also, the board asked the professor if she had previously checked the paper for plagiarism on line, then why a month later did this new paper suddenly pop up? My paper was obviously published first.The teacher required me to use 3 more sources, which I properly cited after her initial review. So, the board threw the case out. She gave me a low D on the paper, which counted 40% of my grade. Needless so say, my grade suffered, but sharing certain points do happen. However, we didn’t share more than 3 direct quotes from the movie, either. This person clearly used your paper as major inspiration. You have a right to be furious.

  15. when i saw the preview in my reader i thought it could be coincidence (just saw the 1st example) but after reading the other instances, yeah i’d definitely be pissed.

    also who tf says “artisanal” birthday cake?
    your paper was way more entertaining btw.

    and both daniel tiger and calliou are brats and their shows should be removed from tv. just my opinion!

  16. I agree with you, I can’t imagine the writer didn’t come across your post. It may not have been intentional, but he or she must admit they read your blog post

  17. I’d definitely call it plagiarism!! I imagine the legal expenses would be insane to pursue, but what about sending a cease and desist letter? We could also send everyone we know to leave a reply calling them out!

  18. Ahhhh. Um yes hello this person used you for cliff notes. 1. Your writing is a million times better and 2. Maybe it will help knowing you are so awesome someone had to copy you. Love your blog. Love the one about the early days of breastfeeding 😂😂😂😂and the bachelorette which I begrudgingly gave up 2 years ago and secretly wonder about it way too often. I do love the Daniel tiger though haha. I think it’s awesome they eat healthy and it’s innocent and sweet and when they had baby Margaret I sobbed buckets of mommy tears, and I am royally pissed Netflix and Hulu took it off this last month. I do agree mom tiger makes me feel crappy too. I mean she is cool as a cucumber that one. And the nighttime episode with the goodnight sun song….again I had tears lol. And I swear that stop and go potty song has been life changing 😂 I could go on and on haha. ❤️✌️

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