Saturday, December 8, 2007

Sitepoint, Non-Payers and Plagiarism

I saw an interesting discussion on Sitepoint the other day. A potential website owner wanted to run a news site but didn't have the budget to either hire writers to write news stories or to go out and buy the products that he wanted to talk about and write them himself. Of course, that's a clear indication that he shouldn't do it at all. Surprisingly, person after person told him to simply plagiarize someone else's work. After all, he wants the site and can't afford it.

This case isn't the only one that I've seen like it. Many people tend to get defensive about their budget, even if their budget isn't enough to pay for the thing they want. I'd like to own a Domino's, but I don't have the budget. Should I steal one? Um, no. I can't afford one, so I'm not getting one. For some reason, people can see this clearly when it involves a brick and mortar business. But, when it comes to an online one, many people believe they are entitled to have one even if they can't afford one. This leads to plagiarism, content scraping and people who outright steal other people's work and then refuse to pay for it.

So, what happens if they can't afford to pay their writers, or can't afford to populate their site with any content? They should go out of business, just like any other business person who can't get the capital together to keep going.

It's kind of the same way that I see the fast food industry and minimum wage. If minimum wage was raised high enough to give workers something closer to a living wage, fast food restaurants claim that they'd go out of business. Great! If you can't afford to pay your workers a decent wage then you should to go out of business. If the fast food industry disappeared, teenagers would stop spending half their week doing low wage labor and perhaps go back to their studies. Adult workers would be forced to look into some of the free job training provided by their county (just about every county in the U.S. has training centers free to low income workers) and stop working at a dead-end job. Customers would have to put some thought into their meals rather than buying the cheapest, fattiest food available just because it's convenient. You'd have less obesity, less poverty and fewer hideous fast food restaurants littering the roadsides. It would be better for everyone.

The same is true with websites. If the people who couldn't afford to go into business stayed out of it, the bidding sites wouldn't be littered with weirdos hoping to find someone willing to work for .01 a word. You wouldn't have junk websites hiring people to write garbage in the hopes of making .50 a month through AdSense. This too would be better for everyone.

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