Neale Donald Walsch




A highly salutary outcome of the change to new media has been unfairly overlooked while old-media denizens continually complain about the fact that readers and viewers are leaving them behind: the internet is increasingly making getting away with plagiarism a thing of the past.

Most recent case in point: Neale Donald Walsch, author of the bestseller Conversations with God, has admitted plagiarizing another author’s anecdote and passing it off as his own on his Beliefnet blog. His blog has been shut down as a consequence.

That sort of thievery used to happen all the time, but two things enabled writers to get away with it. One, it was often difficult for anyone to notice such suspicious correspondences in the flood of print publications (who, after all, could afford the time or money to subscribe to everything important read it all?), and two, those whose work was plagiarized had little means of exposing the theft other than through costly court proceedings.

The internet has changed that completely: search engines make identifying plagiarism much easier, and the zero startup cost of publishing has created a proliferation of publications, making it much more likely that a victimized writer will be able to find a forum that will expose the theft.

As the most recent example illustrates, the shifting of communications power away from a relatively small class of elites to a wider swath of the public is not going to create anarchy in the media but on the contrary will force writers and publishers to be more responsible for their actions. That’s entirely a good thing.