Google’s decision to suspend Linda Ikeji’s blog site is quite unfortunate.
As at the time of writing this article there has been no official explanation from the celebrity blogger but the speculations are that Google’s decision are not unrelated to accusations of plagiarism being levied against her. Some others are talking of copyright infringement.
It is interesting to note that plagiarism is not actually a legal concept, the word itself does not come up in any Statute or laws. It’s a matter of professional ethics. If a writer or a journalist fails to acknowledge the source of a piece of writing that has been used in his or her own work it is considered as plagiarism.
Plagiarism can be described as the theft of another writer’s “language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions”.
A writer, journalist or academic writer could face a lot or criticism or sanctions for plagiarism. Journalists working with big media organisations accused of plagiarism risk losing their jobs while in the academic world students could be failed for plagiarism while a lecturer could have his reputation in tatters for ever.
The way to get around plagiarism, especially when it comes to news reporting, is to acknowledge your source. This I believe Linda Ikeji did sufficiently.
Copyright infringement is a bit more complex because it is a legal concept but like most legal concepts it has its exceptions.
One of the exceptions to copyright infringement is that facts cannot be copyrighted. Nobody owns the copyright to a factual event. A news story is not subject to copyright laws because it is a fact.
A blogger who is merely reporting news cannot, ordinarily, be accused of copyright violation in respect of the news being reported on the blog.
For instance nobody owns the copyright to the fact that water is liquid and it is supposed to be tasteless and colourless.
The style, presentation and diction adopted in a news story can, however, be copyrighted.
Another interesting exception to copyright laws is regarding internet images.
“Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 17 U.S.C. & 106 and 17 U.S.C. & 106a, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.”
The purport of the provision quoted above is that when an images is used for the purpose of news reporting it will not be considered as an infringement of copyright.
It is known as “The Fair Use Principle”.
The above provision is from a US legislation and for reasons that do not require any explanation here, that is the legislation most people rely on.
In Google’s defence, any report of plagiarism or copyright infringement is sufficient for them to sanction a site in order to minimise their own liabilities. A case of “shoot first, ask questions later”.
This is probably just a bump in the road for Linda Ikeji. She is expected to come back, bigger, stronger and more determined.
In conclusion, my humble opinion is that an attack on Linda is an attack on Nigerian youths generally because she was able to achieve what was merely a pipe dream for a lot of Nigerians for several years – making a comfortable living from writing.
Caveat: The above write-up does not constitute legal advice. Bloggers and writers are advised to properly familiarize themselves with the relevant and most recent legislations on Copyright and related matters.