The Plagiarism in Rotary

The first mention of sharing Rotary freely attributed to Ches Perry
The Rotarian ‑ Vol. IV, April 1914, beginning on page 65

Secretary Borroughs’ article in the Round Table of the March issue has not brought forth any response. Perhaps it is because the Rotarians are such busy men that they do not have time to give visible expression to the thoughts which they have on some of these Rotary matters. The Rotary club is made up of probably the busiest men in each community. It is entirely natural then for their communications to THE ROTARIAN to be few and far between. It is at the conventions and in the club meetings that all their pent up ideas burst forth and make the atmosphere crackle as though an electric storm was in progress.

Secretary Borroughs protested against the appropriation of printed thoughts or literary productions from one club by another club without due credit being given. Is this necessary? I suppose some of the things that I have written in connection with Rotary have been quoted as extensively as anything else that has been written. Personally, I have no desire for credit for the things which I have written in Rotary. They are mostly expressions of ideas which are common to many of us in and outside Rotary. We all ought to give generously to each other of the best thought which we have in Rotary. For example, we all know that attendance at meetings is a requisite in Rotary. We have all expressed the thought in a hundred different ways. What matters it, if one club likes another club’s expression a little better than its own and uses it in its notices or local publication? The purpose is not to get credit for having written something, but to stimulate local interest in the club work.

It is rather disconcerting, however, to discover that some club, endeavoring to give credit where credit is due, quotes as author of a paragraph or of an article not the authors ‑ but some other club which has borrowed it. For example, the Houston club, in their bulletin, ran various paragraphs from my article, “What is the Rotary Club.” They scattered these paragraphs through their bulletin as fillers on different pages. I thought it was very effective work and was very much tickled to think that my article could be worked in so cleverly as filler in a local publication. My first particular jolt came when one of my assistants in the office referred to one of those paragraphs in the Houston bulletin as one of the best things he had ever seen written on the subject, absolutely oblivious to the fact that he was handing me something which I, myself, had written and which was being sent out of this office nearly every day. Then came a succession of small jars as I discovered that different Rotary club publications were republishing these paragraphs from the Houston bulletin and crediting them to the Houston Rotary Club.

However, all this is accidental and merely amusing and if I am as generous and big hearted as I try to make myself believe I am, I ought not to be worried in the slightest degree on account of the Houston club getting the credit for having produced my stuff. The law of compensation works inevitably, and so this week I observe in another club publication that I am given credit for originating the idea of observing the anniversary of Rotary with joint meetings of the various clubs, when, as a matter of fact, I am sure that Paul Harris and Glenn Mead deserve the credit for that idea.

Conclusion: It is wrong knowingly to present the literary work of another as our own production, but it is permissible to “exchange freely” in Rotary. In giving credit, be sure you give it to the author and not to some borrower. It is better not to give credit at all than to give it to the wrong person, club or publication.

There is another phase of this question and that is the taking of quotations from Rotarians of other cities and publishing them with the names of local members as the authors. Where this is done “with malice aforethought,” as the old saying is, it is dishonest and utterly abhorrent to the principles of Rotarianism. It should be promptly and sternly discouraged, not so much because of the unfairness to the man whose writings or thoughts were deliberately and knowingly appropriated, but it is an injustice to the man whose name is tacked on as the author for undoubtedly he is an innocent and embarrassed victim of some other fellow’s misrepresentation.

C. R. P . (Chesley R. Perry, General Secretary, Rotary International, 1910-1942)