WHY IS INFOGRAPHICS PLAGIARISM SO COMMON?
It is time to say it loud and clear (again): infographics ethical standards must be equivalent to journalistic ethical standards. What is not acceptable in Journalism must also be unacceptable in information graphics. If this basic rule was respected, quite a lot of people would be immediately and justly fired in many newsrooms: not only infographics designers, but also chief editors and reporters who force them to break basic ethical rules they themselves would never break when writing a story. 'Hey, I've seen this cool illustration in this obscure foreign publication! Let's copy it! After all, it's just a simple drawing! Who is going to care?'. Well, some us do.
Take a very recent accusation of plagiarism: La Stampa (Italy) seems to have stolen work by Estado de São Paulo (Brazil). Continue reading to see images.
It is obvious that Estado got its information about the mine accident from Chilean sources and that, among those, they probably used La Tercera and El Mercurio, the main newspapers in Santiago. That qualifies as acceptable: you cite a publication from a different country, you get some data from it, and then you design your own illustrations, diagrams, maps, and charts. That's legitimate, as long as you mention who are you getting your stuff from, and that you let your foreign colleagues know.
But a different story is to trace someone else's illustrations and graphics or, even worse, reproduce the originals without getting proper permissions. This was the case in this project, according to Estado: La Stampa simply copied a great deal of material. And it is likely that they also got the vector and bitmap drawings from the editable PDF version of the Brazilian newspaper, that can be downloaded from its website if you are a subscriber.
And you know what's even worse? La Stampa won a Society for News Design award for this. Below, I am reproducing the three pages of the PDF Estado de São Paulo has sent SND to document the case. It seems that there is a lot of work ahead for those of us worried about the state of ethics in journalistic information graphics and visualization, after so many years.