Plagiarism: The New 'Piracy'

By Dames, K. Matthew | Information Today, November 2006 | Go to article overview

Plagiarism: The New 'Piracy'


Dames, K. Matthew, Information Today


Ohio University, the oldest public university in the state of Ohio, is an institution with an enrollment of about 20,000 students. For the past year, the university has been besieged by a crippling plagiarism scandal. Based on an alumnus' allegations that more than 30 students in the school's mechanical engineering department have plagiarized substantial or core portions of their graduate theses, the Athens, Ohio, institution has ordered those students to address the allegations or risk having their degrees revoked. Some of these theses are 20 years old, according to an article about the case in The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) on Aug. 15, 2006.

This front-page story was the latest in a series of plagiarism stories that seem to be destined for headline news. According to a WSJ article published on May 14, 2006, the board of directors at defense contractor Raytheon Co. decided it would withhold a salary increase and reduce incentive stock compensation to CEO William Swanson after it was revealed that Swanson's Unwritten Rules of Management, a booklet he authored, contained almost verbatim passages from The Unwritten Rules of Engineering, a 1944 book by W. J. King.

A few weeks earlier, publisher Little, Brown and Co. took the extraordinary step of removing the novel How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life from retail shelves after The Harvard Crimson published a story accusing author Kaavya Viswanathan, a Harvard undergraduate student, of pilfering significant portions of two teen novels written by Megan McCafferty, according to a WSJ article published on April 28.

Based on these developments, plagiarism has become the new piracy. Just as piracy was a few years ago, plagiarism has become the hot, new crime du jour--an act that suggests immorality and often scandal at once. What's more, plagiarism allegations feed into our society's Candid Camera mentality--our seemingly insatiable need to uncover wrongdoing. So that's why I am devoting this month's column to comparing plagiarism and copyright, and the role of information professionals in raising the collective level of citation savvy.

Copyright [not equal to] Plagiarism

One of the biggest misconceptions about plagiarism is that it is synonymous with copyright infringement. Each passing year, I spend more time during my copyright seminar at Syracuse University explaining the distinction between (and possible intersecting points of) copyright and plagiarism.

Here's how I compare and contrast these two concepts: Copyright simply is a set of laws that governs the creation, reproduction, and distribution of original works that can be perceived. Copyright law is codified as a federal statute at Title 17 of U.S. Code. The most important things to remember about copyright are that 1) it is a set of laws and 2) allegations of wrongdoing--the illegal use of protected works without exception, license, or purchase--are made within the context of a standardized legal process. But more about this process later.

Plagiarism, in comparison, is the act of stealing and passing off someone else's ideas or words as one's own without crediting the source, as defined in MerriamWebster Online. Brief or attributed quotes generally do not constitute plagiarism. Typically, no law governs plagiarism, so no one can be sued for plagiarism. Ultimately, plagiarism is about idea theft: A person tries to take an idea and claim it as his or her own.

There is also a potential intersection between plagiarism and copyright. For example, an idea can be plagiarized, but an idea cannot be copyrighted. However, if that idea is committed to paper (or otherwise recorded), then the idea can be both plagiarized and infringed. So let's take this a step further: While a recorded idea can be subject to plagiarism and copyright infringement, a person could use a recorded idea if that use falls under one or more copyright exceptions. Qualifying for one of the exceptions may remove the copyright infringement risk, but it may not necessarily remove the plagiarism risk. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Plagiarism: The New 'Piracy'
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.