A very important topic is discussed quite often in educational circles, but in the literary world it is the unspoken and assumed policy of no plagiarism. Maybe the unspoken and assumed parts is what has hurt us. It’s not talked about as much out of the educational world so people forget about it assume that was only to meet the criteria of the learning facility they attended. Yet literary plagiarism occurs outside hallowed educational halls. It occurs quite frequently. Way too frequently.
Should Plagiarism Be Illegal?
What is Plagiarism?
Plagiarism is stealing an idea or words. While nothing tangible is taken, it is still the unapproved use of someone’s hard work. Someone, somewhere, spent a lot of time coming up with the right words. That’s not easy. So using those words without giving credit is tantamount to theft. It is illegal. Okay, maybe not.
Jack Lynch stated, “Technically, plagiarism is no crime. Plagiarism is an ethical matter, copyright is a legal matter, and not every case of plagiarism is against the law. But in practice, many plagiarists violate copyright statutes, since recent works -- usually the ones most worth stealing -- cannot legally be copied, whether by pirates or plagiarists.” (http://www.writing-world.com/rights/lynch.shtml) It is still theft.
Why do I keep stressing the illegal aspect? Let’s look at the origins of the word. Plagiarism comes from the Latin word ‘plagiarius’. Can you guess what it meant? I will admit that I had no idea myself. Eliterary Society states that the word ‘plagiarius’ means ‘kidnapper’. (http://www.eliterarysociety.com/what-is-plagiarism/) When someone plagiarized, they kidnapped their words as it was not given the right to.
Stanford sees plagiarism as “use, without giving reasonable and appropriate credit to or acknowledging the author or source, of another person’s original work, whether such work is made up of code, formulas, ideas, language, research, strategies, writing or other form.” The practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own is plagiarism. (http://www.mdc.edu)
Some offenders use semantics to argue how they didn’t really commit plagiarism. Taking original ideas and not citing where they got it is nothing to many writers whether they be professional or student. Even the intent to quote and not putting in the quotation marks is thought to be a valid excuse. Paraphrasing a sentence is still plagiarism if you don’t cite it because the idea is not yours.
You’d be surprised at how prevalent plagiarism is especially in the educational realm. Many surveys have been conducted showing that well over 60% of students admit to committing plagiarism. Throughout universities, professors are finding a multitude of plagiarism incidents, but it doesn’t stop there. Once students leave college, they continue to steal words and ideas in their careers.
Authors and journalists are being discovered as the most prevalent offenders. They steal other people’s words and pass them off as their own. Why? Could be they are lazy or just dishonest in nature. Their reasoning is that they made a mistake when taking notes. They wrote the words down verbatim but thought they had paraphrased in their own words. (http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/assessment/2002/01/the_plagiarist.html)
Accidents happen. But they should not happen over and over and should be avoided at all costs. It doesn’t seem that is happening in today’s world. Too many authors use the excuse of an accident when caught with the expectation that the world will forgive them as it was an ‘accident’. Taking advantage of that is unforgivable.
Plagiarism is happening everywhere every day.
What’s the big deal if an author uses a few words from someone else? It’s not like anyone was murdered, right? While a life might not have been taken, integrity, ethics, and honor were killed when plagiarism was committed. It adds to the degeneration of our society.
That might sound a bit dramatic, but if you stop and think it only takes a small pebble to start an avalanche. If we give in and say that using someone else’s words without giving credit is acceptable, what will happen next? Society will say images and videos are okay to plagiarize. Then anything is open to be used by others and claimed as their own. Is that really where we want to go?
Dishonesty is wrong! Yes, accidents happen, but overall most plagiarism is not an accident. It is deliberate theft of someone’s wordage and unique ideas. Students are expelled. Jobs are lost. This is serious business. Honesty will save your neck. Stealing can only hurt you.