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Plagiarism is the practice of claiming, or implying, original authorship, or incorporating material from someone else's written or creative work in whole or in part, into ones own, without adequate acknowledgment. The written or creative work which is plagiarized may be a book, article, musical score, film script, or other work. Unlike cases of forgery, in which the authenticity of the writing, document, or some other kind of object, itself is in question, plagiarism is concerned with the issue of false attribution.

Within academia, plagiarism by students, professors, or researchers is considered academic dishonesty or academic fraud and offenders are subject to academic censure. In journalism, plagiarism is considered a breach of journalistic ethics, and reporters caught plagiarizing typically face disciplinary measures ranging from suspension to termination. Some individuals caught plagiarizing in academic or journalistic contexts claim that they plagiarized unintentionally, by failing to include quotations or give the appropriate citation. While plagiarism in scholarship and journalism has a centuries-old history, the development of the Internet, where articles appear as electronic text, has made the physical act of copying the work of others much easier.

Plagiarism is different from copyright infringement. Where both terms are appropriate, they emphasize different aspects of the transgression. Copyright infringement is a violation of the rights of the copyright holder, which involves the loss of income and artistic control of the material when it is used without the copyright holder's consent. Under the copyright laws of the United States, copying a small portion of a text, placing in appropriate quotation, and citing the original source, for a review or criticism is considered fair use. On the other hand, plagiarism is concerned with the damage to the author's reputation.

Sanctions[edit | edit source]

Academia[edit | edit source]

In the academic world, plagiarism by students is a serious academic offense which can result in punishments such as a failing grade on the particular assignment (typically at the high school level), or a failing grade for the course (typically at the college or university level). For cases of repeated plagiarism, or for cases where a student has committed a severe type of plagiarism (e.g., copying an entire article and submitting it as their own work), a student may be suspended or expelled, and any academic degrees or awards may be revoked.

There is little academic research into the frequency of plagiarism in high schools, because much of the research has investigated plagiarism at the post-secondary level [1]. Of the forms of cheating (including plagiarism, inventing data and cheating during an exam), students admit to plagiarism more than any other. However, this figure decreases considerably when students are asked about the frequency of "serious" plagiarism (such as copying most of an assignment, or purchasing a complete paper from a website). Recent use of specialist plagiarism detection software (see below) has given a more accurate picture of this activity's prevelance.

For professors and researchers, plagiarism is punished by sanctions ranging from suspension to termination, along with the loss of credibility and integrity. In serious casses, the offender might be deprived of his doctor-title, if he had held a doctorate. Charges of plagiarism against students and professors are typically heard by internal disciplinary committees, which students and professors have agreed to be bound by.

Journalism[edit | edit source]

Since journalism's main currency is public trust, a reporter's failure to honestly acknowledge their sources undercuts a newspaper or television news show's integrity and undermines its credibility. Journalists who are suspected of plagiarism are often suspended from their reporting or column-writing tasks while the charges are investigated by the news organization.

Journalistic plagiarism ranges from including one or two sentences copied from another newspaper without attribution, to more serious cases, such as copying an entire paragraph or story. For a first-time offense, particularly if it is a smaller amount of text, a journalist may be reprimanded. For more serious cases of plagiarism, particularly in cases where the case leads to a journalism scandal for the news organization, the reporter may be suspended without pay for a long period, demoted, or terminated.

The ease of copying electronic text from the Internet has lured a number of reporters into acts of plagiarism; column writers have been caught 'cutting and pasting' articles and text from a number of websites, including Wikipedia.

Other contexts[edit | edit source]

Generally, although plagiarism is often loosely referred to as theft or stealing, it has not been prosecuted as a criminal matter in the law courts. [2] Likewise, plagiarism has no standing as a criminal offense in the common law. Instead, claims of plagiarism are a civil law matter, which an aggrieved person can resolve by launching a lawsuit. Acts that may constitute plagiarism are in some instances treated as copyright infringement, unfair competition, or a violation of the doctrine of moral rights.

Self-plagiarism[edit | edit source]

Self-plagiarism is the re-use of significant, identical, or near identical portions of one’s own work without citing the original work. Self-plagiarism is frequently a problem in the academic field when authors reuse verbatim portions of their own copyrighted work in subsequent publications without attributing the previous publications[3]. Identifying self-plagiarism is often difficult because of legal issues regarding fair use[4]. Some professional organizations like the ACM have created policies that deal specifically with self-plagiarism[5].

Organizational publications[edit | edit source]

Plagiarism is presumably not an issue when organizations issue collective unsigned works since they do not assign credit for originality to particular people. For example, the American Historical Association's "Statement on Standards of Professional Conduct" (2005)] regarding textbooks and reference books states that there is no question about taking credit for someone else's ideas. Since textbooks and encyclopedias are summaries of other's scholar's work, they are not bound by the same exacting standards of attribution as original research. However, even such a book does not make use of words, phrases or paragraphs from another text, or follow too closely the other text's arrangement and organization.

Within an organization, in its own working documents, standards are looser but not non-existent. If someone helped with a report, they expect to be credited. If a paragraph comes from a law report, a citation is expected to be written down. Technical manuals routinely copy facts from other manuals without attribution, because they assume a common spirit of scientific endeavor (as evidenced, for example, in "open source" projects in software) in which scientists freely share their work.

The Microsoft Manual of Style for Technical Publications Third Edition (2003) by Microsoft does not even mention plagiarism, nor does Science and Technical Writing: A Manual of Style, Second Edition (2000) by Philip Rubens. The line between permissible literary and impermissible source code plagiarism, though, is apparently quite fine. As with any technical field, computer programming makes use of what others have contributed to the general knowledge.

It is common for university researchers to rephrase and republish their own work, tailoring it for different academic journals, and often also for a newspaper article, in order to disseminate their work to the widest possible interested public. However, it must be borne in mind that these researchers also obey limits: if half an article is the same as a previous one, it will be rejected. One of the functions of the process of peer review in academic writing is to prevent this type of 'recycling'.

Public figures commonly use anonymous speech writers. However, if a speech uses copied material, it is the public figure who will be embarrassed. In 1988, Delaware Senator Joe Biden was forced out of that year's US Presidential race (but remained in the US Senate) when it was discovered that a part of one of his campaign speeches plagiarized from Robert Kennedy's speeches.

Examples of purported or actual plagiarism[edit | edit source]

Academia[edit | edit source]

  • James A. Mackay, a Scottish historian, was forced to withdraw all copies of his biography of Alexander Graham Bell from circulation in 1998 because he plagiarized the last major work on the subject, a 1973 work. Also accused of plagiarizing material on biographies of Mary Queen of Scots, Andrew Carnegie, and Sir William Wallace, he was forced to withdraw his next work, on John Paul Jones, in 1999 for an identical reason. [6] [7]
  • Historian Stephen Ambrose has been criticized for incorporating passages from the works of other authors into many of his books. He was first accused in 2002 by two writers for copying portions about World War II bomber pilots from Thomas Childers's The Wings of Morning in his book The Wild Blue. [8] After Ambrose admitted to the errors, the New York Times found further unattributed passages, and "Mr. Ambrose again acknowledged his errors and promised to correct them in later editions." [9]
  • Author Doris Kearns Goodwin interviewed author Lynne McTaggart in her 1987 book The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys, and she used passages from McTaggart's book about Kathleen Kennedy. In 2002, when the similarities between Goodwin's and McTaggart's books became public, Goodwin stated that she had an understanding that citations would not be required for all references, and that extensive footnotes already existed. Many doubted her claims, and she was forced to resign from the Pulitzer Prize board. [1] [2] [3]
  • A mathematician and computer scientist Dǎnuţ Marcu claimed to have published over 378 original papers in various scientific publications. A number of his recent papers have been proven to be exact copies of papers published earlier by other people. [4]
  • A University of Colorado investigating committee found Ethnic Studies professor and activist Ward Churchill guilty of multiple counts of plagiarism, fabrication, and falsification. The Chancellor has recommended Churchill's dismissal to the Board of Regents. The action is currently pending Churchill's appeal.[10] [11] [12] [13]
  • Former President Jimmy Carter was accused by a former Middle East diplomat Dennis Ross for publishing the diplomat's maps in his new book Palestine: Peace, Not Apartheid without permission or attribution.[14]
  • Author Alan Dershowitz has been accused by Norman Finkelstein of plagiarizing Joan Peters's controversial book From Time Immemorial (see Dershowitz-Finkelstein affair).

Computer Games[edit | edit source]

  • Atari's video game Pong was accused by Magnavox of being a copy of the Odyssey's tennis game. Nolan Bushnell saw Ralph Baer's version at a 1972 electronics show in Burlingame, California. Bushnell then founded Atari and established Pong as its featured game. "Baer and Magnavox filed suit against Bushnell and Atari in 1973 and finally reached an out-of-court settlement in 1976. It marked the end for Odyssey and the beginning of the Atari age." [15] [5]

Film[edit | edit source]

  • The 1922 film Nosferatu was an unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel Dracula. Stoker's widow sued the producers of Nosferatu, and had many of the film's copies destroyed (although some remain).[16]
  • The 1990 movie Hardware was noted to have substantial similarities to the 2000 AD one-shot story "SHOK!". Following legal action, the filmmakers agreed to amend the credits to read that the movie was "inspired by" the writers of the comic strip.[17]

Journalism[edit | edit source]

Literature[edit | edit source]

  • A young Helen Keller was accused in 1892 for plagiarizing The Frost King, a short story that strongly resembled Margaret T. Canby's story "The Frost Fairies." She was brought before a tribunal of the Perkins Institute for the Blind, where she was acquitted by a single vote. She said she was worried she may have read The Frost Fairies and forgotten it and "remained paranoid about plagiarism ever after";this led her to write an autobiography: the one thing she knew must be original. [23] [24]
  • Alex Haley settled a lawsuit with Harold Courlander for a passage in Haley's novel Roots that imitated his novel The African. "Accusations that portions of 'Roots' (Doubleday hard cover, Dell paperback) were plagiarized or concocted plagued Mr. Haley from soon after the book's publication up until his death in February 1992. In 1978, Mr. Haley was sued for plagiarism by Harold Courlander, author of the novel 'The Africans,' and paid him $650,000 in an out-of-court settlement." [25] Haley insisted that "the passages 'were in something somebody had given me, and I don't know who gave it to me . . . . Somehow or another, it ended up in the book." [26]
  • Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code, has been twice accused of plagiarism resulting in lawsuits, but both suits were ultimately dismissed.[27] [28] [29] [30] [31]
    • Brown was accused of "appropriating the architecture" of the book The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail (1982) by Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh. A British judge dismissed the copyright infringement claim in April 2006, on the grounds that the earlier book claims to be non-fictional.
    • Additionally, Brown was accused by novelist Lewis Perdue for plagiarizing his novels The Da Vinci Legacy (1983) and Daughter of God (2000). A U.S. judge dismissed the case in August 2005.
  • Kaavya Viswanathan's first novel How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life is reported to contain plagiarized passages from at least five other novels. All editions of the book were subsequently withdrawn, her publishing deal with Little, Brown and Co. was rescinded, and a film deal with Dreamworks SKG was cancelled. [32] [33] [34]

Music[edit | edit source]

Politics[edit | edit source]

Senator Joseph Biden[edit | edit source]

  • Biden was forced to withdraw from the 1988 Democratic Presidential nominations when it was alleged that he had failed a 1965 introductory law school course on legal methodology due to plagiarism. "Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., fighting to salvage his Presidential campaign . . . acknowledged 'a mistake' in his youth, when he plagiarized a law review article for a paper he wrote in his first year at law school. Mr. Biden insisted, however, that he had done nothing 'malevolent,' that he had simply misunderstood the need to cite sources carefully." [35] Biden withdrew from the race September 23, 1987, and reported the law school incident to the Delaware Supreme Court. The court's Board of Professional Responsibility cleared him of any allegations. [36]
  • Biden was also accused of plagiarizing portions of his speeches, and that he had copied several campaign speeches, notably those of British Labour leader Neil Kinnock and Senator Robert F. Kennedy. He denied those charges. "And he asserted that another controversy, concerning recent reports of his using material from others' speeches without attribution, was 'much ado about nothing.'" [37]

Iraq war[edit | edit source]

  • In a New York Times editorial prior to the Iraq war, President Bush's National Security Advisor Dr. Condoleezza Rice explained that Saddam Hussein could not be trusted for various reasons, including the fact that Hussein had committed plagiarism. "Iraq's declaration [to the United Nations regarding the state of its nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs] even resorted to unabashed plagiarism, with lengthy passages of United Nations reports copied word-for-word (or edited to remove any criticism of Iraq) and presented as original text."[38]
  • On February 3, 2003, Alastair Campbell, Prime Minister Tony Blair's Director of Communications and Strategy, released a briefing document to journalists entitled "Iraq: Its Infrastructure of Concealment, Deception and Intimidation." It described Iraq and its weapons of mass destruction programs. Journalists discovered that many sources, particularly an article by Ibrahim al-Marashi, had been copied word-for-word, including typographical errors. Journalists dubbed the document the "Dodgy Dossier." After the revelation, Blair's office issued a statement admitting that a mistake was made in not crediting its sources, but it did not concede that the quality of the documents's content was affected.[39]

Vladimir Putin[edit | edit source]

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin has been accused of plagiarism by fellows at the Brookings Institution who allege that "[l]arge chunks of Putin's economics dissertation on planning in the natural resources sector were lifted from a management text published by two University of Pittsburgh academics nearly 20 years earlier." [40]

Wikipedia[edit | edit source]

  • In November 2006, the Associated Press reported activist Daniel Brandt's claim to have uncovered 142 articles with plagiarized content among the 12,000 Wikipedia articles he chose to search. Wikipedia administrators responded that this list misidentifed some articles where Wikipedia had been plagiarized, and that they took action on the cases that involved copyright violations.[41] He "called on Wikipedia to conduct a thorough review of all its articles."[42]

Other instances[edit | edit source]

Martin Luther King[edit | edit source]

  • In 1991 a Boston University investigation into allegatons of academic misconduct concluded that Martin Luther King, Jr. had indeed plagiarized large portions of his doctoral thesis. "A committee of scholars at Boston University concluded that Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. plagiarized portions of his doctoral dissertation, completed there in the 1950s." The BU committee recommended that King's doctoral degree should not be revoked; however, a letter is now attached to King's dissertation in the university library, noting that numerous passages were included without the appropriate citations of sources. [43]
  • It has been charged that for his "I Have A Dream" speech King plagiarized the 1952 address of Archibald Carey to the Republican National Convention, the similarities being in the reference to the Samuel Francis Smith patriotic hymn "America" in the peroration followed by a listing of geographical locations from which the orator exhorts his audience to "let freedom ring." Many, however, believe that the comparisons are so slightly similar that they do not rise to the level of plagiarism. King's "I Have a Dream" Speech, Carey's Speech, My Country, 'Tis of Thee. [44]

William H. Swanson[edit | edit source]

  • William H. Swanson, CEO, of Raytheon, admitted to plagiarism in claiming authorship for his booklet, "Swanson's Unwritten Rules of Management," after being exposed by The New York Times. On May 2, 2006, Raytheon withdrew distribution of the book.[45]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. " Plagiarism and Poor Academic Practice – A Threat to the Extension of e-Learning in Higher Education?" "Paper 25", article by Mike and Tim Friesner in EJEL, the Electronic Journal of e-Learning, Volume 2, Issue 2, December, 2004
  2. "Plagiarism, Norms, and the Limits of Theft Law: Some Observations on the Use of Criminal Sanctions in Enforcing Intellectual Property Rights" article by Stuart P. Green in Hastings Law Journal, Volume 54, Pages 167-242
  3. "Academic Plagiarism Defined" article by Irving Hexham, 2005
  4. "Self-plagiarism or fair use?" article by Pamela Samuelson, Communications of the ACM, Volume 27, Issue 8, August, 1994
  5. "ACM Policy and Procedures on Plagiarism", October, 2006
  6. "Repeat Accusations of Plagiarism Taint Prolific Biographer" article by Ralph Blumenthal in New York Times, September 21, 1999
  7. "Familiarity Stops the Presses", article by Ralph Blumenthal in New York Times, September 26, 1999
  8. "2 Say Stephen Ambrose, Popular Historian, Copied Passages" by David D. Kirkpatrick in New York Times, January 5, 2002
  9. "As Historian's Fame Grows, So Do Questions on Methods" by David D. Kirkpatrick, New York Times, January 11, 2002
  10. "Ward's Research Shoddy" by Casey Freeman, Colorado Daily(May 16, 2006).
  11. "Panel recommends firing Colo. professor", Associated Press, (June 13, 2006), retrieved from news.yahoo.com June 14, 2006
  12. Letter CU to Ernesto Vigil, 17 April 2006, KHOW.Com
  13. "CU reviewing new charges leveled against Churchill" article by Sara Burnett in the Rocky Mountain News May 11, 2006
  14. "Jimmy Carter Fires Back at Longtime Aide Over Book" Melissa Drosjack, Fox News, December 8, 2006
  15. "A 30 Year Odyssey for Home Video Games," Chicago Sun-Times, February 16, 2003
  16. "The Vampfather", article by Christopher Grayling in the UK Independent, January 21, 2001
  17. 2000AD Online "spinoff" archive
  18. "Syndicator to review Coulter plagiarism claims" Associated Press, MSNBC, July 10, 2006
  19. "Jayson Blair: A Case Study of What Went Wrong at The New York Times" Kristina Nwazota, PBS Online News Hour, December 10, 2004
  20. "Stories, essays lacked attribution" essay by Blair Hornstine in The Courier Post, June 3, 2003
  21. "Baltimore Sun Columnist Quits Amid Plagiarism Charges" Associated Press, Fox News, January 4, 2006
  22. "Post.com Blogger Quits Amid Furor" article by Howard Kurtz, Washington Post online, March 25, 2006
  23. "Her Hands Were a Bridge to the World", article by Walter Kendrick in the New York Times, August 30, 1998
  24. The Story of My Life, Helen Keller, 1903
  25. "Book Notes", Esther B. Fein, New York Times, March 3, 1993
  26. "Research Help Supplies Backbone for Haley's Book" article by Anne S. Crowley, Chicago Tribune, October 24, 1985
  27. "Da Vinci author is hit by fresh plagiarism claim" article by Ruth Armstrong in The Scotsman, January 12, 2005
  28. In a packed high court, a new twist in The Da Vinci Code begins to unfold, article by Maev Kennedy The Guardian, 28 February 2006
  29. "Publish and be damned if you don't sell more", The Birmingham Post, 10 March, 2006
  30. "Da Vinci trial pits history against art", The Observer, 26 February, 2006
  31. "Court rejects Da Vinci copy claim", BBC News, 7 April 2006
  32. "Student’s Novel Faces Plagiarism Controversy", David Zhou, The Harvard Crimson, April 23, 2006
  33. "For new author, a difficult opening chapter", Vicki Hyman, The Star-Ledger, April 25, 2006
  34. "Author McCafferty talks shop with Brick's Lit Chicks", Colleen Lutolf, Brick Township Bulletin, May 18, 2006
  35. 'Biden Admits Plagiarism in School But Says It Was Not "Malevolent"', article by E.J. Dionne, Jr. in the New York Times, September 18, 1987
  36. "Professional Board Clears Biden in Two Allegations of Plagiarism" article by E.J. Dionne, Jr. in the New York Times, May 29, 1989
  37. 'Biden Admits Plagiarism in School But Says It Was Not "Malevolent"', article by E.J. Dionne, Jr. in the New York Times, September 18, 1987
  38. "Why We Know Iraq Is Lying" opinion by Condoleezza Rice in the New York Times, January 23, 2003
  39. "Downing St dossier plagiarised" Julian Rush, Channel 4 News, February 6, 2003
  40. "Researchers Peg Putin as a Plagiarist over Thesis" article by David R. Sands in The Washington Times, March 25, 2006
  41. "Wikipedia Critic Finds Copied Passages" Anick Jesdanum, Associated Press, November 3, 2006
  42. "Wikipedia Critic Finds Copied Passages", the Sydney Morning Herald, November 4, 2006
  43. "Panel Confirms Plagiarism by King at BU" by Charles A. Radin, The Boston Globe, October 11, 1991
  44. "Martin Luther King" Urban Legends Reference Pages, Snopes, Status: "Some true, some false", accessed 2007-01-15
  45. "Raytheon halts distribution of controversial booklet by CEO" Associated Press Boston.com, 2006-05-02, accessed 2006-05-02

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