Is Plagiarism OK?

PrtscrThe New York Times ponders plagiarism in the digital age, where films like Rip: A Remix Manifesto question traditional notions of copyright and fair use:

At Rhode Island College, a freshman copied and pasted from a Web site’s frequently asked questions page about homelessness — and did not think he needed to credit a source in his assignment because the page did not include author information.

At DePaul University, the tip-off to one student’s copying was the purple shade of several paragraphs he had lifted from the Web; when confronted by a writing tutor his professor had sent him to, he was not defensive — he just wanted to know how to change purple text to black.

And at the University of Maryland, a student reprimanded for copying from Wikipedia in a paper on the Great Depression said he thought its entries — unsigned and collectively written — did not need to be credited since they counted, essentially, as common knowledge.

Professors used to deal with plagiarism by admonishing students to give credit to others and to follow the style guide for citations, and pretty much left it at that.

But these cases — typical ones, according to writing tutors and officials responsible for discipline at the three schools who described the plagiarism — suggest that many students simply do not grasp that using words they did not write is a serious misdeed.

It is a disconnect that is growing in the Internet age as concepts of intellectual property, copyright and originality are under assault in the unbridled exchange of online information, say educators who study plagiarism…

[continues in the New York Times]


Majestic is gadfly emeritus.

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8 Comments on "Is Plagiarism OK?"

  1. justagirl | Aug 2, 2010 at 11:00 am |

    professors at my school are armed with this handy software that scans electronic papers and searches for plagerized material. put information in your own words and cite your sources. look upon the freshman's “misdeed” with empathy, because we know k-12 often leaves out information that can actually be helpful to our future.

  2. A Bad Joke | Aug 2, 2010 at 11:04 am |

    Original thought is what should go into any paper, no matter how “mundane” it may be. So no, Plagiarism is not ok.

    Equating file sharing and plagiarism is just silly. In my high and mighty opinion, anyone who thinks plagiarism is ok because they downloaded their latest Miley Cyrus or whatever drivel for free, belongs nowhere near a classroom.

  3. Haystack | Aug 2, 2010 at 3:12 pm |

    For me the effect has been just the opposite. I've become hyper-aware of copyright law and its various nuances; what is fair use, what enters the public domain when, and so on. This is probably stuff that schools should make more of a point of teaching, the same way they do library research. They also need to learn to be aware of how the internet replicates error, and know how to weigh the authority of their sources.

    Educators do need to acknowledge that people have far more information at their fingertips than they once did, and adjust accordingly. In my opinion, there's opportunity here to focus more upon critical thinking and analysis than upon simply recovering information. It's easy to fudge research, but not analysis.

    People who think that they should be allowed to paste together a research paper as though it were a MySpace page, though, need to be smacked down. “Remixing” other people's stuff doesn't necessarily make you original. “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” was a funny idea, but is essentially just literary vandalism.

  4. Wasn't the World Wide Web/Internet made for exchanging information? Also, if “they” (the righter, publisher, etc.) didn't want us to copy or use it, why put it online; hell, why even right it? I believe most information is there for us to use.

    • At least it's clear you did “right” your own post. Thanks for providing such a perfect example of the level of education one could reasonably expect from a “righter” who (a) lacks the capacity for original thought/creation, and (b) obviously missed the point completely.

      You've made my day. Seriously. 🙂

    • Untitled-01 | Aug 2, 2010 at 10:49 pm |

      “most information is there for us to use” use as in comprehend. We use the information upon understanding it and not as in copying it word for word. Copying someones text word for word does not demonstrate understanding, it demonstrates shallowness.

  5. Untitled-01 | Aug 2, 2010 at 10:44 pm |

    What a bunch of idiots. They deserve an F because they failed basic reading comprehension in understanding the rules of the schools (of which I assume tell students not to plagiarize).and I always wondered why my school and my teachers have to tell me what plagiarizing is. I thought it was obvious.

    This has nothing to do with “growing up in the internet age”. I'm young and I know what stealing is.

  6. Untitled-01 | Aug 3, 2010 at 3:49 am |

    “most information is there for us to use” use as in comprehend. We use the information upon understanding it and not as in copying it word for word. Copying someones text word for word does not demonstrate understanding, it demonstrates shallowness.

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