Wednesday, August 15th 2018

Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V: Not the Answer

Courtsey of:

Does this sound familiar to you? You have a 10 page paper due at 8am. It’s currently 4:35am…and you’re nowhere close to being finished. To make matters worse, you’ve had 18 cups of coffee over the course of 3 hours. At this point, your judgment is slightly impaired and you start to think, “If I just cut and paste THIS paragraph, no one will know, right?”

According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, plagiarism is:

  • to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own : use (another’s production) without crediting the source
  • to commit literary theft : present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source

Since plagiarism seems like the biggest educational crime one could ever commit, most people refused to do it. However, I once knew someone who was accused of plagiarizing his ENTIRE final paper (*cough* for Geography). He had to attend an ‘ethics’ trial at the school and, eventually, ended up getting kicked out.  Oops.

A slew of plagiarism reports in the news lately might help to illustrate that it, in fact, extends beyond the classroom to the worlds of entertainment and journalism!  Harry Potter author, J.K. Rowling, is accused of stealing the idea of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire from Adrian Jacobs. Jacobs created a character called Willy the Wizard, which  tells the tale of wizard colleges, tournaments, etc. In the anime world, the popular Incarnate had its production stopped when charges of plagiarism arose against its creator, Nick Simmons. And, the Black Eyed Peas were also recently served with a lawsuit by Manfred Mohr, a producer who claims BEP’s ‘Boom Boom Pow’ is quite similar to Mohr’s ‘Boom Dynamite’. (But one wonders if these truly constitute plagiarism or if the accusers are merely looking for a way to make a quick dollar off of celebrities.)

In the journalism world, Daily Beast reporter Gerald Posner left the Daily Beast after accusations arose that Posner used the same material in his story as in a Miami Herald story. Most shocking, though, is the story of the New York Times reporter, Zachery Kouwe. Kouwe apparently incorporated an online Wall Street Journal article into his own NYT article on February 5th. A Times reporter using WSJ stories? What is the world coming to!  Kowe resigned from NYT on February 16th.

Plagiarism falls under US copyright law and, specifically, relates to the Fair Use Doctrine. Consider these four factors when determining if using content is ‘fair’:

  1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work
  3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
  4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work

So, since the last thing you want is to be slapped with a lawsuit and have your reputation ruined, keep these four factors in mind. Copy and Paste? You might want to think again!

Posted by Melanie on March 4, 2010 at 4:19pm.

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