Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Copy Cats

Before the Internet, the definition of plagiarism was simple. Take stuff from a lot of sources, it’s research. Lift from one and it’s illegal.

Now that you can cut and paste on your computer, who knows? According to today’s Christian Science Monitor (note the attribution and link), four students are suing Turnitin, an anti-plagiarism web site for infringing on their rights by storing their homework on a database.

“Top copyright lawyers say both sides have compelling arguments. The Turnitin case highlights the mounting tensions between the social utility and economic value of searchable databases, and the ire they provoke over issues of privacy and profiting from another's work.”

That paragraph was lifted from the Monitor, but putting it in quotes and telling you that absolves me from plagiarism.

This a serious issue not only for students and bloggers
Not only are property rights and integrity involved, but sometimes the stakes are higher. You may not know that, in addition to WMD and ties to Al Qaeda, we went to war with Iraq because Saddam Hussein was a plagiarist.

Here, from an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times by Condoleeza Rice before the invasion, is proof (note the quotes):

“Iraq's declaration 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. Far from informing, the declaration is intended to cloud and confuse the true picture of Iraq's arsenal. It is a reflection of the regime's well-earned reputation for dishonesty and constitutes a material breach of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1441, which set up the current inspections program.”

Now that may be the steepest penalty any one ever paid for plagiarism.

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