Plagiarism

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Plagiarism is an act where you take people's work or ideas and pass them off as your own. This is a common and controversial issue on the internet.

The exact bar for Plagiarism is not absolute. Memes may come to mind, where the content is copy and pasted and slightly edited by many users without consequence or damage to reputation. Often it is a matter of perspective - in many countries and communities considered 'educated' or in certain industries, what is considered stealing may differ from one place to another. Artists are especially tight knit and will often support each other for proper credit, while other communities often crop avatars at will and never provide a source. Companies will work very hard to protect their ideas from being stolen, although obviously other companies will rip off the idea anyways - success sells and duplication of what works is the easiest way to catch up. The bar is muddied when small changes to the same idea are passed as original, or just different enough to avoid legal action. For the purpose of this article, your "common sense" is used for a bar - cases where sections of text are ripped off and passed as original, flagrantly stolen ideas to undercut another user or business, and other instances that are easily argued as unoriginal, harmful to community, and legally unjustifiable.

Why It Sucks

  1. It can be legally seen as theft. At best it is often shunned in internet communities and can result in the plagiarist being ostracized. If it is reselling another creator's work without rights, this can easily turn into a legal issue.
  2. It is infamously used for cheating, best known for cheating on tests and essays. This can be insidious (blends right in) or humorous, if the plagiarist failed to remove Wikipedia sources (for example). It is very easily discovered with a google search of suspicious sections.
  3. Certain countries are known for very weak copyright law. These areas can go without legal consequence and are not concerned about irritated communities. The damage is done - the source of a work may be uncertain, novel ideas become copy and pasted, good business is undercut with cheap copies.
  4. Plagiarism is often considered dishonest and can mark a user's reputation. At worst it may have real life consequences below legal action but still bad enough to cost a grade, a job, or somebody's place in a tight industry.

How To Avoid Plagiarism

  • If you understand the content, you can write it differently. Change the structure of sentences and come to your own conclusion.
  • Credit the source - it is not plagiarism to quote, but it is plagiarism to pass work off as your own, or imply it was always yours.
  • Legally, contact a lawyer. The bar is typically set at patients that define an exact purpose and how to do it. Changing ingredients, steps or branding can be enough to avoid the stigma while achieving the same purpose.
  • The altruistic case can sometimes be made here - where something such as insulin is considered important enough to society that many believe it should be generic and available cheap or free, rather than monopolized at steep prices as in the United States. The negative of 'ripping off' expressed in this page may be argued down by other facts.


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