What is Plagiarism? - History, Types, and its Consequences
Plagiarism is reproducing and stealing someone else's ideas, words, thoughts, expressions, and other work without their consent or crediting the actual creator. This act violates the code of ethics acknowledged by academic institutions, search engines, copyright laws, and academic integrity.
Breaching the code of ethics regarding plagiarism can lead content creators to severe repercussions. For instance, they may have to pay heavy penalties, get suspended from their institutions, bear sanctions, or, worst cases, go to jail. Therefore, content creators of every domain, especially academics (researchers, scholars, and students), journalism, art, and marketing, should ensure that their content is not duplicated or copied.
Although in most cases, people deliberately steal others' content for their gains, some do it due to their lack of knowledge about plagiarism and its penalties. Their ignorance about plagiarism doesn't help them build a solid case for their defense. Therefore, everyone must have some knowledge about it.
This detailed article is written to educate people about plagiarism. It will enlighten them about almost everything regarding duplication. Starting from the definition of plagiarism.
Definition of Plagiarism
Almost every authentic and recognized platform regarding language has defined what plagiarism is. However, the definition provided by North Illinois University is more comprehensive.
According to North Illinois University, "Plagiarism is a type of cheating that involves the use of another person's ideas, words, design, art, music, etc., as one's own in whole or in part without acknowledging the author or obtaining his or her permission." This definition elaborates on different things related to the term. It discusses what kind of content is included in duplication and in which circumstances the copied content can be called duplicated.
History of Plagiarism
Plagiarism is not a phenomenon in this digital world. It was pretty popular in ancient times as well. Some scholars also believe that most religious texts were authorless, and people didn't know where a few manuscripts came from. So there was an opportunity for many so-called scholars and philosophers to copy the written material from various books and texts and claim that those ideas were their own.
First Documented Incident of Plagiarism
Indeed, according to some historians, the first documented plagiarism case occurred around the 80th AD. At that time, it was pretty prevalent among poets to recite others' lines in various ceremonies. That's how some ordinary poets also gained popularity. However, Martial immediately responded when a Roman Poet named Martial found that another poet, Fidentinus, was reciting his lines. Although Martial couldn't get anything in return for his protest, and Fidentinus didn't get any punishment due to the absence of copyright laws, this incident became part of history. However, more studies are still required to dig deeper into plagiarism and know which books or texts are plagiarized.
Middle Ages- The Era of Plagiarism
A few authors claim that this was the time when most of the literature was plagiarized. Many philosophers, scholars, poets, and even religious leaders copied ideas and words from others' creations and claimed authority. However, a few were used to point out the original references. At that time, the rules to protect the work from plagiarism weren't developed, and many writers took advantage of the absence of these rules.
Some historians also claim that some parts of Shakespeare and Benjamin Franklin's work are also plagiarized. Furthermore, a few consider that Da Vinci also stole most of his work from other artists. At that time, the mass media and technology weren't developed as it is now, so it was pretty difficult for artists, authors, poets, and novelists to protect their work.
Developmental Phase of Copyright Laws
Even till the middle of the 17th century, copying was standard in almost every field. From sciences to literature, authors, scientists, and even novelists used to blame others for stealing their ideas. However, in the early 18th century, the first law addressing copyright was approved in England. That particular law refrained some publishers from printing and selling books and other manuscripts without the permission of the actual publisher. But, this law had nothing to do with the author's rights. Although that law was only built to protect publishers' rights, it was the first step in the right direction.
The real milestone was laid in 1886 in the Berne Convention, also known as the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Work. This international convention forced artists and scholars to respect the work of others, especially their country fellows.
With time, many bills and acts were approved worldwide to transform this unethical activity into an illegal one. However, until 1891, the United States refused to defend foreign authors' rights.
Legal Aspects of Plagiarism
Usually, some believe that duplication is not criminal activity or legal offense but an academic one. This statement is entirely wrong and undermines the significance of this criminal act. If we specifically analyze plagiarism in educational content, whether a research paper, thesis, term paper, assignment or dissertation, plagiarism is enough to throw a student or scholar out of that particular educational institute. However, this is not the end. The institute or the person who plagiarized content can take further legal action against the copier. These actions have nothing to do with personal grudges, they are entirely lawful, and the laws allow them.
In the United States, the owner of content or art can sue the plagiarists for any potential violation of copyright laws. Therefore, even if the plagiarist has made some additions to the range, it would still be considered a violation because the rules addressing copyrights doesn't see what is done right but what is done wrong.
Copyright laws state that plagiarism is a fraudulent activity. Plagiarists knowingly or deliberately try to use others' text for some gain. Whether someone uses the material to get good grades in college, win any competition, or publish some research articles, the plagiarists don't have any defense in these cases. Some law experts believe that plagiarists should be called fraudsters as plagiarist is a too kind word for them.
Consequences of Plagiarism
What are the consequences of copying others' ideas, words, or creative work without their consent or citing the actual creator?
1. Damaging Credibility
Whatever defense or reason anyone has for plagiarism, one thing is for sure; it severely affects the plagiarist's reputation and credibility. Once a person or organization is found plagiarizing others' creative work, they will lose their trust in the audience. Although some believe that the masses have short-term memory regarding many issues, they don't forget when others deceive them.
So, whether an organization or an individual is behind the act of violating the copyright laws, they are entirely responsible for that and will pay for it with their reputation.
2. Penalties by the Organizations
Many penalties are declared by every organization and educational institute to keep their workers or students away from plagiarism. However, not many follow the guidelines, and they still try to trick organizations and audiences. Once they are found cheating, the institutes have the right to punish them in various ways.
For example, academic institutes can fine their students for breaking the law or bless them with lower grades. Furthermore, they can also ask them to check grammar, spelling, and duplication again and then resubmit their work. In some cases, they can also expel their students to set an example for others. Similarly, corporations and other organizations can also fire their workers when they are captured plagiarizing others' content.
3. Ruin career
The label of a plagiarist can ruin a person's entire career. This is true even if the person is not caught in the act of plagiarizing or is found guilty by a court of law. The mere accusation or speculation that someone has committed plagiarism can be enough to cause irreparable damage to their reputation and credibility and make it difficult for them to find work in the future.
4. Legal Outcomes
Copyright laws aren't only built to threaten people but to ensure the safety of creative work. The courts strictly force people to obey these laws. That's why they punish the plagiarists with heavy fines, and depending on the severity of the issue, they can also send fraudsters to jail.
5. Financial Consequences
The students, workers, and artists guilty of plagiarism can find it hard to get admission or a job in any other organization. That's how it ruins the career and limits the chances of earning money. Furthermore, artists with plagiarism charges may not be able to sell their art in the market as people will see it with a skeptical eye. That's how it financially affects the stealers.
Moreover, the courts can also penalize plagiarists with hefty fines. Those fines are sometimes more than a person can afford to pay back. Those penalties can bankrupt a person or organization.
Famous Cases of Plagiarism
The recent history of plagiarism is well-documented, as many individuals and organizations have sued other parties for violating copyright laws. As a result, many of them came into the news. Mentioning a few of the most famous cases is essential to bring light to the severity of this criminal or fraudulent activity.
Melania Trump's Speech at Republican National Convention
It is one of the most famous incidents where a big name, in fact, the first lady of the United States, was involved in the act of plagiarism. In a speech, Melania Trump plagiarized Michelle Obama's speech which she delivered in 2008. Once people found out that Mrs. Trump plagiarized some parts of the address given by Mrs. Obama, they criticized her on the internet, and this speech remained in the news and on social media platforms for a while.
The 46th President of the United States also once plagiarized in law school. Due to this malpractice, he failed the course. Later he admitted that he plagiarized five pages of an article without citing the source. The act of duplication also came in the way of his presidential race in 1988. Mr. Biden had to withdraw from the race just because of plagiarism.
Warhol was arguably one of his generation's most prominent names in the visual arts industry. However, he also tended to copy others' art and include them in his work. The most famous case of plagiarism against Warhol came when photographer Patricia Caulfield accused Warhol of using her picture without permission. Both parties selected the matter out of court, and Warhol paid some royalty to Caulfield for his act.
Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams
Thicke and Williams were also found guilty of duplicating Marvin Gaye's track. So, they had to pay above $ 5 million to the other party.
Types of Plagiarism
When it comes to knowing everything about plagiarism, we need to comprehend its various types. It could help us understand which of them has more severe outcomes than others. Here are the most common types of plagiarism.
Complete plagiarism is when the writer copies and pastes content from another source and publishes or submits it without making changes or edits. The only thing the plagiarists change in this kind, is the names. Then, they submit or publish those articles, books, or manuscripts with their names. This type of duplication is always intentional, where the fraudsters deliberately pick the text from different sources, change the name and submit them.
People from multiple walks of life commit this fraud, and they could have their specific reasons. For instance;
- Authors can completely steal others' work some prizes or get appreciation from the respective audience.
- Students may do it to pass their subjects with high grades.
- Researchers do it to get the articles published with their names.
- Marketers or copywriters may try it to attract more audiences and boost sales.
Whatever the reason is, writers and students should avoid plagiarism as it is the most harmful compared to other types. Therefore, almost everyone suggests staying away from it.
Direct plagiarism is copying a few pages or portions from someone else's work and passing it off as one's own. It is pretty similar to complete plagiarism. The difference between these two types is that in direct plagiarism, plagiarists only copy a few chunks from the others' works and don't use quotation marks and claim their authority. Whereas incomplete plagiarism, fraudsters entirely impersonate the work.
In academia, direct plagiarism is considered a form of cheating. Students who commit this act are guilty of violating the standards set by the institution and are subject to disciplinary action. It is a breach of academic integrity and can result in severe consequences, including expulsion from school, heavy fines, etc.
The reasons for this type of plagiarism are mentioned below;
- Writers assume that direct plagiarism can help them save time.
- They also pick beautifully compiled chunks to bring diversity to their articles.
- Students usually try this to make sure they submit their assignments on time.
- Some new writers, unaware of the consequences, also do this as they suppose that adding a few lines from other sources isn't a problem.
Self-plagiarism is when someone copies their work. It is also a form of academic dishonesty. This type of plagiarism can be intentional or unintentional. Self-plagiarism most often occurs when students submit the same paper for two different classes.
It can also occur when students, authors, or scholars submit the same paper for two different purposes, such as publishing it in two separate journals or giving talks about it at two conferences. When someone plagiarizes their work, they must ensure that they have appropriately cited themselves in the references list and don't copy any text without proper citations. Although the students can make a solid defense regarding self-plagiarism, they should always avoid it.
Below are some of the most common motives behind self-plagiarism;
- Students or writers may use the exact words or phrases in multiple articles due to the same writing style.
- Some writers also add a few lines from their previous work as they believe copying their own words isn't unethical or illegal.
- Sometimes writers plagiarize themselves intentionally to complete the projects before deadlines.
Unintentional plagiarism arises when someone copies someone else's words or ideas without realizing it and without intending to steal the idea. Although unintentional or accidental plagiarism isn't that harmful to students, it is pretty hard to detect. Usually, writers, scholars, students, and artists who use their own words to describe a phenomenon or pen down their personal opinion on various topics don't check for plagiarism.
However, they must remember that many writers and scholars have worked on the same topics or subjects. So, there are a lot of chances that the words writers are using to define or explore some issues have already been used by other authors in the same manner. Furthermore, there are also some chances that a writer has listened to or read a few words or sentences somewhere else and is stuck in their unconscious. Therefore, using those words can bring unintentional plagiarism. Writers should rephrase content using an online paraphrasing tool to create uniqueness and duplication.
Many experts suggest writers check for plagiarism before submitting or publishing a text. That's how they can avoid accidental plagiarism and make their content unique.
Unintentional plagiarism may occur in articles for various causes, including;
- When writers don't check their compositions for plagiarism before submission.
- When students do research and adopt others' writing styles.
- When they don't have their way of stating things.
- When authors don't bring creativity to their work.
Paraphrasing plagiarism is a form of plagiarism that involves the use of paraphrasing or summarizing to present someone else's artistic or literary work. It is often unintentional and occurs when the writer does not cite their sources correctly. Mostly, writers do some research from various sources, and when they find a good statement, they paraphrase it according to their understanding. However, paraphrasing plagiarism arises when they don't change the sentence structures or paraphrase everything efficiently.
Avoiding this type of plagiarism is quite simple. Content creators should learn how to state the same thing in different ways. That's how they can easily prevent paraphrasing plagiarism. Furthermore, including citations and references is also a great way to eliminate this kind of plagiarism.
There are many examples where paraphrasing plagiarism may occur, such as:
- Quoting a particular passage from an article without giving credit to the author.
- Summarizing someone's argument in your own words while mistakenly attributing it to them.
- Adopting another person's point of view or argument without citing it.
- Using words, phrases, ideas, or sentence structure from someone else's work without giving credit.
Plagiarism is not restricted to textual information; it has made its way to other types of information. Images are also a victim of plagiarism these days. Image plagiarism is the activity of using images or graphics belonging to another creator or website as your own without giving the actual owner due credit. Photographers and graphic designers especially fall prey to image plagiarism because many parties with wrong intentions use the images or graphics created by them on their websites and present them as their own. Copyrighting images can be a great way to avoid image plagiarism.
Image plagiarism can be debunked easily with the help of advanced search method that harnesses the power of the latest technologies like AI (Artificial Intelligence), Machine Learning, and Computer Vision. We are talking about the photo search method here. Anyone having doubts about the fraudulent usage of their graphics and visuals can use the reverse image search method to find out the parties involved in image plagiarism. This method uses a particular image as a search query, and the results displayed are visually similar to the uploaded image. Hence, it can be easier for you to find the plagiarist quickly.
Here are some examples of image plagiarism:
• Copying the entire content of the original image to create a new one.
• Picking an image directly from the source to use it on another source without consent.
• Failing to cite the source while using an image obtained from another source.
• Keeping the entire content of the image unchanged and making a slight modification to make the image look different.
Plagiarism in Various Domains
Plagiarism is not just an issue in academia or marketing- it's a concern that crosses over into other fields and domains.
Let's see each domain one by one.
Art forms have always been a practice for individuals to express their creativity and share ideas. To do so, artists often borrow concepts from other art forms and artists that they admire and respect. However, sometimes the artists intentionally or accidentally forget to mention the artists whose work had inspired them or who originated a particular idea they are incorporating. That's where duplication occurs.
There are various types of plagiarism that artists can be guilty of, but there are two main types: accidental and intentional. An unintentional one occurs when an artist unknowingly takes inspiration from another artist's work. At the same time, an intentional one occurs when artists deliberately copy another artist's work without giving credit or getting permission.
The main reason why artists might accidentally commit plagiarism is that it can be challenging to keep track of all the pieces created throughout history and all the different ways in which people have used a particular piece of art. This can lead to that artist unknowingly using someone else's work, even if they did not know that it was copyrighted material.
Whereas some artists lack creativity but want fame. So, they plagiarize others' artistic work and publish or release them after making a few changes. They deliberately plagiarize by knowing all the consequences. Some of them also do it to come into the news circle.
Like many other fields, this form of theft in journalism is also considered unethical. Various journalistic codes have been introduced to stop journalists, reporters, and news agencies from plagiarizing others' stories or ideas. However, still, many of them are following this malpractice.
If we dig out to explore more about plagiarism in journalism, we will find out that there are three different kinds of plagiarism in journalism;
Information Plagiarism: Journalistic plagiarism is when a reporter or news organization publishes the information gathered by another journalist or organization without asking or crediting the natural source of information.
Writing Plagiarism: It is a deliberate attempt where journalists copy and paste other journalists' work without attributing it to them.
Ideas' Plagiarism: The journalists usually share ideas in their community to get a second opinion. However, some journalists utilize those ideas or theories and present them as their own. This unethical activity also falls under this kind of journalistic plagiarism.
All those kinds have severe consequences, as journalists may lose their jobs. In fact, in some cases, duplication may end a journalist's career. That's why reporters, news and editorial writers, columnists, and news agencies should always follow lawful and ethical practices.
Academic writing is a crucial educational system, especially in learning and teaching. Academic writers are expected to produce high-quality original work free from spelling and grammar mistakes someone else has not published before and acknowledge the research sources. Writers need to make it a habit to check spelling, grammar mistakes, and plagiarism in content.
The academic world is the most sensitive regarding duplication. It can be intentional or unintentional, but it is never excusable. Although some universities, institutes, publishers, and journals allow a specific percentage of duplication, they don't allow students and scholars to steal others' work. Academia directly relates to knowledge production, so it has zero tolerance for duplication.
Although most universities and colleges don't allow their students to plagiarize anything, almost every student plagiarizes their assignments once in a lifetime. Furthermore, students also find some innovative ways to bypass plagiarism checker assistants.
Plagiarism is an attempt to violate academic integrity and the code of ethics that educational institutes apply.
Many institutions have taken steps to educate students about the importance of academic integrity and how it can be achieved. For example, some schools have developed programs that aim to teach students how to properly cite their sources and prevent them from committing plagiarism. Other institutions have gone as far as adopting an honor code system in which all students must sign a pledge that they will not cheat, steal or lie about their work.
Besides art, journalism, and academics, duplication is also considered a severe offense in the marketing domain. Therefore, developing unique and plagiarism-free marketing content is not only essential to attract consumers and communicate the brand message effectively. In addition, it saves brands from various repercussions.
For instance, if a brand uploads copied content on its website or any other platform, the actual content creator can sue the brand for stealing its intellectual property. Furthermore, plagiarized content doesn't work well on search engines. Most search engines don't rank websites with high spammy scores and repetition. Besides, plagiarism can ruin all the marketing efforts and even a brand's reputation.
Aside from the web and social media, some brands use plagiarized logos and slogans. It is entirely unethical and illegal. There is a vast difference between inspiration and imitation, and marketers should be aware of that difference. They can take some inspiration from their competitors or other brands while designing logos or developing slogans. Otherwise, they may have to change them later.
In 2017, PayPal sued Pandora, a jewelry company, for many similarities in the logos. Due to that lawsuit, Pandora had to modify its logo. There are many other cases where one company had filed a lawsuit against the other, and the defendants had to change their logos or slogans.
Motives Behind Stealing Others’ Work
Every plagiarist could have a unique motive behind plagiarizing others. Some may do it to save time and meet tight deadlines, some get help from duplication because they lack creative ideas, and others may do it to gain recognition and appreciation for their work. In short, every person has some unique reasons for duplication. Let's see a few of them!
Most writers, scholars, and students rely on duplicated content when they are short on deadlines. Usually, they waste their time on various activities and forget about their assignments or work. Then, at the last moment, when they don't have any other option, they prefer to copy others, make a few modifications, and submit their work.
However, this trick doesn't work. It can be more harmful than late submission. For example, students could be expelled from their institutes if they violate academic integrity by plagiarism. On the other hand, the scholars could also lose their credibility and reputation once an academic journal finds that they rely on duplication for their research articles.
Cover Lack of Creativity
Not everyone is creative enough to develop a unique piece of written article, tune, painting, sculpture, poem, or any other creative work. However, some don't want to show their incapability to everyone. So, they believe that they can deceive people by plagiarizing others. Most of them get massive success in tricking their audience. But it doesn't always work. There are many famous examples (some are mentioned in this article) were real content creators exposed plagiarists.
Get Recognition in Their Respective Field
Almost everyone in the world wants some kind of recognition for their work. But not everyone deserves it. However, some don't accept it. Instead, they want it by hook or by crook. Some so-called artists or writers believe that duplicating others' work is a great and safer way to get recognition in their field.
Although some successfully reach their goals, it is still quite harmful. Instead of developing an excellent reputation in the market, this strategy could destroy their name for a lifetime as the label of the plagiarist or a fraudster is quite hard to remove.
Achieve Good Grades
Another reason content theft is pretty popular among students is that they want good grades without effort. Most students don't believe in their creativity and writing skills. For that reason, they think that if they create the assignments themselves, they won't be able to achieve the desired marks or leave a great impression on teachers. Therefore, try different methods for that. Duplication is one of them.
Ways to Avoid Plagiarism
Students and scholars are sometimes forced to get assistance from other sources like research articles, books, theses, dissertations, and other relevant sources to authenticate their work. Although they are allowed to paraphrase others and cite real authors, there are some chances that it can enhance the plagiarism percentage. So, how can they avoid plagiarism? Below are some ways to prevent or eliminate it in writing and post-writing.
Always Mention Sources
Whenever a writer is bound to rephrase others' ideas, they should mention the source of information to indicate that these ideas are derived from other authors. If they are scripting the exact statement, they should use quotation marks to demonstrate that every word is copied or borrowed from others. Furthermore, it is also better to mention the book or research article from which they have got those statements.
Students and scholars are mainly required to mention them in a specific style so that the readers and plagiarism checker programs can quickly identify those portions and not consider them copied.
Back Your Articles with Research
Research is a crucial element for almost every kind of writing. Whether writing a marketing copy, blog, research article, assignment, or thesis, research is inevitable. It not only enhances the writers' knowledge about the topic but also assists them in avoiding plagiarism. Sometimes, writers take all the data from one source and rephrase it. This practice enhances the chances of replication.
However, those writers who do solid research from various sources don't need to plagiarize their text. Instead, they have diversified ideas to pen down their thoughts on a specific topic. Therefore, every teacher emphasizes research.
Develop a Unique Writing Style
Students and professionals should have unique writing styles to avoid duplication or repetition. They can do this by studying other writers, practicing writing, and reading a lot of different genres.
One way to develop a unique style is by studying other writers' styles. This way, students can see what they like and don't like about the writer's style. They can then use that knowledge when they write their work.
Another way is to practice writing as much as possible. The more students write, the better they get at it. They will also be able to see what they need to improve on to develop a unique voice of their own.
The last way is by reading as much as possible. The more diverse the genres that students read, the better their understanding of different writing styles will be.
Check Plagiarism Before Submitting Your Work
It is recommended to check an article through a plagiarism checker online after its completion, even if it looks unique. Consequently, the chances of accidental plagiarism could be brushed off by making alterations if the process highlights any plagiarized portion in the manuscript. Furthermore, it provides mental satisfaction to writers as they are sure their content is unique or the duplication percentage is below the accepted level.