Finding information has never been easier thanks to the internet. In academia and the workplace, the internet has become a go-to resource when completing assignments or conducting research.
However, this trove of information is also tempting many students and professionals to claim another individual’s work as their own. At the high school level, one in three students have admitted to committing plagiarism. This percentage is 36% in higher education.
Plagiarism controversies have turned into major legal issues with some serious real-world consequences, such as artists having to pay damages to other creators.
The following article will discuss what plagiarism is, who suffers when someone steals ideas or content, and what the consequences are.
What Is Considered Plagiarism?
Plagiarism is the act of using another person’s ideas or words and passing them off as original content. Plagiarized content fails to identify the original author and doesn’t give them credit.
Note that it’s a different practice from citing an author in quotation marks or paraphrasing their ideas with proper attribution. Plagiarism is a dishonest practice that tricks readers into thinking a concept or text is original.
Plagiarism can take different forms. It’s important to keep in mind that the different types of plagiarism are all severe and can lead to serious repercussions.
Direct plagiarism happens when a person reuses content from another source as is. A common example is a student copying and pasting an entire paragraph they found online into an essay.
Direct plagiarism is a common form of academic dishonesty, but you’ll also see examples in the music industry, or more recently in the publishing field. Earlier in 2023, publisher Simon & Schuster paused all sales of The Book of Animal Secrets after a Los Angeles Times writer found that the book’s author had copied entire sections of the book from online blogs about animals.
Paraphrasing plagiarism can be more challenging to detect because the perpetrator makes a few changes to the original content. They might rewrite some sentences or use a text editor’s search and replace function to change some words. It’s still a dishonest practice since it reuses someone else’s work and ideas without credit.
A prominent example of paraphrasing plagiarism is Melania Trump’s 2016 RNC speech. Listeners noticed striking similarities with a speech Michelle Obama gave at the 2008 edition of the DNC. The speech didn’t reuse verbatim sentences, but the ideas and structure had strong similarities.
Self-plagiarism differs from other types of plagiarism since it consists of reusing one’s previous work. Instead of stealing ideas or words from another person, it’s a situation where a student or professional passes a previous work as new.
Reusing one’s work might not seem like a serious issue, but in the case of published work, the original publisher holds the copyright to the content. Reusing the same wording or a close approximation is copyright infringement.
It’s a widespread issue in academia where researchers often write multiple papers on the same topic. Publishers are responding by developing guidelines to outline acceptable practices when reusing research.
Patchwork plagiarism consists of using content from multiple sources. The content creator can use direct passages or rephrase someone else’s work. Using content from different sources is an attempt at making plagiarism more difficult to detect.
A recent example took place between September 2021 and February 2022. An NBC News reporter published 11 articles that reused passages from other news publications. The editing team didn’t catch the plagiarism because these passages were short and came from multiple sources.
Plagiarism isn’t always intentional. Accidental plagiarism can happen when someone forgets to cite a source or truly believes an idea they read somewhere was an original thought.
Accidental plagiarism happens regularly in the music industry, where the musical scale or composing music in a specific genre results in patterns that appear in more than one work. For instance, the Mark Ronson song ‘Uptown Funk’ resulted in four different lawsuits for copyright infringement due to the song’s use of common musical arrangements in the funk genre.
Victims of Plagiarism
Is plagiarism a victimless crime? The idea that plagiarism is a victimless crime is pervasive since it’s easy to forget it’s a form of theft, especially in a digital environment. While plagiarism isn’t a criminal or civil offense, it can have serious consequences for the original author, the plagiarist, and the person who consumes the content.
The Author of the Original Work
Content creators arguably suffer the most from plagiarism. Authors rely on their ideas and work to earn a living, while researchers need the recognition that results from publishing quality research to obtain funding.
It can take years to write a book, become a successful blogger, or build a reputation as a leader in an academic field. Plagiarism hurts content creators by turning their hard work into something another person can claim as their own.
When a book, article, or research paper steals existing ideas and words, the original content creator misses out on exposure, recognition, support, and financial compensation. Plus, repeating their original ideas makes these concepts feel less groundbreaking and undermines their hard work.
In the long term, plagiarism can result in an author or content creator missing out on career opportunities since employers or consumers can’t identify this person as the source of valuable work.
The consequences of plagiarism are especially apparent when the plagiarized work ends up with better search engine rankings or gets more shares on social media. The stolen content receives more traffic and steals exposure and potential ad revenues from the original work.
The rise of chatbots like ChatGPT is a new threat to content creators. TheGuardian.com is shedding light on how chatbots are scraping online content and hurting authors and artists.
The Consumers of Work Containing Plagiarism
When a consumer buys a book or clicks on a webpage, there is a tacit understanding that they’re giving money or seeing ads to support a content creator or publishing company.
In exchange, the publisher or content creator offers something of value. It can be educational content, reliable news, or something that entertains the consumer. Reusing someone else’s work under slightly different wording or formatting is a way of cheating the consumer.
In academia, the consumer is often a student or researcher who needs accurate information to progress in their own work. Using a source that plagiarizes another is hurtful because it can affect the academic integrity of the entire research project since there is no way to verify whether the plagiarized information is accurate.
The Individual Who Plagiarizes
Is plagiarism a victimless crime? The answer is no, but it’s also important to understand that plagiarism can hurt the person who commits it.
In an academic setting, a student who plagiarizes misses out on learning opportunities. If they get away with plagiarism, the grades and feedback they receive won’t be for their own work, and they will miss out on the opportunity to improve their work.
Plagiarism can also misrepresent a student or employee’s abilities. In the short-term, it can lead to new opportunities, but the person will eventually find themselves unable to meet expectations that stem from misrepresenting their abilities.
Plus, there are some serious real-world consequences for plagiarism controversies. A student can fail a class, while a professional can lose their job over intellectual property theft. These cases often receive enough attention to damage the reputation of the plagiarist.
Consequences of Plagiarism
What happens when someone plagiarizes? With the multiplication of plagiarism-detection tools, more plagiarists face consequences. Even though it’s sometimes possible to get away with stealing words or ideas, the internet facilitates access to previous works, and a plagiarist could have to face consequences years after the fact.
Plagiarism in Academia
At the high school level, plagiarism typically results in a failed assignment. The student might face a stern talking to and get detention. If it becomes a repeat issue or the student cheats on a key assignment, they might fail the class.
There are higher expectations in universities and colleges. Academic integrity is crucial, and higher education institutions typically have detailed policies regarding plagiarism and its consequences.
Teachers will give the lowest grade possible to a plagiarized assignment. The student might end up on academic probation, have to retake the assignment or even fail an entire class.
In more advanced cases, plagiarism can result in expulsion. The school can even revoke a student’s degree for academic misconduct.
The consequences of academic dishonesty are more serious at a higher level. For instance, an undergraduate student might get away with rewriting an assignment. At the graduate or Ph.D. level, plagiarism will damage the student’s reputation.
For instructors and researchers, plagiarism is unacceptable. It can result in losing tenure and make it challenging to obtain funding for research. Plus, plagiarists often lose the respect of the academic community, and they will always suffer from a lack of credibility.
Plagiarism at Work
In the workplace, plagiarism puts the entire organization at risk and creates liability issues regarding copyright infringement.
Copyright infringement has serious legal consequences. According to Purdue University, it can lead to paying damages as high as $150,000 on top of court costs. It can even result in a jail sentence.
The consequences of plagiarism at work depend on the severity of the issue. If a manager catches it before the organization uses the copied work, plagiarism will likely result in reputational damage.
The guilty employee might receive negative evaluations and lose some job responsibilities. They might have to start the project over from scratch or lose the project to another team until they can prove they are trustworthy.
In more serious cases, the theft of intellectual property can lead to losing one’s job. The example with the NBC reporter mentioned earlier resulted in this person losing her job.
Plagiarism can have some long-term consequences. It can be difficult to find another job after a plagiarism controversy, and a content creator might struggle to find a new publisher. It can even result in professional organizations revoking licenses.
Is plagiarism a victimless crime? The answer is no. Plagiarism is a serious issue, and it can hurt everyone involved.
The original content creator will lose revenues and exposure. The person who uses or consumes the content is a victim of dishonesty and might end up perpetuating inaccurate information. The plagiarist suffers since they don’t learn to create original content and can face serious consequences.
Between digital content and the rise of AI-powered chatbots, plagiarism is becoming a priority for many universities and businesses that rely on intellectual property.
Taking steps to avoid plagiarism is a necessity for anyone who creates content, writes research papers, or works on projects involving IP.
Avoiding Plagiarism at Work
Avoiding plagiarism in the business world starts at the executive level with a company culture that values and protects original ideas.
Acknowledging new ideas and giving employees credit for their work will create a workplace where employees respect original work.
Employees can also use plagiarism checkers before submitting work. This simple step will ensure that they create high quality work without relying on paraphrasing or copying content.
Avoiding Plagiarism at School
Many universities are responding to the chatbots by rethinking how they teach. Students are completing more assignments in classes and receive grades based on oral participation rather than papers.
Educating students about plagiarism and its consequences is another excellent strategy. Using research methodologies that include creating a bibliography, when to use quotation marks, and how to reference different sources with their author, DOI, and titles can go a long way in preventing plagiarism.
Asking students to run their own work through a plagiarism checker can also act as a deterrent.
Discover the Quetext Platform
The Quetext Platform leverages technology to analyze texts, research papers, articles, and more. This tool relies on DeepSearch technology to conduct contextual analysis and find potential matches. Advanced algorithms support plagiarism detection even when the author uses patchwork plagiarism or paraphrasing.
Students can also learn how to give proper attribution thanks to the built-in citation feature that automatically creates a list of references in APA, MLA, or Chicago style.