Plagiarism Is The New “Piracy”
Ohio University is the oldest public university in the state of Ohio, an institution whose enrollment hovers around 20,000 students. For the past year, Ohio University has been besieged by a crippling plagiarism scandal. Based on an alumnus’ allegations that more than 30 students in the school’s mechanical engineering department have plagiarized substantial or core portions of their graduate theses, the Athens, Ohio institution has ordered those students to address the allegations or risk having their degrees revoked. Some of the theses are 20 years old.
This story, which The Wall Street Journal placed on its front page in mid-August, was the latest in a series of plagiarism stories that seem to be destined for headline news. In May, the board of directors at defense contractor Raytheon Co. decided it would withhold a salary raise and reduce incentive stock-compensation to chief executive officer William Swanson after it was revealed that a booklet he authored (entitled “Swanson’s Unwritten Rules of Management”) contained almost verbatim passages from a 1944 book by W.J. King entitled “The Unwritten Rules of Engineering.”
A few weeks earlier, publisher Little, Brown took the extraordinary step of removing the novel How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life from retail shelves after the Harvard Crimson published a story accusing author Kaavya Viswanathan, a Harvard undergraduate student, of pilfering significant portions of two teen novels written by Megan McCafferty.
Based on these developments, plagiarism has become the new piracy. Like “piracy” was a few years ago, plagiarism has become the hot, new “crime du jour,” an act that suggests immorality and often scandal at once. What’s more, plagiarism allegations feed into our society’s “Candid Camera” mentality, our seemingly insatiable need to uncover wrongdoing. This month’s column compares plagiarism and copyright, and the role of information professionals in raising the collective level of citation savvy.
An Information Today exclusive.
K. Matthew Dames. Plagiarism Is The New “Piracy.” Information Today. November 2006.
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