Plagiarism is the unauthorized use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one's own original work.
Within academia, plagiarism by students, professors, or researchers is considered academic dishonesty or academic fraud and offenders are subject to academic censure. In journalism, plagiarism is considered a breach of journalistic ethics, and reporters caught plagiarizing typically face disciplinary measures ranging from suspension to termination. Some individuals caught plagiarizing in academic or journalistic contexts claim that they plagiarized unintentionally, by failing to include quotations or give the appropriate citation. While plagiarism in scholarship and journalism has a centuries-old history, the development of the Internet, where articles appear as electronic text, has made the physical act of copying the work of others much easier, simply by copying and pasting text from one web page to another.
Plagiarism is not copyright infringement. While both terms may apply to a particular act, they are different transgressions. Copyright infringement is a violation of the rights of a copyright holder, when material protected by copyright is used without consent. On the other hand, plagiarism is concerned with the unearned increment to the plagiarizing author's reputation that is achieved through false claims of authorship.
In many universities, academic degrees or awards may be revoked as a penalty for plagiarism.
There is little academic research into the frequency of plagiarism in high schools. Much of the research investigated plagiarism at the post-secondary level. Of the forms of cheating (including plagiarism, inventing data, and cheating during an exam), students admit to plagiarism more than any other. However, this figure decreases considerably when students are asked about the frequency of "serious" plagiarism (such as copying most of an assignment or purchasing a complete paper from a website). Recent use of plagiarism detection software (see below) gives a more accurate picture of this activity's prevalence.
For professors and researchers, plagiarism is punished by sanctions ranging from suspension to termination, along with the loss of credibility and integrity. Charges of plagiarism against students and professors are typically heard by internal disciplinary committees, which students and professors have agreed to be bound by.
The ease with which electronic text can be reproduced from online sources has lured a number of reporters into acts of plagiarism: Journalists have been caught "copying-and-pasting" articles and text from a number of websites.
Free online tools are becoming available to help identify plagiarism , and there is a range of approaches that attempt to limit online copying, such as disabling right clicking and placing warning banners regarding copyrights on web pages. Instances of plagiarism that involve copyright violation may be addressed by the rightful content owners sending a DMCA removal notice to the offending site-owner, or to the ISP that is hosting the offending site.
It is important to reiterate that plagiarism is not the mere copying of text, but the presentation of another's ideas as one's own, regardless of the specific words or constructs used to express that idea. In contrast, many so-called plagiarism detection services can only detect blatant word-for-word copies of text.
In academic fields, self-plagiarism is a problem when an author reuses portions of his or her own published and copyrighted work in subsequent publications, but without attributing the previous publication. Identifying self-plagiarism is often difficult because of legal issues regarding fair use. Some professional organizations like the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) have created policies that deal specifically with self-plagiarism. As compared to plagiarism, self-plagiarism is not yet very well-regulated. Some universities and editorial boards choose to not regulate it at all; those consider the term self-plagiarism oxymoronic since a person cannot be accused of stealing from themselves.
For authors wishing to avoid potential issues when authoring new papers, the authors are strongly encouraged to follow these "best practices":
Within an organization, in its own working documents, standards are looser but not non-existent. If someone helped with a report, they may expect to be credited. If a paragraph comes from a law report, a citation is expected to be written down. Technical manuals routinely copy facts from other manuals without attribution, because they assume a common spirit of scientific endeavor (as evidenced, for example, in free and open source software projects) in which scientists freely share their work.
The Microsoft Manual of Style for Technical Publications Third Edition (2003) by Microsoft does not even mention plagiarism, nor does Science and Technical Writing: A Manual of Style, Second Edition (2000) by Philip Rubens. The line between permissible literary and impermissible source code plagiarism, though, is apparently quite fine. As with any technical field, computer programming makes use of what others have contributed to the general knowledge.
It is common for university researchers to rephrase and republish their own work, tailoring it for different academic journals and newspaper articles, to disseminate their work to the widest possible interested public. However, it must be borne in mind that these researchers also obey limits: If half an article is the same as a previous one, it will usually be rejected. One of the functions of the process of peer review in academic writing is to prevent this type of "recycling".
Public figures commonly use anonymous speech writers. If a speech uses plagiarized material, however, it is the public figure who may be cast in a bad light. For instance, Delaware Senator Joe Biden was forced out of the 1988 U.S. Presidential race (but remained in the U.S. Senate) when it was discovered that parts of his campaign speeches were plagiarized from speeches by British Labour party leader Neil Kinnock and Robert Kennedy.
The Online Etymology Dictionary dates the word to 1621. A precursor, plagiary, is recognised from 1597. The Latin root, plagiarius, means kidnapper, seducer or plunderer, ‘used in the sense of “literary thief” by Martial’ (the 1st century Roman poet). Plagium meant kidnapping, in turn derived from plaga, to capture or trap.
This account of the word’s origins is disputed by John E. Skandalakis who claims the term plagiarism was used by the ancient Greek writer Timae to describe actions of the philosopher Empedocles round 490-30BCE.
“At that time the Greek word plagios, which denotes obliquity, already had the sense of being ‘morally crooked, practicing double-talk',” writes Skandalakis, arguing that this meant the latin word plagiarius did not then refer to plagiarism in the modern sense. Timae used the word logoklopia, theft of words or thoughts. Others also argue that in the society of ancient Greece, which used mimesis or imitation as a deliberate dramatic or rhetorical strategy, plagiarism would not have been the crime it has become.