Last month on Poynter, author and writing teacher Roy Peter Clark outlined 10 acts that, according to him, are commonly referred to as plagiarism but actually are not.
The article is an interesting read and includes potential misdeeds such as ghostwriting, self-plagiarism and use of boilerplate material.
According to Clark, who develops his checklist from Judge Richard A. Posner’s “The Little Book of Plagiarism” (previous review), boils down the “crime” of plagiarism to four elements:
- Substantial copying without credit
- The copying is done fraudulently
- The intention is clearly to fool the reader
- It has a potential negative repercussion for the reader and/or original author
(Note: Clark only says “and” in the last point but, given what he wrote in the rest of the article and in the definition, I believe the “or” to be implied.)
It’s from that definition that Clark extrapolates that many acts commonly referred to as plagiarism are not and, in most cases, are not unethical at all.
But is he right? Should we be giving a pass to those who use ghostwriters or recycle their own content? To me, it’s not so simple.
While I agree with much of his message, or what I believe his intended message is, his simplicity belies the complexity of the situation.
Plagiarism and plagiarism-related acts are not a cut and dry matter. Rather, they’re an ongoing conversation that will likely never end.Continue Reading