All plagiarism meets one singular definition, “The use of another’s implementation of ideas, information, language, or writing, when done without proper acknowledgment of the original source”. As such, it always involves a lie to the individual(s) receiving the plagiarized work and usually a theft from the person that the original work belongs to.
However, not all plagiarism is the same. In fact, the crime of plagiarism can be broken in to three separate categories, each of which have to be approached and dealt with in a different manner. Simply put, if you try to handle all cases of plagiarism through the same methods or look at them the same way, you often wind up going down paths that don’t apply.
That, in turn, can lead to solutions which have no bearing to the problem at hand and cause more harm than good.
Academic plagiarism deals with any kind of plagiarism related to the pursuit of knowledge. The most common form of it is the student turning in plagiarized papers or assignments in either a high school or college class. However, recently, several researchers have been caught plagiarizing works for scholarly journals and several educators were found to be plagiarizing the content for their graduation speeches.
This type of plagiarism is somewhat unique because, with the exception of the research and speech plagiarism, it’s only meant to fool one person, the individual grading the project. Though the rest of the class who did their work suffers if the plagiarism goes undetected, it’s meant to only be a lie to one.
Furthermore, the damage to the copyright holder is usually minimal. It’s usually trivial to trace plagiarized academic work back to its source and determine who the original author was. Also, since only one pair of eyes sees the infringing work, the damage done to the original piece’s reputation is small. To make matters even more complicated, some people even willingly sell their essays or projects to be plagiarized, making it a profit center for several unscrupulous content creators.
However, this doesn’t make academic plagiarism any less of a moral crime. The act deprives hard working students and academics of the the credit they deserve as they have to compete unfairly with cheating students. It also forces administrators to take time out from education to deal with these matters, robbing everyone of valuable time.
In the end though, academic plagiarism is one of the most preventable kinds of plagiarism. Though research journals will always be ripe for plagiarism, teachers and professors can structure assignments to eliminate the potential for plagiarism. Also, plagiarism detection services such as turnitin.com can help catch the few plagiarists who try anyway.
In turn, those who are caught are almost always dealt with within the education system, either through grades or school discipline. Copyright law rarely, if ever, enters into the equation despite the obvious infringement of the original work.
Still, the focus in stopping this kind of plagiarism should be on prevention, not detection, as this is an area where a little prevention can go a long, long way.