The Three Kinds of Plagiarism: Part Two

Note: This is a continuation of part one from the series. If you have not read that chapter yet, please take a moment to do so. Otherwise, this segment will probably not make a lot of sense.

Professional Plagiarism

Professional plagiarism is any plagiarism that takes place when in the pursuit of a profession. Though this can certainly overlap with the other kinds of plagiarism, it mainly refers to any kind of plagiarism done on the job and not in an academic or creative setting.

A common example of this kind of plagiarism is recent plagiarism scandals that have been rocking newspapers such as the New York Times. There, a reporter was lifting directly from other stories, without providing attribution, and making his living on the backs of other, often lesser-known journalists.

Of course, the journalism profession isn’t the only one vulnerable to plagiarism, it can exist in almost any profession that relies on human beings to create something that is put to paper. For example, architectural plagiarism is common and well known, as is plagiarism in marketing and any other profession that involves writing, taking pictures or drawing.

Professional plagiarism can also take a wide range of forms, from borrowing a couple lines in an interoffice memo to stealing entire articles from another newspaper. In the end, it is a very broad “catch all” kind of plagiarism that doesn’t fit as either artistic or academic.

To make things more confusing, not all professions frown heavily upon plagiarism. In many lines of work, there’s only one correct way to do something and that makes plagiarism not just common, but an accepted and necessary practice.

An example of this is the legal profession. Centuries of laws (and lawyers) have made it so that there’s only one correct way to file certain motions or make certain claims. Rather than waste time (and thus their client’s money) reaching the same conclusion as everyone else, lawyers frequently borrow from one another when acceptable. Also, judges borrow from attorney’s filings when making decisions, lawyers borrow from decisions when making their cases and everyone copies verbatim from the law books, often without any attribution at all.

Another example is the computer programming profession. Though programming code is protected by copyright law, many simple functions only have one correct way to be written. Thus, on those matters, plagiarism is very common and not necessarily frowned upon. However, even with that caveat, plagiarism of unique solutions is still generally not acceptable and generate a lot of scorn.

Worse still, professional plagiarism can be nearly impossible to detect since there is no unified way to search for ones own work and it can have a very detrimental effect on the copyright holder. Also, it can be very difficult to prove when a work was created and, if the plagiarized work follows closely enough, it can be mistaken for the original. Furthermore, if a higher up (either in chain of command or reputation) plagiarizes someone lower down, the original creator often winds up getting the accusation, simply because the other is more trusted and better known.

Though copyright law clearly protects works created in workplace, the protection usually isn’t for the person who created it. If you are employed by a company and create a work for them, then it is considered a work for hire and the copyright belongs to your employers, not you. If someone else in the company plagiarizes your work for something else that the company does, it might be immoral depending upon the use, but it’s not copyright infringement. After all, a company can’t infringe on its own copyright.

Still, by in large though plagiarism in the workplace is frowned upon and, if it takes place between two companies, can result in legal problems. But even with the legal implications, most professional plagiarists are not handled with the legal system, but within the company or the industry. A desire to keep such matters quiet usually facilities this decision.

But even with things being kept quiet, it’s very common for plagiarists to lose their jobs, along with their livelihoods, and often to be forced out of the only industry they’ve known. In many professions, such as journalism, a single plagiarism accusation can taint someone for the rest of their lives, making it almost impossible for them to find work again in the field.

After all, an employer doesn’t want to take a chance on someone who might land them in a lawsuit later on down the road. Much like banks refusing to hire ex-cons, industries that rely heavily on copyright laws aren’t likely to hire a known plagiarist. The risk is just too great.

However, even with the high risks and strong warnings, professional plagiarism is some of the most common in the world. As the crunch of deadlines and the desire to do a good job pushes people to new extremes, copying and pasting just gets more and more appealing. That alone makes it something to watch out for, especially in the professions prone to it.

[tags]Plagiarism, Content Theft, Copyright Infringement, Copyright[/tags]

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