Plagiarism is still a crime, right?

How do news services go about getting to the bottom of it?

Yesterday I wrote about genealogists discovering a link between Robert Pattinson, of Twilight fame, and Vlad the Impaler, who was not actually a vampire. Still, here’s the quote again:

“Without any myth or magic, we find royalty and vampires lurking in Pattinson’s life — making his story just as supernatural as the one he’s playing on screen.”

Yahoo’s article (via Associated Press and the one I used in my previous post) gave credit to Anastasia Tyler of and ABC22, getting their report from itself, also credits Ms. Tyler.

The Telegraph article gives the same sentence, word for word (sorry, nearly: he added “the silver” before screen), to Dan Jones, international content director of

So, I ask, who said it first? And I ask again, does this matter? Can a phrase given to reporters even fall under “intellectual property” laws or whatever? In a world where it’s so very quick and simple to take a sentence (or paragraph or term paper) found on the internet and make it your own, how much effort is anyone going to make to make sure the right person is getting the right credit for what gets said and/or written down?

Does it have to do with scale? A phrase like this, who cares who said it, maybe. University level idea-stealing is a world-wide problem, though. A story right out of my Alma mater, the University of Regina: in 2008, an Engineering professor tried to publish a student’s work in an academic journal and pass it off as his own. The original paper was submitted mere months later bearing the exact same title as the first one sent so interests were piqued.

The earlier paper, which was never published, listed his academic supervisor — associate professor Ezeddin Shirif — and three other people as authors. Khan was not credited, however.

“I said, ‘Well, I can send you the abstract of my thesis work. I can send you the whole technical paper that I sent to my supervisor. And you can just put them side to side and just compare them,'” Khan said.

The journal looked at material Khan sent them and agreed his complaint had merit.

It banned two of the supposed authors of the earlier paper, Shirif and graduate student Ashutosh Kumar, from publishing any of their work in the publication. It accepted the statements from two other co-authors who wrote to the journal to say they had no idea their names had been put on the paper.

Shirif later claimed it was an “honest terrible mistake” but the journal has still banned both the professor and the grad student from contributing anything to that journal again. Khan was also annoyed by the University’s “investigation,” since he wasn’t going to be privy to the results of it.

“How do I know it was not a slap on the wrist?” Khan said.

Asked about the case by CBC News, U of R vice-president of external relations Barb Pollock would neither confirm nor deny there was even an investigation.

“The complainant in a case would, I guess, have to have confidence that the complaint was dealt with,” she said.

Under provincial law, personal information cannot be released without the person’s consent, Pollock said.

Khan said he’s not satisfied with the university’s answer. He just wants to see that appropriate action was taken, he said.

Penn State has been cracking down on plagiarized entry essays, after 30 identical ones were submitted. It seems every hopeful candidate had searched online for the phrase “principled leadership” and wrote his/her name on the result. The college is admitting out loud that they use software called Turnitin to weed these cheaters out. The article states that other colleges are signed up to use it but are currently keeping mum.

Manchester University recently published its research findings:

The Manchester University research, which comes as students across the country hand in coursework and dissertations which count towards their degrees, also revealed that 45 per cent of students were “sure” that in the past year, another students had cheated during an essay, report, test or exam.

Students’ readiness to pass off work as their own is fuelling the online essay industry, estimated to be worth more than £200 million in the UK.

Some companies have thousands of specialist writers on their books and report increasing turnover each year. Undergraduates are also buying work from sites in the US and India.

“It is quite remarkable how many students indicated a willingness to buy,” said Dr Dan Rigby, a Manchester University economics lecturer who will present the findings at the fourth international Plagiarism conference in Newcastle tomorrow (MON) (1minion adds: 21 June/2010). “Their apparent lack of concern at revealing this in a survey run by academics at their university is startling.”

End of the school year hubris? They got away with it so they’re willing to admit it’s been happening?

It’s probably a problem everywhere. In Vietnam, lecturers and students have been “violating the laws without embarrassment” for years. Dr Le Van Hung, Dean of the Law Faculty of the HCM City Economics University recently ran a workshop there to discuss this issue.

Hung said that it is difficult to expose cases of plagiarism, because the number of theses made by students every year is very big and the practice of copying others’ work is so common that often the ‘original documents’ are themselves plagiarized.

Agreeing with Hung, Dr Vu Manh Chu, Head of the Copyright Department (a unit of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism), commented that in many research works, the ‘chief authors’ listed on the covers of the books were not the real authors of the book. They only arrange to get their names on these books so that they can accumulate more entries in their resumes, with a view to achieving promotion to the rank of professor or associate professor. Chu said that in these teachers should feel ashamed of themselves because they do not display the morality of teachers and the honour of scientists.

Any bold is mine, of course. And of course, this problem isn’t just in academics. Korean pop star, Lee Hyo-ri, has been caught ripping off other songwriters, as it was discovered six tracks on a recent CD were not entirely originals. Britney Spears (or at least her people) caught Lee doing the same in 2006.

This time, Lee, after initially denying the allegations, decided to come clean and take legal responsibility for the issue – even though she may not be at fault.

The six songs under scrutiny were all composed by the seven-member songwriters’ group Bahnus Vacuum, led by Bahnus (Lee Jae-young). For now, plagiarism accusations about three of the six songs have proven to be true. The rest are still until investigation.

Korea has a long history of this happening. Since the 1960s, several artists have taken the copy-cat route and released music from other countries under new Korean band names.

As it turns out, Korea has no established system to handle such disputes. The Performance Ethics Committee oversaw plagiarism cases in the past, but since being renamed the Korea Media Rating Board in 1998, no single body has been responsible for resolving plagiarism issues.

Almost all cases are handled through informal negotiations, although copyright holders can bring cases to the Korea Copyright Commission or to court. Those convicted can be sentenced to up to five years in prison and a maximum fine of 50 million won ($42,000), but few cases, if any, have involved court rulings.

“Plagiarism is a matter related to an individual composer’s conscience. There should be laws or systems to define what is plagiarism,” said composer Park Deok-sang.

Personally, I can’t fathom the idea of ignoring “give credit where credit is due.” I’d never pass off other work as mine deliberately. Not after the stern lecture I got from a teacher in elementary school. Cripes, that was humiliating. Our whole class was working in the library, I think, and my cousin and I were copying an entire article out of an encyclopedia for some assignment. The teacher walked by and caught us in the act. I don’t remember anymore if we zeroed on that assignment or if we were allowed to submit original work for a grade anyway. I’m thinking it was probably the former. Follow through. That’s the ticket to a lesson learned.

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Canadian Atheist Basically ordinary Library employee Avid book lover Ditto for movies Wanna-be writer Procrastinator
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