Plagiarism: Take it seriously!

By Copyright, General, Information Literacy, Research Skills No Comments

Recently, a few poets accused Ailey O’Toole of selecting parts of their poetry and using it in her poetry to express herself. Incidentally, she was also nominated for the Pushcart Prize for her poem Gun Metal (which was plagiarized). The Guardian has all the details about the case. This incident made several publishers pull down O’Toole’s Works from their sites.  Although she has been very apologetic about the accidental plagiarism, I noticed that her credibility has been affected and her future works will be always be looked at with doubt and skepticism.

Reflecting on the past I have noticed, how quickly I have merely ‘copied and pasted’. I have rationalized saying, “this is exactly what I want to say” so why to reword it, simply ‘copy and paste’ and this will save my time and effort. Well, if that is the intent of saving time and effort, then what I have also learned is to take an extra minute or two to put it in “Quotes” and cite the author’s name. What about you? Are you guilty of plagiarizing too?

Examples of plagiarism are many, here are a few International examples, NDTV has compiled a few Indian cases and a story about 3 Academic Thefts by professors in Rajasthan.

iPleaders Blog Post on Plagiarism law gives us a glimpse of India’s views on plagiarism. This makes me wonder and reflect on our Indian Education System. In the local schools, I  have observed that students photocopy school notes and college notes, memorize them and then finally regurgitate the content in their exams, to get scores or marks that will make him/her eligible to one of the best colleges in India. Are we preparing our students for a ‘copy and paste’ world or do we want them to think, reflect and create?

I wonder how will this individual function in the real world? How will he/she respond ethically in the information world, where he/she has not learned to paraphrase and use his/her thinking faculties to express ideas or create something unique?

Here are simple six steps by Write Check to avoid plagiarism. BibMe recommends other ways. Some important ones I have learned are to:

  1. Use multiple sources of information to get a perspective and in-depth knowledge on the topic.
  2. Acknowledge one’s ideas, beliefs and thoughts that are gathered after much reading.
  3. Paraphrasing correctly and not merely replacing parts of a sentence with synonyms but also the syntax of the sentences.
  4. When quoting other peoples work, it’s important to give credit.
  5. Using a proper citing format according to the discipline.

Using a plagiarism checker can be very helpful when writing, it helps prevent accidental plagiarism.  Invest in one; it’s worth it!

Copyright & Fair Use

By Copyright, Fair Use No Comments

The Purpose of Copyright Law is to protect the interests of the authors/creators, but also to promote the progress of science and the useful arts—that is—knowledge. 

Remember ideas are not copyrighted – content is. For example, if an author uses a Whale in his story, can’t we also use the animal whale in our story? BUT we cannot copy the same story as our own. Remember, people, create ideas from other people’s ideas.

Copyright law is an attempt to balance public interest with the rights of the individual author/creator

Let’s understand Fair Use. Fair use is an Exemption in the Copyright law. Indian Copyright Law and easier interpretation of Indian Copyright

Fair Use is a part of copyright law that enables people to make legal  use of copyrighted materials without payment or permission under some circumstances, especially for uses related to broad and important social goals to the development of innovation and spread of knowledge including teaching and learning, news reporting, scholarship, criticism, and commentary

To know you are following the FAIR USE- consider these 4 Factors that determine Fair Use

Purpose of the use – For education, research or public viewing (not permitted)
Nature of the copyrighted work – published or unpublished, fiction or nonfiction?
The amount and substantiality of the portion –Whether you are using 10% or 1/2 or the main plot of the writing piece (fiction or nonfiction
Effect of the use on the market for the original – effect on the marketing and sales of the produced work.

Please do not use this as a checklist, use critical skills to analyze using all of these four factors.

  1. Make copies of newspaper articles, TV shows, and other copyrighted works and use them and keep them for educational use
  2. Create curriculum materials and scholarship with copyrighted materials embedded (Credit/Attribute)
  3. Share, sell and distribute curriculum materials with copyrighted materials embedded                                                                                                                                                             Using for educational purpose does not necessarily make a use fair Nor does using a portion of a copyrighted work for commercial purposes make it unfair – Inspired by Renee Hobbs

                      Therefore THINK and  ASK? –  Is it TRANSFORMATIVE