Thursday, May 03, 2007

Plagiarism and Fraud

Somewhere on the Web I’ve come across a site that won’t publish anything of yours until it’s checked that the same words can’t be found elsewhere on the Net. How it does this in the blink – or a couple of blinks – of an eye, I have no idea. Maybe it doesn’t really do it, but just sets out to frighten us a little.
Of course I don’t hold any truck with plagiarism. It niggles me enough to find someone using an article I’ve written somewhere else, without any acknowledgement. And this has happened on a number of occasions. You can see the point if it’s a school taking something you’ve written and using it for a class lesson. I don’t have any problem with that, but for someone to publish something you’ve written in another place is verging on the fraudulent.
Plagiarism is another thing altogether, of course. Pretending you’ve written something and including it in a larger work of your own is just not the done thing. Pretending it’s yours and avoiding telling the reader that it’s really a quotation from someone else is fraud.
Unfortunately, we’ve had something akin to this happening in the art world here in New Zealand in the last few years. Our very own Prime Minister, who ought to know a good deal better, has signed a number of art works (perhaps half a dozen, it’s thought) and they’ve then been passed off to buyers as being by the PM – who hasn’t got an artistic talent that anyone has so far discovered. On the first occasion that it came to public attention, there was a considerable hoo-ha about it, but because she was the PM she basically got away with it. It takes a police force with nerves of steel to bring the PM to court. But the other day a scribbled picture of the Beehive turned up in an auction with her name written on it, and the fuss began all over. What on earth was she thinking? Okay, it’s not plagiarism in the usual sense, but it’s a close brother to it.
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