Posted by: rochellemichon | February 16, 2009

Irony at its finest

A bit of a funny story; Southern Illinois University has been accused of copying their plagiarism policy from Indiana University’s website. The article sites similarities in the precise wording of the definitions as motivation for the claim that SIU plagiarized their policy. “A near perfect example of irony,” says the Daily Egyptian.

Irony aside, what I think we need to realize is that with the fruition of the Internet has come such a deluge of information in the form of written words that is it statistically impossible to assure that our words are always unique. I think we see too many instances of “plagiarism” that (like the SIU case) aren’t even there, or else are morally permissible even though they may fall under the umbrella term “plagiarism.”

To be clear, I’m not advocating that we all start passing the ideas of others as our own. But the hysteria seems to have grown with the rise of digital publication to the point where I feel as though I’m expected to Google every phrase I write just to ensure that nobody else has ever placed the same jumble of characters in a row. It’s a blurry line where blatant academic dishonesty begins, and it should not be determined by mere virtue of strings of letters.

To me, plagiarism is as much a moral issue as a legal one. Moral plagiarism would, in my mind, be qualified as the passing off of ideas as one’s own, rather than words. I understand that morals need not match with public policy. But I feel as though something is amiss when there are instances of moral plagiarism that are not legal plagiarism, and vice versa.

Thoughts? Leave them in the comments.

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