To be or not to be – a plagiarist!

Plagiarism in the History

When I was asked to write an article on plagiarism, the first question came to my mind was: What is the first plagiarism case in the history? I had an insight that the term should be almost as ancient as history of writing because mankind may be evolved but its nature has never changed.

So here it goes, plagiarism accusation for the very first time:

“ The Latin word plagiarius, from which the English plagiarist derives, was first used (in a surviving document – the actual first use may have been much earlier) in something like its modern sense by the Roman poet Martial in the first century A.D. A plagiarius was someone who either stole someone else’s slave or enslaved free person. In his epigram number 52, Martial applied the term metaphorically to another poet, whom Martial accused of having claimed authorship of verses that Martial had written.” (Posner, 50-51)

Even though there is a massive time gap between my assumption and the first act, my advice for you to read the statement in the brackets once again. I may be right but it is unlikely to prove this at the moment.

Shakespeare was the one who made the word more famous as much as he was! Even though there are solid evidences against him being a plagiarist, it is not generally accepted and I think emotionally no one wants to believe it.

Early in his career he himself may have been accused plagiarism by Robert Green, though if so (an unresolved issue) the accusation did not stick. Yet was not Shakespeare a plagiarist by modern standards? Thousands of lines in his plays are verbatim copies or close paraphrases from various sources, along with titles and plot details, all without acknowledgment. Most members of his audiences would not have been aware of his appropriations from other writers.” (Posner, 51)


Before social media, plagiarism was not a common social phenomenon. Only academics, journalist, authors or others who publish their works was concerned about whether someone stole their idea or work. Especially before digital era, it was also very difficult to detect plagiarism as you can imagine.

Also, I think it is important in this point to understand the difference between plagiarism and violating copyrights when we talk about published materials.

First, plagiarism is a violation of academic norms but not illegal; copyright violation is illegal, but in truth pretty ubiquitous in academia. (Where did you get that PDF?)

Second, plagiarism is an offence against the author, while copyright violation is an offence against the copyright holder. In traditional academic publishing, they are usually not the same person, due to the ubiquity of copyright transfer agreements (CTAs).

Third, plagiarism applies when ideas are copied, whereas copyright violation occurs only when a specific fixed expression (e.g. sequence of words) is copied.

Fourth, avoiding plagiarism is about properly apportioning intellectual credit, whereas copyright is about maintaining revenue streams.” (Taylor)

The bottom line is that you can get away with plagiarising but violating a copyright can give you a headache!

Plagiarism Now

Social media is now a platform where everybody shares their own ideas and creates their own contents. We have social media celebrities, people who have millions of followers. Popularity is simply measured by the number of followers or likes you get. I am aware of the fact that being noticed is so important and clearly people are going to do what it takes, including plagiarism, in order to attract the attention.

A good friend of mine used to copy anything he likes on social media and posted them as his own. There was no way for us to understand that he was plagiarising if he didnt tell us. He was very careful and really good at this. It took a few interventions to convince him not to do this. The worst part was he had no problem with this and he even tried to defend himself. I am sure that, he is not doing it anymore not because he thinks he is going to get caught or his credibility on social media, but he is tired of our complaints.

The first thing we do, when we meet someone is to Google his/her name and check the social media accounts. We know that most of the employers do social media investigation before hire someone. So it is highly important to have digital assets, which reflects our personality in a best way. Being professional on social media is also important. Your pictures on Instagram, tweets, or Facebook posts should tell a story and contribute your personal brand. You dont want stolen stories if you care about your reputation.

Personal brand is no different than other brands. It is so vulnerable that it takes one little mistake to hurt it. You can lose your credibility and I am not sure if it is possible to fix it. After the diesel engine scandal, how long do you think it will take for Volkswagen to gain its reputation back?

““Investors are worried that the VW emissions scandal will not only lead to one-off fines and costs, but will also result in brand damage, falling sales and a hard hit to profitability. We believe these fears are probably misplaced, said Bernstein Research analyst Max Warburton. (Winton)

If you care about your values and status, pay attention! Here are some cool websites that you can use before posting anything to avoid plagiarism, or you can also check your past posts to see whether your own content is plagiarised or not.

Another reason to check if your content is plagiarised is that, it is not possible for Google to know which content is original. Your content might be duplicated in order to get more traffic or to manipulate the search engine. In this case there is a possibility that the ranking system might punish you by not listing your website on the front pages and that would be such a pity, after all you are the one who put all the effort.

In the rare cases in which Google perceives that duplicate content may be shown with intent to manipulate our rankings and deceive our users, we’ll also make appropriate adjustments in the indexing and ranking of the sites involved. As a result, the ranking of the site may suffer, or the site might be removed entirely from the Google index, in which case it will no longer appear in search results. (Duplicate Content)



Be Cool = Be Yourself!

It is fascinating that I actually need to say this aloud but you cant be as much as popular or cool you want if you copy someone else. Our social media presence is a reflection of who we are so we are being awarded or judged by our social activities as well. You may delete your posts, but you cant delete peoples memory. The harm is done and there is no excuse or turning back.

Additionally, you need to consider future you constantly. Think before you act if you dont want to regret it. Every action has consequences. Dont be lazy! Be creative. Read, do some research or travel. You will be much more confident when you start being yourself instead of copying others.

If you still need help to avoid plagiarism, here is what you need to do:

1- Use your own word My opinion is that using someone elses words and copying their ideas is worse than not having an idea at all.

2- Honour the author A little bit of empathy would be helpful to understand. If you dont know how to cite then Google it!

3- Check your post in advance to be sure that it is 100% is originally yours.

If you follow these steps, you will be fine and you wont need to worry about your personal brand. Always remember not to upset future you and make peace with him/her.

Special Note

I have to admit though, I do have a little bit of sympathy for the students who plagiarise on an assignment and submit it as a soft copy. Do you really think that you can get away with this? It is so dumb that I cant even get mad or say anything. I know, it is sometimes frustrating to write 1500 words on a subject that doesnt really interest you, but the thing is, it is insanely easy to find out that. The story would end up with getting a zero or kicked out of the school. So dont even think about it! (Technically you can think about it but just dont do it.)

For those of you insisted on doing so, please be smart. This is a fun guideline how not to get caught plagiarising. (Emily Is Vlogging)

Very Special Note

I hardly hold myself not to plagiarise in an article about plagiarising. It would be an epic failure, which is hilarious but also the last thing I need at this moment.

Work Cited

Duplicate Content. Google np., n.d. Web. 27 Jan. 2016.

Emily Is Vlogging How to not get caught plagiarising. YouTube. N.p.: N.d. Online video. 27 Jan. 2016.

Posner, Richard A. The Little Book of Plagiarism. New York: Pantheon, 2007.

Taylor, Mike. Plagiarism Is Nothing to Do with Copyright.” Sauropod Vertebra Picture of the Week. n.p., 20 Sept. 2013. Web. 27 Jan. 2016.

Winton, Neil. Volkswagen Sales Start To Feel The Impact Of Diesel Scandal.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 19 Oct. 2015. Web. 27 Jan. 2016.

Just Do As I Say!