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Is the social media creating more plagiarists than original thinkers?
  • Plagiarism is not just a word, it has become an institution today. Plagiarists aren't just the ones who copy entire novels and music sheets... but they can be found on the social media too, busy in copy-pasting updates and tweets. Plagiarism, everyone thinks, is a menace.

    Is this really a logical and correct attitude? We are sometimes paranoid about our own output... and begin addressing everyone with a similar word: PLAGIARIST. This is where we need to be careful. Yes, I do feel that a lot of people talk a lot of rubbish about plagiarism without realising that even they may be be doing it in some form or the other. I also know of a few bloggers who go for free lunches and parties, write about them and then turn back to say: ‘I don’t endorse brands. I hate people who do that!’ What I’m trying to say is that people like them need to stop having double-standards. Not all of us are fully aware of all the finer distinctions between copying and quoting…

    In a recent post, I wrote in defence of a plagiarism-accused: ‘They try to learn by copying. Haven’t all the masters done that sometime or the other in their lives? They copy, get applauded, get the energy boost from this applause and then one day they wake up to realise that status updates need to evolve into blog posts. First short posts and then the longer ones. They may even go ahead and use ideas and expressions but will gradually weary of it all. Plagiarism is actually more difficult than the original creative thought.’

    The social media with all its blogging and micro-blogging platforms leaves a lot of space for small-time 'plagiarists' to thrive... however, the truth is that these cut-copy artists either fade away into some distant reality of their own existence which has nothing to do with creative expression or metamorphose into their new life of a creative soul. If the latter happens, we have encouraged another creative soul to be born.

    Statutory Warning: I DO NOT recommend this path to anyone who wants to make a name in creative writing. This path can easily transform into a cul-de-sac with the open end also twisting itself into a barred gate (read: jail)...

    Is the social media creating more plagiarists than original thinkers?
  • This is the post that I wrote in defense of the plagiarist:
    The dodos of 2012
  • hello there, I read your post and quiet interesting perspective :) while I don't want to repeat myself what I just commented on your blog post, I would like to just highlight that people do need to clearly distinguish between copying and quoting, which is essential for the "creative soul to be born" :)
  • Why we see more plagiarism in the age of the Internet and social media is because lots of content is easily within reach. There is a plus side and a minus side, depends on where you stand. Plagiarism becomes a problem when you use somebody else's labour as your own and earn money out of it. Suppose you spend months researching for an article and then you want to sell it to multiple publishers and earn good money out of it. The moment your article is published in one of the publications, another writer or editor "borrows" your thoughts and presents them as his own. The information that you obtained after months of labour, he obtains simply by copy/pasting, and to add salt to the injury, maybe he earns more than you for the same piece of information.

    Retweeting information on the other hand might not be called plagiarism as long as that information is not used to further your career. Again, there is a very thin line that differentiates harmful plagiarism from harmless plagiarism. But then again, personally I always believe if your values are at the right place, you can always differentiate.
  • Well @adityadragoniyer, look at a child learning to distinguish the various colours. He will initially call every colour 'blue' or 'red' or whichever name he manages to remember... and then slowly, painstakingly slowly, he decides to connect the right colour with the right name.

    Almost similar is the case of a creative writer... there are, of course, a few brilliant souls who don't need to be guided, but most of us take the self-taught route of being fascinated with beautiful prose or poetry written by others. This fascination can lead to our copying and trying to believe that it is we who have actually penned it... maybe it is a form of self-affirmation telling us that creative writing is what I like doing. This habit of picking up other's phrases is soon going to give way to a writing style that is one's own.

    However, a few of us may actually end up stuck with this 'habit' and end up copying entire research papers or even novels... which is, of course, a pathological disturbance and may need corrective steps.
  • Well said, @amrithallan ... you've interestingly converted plagiarism into 'harmless' and 'harmful'. Yes, copying entire essays, researches, stories, or poems for monetary gains is to be identified and rectified. There is surely no place for plagiarism to exist... not even on the social media.

    Let me add here that I put up updates on Facebook and then add more comments to them... now these comments are all linked and have a common thought -- the reason is simple. I am trying to record my thoughts as they come to me. These may be collected later and converted into a post that means a lot to me.

    Now, in the above scenario, one person tweeting one or a couple of my updates or passing them off as his own on FB is not something that ever bothers me... if this form of 'plagiarism' is helping that person discover creativity, I am all for it. (In fact, I look forward to reactions to my comments and may add them after giving credit to the writer of that response.)
  • @arvindpassey - I agree with you. Great ideas are built like a relay race. One man discovers something, another man takes it and adds to it and so on. If every man had to re-invent the wheel, the wheel would be all man had ever invented. But it is always a trade off between protecting every little idea stifling creativity and a person being cheated of any credit for his idea like the Edison Tesla story.
  • Yes, @The_Fool, cheating is undeniable even if the person who copies doesn't get any tangible monetary benefit out of the entire episode.

    We need to, however, be more tolerant than intolerant... and look at the constructive side. Instead of being so over-possessed with just policing everywhere, we need to go on with our creative sojourn. This is more productive... and the little cheater, one hopes, will turn creative soon. Little cheaters anyway don't survive for long!
  • I would be okay with someone directly quoting from another person's site. I am also okay with 'taking the concept forward' - where you feel you can develop another persons idea better.
    But a few years back, there was an article published in one of India's most famous websites in its cookery section that was a word-for-word copy of a fellow bloggers blogpost. You want to hear the heights of idiocy/arrogance ? They copied her comments too which included her being thanked ( by name ) in the comments section. How can anyone defend that sort of stuff ?
  • Plagiarism is one issue, but relaying the same info everywhere (even if different words are used) is another issue. I feel that blogs are different from news/media sites and there is no need for blogs to relay the same news. Instead, bloggers might want to concentrate on adding their own opinion or analysis of the news piece. That's when a blog gets its own voice and will be recognized by others.
  • Ever since the current technology explosion happened, it has become too easy for us to 'take' other people' material without as much as a second thought. Downloading a song for free off the internet, ripping a DVD, or taking from another writer or blogger, it is all so routine that the lines between ethical and inethical seems to have dangerously diminshed.

    I don't think many of us (and mainly Generation Z) are understanding the importance of Intellectual Property. That concept only comes to bite us in our asses when someone else rips a part (or even an entire) blog post and passes it own as their own. The same blog that we wrote while listening to the latest Coldplay song which we downloaded for free from youtube onto our iPod.

    I am not sure what the solution is. Policing hasn't really helped, has it?

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