links & tags
net is not only "the world's biggest photocopier",
it is also a device for appropriating someone else's property
of the mind. A few keystrokes and - hey presto - someone
else's paper, essay, diagram, illustration or web page
becomes your own. This page looks at plagiarism. It considers
issues before highlighting the plagiarism industry - users,
'term paper mills' and plagiarism detection services.
It covers -
There are supplementary notes on essay/term
paper mills and on ghosting,
along with a note highlighting selected plagiarism incidents
over the past three hundred years.
Plagiarism - claiming another's text or other creativity
as your own - is the obverse of forgery
(presenting your work as that of someone else). The scope
for appropriation of online images and text is for many
an inducement to plagiarism.
It is one reason why the 'attribution' provisions of the
2000 Moral Rights amendments
to the Australian Copyright Act are of particular significance.
It is also a business opportunity for entrepreneurs offering
to sell an 'original' essay for next high school assignment
or provide plagiarism detection services to educational
institutions and publishers.
US satirist Tom Lehrer, in disclosing a secret of academic
advancement, argued that plagiarism was as old as the
one word he told me secret of success
Let no one else's work evade your eyes
Remember why the good Lord made your eyes
So don't shade your eyes
But plagiarize, plagiarize, plagiarize -
Only be sure always to call it, please, 'research'
who have been accused of plagiarism include Stephen Ambrose,Doris
Kearns Godwin, John Casti, Joe McGinnis, Alan Dershowitz,
Lawrence Tribe, Philip Foner, Gail Sheehy and HG Wells.
A supplementary page on this site highlights
Helen Keller supposedly suffered from cryptomnesia in
plagiarising Margaret Canby's The Frost Fairies to
produce The Frost King. It has been alleged that
Beatle George Harrison plagiarised the Chiffon's He's
So Fine in his My Sweet Lord. US academic Kim
Lanegran generously provided a copy of her doctoral dissertation
on disk, only to find
that the recipient had blithely used that text to get
a doctorate of his own. eSecurity guru Bruce Schneier
and co-authors discovered
that two papers had been lifted by an academic and students
at an Islamabad university. Ana Rosa Quintana's Sabor
a Hiel supposedly featured chunks of Ángeles
Mastretta, Danielle Steel and Colleen McCullough. Critics
such as Marilyn Piety
and Peter Tudvad have claimed
that Joakim Garff's 2000 biography of Søren Kierkegaard
was similarly endowed by other writers.
In earlier decades Roman poet Martial (died AD103) compared
plagiarism to the theft of slaves, particularly heinous
because words - like kidnapped slaves - were not able
to defend themselves. Laurence Sterne in The Life
& Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman asked
we forever make new books, as apothecaries make new
mixtures, by pouring only out of one vessel into another?
Are we forever to be twisting and untwisting the same
rope? Forever in the same track - for ever at the same
borrowed from the introduction to Robert Burton's The
Anatomy of Melancholy. Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr supposedly
consoled Mark Twain by saying
man alive on the earth who writes or speaks commits
it every day and not merely once or twice but every
time he opens his mouth.
For perspectives on plagiarism, offline and online,
we recommend Marcel LaFollette's comprehensive Stealing
Into Print: Fraud, Plagiarism & Misconduct in Scientific
Publishing (Berkeley: Uni of California Press 1992),
Past Imperfect: Facts, Fictions, Fraud - American
History from Bancroft and Parkman to Ambrose, Bellesiles,
Ellis, and Goodwin (New York: PublicAffairs 2004)
by Peter Hoffer, Historians in Trouble: Plagiarism,
Fraud & Politics in the Ivory Tower (New York:
New Press 2005) by Jon Wiener, Multiple Authorship
& the Myth of Solitary Genius (Oxford: Oxford
Uni Press 1981) by Jack Stillinger, Plagiarism and
Literary Property in the Romantic Period (Philadelphia:
Uni of Pennsylvania Press 2007) by Tilar Mazzeo and Hot
Property: The Stakes and Claims of Literary Originality
(Chicago: Uni of Chicago Press 1994) by Francoise Meltzer.
LaFollette is more substantial than Perspectives
on Plagiarism & Intellectual Property In A Postmodern
World (Albany: State Uni of New York Press 1999),
a collection of essays edited by Lise Buranen & Alice
Roy, or Rebecca Moore Howard's Standing in the Shadow
of Giants: Plagiarists, Authors & Collaborators
(Norwood: Ablex 1999).
God's Plagiarist: Being An Account of the Fabulous Industry
& Irregular Commerce of the Abbe Migne (Chicago:
Uni of Chicago Press 1994) by R Howard Bloch and Forgers
& Critics: Creativity & Duplicity In Western Scholarship
(Princeton: Princeton Uni Press 1990) by Anthony Grafton
consider pre-digital notions of authenticity - discussed
in our forgery profile
- and how to turn a quick buck.
Thomas Mallon's Stolen Words: Forays Into The Origins
& Ravages of Plagiarism (New York: Ticknor &
Fields 1989) and Neal Bowers' Words For The Taking:
The Hunt For A Plagiarist (New York: Norton 1997)
are accounts of literary theft. There is a legal
analysis in Stuart Green's 2002 Plagiarism, Norms,
& the Limits of Theft Law: Some Observations on the
Use of Criminal Sanctions in Enforcing Intellectual Property
and Francisco Blázquez' 2005 Plagiarism: An
Original Sin? (PDF).
Mark Rose's insightful Authors & Owners: The Invention
of Copyright (Cambridge: Harvard Uni Press 1993) provides
an historical introduction for the West, supplemented
by Plagiarism in early modern England (Basingstoke:
Palgrave 2003) edited by Paulina Kewes. William Alford's
To Steal a Book is an Elegant Offense: Intellectual
Property Law in Chinese Civilisation (Stanford: Stanford
Uni Press 1995) is essential reading for appropriation
and thinking about creativity and the marketplace in Eastern
The Construction of Authorship: Textual Appropriation
in Law and Literature (Durham: Duke Uni Press 1994)
is an excellent collection of essays on copyright theory,
artistic appropriation and piracy, edited by Martha Woodmansee
& Peter Jaszi. Works on the mechanics and mores
of attribution include Robert Hauptman's Documentation:
A History and Critique of Attribution (Jefferson:
McFarland 2008) and Anthony Grafton's The Footnote:
A Curious History (Cambridge: Harvard Uni Press 1997).
Judith Anderson's Plagiarism, Copyright Violation &
Other Thefts of Intellectual Property: An Annotated Bibliography
With A Lengthy Introduction (Jefferson: McFarland
1998) is a detailed bibliographical study of misbehaviour
in the US from 1900 to the early 1990s.
The notion of plagiarism or appropriation in the visual
and performing arts has gained less support. Bernard Ceysson
characterised museums as stud farms of masterpieces that
exist to generate 'derivations', while Thierry de Duve
artists, even, or especially, the enfant terrible of
the avant-garde, draw cheques on tradition.
overview for the visual arts is provided in Hillel Schwartz's
The Culture of the Copy: Striking Likenesses, Unreasonable
Facsimiles (New York: Zone Books 1997). For music
see Peter Burkholder's Annotated Musical Borrowing
and the Columbia Law Library Music Copyright Infringement
Online Archive site.
Among the "information just wants to be free"
set plagiarism is derided as yet another gutenberg (non-digital
and thus dead) concept. I don't plagiarise, I practice
postmodern situationist textual appropriation, ole! Information,
it appears, doesn't just want to be free - it wants to
have as many authors as possible.
A starting point for exploring the situationist rhetoric
is the paper
on Utopian Plagiarism: Hypertextuality & Electronic
Cultural Production. We confess to difficulty understanding
the "neoist" statement here
is the soft under-belly of linguistic originary presence.
Hovering over all the jabbering and pewling of the legal
profession and the professoriate, the self-muted
mouth of the divine shrouds itself in the cloud of unknowing.
... if you refuse to speak, then I seize the microphones
of history and swell out in capitalist expansiveness.
In this vein, monopoly becomes necessary, from which
plagiarism. ... The invention of God created real estate.
It would be better to say that no one owns anything,
not even a physical body much less a mind or a soul.
The monadic personality fragments, dissolves under the
negative impact of totalized ownership of the world.
Thus courts of law, writs, record books and ledgers,
the unfolding and endlessly self-generating quantization
that spins through the brains of the population burst
into flames. Alter the inevitable violence in the streets,
this is the only form of class upheaval with any possibility
and so on.
Among pointers to online sources of information about
plagiarism we commend the UK Plagiarism Advisory Service
the University of Hartford Plagiarism Web Sources page
and the recently updated Le Moyne College seminar
on Electronic Plagiarism.
Heyward Ehrlich's Plagiarism & Anti-plagiarism
at Rutgers University offers a brief introduction, along
with suggestions for using web search engines for detecting
the theft. There is a more detailed examination of those
tools in Julie Ryan's paper
on Student Plagiarism in An Online World, complemented
by the 2006 (Mis)Trusting Technology that Polices
Integrity: A Critical Assessment of Turnitin.com
from Michael Donnelly, Rebecca Ingalls,Tracy Morse, Joanna
Castner & Anne Stockdell-Giesler and 2004 'Turn It
In': Technological Challenges to Academic Ethics in 4
Education, Communication and Information 2/3
by Jennifer Jenson & Suzanne de Castell.
Student use of term paper
mills is explored in a supplementary note; commercial
plagiarism identification services are noted below.
Student Cheating & Plagiarism to the Internet
Era: A Wake-Up Call for Educators & Parents (New
York: Libraries Unlimited 2000) by Ann Lathrop & Kathleen
Foss is one of the latest jeremiads to hit the shelves.
Ronald Standler's useful paper
on Plagiarism in Colleges in the USA examines the
scale of the problem, discusses specific examples and
considers legal remedies. There is an Australian counterpart
in the 2000 paper by Peter Clayton, Ann Applebee &
Celina Pascoe on Pedagogy, Plagiarism or Pornography:
Universities on the Net (PDF).
Plagiarism: A Misplaced Emphasis is a paper
by info-liberationist Brian Martin, for us less convincing
than Alexander Lindey's Plagiarism and Originality
(New York: Harper 1952). Bruce Leland's Plagiarism
& The Web page
is a succinct introduction to online issues. The Plagiary
journal features papers of interest.
The US SCOOP - Stop
Cases of Online Plagiarism - network is a collective of
visual artists and authors concerned about the P word.
a California-based service that matches submitted texts
against a database of term papers and material on web
sites (claimed to cover 800 million pages). Plagiarized.com
is another US site offering resources for teachers.
Perhaps as a response to the notion of the web as "the
world's greatest copying machine", Australian Digital
Theses project coordinator
Tony Cargnelutti comments that online academic publication
encourages more efficient research and minimises plagiarism:
much more at risk of being plagiarised if it sits in
a library archive ... When you put the work on the web
it is effectively a date stamp.
In response to the growth of free or commercial essay
sites a number of entrepreneurs offer plagiarism detection
services for high school/college teachers. Those services
are increasingly being offered
Those services variously test for appropriation from web
resources, compare text against a database of papers from
an essay mill or check for collusion (students copying
from each other or from a previous year's assignments).
They compare vocabulary and phrasing, eg identical sentences
and paragraphs or keywords.
Verification Engine (EVE2)
- a US product aimed at teachers; users download the
software onto their machine/network and use it to compare
student texts submitted electronically.
- UK "forensic automated collusion and plagiarism"
software that compares networked essays within educational
(Glatt Plagiarism Services) - is a commercial body,
independent of plagiarism.org and plagiarized.org, that
offers detection software and training programs
KeyWORD is a keyword-matching service, comparing
a local database of texts with documents that are online
or submitted electronically
Digital Integrity's Findsame
service is aimed at business and the education sector,
marketed as searching for fragments of text rather than
- "the premiere [sic] Internet-based plagiarism
detection/prevention company (including paperbin.com
aimed at the education sector
- claimed to "do more than merely compare the text
of documents", examining software program language
syntax and program structure
a US commercial service, has been promoted as using
"supercomputer processing power" to compare
student essays with a proprietary database of books,
journals and essays
claims to have searched some 4.3 billion web pages and
have a database with 345,000 term-papers in internal
database that's parsed by an "innovative artificial
intelligence module that actually comprehends the content
of each processed document"
Measure of Software Similarity (MOSS)
is a tool that has been used to detect plagiarism in
software development (eg identifying similarities in
C++, Java and Pascal programs)
Renoir Gaither of the University of Michigan has an online
evaluation of some of the more popular US plagiarism
Andy Dehnart's 1999 Salon article
on The Web's Plagiarism Police highlights some
of the major problems with those services, for example
'false positives' through identifying an appropriately
cited quotation as plagiarism. Another critic lambasted
Turnitin, the commercial arm of Plagiarism.org, as an
unethical "pedagogic placebo".
There is a more detailed assessment in the report (PDF)
of the 2001 Electronic Plagiarism Detection workshop
for the UK Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC),
which highlighted some administrative questions such as
student consent and copyright.
Students have on occasion refused to submit work that
they knew would be provided to services such as Turnitin,
arguing that provision violated their intellectual property
or meant that all students were regarded as guilty until
proven innocent. Some institutions have responded by allowing
students to opt out of submission but require those students
to complete one or more alternate assignments to demonstrate
that the work was their own. Institutions similarly note
that surrender of particular rights and compliance with
rules (as mundane as paper size, double-spacing, turning
up to the exam on time and not using a mobile phone) is
part of education.
Courts have accordingly been unsympathetic in litigation
by students, with for example a United States District
Court judge in A.V. et. al v. iParadigms, LLC,
No.07-293 (E.D. Va. 2007) granting a motion for summary
dismissal of copyright infringement claims by four high
school students whose work had been incorporated into
the Turnitin database. The database operator gained dismissal
on the basis of the fair use defense under US copyright
law and on the basis that agreement between the students
and their school precluded the relief they were seeking.
A later page of this guide
considers questions about the role of educational institutions
in encouraging awareness of the rights and responsibilities
of copyright users (and creators and intermediaries).
The extent of plagiarism by students and their peers is
There have been few large-scale independent studies. Some
of the more highly-publicised claims regarding plagiarism
detection services may over-report the incidence of plagiarism
by conflating legitimate (eg attributed quotation) and
illicit uses of content.
The extent to which plagiarism has been facilitated by
the net is also unclear.
A 2002 study
by Patrick Scanlon & David Neumann, based on a survey
of 698 undergraduates in the US and Middle East, suggested
that students think much more plagiarizing is taking place
than they actually report doing.
16.5% reported having "sometimes" appropriated text without
a citation; 8% of students reported having done so "often"
or "very frequently." 50.4% of students reported that
their peers "often" or "very frequently" cut and pasted
text from the net without proper citation.
The study also found that the amount of online plagiarism
reported by students is comparable to the amount of offline
plagiarism from books or other printed sources that has
been reported in studies since the 1960s. 24.5% of students
reported "often," "very frequently," or "sometimes" having
lifted text from the net without proper citation, 27.6%
reported having done the same with printed texts. Over
90% reported their peers "often," "very frequently," or
"sometimes" copied text from offline sources without citation.
A 2002 study from CAVAL
Collaborative Solutions claimed that essays by 8.85% of
a sample of Australian university students featured large
amounts of unattributed text lifted from the web. The
study, on behalf of six Australian universities, used
Turnitin software in an examination of 1,751 randomly
selected undergraduate and postgraduate essays - from
the social sciences, business, computing, education, health
sciences and engineering.
In around 9% of the sample a quarter of the essay matched
other sources, although it is unclear whether that figure
reflects plagiarism. 1.54% of the essays contained greater
than 50% of copied material. Two were copied in their
In the UK Coventry University reported in 2006 that it
had identified 237 students lifting text from online,
expelling seven students. Nottingham University disciplined
53 students but expelled only one. Oxford, Edinburgh,
Durham, Newcastle and Warwick reportedly did not identify
any instances warranting expulsion.
study by Donald McCabe of Student Cheating in American
High Schools covered 4,500 students from twenty-five
high schools. 54% had used the net to plagiarise. However,
the research suggested that most of those cheating would
have plagiarized without the net and only 6% of the plagiarists
had relied solely on the net. 22% had submitted work done
by their parents. Many students did not see anything wrong
with cheating (or were merely feeling frisky when completing
the questionnaire): around 50% said they didn't think
copying questions and answers from a test was cheating.
notes that 66% of students (and parents) in another survey
said that cheating "didn't seem like a big deal." That
is consistent with the report
of Penn State Uni's 1999 PULSE survey on academic integrity.
In US focus groups involving high school students there
was widespread agreement that
of our teachers are clueless when it comes to the Internet,
the material you can find on the Internet is of sufficient
quality to submit on your assignments, and paper topics
are usually so broad that your teachers are not at all
likely to recognise a source you might use.
& Neuman however notes that student practice is context
sensitive, affected by the example of peers, assessment
of risk, and understanding of what's involved. Educause
refers to a Berkeley neurobiology professor who found
that 45 of 320 students had plagiarised at least part
of their term paper from the net; 15% plagiarised after
warnings that he would use anti-plagiarism technology.
McCabe suggests that attitudes are changing:
students who are growing up with the Internet, they're
having real difficulty distinguishing what is and is
not plagiarism. Many of them are developing an attitude
that anything on the Internet is public domain, and
they're not seeing copying it as cheating.
of whistleblowing are discussed in more detail here.
a problem outside the academy?
The extent of plagiarism outside the secondary and tertiary
education sectors is unknown.
Most attention has focussed on egregious cases in the
US, where journalists in leading publications such as
New Republic and New York Times have
'lifted' someone else's text. There have been similar
incidents involving Australian authors and radio figures,
some of whom - disingenously or otherwise - have blamed
their researchers. It is occurring in government and industry
(we were for examply wryly amused to see that one Commonwealth
official had appropriated pages from this site without
attribution or even paraphrase).
In a progression similar to that found in internet content
filtering, plagiarism detection services are now marketing
to businesses and government agencies, in particular publishers,
law firms, recruitment specialists and producers/consumers
of consultancy reports. United Nations agencies, for example,
are reported to use iThenticate (the business version
of Turnitin) in checking documentation provided by contractors.
Some services feature access to commercial databases such
Uptake of the services is uncertain. iThenticate's promoter
forecasts significant growth, commenting to the NY
Times in 2004 that in business "the stakes are
100 times greater ... We're not talking about grades anymore".
This site features a supplementary note on ghosting,
the practice of hiring an author or other creator to write
a text, compose a score or devise a visual artwork that
is then presented as work created by the commissioner.
next page (moral