Significant Facts from the History of Plagiarism
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Significant Facts from the History of Plagiarism

Significant Facts from the History of Plagiarism

However embarrassing it may sound the history of language and art might never have had times without plagiarizing. If someone said a smart phrase, why not repeat it as one’s own? If a picture of the neighbor looks attractive, why bother and draw one’s own if it is possible to take it for use? For sure, it could not last for long and the act of actual stealing could not remain unchallenged and unpunished. Plagiarism in history still demands further research and investigation. Although the practice of giving credit to the work of other people had been developing slowly, the concept and interpretation of plagiarism, originality, and ownership rights on intellectual property were viewed differently at different stages. New software was introduced and such excellent tools as are in high demand among the students, bloggers, and SEO managers.

Discover new facts about plagiarism with us!

Etymology of Plagiarism

Let’s look back and try to figure out what the term ‘plagiarism’ actually means and which origin it has. Researchers say that the noun ‘plagiarism’ comes from the Latin word ‘plagiarius’ with the negative meaning of a plunderer or kidnapper. So, a person who steals ideas from other authors took his name from a person who kidnapped slaves or children. This information may be really useful when the students get aware of the consequences of copy-pasting their academic papers or borrowing home assignments from their friends. They may probably never know how serious the crime of plagiarism is.

As for the first case of plagiarism in literature, it was as far back as about 80 AD. The Roman poet Martial got to know that Fidentinus was taking his fame, taking credit for the verses he recited. Hence, Martial decides to take revenge and called Fidentinus a kidnapper or a ‘plagiarus’ in a series of his new verses. For sure, the matter was really serious as the verses brought not only fame but also money as payment for the creative work, while stealing made it possible for the poet to lose a possibility to earn a living.

Background and History of Plagiarism

The era of Middle Ages is known for wide-spread plagiarism throughout various fields. It used to be a common practice to copy parts of religious texts and compile them into a new one, in most cases without any referencing to the original source. In the sphere of poetry and drama, even Shakespeare is known to copy a lot of his well-known plots. In art, some of the famous works of Leonardo Da Vinci are also blamed for copying some of the elements. It is evident that people had no access to books or paintings in their digital versions; so, copying paintings and writing was one of the ways to spread the knowledge, while the idea of intellectual property had not originated yet.

It was in 1601 that the actual term ‘plagiary’ got into the English language to denote literary theft. A satirist Ben Johnson was the first who did it and that was the beginning of a new attitude stealing ideas. Samuel Johnson included the word ‘plagiarism’ into the dictionary in 1755 and its meaning was the same as it is now. In the Age of Enlightenment, the individual turned into the focus of all spheres of life, in particular economics, science, philosophy, literature, and others. Thus, the authorship became more essential than it used to be. For instance, Helen Keller was viewed as guilty for taking the ideas of others although other authors, including Shakespeare used to do the same without any problem. Still, it was only the beginning of a serious shift in academics, technologies, and art.

Starting since the 40s, plagiarism has been penetrating into the digital world to gets its solid place there. A virtually unlimited amount of information to be copied, paraphrased, used in different purposes without any permission of its actual owner has turned into a common practice. There are famous plagiarism cases which are amazing in terms of the impudence and they take place not only in the sphere of academics.

Have a look at the list of celebrities and famous people below and tick those who you think committed acts of plagiarism?

  • Melania Trump
  • Alex Haley
  • Martin Luther King Jr.
  • Saddam Hussein
  • Joe Biden
  • JRR Tolkien

Do you think none of them did? Actually, all of them borrowed someone’s ideas without asking the actual owners! The speech of Melania Trump with vivid similarities to that of Michelle Obama, plagiarism in the doctoral thesis of Martin Luther King Jr., accusations of President Biden for the breach in academic integrity at university are only some of the brightest examples of how fragile originality of ideas is.

What Will Happen Next

So, after you have got answers to such questions as ‘Where does the word plagiarism come from?’, and ‘Where did plagiarism start?’ it is time to think about what can change in the nearest future. At present, both technological and ethical aspects of plagiarism are the matters of heated debates.

  • Does using the services of freelance writers serve as an indication of plagiarism?
  • Is using essay mills equal to copy-pasting?
  • If a plagiarism detection tool cannot trace a stolen idea, can it be viewed as original?
  • Is incidental plagiarism a crime to be punished?

Now, copy-pasting ideas from books, journals, and online sources has turned into a risky business. Such smart tools as do not let the students get away with their unethical actions however hard they try. Still, they are looking for more sophisticated ways to deceive the technologies and hide their efforts to lie and make tricks. Along with the automated grammar and spelling checks, writers have started using rewriting tools to make the identity of the author blurred and take the ownership of the brightest ideas without any punishment.

Will plagiarism disappear? Is it possible to eradicate it once and for all? Can some advanced technology trace all the signs of stolen ideas? Unfortunately, a long history of plagiarism does not let us assume that the prospects are very optimistic.

Kelsey Ayton
Born in Warsaw. Studied Psychology at SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities; took part in several inspiring Erasmus programs.
Former Practical Psychologist| Blogger of Various Mass Media | Currently PlagiarismSearch content writer | Mother-Freelancer
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