When Plagiarism Becomes an Acceptable Practice
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When Plagiarism Becomes an Acceptable Practice

When Plagiarism Becomes an Acceptable Practice

Do you really think that your favorite celebrity or athlete can make a pause in his or her career and start writing an autobiographical novel that can inspire millions of fans? Nobody doubts the talent of these people, but can a runner actually be excellent at composing texts? Even the bestseller entitled Becoming is written in creative collaboration between the former first lady, Michelle Obama, and a professional ghostwriter. For sure, all the ideas, memories, and stories belong to this outstanding politician, but it is natural for her to delegate structuring sentences and polishing speech patterns to an expert who knows how to achieve success and enormous sales. So, the question is the following: if the society views hiring ghostwriters for well-known persons as a normal and acceptable practice, can it be the same with novelists and students, struggling with the papers to write?

Complexities and Ambiguity of Plagiarism

The fans of Hillary Clinton adore her memoir It Takes a Village but at the same time they realize that the efforts of ghostwriters cannot be underestimated. What about the authors of detective stories? Working on the basics of the plots, they delegate actual writing to less famous counterparts and produce their books with their names only. Do the readers know about that? Well, there are probably those who sincerely believe that one person can manage doing dozens of things at the same time, but most of them hardly ever doubt that every prolific writer has helpers.

Plagiarism is using the work of other people, getting the entire credit for it. Isn’t it what Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, and detective writers do? Well, in general the rule is the same: it is wrong to use the work of other people with personal benefits. However, are there any exceptions to the rule? Definitely, yes!

A programmer should not get the code anew every time he is working on a project. If someone else has already found the right solution, others just make use of it to go further. If a lawyer composes a legal paper for his work in court, will he care about the ideas to present or about copying standard parts of the documents? Are there any norms related to originality in different areas? Are they stable? Can there be some shifts in norms when it goes about different activities?

Who Am I to Judge? Social Norms in Terms of Plagiarism

There are social norms concerning everything in the world. For sure, they are applicable to the concepts of originality and plagiarism as well. Can they be absolutely the same in every case? Is there any likelihood of misunderstanding or misinterpretation? Can we claim that copyright and plagiarizing are equal?

Functioning in the framework of law, copyright is more unified. What are the advantages of this?

  1. Copyright is universal. It is the same for different areas and different people.
  2. Copyright is stable. The changes, if any, take place really slowly.

What is the basis for plagiarism? Actually, it is not the law, but the social norm and public attitude to the issue. There can be significant shifts and drastic changes in treating different approaches to writing, creative work, and different activities. Is it appropriate to pay for a professional writer and then use a short story written by this person at a low-paid job as an output of your own creativity? Does a compensation for writing cover the ownership rights? There are a lot of questions about the standards of originality and many of them still require definite answers.

Norms of Originality / Rules of Plagiarism

Is there any list of standard rules about plagiarism in all spheres of life? Can they actually be fixed in writing? Well, they can, but they are mostly internal. It means that they are based on my own and your own understanding of what is right and wrong. We will define plagiarism, using our own opinions about acceptable things.

At the same time, what seems to be fine with you can be absolutely inappropriate for me. Is it the same with copyright? No way! I cannot imagine a person who will claim that copyright is nonsense, while inconsistency of plagiarism standards is often a matter for a debate! We have already agreed that ghostwriting for Michelle Obama is not the same with doing the assignments for your peer student. You cannot do an essay for your class and then publish it as an article and post it online. It will cause confusion about the actual original version of the ideas and bring you troubles in all three cases.

What do they schools tell the students about originality in writing? How do they explain why the professors insist on independent work?

The purpose of writing academic texts covers the following aspects:

  • learning about the topic;
  • acquiring new knowledge;
  • gaining understanding of the subject;
  • enabling the students to interpret the facts and explain the matters.

Thus, it means that researching which is an integral part of writing is aimed at learning new things! If one delegates researching the topic to a hired writer, getting the task done is pointless. There is an essay but there is no learning implied!

Is it acceptable to save time and energy and then get a degree for the assignments done by a freelancer, actually having very little knowledge? Your answer is No! Is it ok that a celebrity pays for the services of a writer? Your answer is Yes! Will my answers be the same? I am not sure. So, things with plagiarism and its social norms are still to be cleared out.

Don’t you think that some people feel embarrassed to discuss plagiarism concerns? For some, it is a taboo to touch upon them in small talks and conversations. If plagiarism is a sin in classrooms, what is its status in politics and autobiographical writing? Do professors actually discuss the norms of originality with the students or do they merely inform them about punishments for the cases with detected plagiarism? Frankly speaking, do you feel that the border that distinguishes between originality and plagiarism is absolutely clear for you? It is high time to reflect on all that until the vague moments ruin everything that is genuine in the society.

Melissa Anderson
Born in Greenville, North Carolina. Studied Commerce at Pitt Community College. Volunteer in various international projects aimed at environmental protection.
Former Customer Service Manager at OpenTeam | Former Company secretary at Chicago Digital Post | PlagiarismSearch Communications Manager
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