Digital Plagiarism: The Role of Society and Technology

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Digital Plagiarism: The Role of Society and Technology
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Ryan Kennedy
Examines the application of the World Wide Web in class education and research and the ways in which the Internet has enabled cheating and given educators ways to fight plagiarism. Internet-based information has had a profound effect on the way people can now educate themselves from a pool of seemingly endless content. It is estimated by the NEC Research Institute that there are more then 1.4 billion pages on the Internet with 25 new pages being added every second (Dyrli 1). With so much available content, the application of the World Wide Web in class education and research has now become common practice in schools and universities. As a result, the Internet has succeeded in its purposes of bringing together information from one part of the World to another. But like most great advancements in modern technology, the Internet's purposes have become altered and used for other nefarious acts. One of these problems, seemingly perpetuated by the Internet, has been the noticeable increase in plagiarism and academic dishonesty in the realm of education. Plagiarism is nothing new to the academic community, but over the past ten years, the Internet has opened up new ways for students to digitally copy information from web-based sources, some of which that actually encourage plagiarism. The Internet has created new opportunities for students to become better cheaters and as a result created new challenges for educators. In looking at this problem, I would like to examine how the Internet has made cheating more accessible to students, and in turn how educators are using the Internet itself to fight plagiarism. However, before examining this problem, one must realize that plagiarism does not begin and end with the Internet. The groundwork for plagiarism was laid long before the world was wired together. To better understand how plagiarism became such an accepted practice and why the Internet has only strengthened its hold, we should begin by tracing plagiarism's roots backwards and forward through the spectrum of societal and technological advancements. By building new technologies to spread ideas further and faster we have succeeded in changing and building a new culture based on the absorption of others' ideas. Ideas that cannot be cited due to the obscured view technology puts between the reader and writer.

Plagiarism and Society

Online Ethics defines plagiarism as “appropriating the writings, graphic representation, or ideas of another person to represent them as one's own work without proper attribution” (The Online Ethics…). Plagiarism can be intentional or unintentional with a majority of student's claiming they did not know they needed to site sources in the first place (Logue 40). Plagiarism is not illegal, but all academic institutions have some sort of disciplinary action against it. As opposed to copyright infringement, which is the stealing of others' ideas for financial gain, plagiarism is the stealing of ideas for non-profit use. Lawrence Lessig in his book “Free Culture” writes that intellectual property theft is wrong when it involves “the taking of something of value from someone without permission”(18). But words in a book have no monetary value to students writing a term paper. If a student were to copy these words they would only be doing so to save time. Because of this, plagiarism is only seen as a violation of academic laziness and not as major an issue as copyright infringement. Another reason plagiarism is more widely accepted then copyright infringement is because of the nature of the culture in which we live in. Lessig writes that our free culture leaves much open for others' to build their own ideas upon (Lessig 30). Taking the successful work of a competitor and piggybacking on the material with an original take, such as Disney taking Brothers Grimm and Buster Keaton material as inspiration for their own...
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