Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The Google safe-harbor for plagiarism?

The Lede blog at the NYT covered the UTSA "plagiarism of plagiarism code" story and had the words:

The U.T.S.A.’s version may have also included a citation page, a student in charge of the code said. “We are still looking for it,” Akshay Thusu said. But experts treated the explanation like the proverbial homework eaten by the dog.

One of the comments was more interesting, and scarier:

“plagarism” as defined needs to change. generally commonly know facts or statements cannot be plagarized. Well when statements made by other parties can be googled and found in an instant they come dangerously close to being commonly known. I advocate for a google test. If the statement you are making can be found on a simple google search then it should not be plagarism. If it is a direct quote though, you should state who made the quote; and if it is a numerical statement then you should for purposes of verification state where it came from.

IPBiz suggests that to avoid the plagiarism charge, the words of the "writer" would have to be recognized by the reader as being general knowledge on contact (on reading it/on hearing it). If one has to look it up to determine it's copied (whether on Google or elsewhere), that IS plagiarism by the writer. What can be found on the internet is not "common knowledge."

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