Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Chronicle speaks of "A Plague of Plagiarism"

The Chronicle of Higher Education posed a hypothetical on plagiarism:

Outside academe, policies and practice may be different. For example, here’s a paragraph that appeared last month in a feature article in a well-regarded newspaper:

“A study of the Pittsburgh Steelers published in 2015 in the American Journal of Sports Medicine was especially striking. It found that vitamin D levels were significantly lower in players with at least one bone fracture. Players who were released during the preseason due to injury or poor performance also had significantly lower D levels than those who made the team, the study found.”

The newspaper story included a link to the published study. The abstract read in part as follows:

“When controlling for number of professional years played, vitamin D levels were significantly lower in players with at least 1 bone fracture when compared with no fractures. Players who were released during the preseason because of either injury or poor performance had significantly lower vitamin D levels than did players who played in the regular season.”

Is this plagiarism? You decide.

Given that there is attribution of source this would not be plagiarism.

One comment to the Chronicle post was of interest:

This article manages to thoroughly muddy the waters by failing to distinguish between plagiarism--the kidnapping of ideas, not of words--and copyright infringement--which is the kidnapping of words. Thus the example used at the end is clearly NOT plagiarism, since the source was cited, but possibly could be construed as copyright infringement, though likely of a de minimus type since the passage itself is short. For a really excellent discussion of plagiarism, see judge Richard Posner's gem "The Little Book of Plagiarism" (Pantheon, 2007).

Plagiarism is the copying of words without attribution, not the "kidnapping of ideas." The commenter is incorrect.

Copyright infringement includes, but is not limited to, the copying of protected words without permission. Copying Shakespeare's words without attribution is NOT copyright infringement, but it is plagiarism.

Link to Chronicle:

As to Posner, recall he noted that plagiarism was an "embarrassingly second-rate" offense, and that he did not recommend legal sanctions for plagiarism.


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