Wednesday, March 23, 2016

"The Good Wife" does plagiarism on March 20, 2016

From time-to-time, IPBiz mentions legal aspects arising from the CBS show The Good Wife (e.g., The episode "Shoot," airing on March 20, 2016 has engendered commentary about plagiarism, and obliquely the service known as "Turn-It-In" (although the fact pattern of alleged plagiarism from the Book of Matthew on a college admission essay needs to be studied). See

IPBiz notes that quoting from the Bible (without attribution) was done by Abraham Lincoln in the "House Divided" speech.

**Text from the "Shoot" episode relevant to plagiarism theme:
"Grace. Hi. Did you find out? Well, maybe it's a deferred admittance. (Whispers): College. Did you check the Web site? No, that's the thing. Mr. Ecklund, my guidance counselor, he called their admissions office. Mom, the admissions office thinks that I plagiarized my essay."

Oh, my God. Genuine Thought is a database with millions of essays. It helps schools identify possible plagiarism. Mr. Ecklund, have you read Grace's essay? I have. So then you know that this is intensely personal. Do you seriously think that other essays in that database contain the same family history? Mrs. Florrick, many students write about the challenges they've overcome. And while the specific facts may be unique, the lessons that applicants say they've learned from them aren't. I didn't plagiarize. Mr. Ecklund, could you tell us exactly what Grace is being accused of plagiarizing? I can't say. We-we weren't given that information.

All right, Genuine Thought... it's big business in the fight against student plagiarism. The software designers have acknowledged they're having problems with false positives, which is why the company has settled a few lawsuits last year. Wait, false positives how? It might tag a section as plagiarism when, in fact, it's just a phrase in common usage. For example, in one paper they flagged, "there's not enough money to go around," or "according to conventional wisdom" as plagiarized, when in fact they're just sort of clich├ęs. Unoriginal, but not plagiarized. So, what do I do? Well, you need to find out what they're saying is plagiarized. They won't tell me... they say it breaks policy. They don't want more lawsuits. Okay.

What is my daughter accused of plagiarizing? Unfortunately, it is our college policy to not reveal the details of these decisions. You're worried about a lawsuit? We're worried about confidentiality. I'm a lawyer, ma'am. If there's anyone you should be worried about, it's a lawyer. And if there's anyone you should worry about not intimidating, it's a college admissions director. Well, good. I think that settles the matter. Why don't we... So here's the thing, Okay. we submitted my Grace's essay independently, to Genuine Thought, to find out what they considered plagiarism, and do you know what they flagged? "Do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black." Again, I can not tell you. It's from the Sermon on the Mount. You're accusing my daughter of plagiarizing the Sermon on the... Mount. I can not confirm or deny. Do you seriously want to be sued for denying my daughter admittance because you can't tell the difference between the Sermon on the Mount within or without quotes? It was very nice meeting you, ma'am. Well, I think we should leave it at that.

The copied text in question is Matthew 5:36 (ESV):
English Standard Version
And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black.
In context, this is a "last" example given by Jesus about oaths. The gist: The more evil a person is, the less the person will be bound by oaths; if a person is good, there is no need for them.

In passing, in full context of Matthew, an odd quote for an admissions essay. Is this a flashback to an earlier episode involving Grace? ["Here Comes the Judge;" "Snowball cheese?"]


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