The economics of plagiarism

The economics of plagiarism are changing:

1. Plagiarism is now easier to catch and publicize, mostly because of the Web, Google, and computer search programs.

2. We are exposed to more influences, whether consciously or not, than before.

3. "Cut and paste," and other technologies, make cheating and plagiarism easier.

4. Borrowing from others will become more common but also more acknowledged and transparent, if only to avoid punishment preemptively.

5. The younger generation is less taken aback by the idea of plagiarism.  Perhaps rap music and sampling are an influence, not to mention mash-ups and digitally altered photos.

6. The notion of "originality" has become murkier.

7. Editors and portals will be seen increasingly as sources of originality.  What percentage of your favorite blogs are produced by "Control C"?

8. Plagiarism is least just when an idea is stolen before the creator can bring it to the public.  That said, some of these forms of plagiarism are efficient, if not always fair.  We can expect the "good executors" to steal from the "idea people"; not all of the latter can execute well, nor are they typically good at selling their ideas to the executors.

Michael at has further commentary.  I owe these points to a conversation with Tim Harford (ah, but how much of this was his?), who covers the topic in today’s Financial Times.


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