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.


These kids to day with their rap music. With the hippin' and the hoppin' and the bippin' and the boppin'. Get a haircut!

Yes but what about plagurists like talk radio host Michael Savage, who stole the title of his book, "Liberalism is a Mental Disorder," from The Great Frank from Queens?

In this clip, John of Staten Island and Sheryl from New Jersey show through archive phone calls that Frank used a variation of the phrase on several phone calls to WABC back in the early 1990's. At the time, Michael Savage was living in New York, and listening to a lot of talk radio.


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in light of all the copying & pasting, maybe the time for transclusion has arrived:

and more accurate posting times so that we can see who posted to their blog with a new idea milliseconds before someone else ;)

I found this list to be of great interest. Thanks...

I think Michael Savage might have more explicitly copied the name of his book.

If you look at the link...

In recent times many have tried to explicitly classify conservatism as a mental disorder

Speaking again as a journal editor, I can say that allegations of
plagiarism are one of the more difficult and unpleasant matters with
which we must contend. Sometimes it is clear cut. However, increasingly
the plagiarists are getting trickier, altering wording and so forth to
cover their tracks. It is not always so easy to convict the guilty.
This can get very frustrating, especially for the plagiarizess, if I
have not just concocted a neologism (go ahead, plagiarize it!).

Realistically, it doesn’t make sense to expect honor in the areas of academia and publishing when honor in other walks of life have collapsed. I know nothing about publishing, but as far as academia goes, I can say this: No longer do colleges strive to produce honorable gentlemen (and ladies), but instead produce drones with union cards intended to join the managerial middle. Most universities are only interested in keeping enrollment up and no longer look to the task of creating "the whole man." Many would agree this is a good thing (universities don't expel students for producing children out of wedlock now, either). However, it is a bit silly to address plagiarism under a putative "honor code" when everyone knows that the point of the whole charade is not to produce researchers or scholars, but to certify workers via a $100,000+ 4-year IQ test.

Of course, there is a cultural bias here, too: I'm from one that thinks it is more important
who uses an idea appropriately than who invents it in the first place.
Think of it as like tennis: who serves is sometimes decisive of
who gets the point, but not always.

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


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

So, it's getting easier, and it's getting harder. Which direction is cognitive dissonance moving?

More to the point, it's a kind of technological arms race. It's cheaper for someone to plagarize your work, but easier for you or someone else to notice the plagarism, both because of better tools, and also because search engines are indexing almost everything. Your plagarized article in the Journal of Obscure Studies in Urdu can be found by someone searching for information from my article in the Journal of Even More Obscure Studies in Catalan.

My girlfriend told me that Caltech recently fired an assistant professor who pasted around 15 pages from a student paper into her book manuscript

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