What is plagiarism? No, it’s not the answer to a jeopardy question but a question on a topic I know very little about I’m afraid and hence (NB: This is my least favourite word and I wonder who came up with it), my question. I’ve been doing a ranting series for my blog and I received “inspiration” for this title but it got me wondering whether or not I would be plagiarizing by using the name of a popular movie for the series. From my understanding of the word, we plagiarize every day by saying stuff other people said without asking their permission to use their words. As a writer and blogger, albeit not a well-known one, I decided to find out exactly what plagiarism means so I can avoid the bastard altogether.
Here’s what I found:
To “Plagiarize” means
- to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own
- to use (another’s production) without crediting the source
- to commit literary theft
- to present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source
In other words, plagiarism is an act of fraud.
All of the following are considered plagiarism:
- turning in someone else’s work as your own
- copying words or ideas from someone else without giving credit
- failing to put a quotation in quotation marks
- giving incorrect information about the source of a quotation
- changing words but copying the sentence structure of a source without giving credit
- copying so many words or ideas from a source that it makes up the majority of your work, whether you give credit or not
Most cases of plagiarism can be avoided, however, by citing sources. Simply acknowledging that certain material has been borrowed and providing your audience with the information necessary to find that source is usually enough to prevent plagiarism.
Using an image, video or piece of music in a work you have produced without receiving proper permission or providing appropriate citation is also plagiarism. The following activities are very common in today’s society. Despite their popularity, they still count as plagiarism.
- Copying media (especially images) from other websites to paste them into your own papers or websites.
- Making a video using footage from others’ videos or using copyrighted music as part of the soundtrack.
- Performing another person’s copyrighted music (i.e., playing a cover).
- Composing a piece of music that borrows heavily from another composition.
Certainly, these media pose situations in which it can be challenging to determine whether or not the copyrights of a work are being violated. For example:
- A photograph or scan of a copyrighted image (for example: using a photograph of a book cover to represent that book on one’s website)
- Recording audio or video in which copyrighted music or video is playing in the background.
- Re-creating a visual work in the same medium. (for example: shooting a photograph that uses the same composition and subject matter as someone else’s photograph)
- Re-creating a visual work in a different medium (for example: making a painting that closely resembles another person’s photograph).
- Re-mixing or altering copyrighted images, video or audio, even if done so in an original way.
At the end of my search, I realize that it is extremely difficult to avoid plagiarism. One’s best bet is to check for reprint and usage rights of documents, images etc, request permissions, cite sources and be as original and honest concerning “borrowed ideas” as humanly possible. In this vein, I hereby title my ranting series Dairy of an Angry Nigerian Woman, an idea borrowed from Tyler Perry and his movie Dairy of a Mad Black Woman.
Let the rantings continue!!