Why We Don’t Plagiarize
Is plagiarism suddenly all the rage?
Articles about it popping are up everywhere. My new pal Tim Bonner posted about it, as did Content Marketing World speaker Rachel Foster. Craig Silverman writes about it at Poynter.org. Then I read a post from a marketing student at the University of South Florida, Murewa Olubela.
Murewa focuses on the kind of trouble students can get into for plagiarism. Because she’s a student, and president of her PR club, I can see where she’s coming from.
But I wanted to offer another point of view.
It’s not a matter of the punishment. It’s a matter of your values.
Imagine that on your student PR blog, your new post included a wonderful paragraph. In it you explained an arcane point of PR in a way that was original, interesting, persuasive and memorable. It was so powerful, it could change the way seasoned professionals thought about PR.
Imagine that all your fellow students and faculty agreed: It was a sign of your talent, knowledge, thoughtfulness and leadership. You’re rightfully proud.
Weeks later, you moseyed over to my blog. There, you find a post on the same subject.
At first you smile because I’m covering the same topic and agreeing with your point of view. And you see that hundreds of people have commented, with rave reviews. In fact, the whole thing has been reposted throughout the PR universe. People are besides themselves with what a great thinker and writer I am.
Then you spot it: Your brilliant paragraph. But it’s right in the middle of “my” post. With no credit to the real author – YOU!
You’d probably feel sick to your stomach.
We don’t plagiarize because it’s stealing.
When you steal someone’s work, you violate them in a very real way.
In the ad world, in the past, one part of the community watched like hawks for stolen ideas. These tended to be the creative, talented ones. Another part of the community – or should I say a parallel community – saw no problem with borrowing someone else’s ideas, images and words, and taking full credit.
Whether you are a student, a marketing director, an agency creative or account supe, or a consultant: It’s never OK to steal someone’s work, even if you think you can get away with it. You can NEVER justify it. Not even with, “The client made us.”
But then, people will eventually forgive some plagiarists.
Look at Joe Biden. He plagiarized a speech and more in 1988 when he was running for the Democrat Party nomination for president. For his punishment, they’ve made him vice-president. Go figure.
If we fail to punish and ostracize plagiarizers, and instead rewarding them, we’ll only see more of it.
Yes, laws can help. But our individual tolerance of this type of theft just makes the problem get worse and worse.
Agree? Or disagree?