The issue of plagiarism has evoked mixed reactions both in the academic and other institutions such as broadcasting companies. Plagiarism has several definitions. Plagiarism is the use of someone else’s words, thoughts, ideas or even expressions without acknowledging him or her (Skandalakis & Mirilas, 2004).
Freedman (2010) explains plagiarism as the offense, which can be committed through several actions such as presenting someone else’s ideas, language, and words as one’s own original work. He also describes it as using an author’s information without acknowledging him or her. Plagiarism can also be termed as an act of fraud since it involves stealing other people’s ideas and copy-protected information. Changing some words and then copying a sentence from someone else’s work, as well as using information from the same source despite acknowledging the source are plagiarism.
Plagiarism mainly results due to lack of citation of the original authors, whose ideas and information somebody is using in his work. Plagiarism is common when someone is using information from a copy-right material. The chances of plagiarism are low when using information from a source whose copyright protection has expired. Students have developed a habit of using sources with no copyright protection so as to avoid plagiarism. However, as Freedman (2010) points out, most of the sources without copyright protection carry information that has low academic value.
Plagiarism can occur intentionally or accidentally. Many people, especially students plagiarize due to lack of skills and knowledge on how to carry out researches. However, other people such as journalists do it intentionally. Others plagiarize for gifts and money. Just like any other offence, acts of plagiarism differ according to their nature.
People still argue whether plagiarism should be treated like offense or not. They argue that words or ideas cannot be stolen. However, according to the US law, copyright protected materials, ideas and thoughts are the intelletual property. Therefore, stealing these ideas and thoughts without acknowledging their original authors is illegal.
Of late, plagiarism has become common in many countries. Many schools and other institutions have developed [n1] stern rules and regulation to curb the issue of plagiarism. In the academic arena, many high schools and other higher learning institutions have a zero tolerance to plagiarism. Plagiarism in these institutions is an offence, which has damaging consequences to the student (Maddox, 1995).
Students, who plagiarize their work knowingly, do a lot of damage that affects them for a long time. Plagiarism leads to lower grading or even a zero grade on the paper and may lead to failure of the course. Students may also face academic probation. In other cases, students can be either suspended or expelled from the institution.[n2]
Plagiarism leads to waste of time and effort. Students who get expelled because of plagiarism face a hard time obtaining admission to another credible learning institution. The greatest damage that many students do not realize is the intellectual impairment that occurs through plagiarism. A student who takes advantage of plagiarism lacks the ability and skills required in preparing personal work (Conradson & Pedro, 2004).
Outside the academic institutions, there are legal punishments of plagiarism. Minor cases of plagiarism face a penalty that ranges between $100 and $50,000. In case of failure to pay the fine, the plagiarizer undergoes a jail term of one year. Certain federal laws consider plagiarism as a felony. In such states, plagiarism has higher fines, which can amounnt up to $250, 000. If failed to pay the charges, the offender faces a ten-year jail term.
Many institutions and corporations do not tolerate plagiarism either. Institutions such as broadcasting companies have severe punishments for any journalist once proved to plagiarize any of their work. A person can be denied a promotion because of plagiarism. In extreme cases, a person can even lose his or her job. Apart from these consequences, a person damages his or her reputation. The institution as a whole suffers embarrassment and loses credibility and a public trust.
As Baram (2007) explains, there have been various incidences of plagiarism both in the academic and other institutions. One of these incidences is one of a CBC News reporter whose name the company refused to expose. The reporter had copied almost a whole column of the Wall Street Journal concerning petitions of library books. The producer had worked on the online video essay with the other staff members for about six months.
An attentive reader had detected the plagiarized article and reported the matter to the company. The company reviewed the article and admitted the offense, followed with immediate reaction of sacking the accused reporter. The company also removed the video from the website and started reviewing all the work of the reporter immediately. The company’s spokesman also promised that additional editorial procedures would be implemented to ensure that such an incidence did not reoccur.
Another incidence was that of an 11th grade student of Fairview high school. The student’s instructor Susan Maximom said she realized that the student had used complex words and expressions and could not understand their meanings. After the instructor had confronted the student with evidence that his work was identical to some work in the internet, the student accepted the offense. The instructor punished the student by giving him a zero grade on the paper. Thus, plagiarism is an offence that should be prevented by all means.