Plagiarism is derived from the Latin plagiarius ("kidnapper"), and refers to a kind of intellectual theft defined as "the false assumptions of authorship, the wrongful act of taking the product of another person's mind, and presenting it as one's own.” (Alexander Lindey, Plagiarism and Originality)
According to Gordon Harvey, Harvard Univ. Expository Writing Program:
“In academic writing (unlike everyday speech), all language,information, and ideas not the writer’s own are scrupulously attributed to their original sources. Knowledge never stands alone. It builds upon and plays against the previous knowledge of previous knowers and reports, whom scholars call "sources." These are not, in a scholarly paper, the source of your particular argument (you are), but rather persons or documents that help you arrive at your argument. They are sources of information that you interpret; of ideas that you support, criticize, or develop; of vivid language that you quote and analyze.”
When you do a research paper in college, for instance, first you go back and read what everyone else has said about your topic. Then you draw some conclusions, make some new points, and – the point of it all – hopefully advance the field of knowledge. You mention who said what and when, as a way of history, and then you move forward, attributing to those who went before you. Or you make a statement and use data from writers and researchers to back it up. Not to plagiarize is an agreement among scholars.
“Academic discourse communities,” says The Plagiarism Tutorial, Texas A&M, agree to refer scrupulously to one another’s writings and research findings by placing borrowed terms and phrases in quotation marks, and by explicitly linking quoted materials to [those who wrote or said them].
UC Davis calls it The Art of Mastering Scholarship, and has an excellent definition here. When you plagiarize, you ultimately cheat yourself. To quote the Portland School system, “the purpose of collecting information is to create your own thoughts and ideas around the information you have read and taken notes over. If you copy someone else’s words, you are not forming your own thoughts and creative style.”
IS IT AGAINST THE LAW?
I like Ron Shook’s comment in this regard, because it’s kind of a gray area. We know copyright violation is against the law. Plagiarism, on the other hand, says Shook, “is moral outrage. It is certainly true that a plagiarist can commit copyright infringement. But what happens when for instance, I lift wholesale information that is either in the public domain or which has had the copyright lapse? I’m plagiarizing but not infringing on a copyright. In those cases, the objection is moral/ethical rather than legal.”
This question is being tossed around on one of my lists. I think it’s a matter of, well, Emotional Intelligence - how you conduct your life when only answerable to yourself, and how you respect others. Laws are enacted when people fail to do what's right -- watch what's going to come up with cell phones shortly. And everything that’s legal to do isn’t the right thing to do. Use your Emotional Intelligence. If you're saying what someone else said, quote them. How can you know for sure where the line is? Take The EQ Foundation Course(c) and develop your intuition, your ability to know things without knowing how you know them. When in doubt, err on the side of caution and attribute. It's the right thing to do.
“Can I get sued for doing it?” is not the question to ask. “Is this the right thing to do?” is. Check out the Legal Information Institute's overviews of copyright laws and trademark laws.
This mandate to document sources fairly and accurately is unique to academic writing. At CoachVille, for instance, or for articles on ideamarketers.com, or in much business writing, no documentation of a ‘fact’ is required.
Keywords: internet marketing, marketing, copywrite, plagiarism, writing, ad, success, women's issues