When I was about eight years old and in the third grade we were instructed to write a “book report” on a book we were reading. Not to excuse my larcenous soul, it was with some some innocence that I copied a sentence from the book jacket. In record time Sister Doyle marched, red-faced and veil flying, between the desks to demand that I display the source. It took no more than that brief disclosure for me to understand the inherent evil – probably the sin – of plagiarism.
It’s not a complex concept. The ten commandment mention of stealing extends to appropriating the words and ideas of another. Pilfering the intellectual property of another is de facto wrong – and it is also stupid.
In all the years since Sister Doyle’s intervention it has never occurred to me to copy the work or ideas of another – possibly because it’s wrong, and likely because I was certain I’d be caught in the act. Today’s would-be perpetrators, fact checkers and technology have pretty much sounded the death knell for the practice of plagiarism.
My personal approach to limiting the human propensity to plagiarize has been to declare the output of my brain – words or ideas – to be in the public domain. Though I doubt anyone has ever taken me up on the free offer, I wouldn’t want anyone to risk plagiarism by stealing words and ideas that are neither protected nor worth the effort.
My thought is that this reduces the crime rate in two ways: 1) the blanket dispensation eliminates ethical or legal implications of plagiarism insofar as anything I might come up with is concerned, and 2) no one has to commit perjury by lying about the plagiarism that didn’t occur in the first place.