Plagiarism: Theft or ingenuity?

Plagiarism is the use of the intellectual property of a person, without rightfully crediting the owner for his intellectual creations such as ideas, designs, and words, and not citing the proper source of the information that was ‘borrowed.’ It is a fraud as it involves the act of stealing and publicly misrepresenting someone else’s works as one’s own or simply citing misleading sources.

Plagiarism in academic work, reports and theses has surged drastically over the past decade as the Internet has become a common tool for academic research, enabling plagiarism to flourish on a large scale. Some of the previous academic plagiarism charges which got the spotlight in India have been by the vice-chancellors of esteemed Indian universities. The most famous case of plagiarism in India was of the VC of Kumaon University, BS Rajput- where seven Stanford University professors wrote about him being a serial plagiarist to the then President APJ Abdul Kalam about plagiarising a research paper on black holes. Another recent case of plagiarism in academia was allegations against the VC of Pondicherry University, Chandra Krishnamurthy, that she plagiarized large parts of a book mentioned in her resume. after a prolonged stand-off with the HRD ministry, she resigned in 2016.

It is improbable to determine the extent of online plagiarism, yet there are frequent reports of students reports including entire sections copied from other works by either direct replication of the work, unintentionally paraphrasing the text or compiling information from various sources without any accreditation (known as potluck plagiarism). This amounts to accidental plagiarism. Therefore, teaching students how to accurately cite their references is essential and a professional ethics course must be made compulsory in higher educational institutes.

One’s authorship of any literary work, artistic work including novels, films, songs, can be legally protected through copyright, a type of intellectual property law that provides exclusive publication, distribution, and usage rights to the author.

Some plagiarised works are a form of copyright infringements. Plagiarizing a post from a website, copying any work without referencing the source such as a book report, or crediting the photographer for a photograph they took under are some examples of both plagiarism and copyright infringement. Plagiarism is addressed via the copyright law and is often taken down after issuing notices or are dealt with through lawsuits.

Plagiarism may occur even without copyright infringement. The stark difference between copyright infringement and plagiarism is that the former will occur only when the work reproduced is copied from a copyright-protected work and the latter is when the work of an author is used without giving due credit. Plagiarism is an ethical construct and copyright infringement is a legal construct with legal repercussions.

Plagiarism Laws in India

Section 57 of the Indian Copyright Act, 1957 awards authors the right to claim authorship of their work. It also grants them the “special right” to be attributed to their work.

Section 63 of the Indian Copyright Act, 1957 considers infringement as a criminal offence and awards the same punishment for the violation of section 57 and copyright infringement.

A convicted infringer is liable to be imprisoned between six months and three years and to be fined between fifty thousand and two lakh rupees under Section 63 of the Act

To promote fair research and curb ethical misconduct in higher education in India, The University Grants Commission in India issued the UGC (Promotion of Academic Integrity and Prevention of Plagiarism in Higher Educational Institutions) Regulations, 2017 plagiarism policy for all higher education institutions. It defined 3 distinct levels of plagiarism in academic work and their reverberations, ranging from barred from publishing their manuscripts for a period of 6 months to 3 years and not be allowed to supervise any student for 3 years.

Measures to mitigate plagiarism

There can be ethical, legal and professional consequences of producing a plagiarised work and with multiple plagiarism detection software easily available, tremendous cases of replicated works are being caught at an alarming rate. Students need to be taught how to cite their sources correctly. Providing sources and citations gives proper credit to the author of the words or ideas and it allows those who read your work to locate your source to verify your work and gather more information on the topic. This gives the writer more creditability and consistently and accurately citing your sources will help you avoid committing plagiarism in your writing.

Students should be taught to cite sources correctly, and teachers should be educated on the importance of citation and referencing and teach students that they should explain concepts in their own words instead of sticking closely to the author’s words and phrasing.

To avoid accusations of plagiarism, give credit whenever you use another person’s idea, quotes or paraphrase the same. Direct quotes should always be put in quotation marks. Providing the URL of the information and the date when you accessed the website should be included in your citation as well.



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