Plagiarism 101

Illustration for Cheating
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There’s a little bit of buzz on a local Facebook theatre network right now about plagiarism – always a dirty word whether in academic or any other circles, really.

What constitutes general or ‘public domain’ knowledge or usage in a writer’s work is sometimes tricky to determine, especially when a genuinely-original phrase starts appearing all over the place as part of the vernacular. Remember the one, ‘inland tsunami’ with reference to the recent Toowoomba disaster? I do, and I recall clearly the first time I heard it – in a media interview with Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson on the day. But did he originate it?  Like anthropologists, linguists love the game of tracking back to origins. As to claiming ownership of language, well this can be taken to stupid lengths when big corporations try to copyright a phrase or a word. However …

There are other times when it is blindingly clear that not just a random collection of words but a specific idea expressed in a phrase has been lifted and used by another as their own – as happened a week or so ago when an extract from one of Greenroom’s posts was taken and used on another site without attribution.  No names, no pack-drill at this stage, but we will be keeping an eye out for any repeats. By the way, we were not the only ones who noticed this bit of pilfering. I know I was robbed because the phrase in question really was created by me to make a particular point in the article. I remember thinking at the time that it was rather clever; obviously the other reviewer did too!  Now, as far as that other reviewer was concerned it would have been so easy to attribute the quote with a hotlink back to our site (a bit of link love) or in some other way, but it didn’t happen. So, what do I concur from that reviewer and that site: bad manners, questionable ethics and plagiarism aka intellectual dishonesty.

Come on fellow theatre writers, play fair! And, if you run a website, appoint an editor and ask your reviewers to sign off on their work as original before publishing. We’re all in this together.

And disclaimers, if required, are a sign of professional practice. That is all.