01 January 2013

Word-nappers: A subjectively abridged history of plagiarism

The word “plagiarism” is derived from the Latin for “kidnap,” and the presence of word-nappers in this country is astounding, and growing — arguably at a rate commensurate with the growing ubiquity of electronic information. 

Plagiarism certainly is not a new problem, either, although some postmodernists would argue it’s an outdated and/or irrelevant relic from the Romantic era, when the acknowledgement of intellectual property as something tangible came into the public eye. Pre-romantic scholars and/or anarchists would argue that plagiarism can not exist because intellectual property is a myth (more on this later). 

Property concepts aside, plagiarism in journalism is tantamount to malpractice in medicine, to bribery in judicial circles, to kickbacks in politics, to incompetence in education, to lying in business. We punish these other professionals when they transgress against society, by why do we allow media companies to police themselves when their transgressions are equally as — if not more — dangerous to the fabric of free society?