by Catherine Rayburn-Trobaugh: President, Word Branch Media
While plagiarism committed by students is risky, the stakes are even higher in the professional world. Jayson Blair of the New York Times and Stephen Glass of The New Republic were notable cases, and their promising careers in journalism were destroyed by their acts ¹. While these are high-profile cases, most incidences are low-key because the companies involved don’t want the publicity and, frankly, cases in the business world are often difficult to detect. However, this doesn’t mean there are consequences.
At the professional level, plagiarism is very likely also copyright infringement. This can result in law suits and will most likely lead to a loss of credibility for the individual and company. Vladimar Putin, Ratheon’s CEO and budding novelist Kaavya Viswanathan have all been caught plagiarizing with varying consequences but all were humiliated and embarrassed. If brought to court as copyright infringement, the legal fees and fines can run into the hundreds of thousands and devastate careers ².
According to Plagiarism Today, an industry watchdog, plagiarism in small businesses is on the rise partially because of web content usage. Web content is loosely defined as a method of search engine optimization (SEO) in order to bring more traffic to a website. The most common form of content is short articles written to “catch” the word searches in search engines. Many content writers, including me, are honest and meticulous in research and documentation; however, content can be bought cheaply from non-professional writers who cut and paste more than actually write. This secondary breach of copyright accounts for much of the online business plagiarism, but the site owner is not absolved of responsibility just because he or she didn’t do the actual writing ³.
As with academic plagiarism, professional plagiarism can be avoided fairly painlessly. Giving credit where credit is due is the first step to protecting yourself against charges of plagiarism and copyright infringement. Although the documentation process is a little murkier at the professional level, all industries have their standards. If your company or organization doesn’t have a style guide that outlines the accepted documentation process, then you may want to suggest that one be created. If you are in an industry that regularly documents, invest in the appropriate guide. When in doubt, fall back on Chicago or Turabian style. It’s easy, clean and non-intrusive on the writing itself.
Most plagiarism of all types is born of wanting to take a shortcut, and we all know that shortcuts aren’t always the best path. Ruining a promising career, professional or academic, isn’t worth the risk, and the solution is simple and painless: document sources or hire a reputable writer.
1. Demirijari, Karoun. “What is the Price of Plagiarism?” The Christian Science Monitor, 11 May 2006, Accessed 25 Sept. 2011, http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/0511/p14s01-lire.html.
2. Reider, Rem. “The Jayson Blair Affair,” American Journalism Review, Accessed 25 Sept. 2011, http://www.ajr.org/article.asp?id=3019.
3. “Small Business Plagiarism on the Rise,” Plagiarism Today,” Accessed 25 Spet. 2011, http://www.plagiarismtoday.com/2011/08/30/small-business-plagiarism-on-the-rise/.
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