When I was in middle school I got good grades. My lowest grade was a B+ in 8th grade algebra, an advanced course for kids who would go on to study geometry as freshmen in high school. I know I struggled to understand the ideas in that class. The concepts were foreign to me: using variables to get answers made no sense. Factoring was impossible, and my brain did not catch on until I was older how to compute polynomial equations. I still do not know how to solve them. I have weaknesses, out of my own cognitive limitations or due to the fact that I never took the time to learn the lessons. But one thing I do know that I had learned at that young age what cheating was.
In 8th grade life science class, I sat next to a kid who was a trouble maker. The teacher had thrown his desk across the room one day after he recited one too many Jerky Boy quotes as clever retorts to questions like: what are the seven classifications of living things? I never blamed the kid. He was cool. He had to own that. Taking his position on what he must have seen himself as did not make him immune to the rules, but simply an afterthought. His young memoir might have read: The Indirect Consequence of Bart Simpson Economics and the High Cost of Trying to be Him. This might be a quarterly review of bad kid behavior that would be published as a sort of poster child magazine for what not to do, or for what to do when you want to get into trouble. In magazine form it might have amassed an enormous following in the 1990’s. Today it would be a highly acclaimed blog written by the newest generation of pranksters.
While taking a test sitting next to this kid I got the sense that he was looking over at my paper. Glancing out of the corner of my eye through my hair I felt like he was planting his eyes where they did not belong. The hair on my neck felt weird. I froze. In an automatic response, I covered my paper. I curled my arm around my test, cradling it in a way saying, “Don’t worry, baby. I won’t let anything happen to you.” I’m not sure if I went into protection mode because he was actually looking over at my paper, or not. Maybe what I thought about him and what he must have felt about himself prompted me to take proactive action, but that’s not the point. I didn’t have to be taught how to prevent cheating or what cheating was back then.
This covering of the test was a sort of universal sign that had been instilled at a very early age. Thanks to teacher instruction, I knew at the age of 13 that cheating was wrong and to prevent it at all costs. Teachers often pace up and down the length of student rows during tests to discourage looking up. Mr. Lynch was my sixth grade English teacher. Before the vocabulary tests, he would say, “Keep your eyes on your fries or it will spell your demise.” Thanks to the culture of academic learning, most classroom management styles include placing student desks far enough away from each other so as to prevent cheating. A teacher must be present in the classroom while students take the test. These are not simply tenants to live by, but rather the environment in which students learn acceptable norms of study and instruction.
I do not feel ashamed that I covered my paper, although that kid accused me of “thinking that he was cheating off me.” I was supposed to feel embarrassed, paranoid, weird, for my reaction, but I never did and I guess I probably never will. The one thing that I realize now is that there are ways of instilling ideas that will stick with you your whole life. As one grows older, the ways in which one can cheat change from test taking to more intricate forms of plagiarism. The preventative measures morph from covering the test paper to legal protection, trademark, and patent law.
Intellectual property includes inventions: literary and artistic works; symbols, names, and images used in commerce (WIPO). There are two categories of intellectual property: industrial property, which includes patents for inventions, trademarks, industrial designs, and geographical indications, and copyright, which covers literary works, films, music, artistic works, and architectural design (WIPO).
Intellectual property rights allow the creator of intellectual property to make profit without harm from those who would steal their property. The protections of intellectual property sustain things like the film industry, clothing lines, and technological gadgets such as the iPhone.
The idea of industry protection reminds me of the story of a lawsuit that was filed in federal court over the movie Out of the Furnace.
Seven of the 17 plaintiffs – all members of the Ramapough Lunaape Nation — use Degroat as their surname or middle name. In the movie, [Woody] Harrelson portrays Harlan Degroat, the leader of a violent criminal gang who lives in the mountains of New Jersey.
The film follows the film’s star, Christian Bale, as he tries to keep a younger brother played by Casey Affleck from the clutches of Degroat’s criminal gang.
“The community is depicted as lawless, drug addicted, impoverished and violent,” lawyers for the Ramapoughs wrote. (Zambito)
Lawyers for the film’s producers, Relativity Media and Appian Way, headed by actor Leonardo DiCaprio, warned that if the lawsuit went forward it would expose the film industry to legal challenges from those who disagreed with a movie’s content.
“Plaintiff’s lawsuit, if permitted to proceed beyond the pleading state, will chill free speech by subjecting creators and distributors of movies and other works of fiction to liability whenever some members of a distinct ethnic, cultural social or other definable group dislike how their group is presented,” attorney Mark Marino wrote in April (Zambito).
The real danger over these lawsuits is without intellectual property rights, the film industry would be vulnerable to attacks like these, resulting in a proliferation of its profits to those who were not creators, but rather, fraudulent profiteers of intellectual property.
In a similar case of patent law, money changes hands, this time due to patent violation. This case takes the instance of using someone else’s patented technology as a violation of patent law. The patent holder of 504 sued Mark Maron, comedian and host of WTF podcast (Chace). “Others who have been sued include Jesse Thorne, host of public radio show, Bullseye, ABC, CBS, and Adam Corolla” (Chace).
Jim Logan, a New Hampshire man, applied for his patent in 1996 (Chace). His idea was audio could be downloaded from the internet and listened to by consumers (Chace). Specifically the 504 patent “covers important technology related to automatically identifying and retrieving media files representing episodes and a series of those episodes becoming available. These patented techniques are commonly used in podcasting” (Chace).
In the 90’s Jim Logan started a company, Personal Audio, which tried to build podcasting technology. This technology ended up in the form of science magazines recorded onto cassette tape (Chace). Although the tapes didn’t last, his patent came in handy. In 2007, Logan sued Apple and won 8.5 million dollars for stealing his podcast patent (Chace). The suit was appealed and Apple settled for an undisclosed amount (Chace). The judge found that the iTunes application was an infringement of patent 504. Before the technology was available, iTunes violated the idea of a podcast, where a menu or array of episodes of audio are available to a consumer (Chace). Although the technology was not available at the time it was created in 1996, the patent was violated (Chace).
Jim Logan’s company didn’t create iTunes, and his patents would not have told you how to build them: where to put the processor, which lines of code to include in the program, but once the engineers at Apple figured it out, and Jim Logan came out of hiding and sued them (Chace). The thin film that wraps itself around patent law is a thinly veiled premise that an idea can then be wrapped around any technology that accomplishes the goal of the patent, years, even decades after the patent was created. This brings about conflict. When the every man, just doing his thing, can be prosecuted, extorted out of his own livelihood, there is a problem (Chace). President Obama even spoke out against this (Chace). The problem of patent law is an ongoing one, and it remains to be seen how it will be resolved, with regulation, more laws, or even more patents as band aids for the failed patent regulation of recent years. From cases of patent violation to plagiarism, the issue can be similar, but the outcomes are quite different.
Journalistic plagiarism is a representation of someone else’s ideas or direct quotes without proper attribution. Without having quotation marks around a passage or refraining from crediting the source, an author is committing plagiarism. The problem with plagiarism is that it happens everywhere, with author’s lesser known or those highly lauded in the international community.
Kendra Marr resigned from Politico on October 13, 2011, due to her inclusion of passages from other writers without proper attribution or quotation (Sporer). “[T]he articles drew from a range of sources without proper attribution, including reporting from the Washington, D.C.-based newspaper The Hill, the Associated Press (AP), and the Scripps-Howard News Service, the note said (Sporer).” On Nov. 10, 2011, Jim Romenesko resigned from The Poynter Institute following accusations of improper quote attribution, bringing an abrupt end to his 12-year tenure running the think tank’s media aggregation blog (Sporer).
In March of 2011 (Pexton) Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Sari Horwitz copied segments of stories from The Arizona Republic “in whole or in part” without attribution (Sporer). The Washington Post suspended Sari Horwitz for three months for copying substantial portions of stories from The Arizona Republic “in whole or in part” without attribution (Sporer). Horwitz copied and pasted material from the Republic directly without attribution on two separate occasions in March during her coverage of the investigation of accused Arizona gunman Jared Lee Loughner (Sporer). George Orwell Prize-winning journalist Johann Hari directly copied and pasted a quote from a book in London’s The Independent (Sporer). “Hari took a four month unpaid leave” (Sporer).
The solution to plagiarism is simple. Writing for Chicago Magazine’s staff blog The 312, Whet Moser wrote in an October 14 post that referring to the original article with full attribution and advancing its reporting with original research was a writing format that presents “a simple, ethical solution” (Sporer). “Steve Myers of the journalism think tank The Poynter Institute said, ‘Just because someone doesn’t aim to malign doesn’t make his actions benign.’ [H]e proposed attribution as a solution to some types of plagiarism” (Sporer).
In a recent article in Plagiarism Today, Jonathan Bailey outlines the pressures of journalism in today’s high paced world. As a solution, Jonathan Bailey writes, “At some point, the only way to keep up with the demands of the job is take shortcuts. Plagiarism, fabrication and recycling are ethically dubious but effective ways to share minutes or hours off of production time” (Bailey). That plagiarism affords one an eloquent justification for prolonged employment seems ridiculous. The solution to plagiarism is to cite appropriately and credit the author. It doesn’t take that much time to insert quotation marks and parenthetical citation. The justification for plagiarism is seemingly endless.
Bailey goes on to compare the pace of the journalism profession to the pace of actual plagiarists. “At some point it is almost physically impossible for anyone to meet the writing demands without taking shortcuts. This is why essay mills, which have to turn around complex and lengthy research papers in as little as a day, have high rates of plagiarism themselves. When journalists have to churn out specialized text at the same rate as essay mill authors, ethics and training may not be enough to save them.” (Bailey)
Bailey says that the pace of the internet has made the expectations of online publishers too high to achieve without plagiarism. “Ever since the Internet became central to the way people consume content, there’s been a push by editors and publishers to create more and more content, to beat competitors by being the first online, having the most stories and iterating quickly” (Bailey). The ultimate fate of this ugly practice, however, is easy to poke holes in. “Unfortunately, due to how easy it is to detect plagiarism, it will likely be plagiarism that will serve as the early warning” (Bailey). Initially, I’m not sure if Bailey himself is in the right profession. If he cannot keep up with the high pace of writing, he should leave the writing profession to those who can. I reflect on what has failed Bailey, and understand how his story represents an even greater population of Baileys, those who plagiarize. Of this group, some plagiarize with this level of consciousness, and yet others often plagiarize out of ignorance. Taking a long-term view, the kids who sat next to Bailey in the classroom, were they Baileys, too? Aren’t we all just little Baileys, waiting to hatch? It’s like a virus in waiting, lying dormant for years, or something inherent in us all that inevitably clicks on. There is a way to cut down on plagiarism, and it starts in the classroom.
According to the American Psychology Association website, there are four strategies that prevent plagiarism in an academic setting. The first strategy is to create assignments that require more than summarization, but rather ask for specific questions that expect the student to read and understand the source material so that he can integrate it into the assignment (Prohaska). The second rule is for the teacher to explain the expectations and define plagiarism, including debriefing on the ease of plagiarism detection technology (Prohaska). The third guideline is to show students how to avoid plagiarism and to ask for students’ definition of plagiarism (Prohaska). This allows the teacher to monitor students’ opinions and helps clear up any ambiguous meanings, and promotes autonomous decision making for the student throughout the writing process (Prohaska). The fourth suggestion is to show students how to properly paraphrase quotes (Prohaska). “Students may assume that the likelihood of successfully plagiarizing is low when an instructor has devoted time and effort to teaching about it” (Prohaska). The efforts in academia set the foundation for ethical behavior in life, not only for the future writers and journalists but for everyone else who does something else with their careers.
Anyone in this country knows about cheating, that it does happen, and it probably happened that you’ve witnessed it or been a part of it in some way. This is a systemic problem in that any measure of success requires that you do well to avoid it. There are measurements for success and guidelines to adhere to, and that you’ve followed the rules implies that you will probably succeed at following the rules, but doesn’t that just mean that you have successfully avoided breaking the rules? Although there are rules, following them does not make you an automatic success. Students will perform in any number of ways. There are still students that are coming up in the system who have yet to be marked as plagiarists.
Although there are deterrents, there will always be behaviors that lie outside the acceptable norms of good behavior. It’s just our way. Failure happens. Smoking still looks cool. People still fail to wash their hands as often as they should. Even nurses don’t wash after touching germs. How everything is relative, there must always be a range of characters that comprise the human population. There are better and worse grades on a scale of A through F. There are good and bad apples. And the way through this world is not to ignore the problem children, but to teach them as well as they can be taught, reaching through the rungs as best as you can to get to them so that you can make an impact. This is true the same way that someone picks up an apple and says to it, “I can trust you as far as I can throw you.” This is also a way of measuring someone, how well they can score on a test, or how well they behaved in grade school, before the numbers really amounted to anything major. The importance here is that it’s still anyone’s game. Anyone can try to succeed and play by the rules, but it’s still cool to be like Bart Simpson.
Bailey, Jonathan. “The Looming Plagiarism Crisis.” Plagiarism Today. Plagiarism Today, 29 Jul.
- Web. 24 Feb. 2015. https://www.plagiarismtoday.com/2014/07/29/looming-plagiarism-crisis/.
Chace, Zoe. “How One Patent Could Take Down One Comedian.” npr.org. NPR, 5 June 2013.
Council of Writing Program Administrators, National Council of Teachers of English, and
National Writing Project. Framework for Success in Postsecondary Writing. CWPA, NCTE, and NWP, 2011. PDF file.
Paxton, Patrick B. “The damage done by Post reporter Sari Horwitz’s plagiarism.” The
Washington Post. The Washington Post, 18 March 2011. Web. 1 March 2015. http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-damage-done-by-post-reporter-sari-horwitzs-plagiarism/2011/03/18/ABgtIIs_story.html.
Prohaska, PhD, Vincent. “Encouraging students’ ethical behavior.” American Psychology
Association. APA, May 2013. Web. March 8 2015. http://www.apa.org/ed/precollege/ptn/2013/05/ethical-behavior.aspx.
Sporer, Mikel J. “Attribution Controversies Prompt Reexamination of What Constitutes
Journalistic Plagiarism.” UNM. UNM Bulletin 17.1 (2011): n. pag. Web. 1 March 2015. http://silha.umn.edu/news/Fall2011/attributionplagiarism.html.
World Intellectual Property Organization. What is Intellectual Property? WIPO, n.d. PDF file.
Zambito, Thomas. “Judge tosses out Ramapough Mountain Indians lawsuit over “Out of the
Furnace”.” nj.com nj.com, 15 May, 2014. Web. 1 March, 2015. http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2014/05/judge_tosses_out_ramapough_mountain_indians_lawsuit_over_out_of_the_furnace.html.