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Plagiarism

June 19, 2011

Copying during test is a very serious offense.  Actually it is a crime in almost all aspects of life, it’s just not easy to police it.  I admit when I wrote my first webpage, I copied the whole template from a site (illegally).  I also used the pictures of another site (not as a linked picture but downloaded to my server)!  But that was 1993, when having the internet using dial up was rare even in a typical American home.  And Netscape and Mosiac were the only browsers you can use.

Plagiarism is illegal and everyone knows.  Especially students who are doing their project/homework/test/assignments.  But there is still a war between the doers and the catcher.  Give me an assignment on “ABC influence on XYZ during the KKL period”.  Look it up on the web, one will have tons of resources.  Upon reading them, it’s hard not to “copy and paste” what was essential and good  and use it as your very own.  “Using the information is alright.  But one needs to quote the source and if possible link to the page.” (Blah, blah, blah, I know you had more than enough of these lectures on cheating).  But yet, students still think they can get away with it by cutting paragraphs from 10 different sources and paste it to submit a complete assignment.  It’s still illegal.  Any amount of copying, even if it’s just two-sentence paragraph on a big paper.  If it’s not properly linked (or quoted), it will render you an F on that paper.  But after the first few warnings (and telling students that the university uses TURN-IT-IN-DOT-COM that runs their paper through and easily discover their source), students eventually learn it.

But how common is plagiarism in the outside world?  If I have to say, it’s so prevalent, it’s hard not to see one.  News agency, e.g. A-pakistan News, have journalists whose job is to browse the net and do a copy-and-paste and use the news as their very own. And it’s not surprising that it’s word-for-word the same!  As least I know Yahoo-Singapore reports almost the same news and the other Singapore Online News sources, but they are never word-for-word the same ( for more than a paragraph).

It’s not uncommon, if you’re a food blogger, to go to China and realize your blog pictures and recipes published in a recipe book or magazine sold in the streets of countries like China, India or Indonesia (without your permission, of course).  Some bother to do some translations (using google translate and some editing) while others were so lazy, you’ll even see your protective water-marks.  They’re so sure they’re beyond the arms of the law, they dare you to sue them if caught.  So the Chinese food publishers would make sure they visit countries like Norway or US (of usually unknown food bloggers), translate them quickly using a software and print them into colourful books to sell.

I have seen travel agents who are so big, they have nice impressive webpages to lure customers to their site (and eventually buy packages from them to go to these advertised places).  You would think if the company is so big, they would have enough tourguides going to enough places to write their own right?  Wrong!  They employ webpage designers, and these “designers” even do the pages for them, all they have to do is name the places.  For instance,  como has his indonesiatriptourisme  (Indonesia Trip Tour Is Me — get it?) on blogspot and has nice beautiful pictures.  PT Ameya LivingStyle Indonesia is an established company located in Yogjakarta probably selling real estate.  When they have to create a page about Parangtritis Beach, they simply have a few pictures of that place of their own and you-guess-that-right, copy a whole chunk of text from coco and place it on their “info” page with no reference to como or link to his page.  Oh, I forgot to mention Hotel Batik did the same thing.   So did the tourism of “Visit Jogja”  and Handy Craft Leathers (makers of Leather Goods from Indonesia and Indonesian Tourism Service Providers).

Being an intellectual myself, this practice is a big No-No.  But in order to enforce this, these countries need to be wealthy enough to police the law of copyrights and we all know (especially those who likes to buy pirated DVD in Singapore), this is a multi-million-dollar industry done in third world countries.  So while the big plagiarists are not caught, the small ones will continue to do their wrongs to earn a living (and continue to grow!).  Sigh!

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