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Salon questioned “What is plagiarism” in a “panel debate” that included Harvard Law School professor Jonathan Zittrain, Southern Methodist University psychology professor Alan Brown, University of Plymouth experimental psychology professor Tim Prefect, American Association of Editorial Cartoonists president John Cole, Poynter senior faculty Kelly McBride, and others.

Interesting thoughts included Zittrain arguing that “the essence of plagiarism is to lie about having copied something: passing off someone else’s work as your own.” Brown suggested that “I suspect we all suffer from occasional source amnesia, which leads to unconscious plagiarism.”  In that case, the plagiarism is “unintentional, and outside of our conscious awareness,” he wrote.

Brown compared it to a group discussion, after which one person “brings up a point that you just said” and there’s an unintended argument over whose idea it was.  McBride indicated that we need to also concentrate on “the bigger issue of intellectual honesty” instead of just plagiarism, “a narrowly defined act that is often misunderstood.”

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Spy novelist Jeremy Duns noted that there are a variety of levels of plagiarism to determine and concluded that the “difference between borrowing – or unconsciously repeating — a phrase of idea, and copying wholesale” is “just a matter of scale.”

Hat Tip: Poynter

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Plagiarism Discussion on Salon

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