Everybody knows that plagiarism can get you fired from a job or expelled from a university, but less known is that plagiarism can hit you where it hurts most––your wallet. You can be sued for plagiarism.
On March 10, Cristina Duquette, a Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) graduate, learned this lesson the hard way when the state Appellate Court unanimously upheld a 2008 Waterbury, Connecticut, Superior Court ruling in which she was ordered to pay Matthew Coster $100 for the use of his term paper and of even greater concern––nearly $26,000 in punitive damages.
The sordid ordeal began in May 2006 when the two students submitted, via email, almost identical papers on the Holocaust after their professor of Western civilization said he had not received their assignments on time. However, Coster claimed to have handed in his paper in hard copy to the professor’s unsecured mailbox by the 5 p.m. deadline on May 15.
According to earlier reports by The Hartford Courant, the only discernible difference between the two papers was that Coster’s contained spelling and grammatical errors. When he was expelled from CCSU later that year for plagiarism his family hired an independent technology consultant who found that Coster’s document was created on May 14. The investigation found that Duquette’s document was not created until May 23, more than a week later, which suggests that she stole and copied Coster’s paper.
In an attempt to clear his name, Coster filed a lawsuit against Duquette for plagiarism. During the trial, Duquette testified that she had not saved the paper on her laptop and that her computer subsequently crashed, so she gave it away. A judge ultimately ruled in Coster’s favor and on March 10, 2010, the Appellate Court sustained the original judge’s decision based on the evidence, ordering Duquette to pay Coster more than $25,000.
Coster temporarily continued his studies at a community college, but has since been readmitted to CCSU, while Duquette graduated in May 2008 and went on to work as a substitute teacher in Waterbury.
In these harsh economic times, it’s imperative that people thoroughly educate themselves about their school’s or company’s policy on plagiarism.
Written copy should be tested by using plagiarism software like Viper, a free anti-plagiarism scanner that draws attention to potential areas of copying in written works. Employers and professors are also safely riding the Information Age wave by using similar programs that check your work and others. The text contained in papers and articles is compared to other written works in continually updated databases.
Students and journalists thinking about plagiarizing, make note––it can cost you your position and money.