I plagiarise, therefore I am…

Pawan Singh

These are exciting times for us at Teacher Plus. The editorial office is abuzz with the sound of irreverent laughter as another contributed story’s Internet predecessor, with a canny resemblance to the reproduction is discovered. But I think we at Teacher Plus are about to bring a number of things back in fashion, given how uninspired and drudgeroned (see what I mean) the world outside is.

So when the first story came to us, pasted in a word document, the glue was drying up around the image on top, reeking of reconstructive surgery. Suspicions aroused, we sampled a few lines, copied them into the Google search bar and hit enter. Well, what happened next is anybody’s guess. The entire story along with the images had been lifted and neatly copied in to a word document, without acknowledgement! And this story had come from an old contributor… and since name-mentioning is not allowed, we might resort to name-calling. Let’s call this contributor Olda Mire. Her piece lay in our e-folder and we decided to use it and also informed her about it. But as a precautionary measure, we asked her to confirm if she had actually written it on the website before she sent it to us.

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The next story that came in wearing plagiarised pants was meant to be a cover story – let’s call her Leda Joshua – this contributor did go beyond to add her own thoughts to the piece. But two sore paragraphs stood out, having been displaced from their virtual context on to a modified mediocrity, not a comfortable home for many an original idea. This ‘rephrased favour’ would’ve cost us dearly if our fierce forensic editor hadn’t smelt the stale text. Well, too bad for those in the education business who think they can change the world by recycling it.

As I write this piece, I am asking editorial sleuth number two questions to get the precise drift of what exactly happened. Between giggles combined with a bit of pretend-horror (we at Teacher Plus are often dramatic for effect!) and defeated depression, she tells me that the editorial sleuth number one, whose nose can smell-hunt an entire range of spices out of their mystique, had discovered yet another instance of copy-paste crime. By way of footnote to the last paragraph, she also reveals that it was editorial sleuth number one who had asked Ms. Joshua to write the story in the first place.

Now editorial sleuth number one was reading this story on digital learning originally by one Thomas G. Layton and then later, copy-pasted by Mahita Vibhajan, and marvelling at the quality of writing. Now sleuth one has this gift, as I described earlier, and she thought to herself, hmm… too good to be true! Let’s test for authenticity. So she re-copy-pasted a few lines and placed them for inspection along the Google search bar and hit ‘enter’ with a vengeance. And then her jaw clenched and fists tightened as she saw that the ‘O’ of ‘originality’ was a big gaping hole through which everything had just slipped. Vibhajan had even copied the image with the story and had just reordered the paragraphs. Or maybe that happened accidentally because her MS word skills were limited to copy-paste, save-attach and send-by-email. We’ve considered writing to ask the author if Thomas G. Layton is her alter ego.

I could go on, but… enough has already been written about plagiarism. And much of that has been plagiarised too. On the Internet there is a six–degree separation between things. It’s possible that more than one person is planning to plagiarise the same thing. It might indeed be true that the wars of the twenty-second century would be fought between potential plagiarists. Plagiarism leads to violence – but then, we all know that violence too encourages copycats! A vicious cycle here?

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