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Plagiarism: The Byproduct of Internet

Posted on February 25, 2012 in Specials

By Tanima Banerjee:

We live in a world which has seen a great advancement of modern technology, and there is a constant attempt to ease the availability, accessibility and utilization of every available thing. We are surrounded by machines, gadgets and numerous other technology based product that we need and that we don’t need. Such is the culture around where we have got so much habituated to have everything available with the click of a button, that along with physical laziness, a certain mental indolence has perpetuated, where we do not wish or even bother to exert our mental faculties for any kind of work. This bug of passivity and sheer lethargy has especially bitten the younger population of the world, who are actually expected to have strong opinions of their own and lead the nation from the forefront. Sadly enough this world which is all wired by the Internet, and has access to plenitude information a click away, has transformed the youth into slaves to the worldwide web. It is a common practice to appropriate the works of other people and represent them as one’s own work without proper attribution, which we refer to as Plagiarism.

The act of stealing intellectual property for non-profit use has invaded our academic world in a big way, where the very idea of a project or research is to work and produce original content, and not just mechanically and brainlessly, if I may say so, just copy someone else’s work and cite it as your own. The very purpose of education gets defeated at this point, when students digitally copy information from web-based sources and achieve so-called ‘academic excellence’. The Internet, whose aim was to make information available across the globe, has lost its real purpose and has led to plagiarism, which is nothing less than cheating and has perpetuated the growth of academic dishonesty. It has completely floundered originality and self-reliance in students. The days of sitting for hours in libraries and academic institutes and rummaging through books for smallest of information are gone, where students could cite the sources and references from which they have taken certain ideas. It is pathetic when one sees students immediately jump to Google or Wikipedia the moment they get an assignment before even opening their texts or the books prescribed. But the difficulty with using the web sources for research is that most of the information has no mentioned sources and references. This problem of authorship makes it even easier for students to just copy whatever is written in blogs and anonymous articles, claiming it as their own and thus engaging in the deadly act of plagiarism. Thus the act of misrepresenting information can be seen as shaking the very foundations on which academic institutions are based, and violating student ethics that consciously, or unconsciously are guilty of academic theft, by stealing someone’s original work resulting from hard and original mind.

Recently the world saw the US congress in full support of the anti-piracy bills, SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect Intellectual Property Act) in order to prevent piracy and copyright infringement from the net based sources like Google and Wikipedia. The internet community (around 7000 sites, including facebook, twitter, e-bay to name a few) supported by large number of student communities had a 24 hour blackout on the 18th of January, one of the largest protests in history. Wikipedia quoted in its blackout protest “imagine a world without free knowledge”. It is indeed true that such a world “where knowledge is free” was our own poet, Rabindranath Tagore’s ideal dream world too, but what one needs to look at is that the problem is not the availability of information and knowledge, but the misuse it is put to. How the free and liberal world of the internet that connects the whole world is actually crippling the creative and mental abilities, absence of authenticity, curbing of self-dependence and misleading the higher authorities are the larger problems that one needs to address. The advancement of technology and the availability of vast amounts of information in these sites have actually become a double-faced coin, where on one hand writers can publish their works easily and can truly enjoy the freedom of expression, but on the other hand, there are many who mirror the original thoughts of these writers in ways that suit them, and worse still, don’t even acknowledge them.

Plagiarism has flexed its muscles from academic fields to journalism , writing, art , photography, music and even the entertainment industry where one witnesses stealing of other person’s creative work and then stylization and production of it in almost similar way, with little alterations. One has seen musicians accuse other musicians of plagiarizing their tunes. Even Bollywood has produced movies which are a complete rip-off of Hollywood, Korean or French movies. Recently I had come across a TV production which was based on the popular Twilight series. Though these are laughable incidences, but there is implicit gravity in the issue, as it tends to reflects our world today where copying is easier and convenient than sitting, reading ,brooding and coming up with one’s own thoughts and perceptions. Not to mention it also has an impact on students, who think it is okay to cheat and plagiarize as their own country’s huge production houses, media houses and even journalists or writers are engaging in the same without any action being taken against them. We have to prevent such hideous models created in our society, as it poses a serious threat to our progress that lies in the mental, intellectual and emotional stimulation.

When asked what does plagiarism and the use of internet to facilitate it, imply in the student forum, Saheli Bakshi, a student of Lady Shri Ram College said “it actually depends on how one uses it. It (plagiarism) is good at times for students who are not in good institutes or have access to good libraries or tutors, who can have access to open resources. It is okay as long as one is only using it to understand concepts and taking ideas from an open and connected world. It actually can be inspiring if it is used to build one’s own ideas and thoughts. It however is wrong if students, who can actually use their talent and produce good work, use it as a short cut method to finish their works for academic convenience. It limits our own thinking capabilities which we stop using for our short term gains. Another student, Ishan of Dayal Singh College said ” most of us don’t even know what it (plagiarism) actually means and the ethics and laws involving it. We use the internet because it is easy to browse through the different topics than spending hours in the thousands of books and ending up with little information. We are only students. No one is going to run a law suit against us if we use un-cited works of others for our reports and projects.” This shows that there is lack of complete awareness regarding this grave issue. It is indeed a sad picture when students, who are the backbones of our country’s development, don’t even know what it means and disregard toiling for knowledge through books. Though in academic institutes of USA, there are strict laws and restrictions over using unacknowledged, but in India there is a non-realization of the dangerous implications of plagiarizing other person’s hard work. It is a sad day for the academic fraternity to know that students disregard toiling for knowledge through books where while searching for one particular topic, one ends up with a lot more and gets enlightened with clear, diverse and vast ideas and thoughts and boost their minds further.

It is necessary to understand that plagiarism not only steals the value from a piece of work, it also limits our emotional and intellectual self in an irrecoverable way. The copy-paste business from the cyber world has to be stopped if one wants to realize its true potentials and progress, instead of getting swallowed up in utter stagnation of non-original thoughts and ideas. The day creativity and originality dies, it would mean the end of civilization. One needs to push the limits of the mind and try to engage in creative production and not creative theft. Let us get out of the world of Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V, and explore and stimulate our imagination with a little hard work instead of completely relying on word-to-word representation of someone else’s expressions. Let us stop stealing! Let us stop plagiarizing!