By JD Ephraim

Let us discuss a little bit about a subject most of us are guilty of,most of the time, for various reasons. It is PLAGIARISM.
ORIGINALITY is the opposite of plagiarism. We shall discuss the concept of originality later, but not here.

Where one fails to adhere to the concept of originality in his work or posting write-ups in fora , then he is said to be guilty of plagiarism.
Plagiarism emanated from the Latin word” PLAGIARUS “. It means ” KIDNAPPERS”. This idea dates back to the period of the early Roman Philosophers. In that time , it connotes stealing of someone else’s work.
This was pioneered by the Roman Poet (Marital) who complained that another poet had “kidnapped” his verse.
Later, it was introduced into English literary works by Ben Johnson(Dramatis) describing it as PLAGIARISM, meaning some one guilty of literary theft.( Carry J. How to combat student plagiarism , 2013).
The Advanced Learners’ Dictionary, describes plagiarism as the taking of some one’s ideas or words and using them as if they were one’s own. Webster’s Dictionary describes it as ” ……. stealing and passing off….”.
According to Park, plagiarism means, ” to use and pass off , the ideas or writings of another one’s own”.
Plagiarism occurs when one copies a whole or a portion of another’s work, without making reference to him/her. There has not been proper citation or referencing and when discovered, it is academic theft or “kidnap” and a breach of the copyright law.
Therefore, to avoid plagiarism and its likely sanctions when caught, one is advised to be aware of the concept of originality and its rules which we shall discuss later. This is regulated by section 16 of the Copyright Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria(LFN),2004.
Copyright Law prohibits any form of copying protected works and expressions(but not ideas ), of others whether or not attribution is given, whereas plagiarism prohibits the presentation of another’s ideas, and expression without attribution to the author. Plagiarism thus presents a more rigorous standard by insisting that a writer or a person posting an article in a WhatsApp forum should attribute the source of his/her ideas and expressions, failure of which could mislead a reader into assuming that those ideas and expressions are actually the writer’s.
In academic writing, the writer has a duty to know when his exposure and reliance on the work of others is so direct and substantial that it is deceitful,and unfair not to recognise that work as a contributing source for one’s work(David, A.T. How Educators can more effectively understand and combat the plagiarism epidemic, 2004).
Likely causes of plagiarism have been identified but we will not go into them here.
Therefore, people should exercise caution in taking other people’s work without duly complying with the stipulated rules of ORIGINALITY. This caution can be achieved by being conversant with the techniques, and mechanics of citation and references. By merely forwarding an article without indication of the author could make one liable for the offence even when the forwarding sign had been shown. It is better to indicate ” copied” and the source.

JD Ephraim is a lawyer and writes from Abuja

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