Why is plagiarism checking an outdated method?
The concept of plagiarism is said to have come from the poet Roman Martial, whose poem was stolen by another poet named Fidentinu and claimed to be his own. Martial later referred to Fidentinu as “plagiarus” which means “kidnapper” and the term plagiarism derives from that. By the 17th century, creative work was highly rewarded, so plagiarism became a problem.
Because of the consequences of plagiarism, it is considered that plagiarism is an unethical act. Since then, checking for plagiarism is an important step in the evaluation and recognition of creative works. However, all assessment methods have weaknesses and gradually become obsolete in response to the new demands of life.
The problem of copying ideas
We have known for a long time that thought is an absolute human freedom, and because of the difficulty of verification, there has been no successful legal framework to protect the copyright of ideas. If back to the original purpose, plagiarism check is used to identify the correct author of a creation. But because of the obstacles in accomplishing that goal, this method reverts to prying into ways of expressing that idea in language.
This has two limitations. First, there are completely different ideas that can be written down with similar sentences. Second, there exist ideas that are essentially the same but are written in completely different sentences. As can be seen, plagiarism checking is generally a useless method in achieving the original goal for which it was intended. If ideas cannot be protected, word matching makes little sense.
The problem of identifying the original idea
Ideas expressed in works are not ideas that are naturally born in an author’s head. It is the result of the process of observing, communicating, exchanging ideas with the environment and people around. Therefore, it can be said that an idea belongs to the whole of humanity, the author is only the one who records that idea in his work.
In the end, the first authors won’t cite anyone, and ideas that haven’t been materialized won’t be able to be cited. So, is it ethical to put the names of some individuals on the ideas of the whole of humanity?
The problem of the limitation of vocabulary
Next, we consider the limitation of vocabulary. Vocabulary, although very rich, is also limited. However, human needs and creativity before new problems are limitless. For each recorded work, a series of lexical combinations become unavailable in the context of plagiarism. Therefore, expressing new ideas will be very difficult.
With this analysis, it is clear that plagiarism checks are becoming an obstacle to the expression of new ideas. Many interesting ideas will be hindered just because its expression (words) overlaps in some parts with existing work. With this inevitable contradiction, the current method of checking plagiarism will certainly be abandoned.
So what is the solution?
Protecting and rewarding authors’ intellectual work is vital to the creative professions. However, as analyzed, we need more modern methods instead of the usual method. Here are a few of my ideas (which arose while talking to colleagues about this issue):
- Stop being ambitious and want to protect your ideas: Make sure that the idea in your head is not your own, it is formed when you interact with the environment, so the idea belongs to all of humanity. Besides, the idea itself doesn’t make much sense. If the context changes, the idea may not be worth a dime.
- Instead of rewarding ideas, reward products: Developing from idea to final product takes a lot of energy and brains. Even during product development, many ideas are added (without being recorded). Instead of judging the idea, reward the product. The effort of intellectual labor should lie in putting existing (human) ideas into the current context to create products for humanity. Ideas can repeat, but the context is always changing, so rewarding on the product is the best way to appreciate individual creativity.
- Change the way of quoting: Instead of quoting an idea, we quote directly the expression of that idea without rewriting it in our own words. Authors act as chroniclers of the history of mankind’s ideas. With this citation, it is easy to keep track of when and in what context an idea was recorded. The act of being morally condemned is the dishonesty in attributing the source of the idea’s expression, not the act of reusing sentences. In fact, to find and put ideas into the right context is an intellectual undertaking. A creation will be a combination of new ideas and existing ideas.
Here are a few ideas that come to mind when I think about it. This view can be very different from the current concept of plagiarism. But whether you agree with it or not, it is a well-documented, factual idea. Thank you for reading the article!