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Dec 18

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Toyin Wura Oke

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Plagiarism, a Global Intellectual Virus - Kayode Ajulo, Phd.

 Photo: pbs.twimg

Photo: pbs.twimg

Plagiarism, in some quarters, is interpreted to mean the copying another's work, borrowing another man's original ideas. The truth, however, is that copying or dubbing can only euphemize the how grievous the crime by the noun plagiarism is. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, defines "plagiarize" as meaning to steal and pass off ideas or words of another as one's own; to use another's production without referencing or crediting the source; to commit literary theft; to present as new, and original, an idea or product derived from an existing source.

In essence, plagiarism is a fraudulent act; simply it is theft of someone else's work, and feign original ownership of it.  There are prevalent misconceptions as to how exactly an act of plagiarism is committed. Can someone steal words and ideas?

In laws, world over, the answer is in the affirmative. The expression of original ideas is considered intellectual property and is protected by copyright laws, just like original inventions. Almost all forms of expressions are under copyright protection, as long as they are recorded in some way or another.

A number of factors can warrant the commission of plagiarism; such factors as ignorance, carelessness, ego, penchant for theft, laziness, or sheer mental sterility. Some cases of plagiarism are avoidable however, by simply citing sources or crediting the sources of any work of art used, but are not the original creations of the user. In journalism, it's being referred to as attribution.

Simply acknowledging that material being used has been borrowed, and providing the information of the source is usually enough to prevent plagiarism. 

The legality of these situations, and others, would be dependent upon the intention of the user, and the context within which the content was used. The two safest approaches to take in regards to these situations are to avoid them altogether or confirm the works’ usage permissions and cite them accordingly. 

Plagiarism can also be considered an educational or scholastic fraud and a breach of writing ethics and rules. Although it is subject to sanctions like penalties, suspension, and even expulsion but these are sacrosanct.

Plagiarism therefore is not in itself a crime, however copyright infringement as protected and sanctioned under our law could be inferred from plagiarism. In the environment or community concerned with the pursuit of research, education, and scholarship, plagiarism is a moral offense with attendance scorn and opprobrium.

In some circumstances, it is theft, and I dare add, corruption in all ramifications, though this may be strange to our jurisprudence. Although there is a thin line between the two, plagiarism should not be equated with Copyright infringement, as copyright infringement is a violation of the rights of a copyright holder, when material whose use is restricted by copyright is used without consent. Plagiarism, in contrast, is concerned with the unearned increment to the plagiarizing author's reputation, or the obtaining of academic credit, that is achieved through false claims of authorship. 

Plagiarism is also considered a moral offense against anyone who has provided the plagiarist with a benefit in exchange for what is specifically supposed to be original content (for example, the plagiarist's publisher, employer, or teacher). In such cases, acts of plagiarism may sometimes also form part of a claim for breach of the plagiarist's contract, or, if done knowingly, for a civil wrong.

The U.S evergreen Watergate scandal readily comes to mind as a case of plagiarism that has repeatedly exhumed the carcasses of similar theme, and has continued to stare the world in the face. 

Recently, Akufo-Addo, President of Ghana, and a serial presidential candidate on the Ghanaian political space, was reported to have dubbed the inaugural speech of the U.S former President Clinton and presented same as his. 

 Photo: bigtimerz

Photo: bigtimerz

Akufo-Addo, who is believed to have walked into his father’s shoes as he rose to become as his father did, Ghana’s Leader.

Akufo-Addo defeated incumbent Mahama. His victory came after two failed attempts at it. His family is such an institution in the West African nation, that his father’s portrait is printed on its currency. So is his uncle’s.

One would take it for granted that Akufo-Addo, a lawyer and former foreign minister who has always been a public figure, should not fall an easy prey of such embarrassing fraud by the name plagiarism. He must have been doing and reading speeches in his pre-election political communications, especially those in which he had reached for the consent and cooperation of Ghanaian electors.  

In one of the speeches preceding presidency, Akufo-Addo had read a beautiful speech to the denizens of Ghana,  wherein he promised to create jobs, encourage mining of untapped bauxite deposits, and boost agriculture in the impoverished north, by building irrigation systems. Speech also contained measures he claimed will lift an economy that required a bailout of almost $1 billion from the International Monetary Fund, and is recording its slowest growth in two decades following a spate of 24-hour power outages that crippled small businesses and pushed up prices for food and fuel.

Who would expect or imagine that any of these presidential presentations, in who or part, could have been guilty of the trace of theft? But whatever alibi given in defense,  justification or excuse for the big flaw won't get an easy pardon, as it also will join the legs of lesson in this genre of discuss. 

I have frankly elected to be a DEVIL'S ADVOCATE on PRESIDENT NANA DANKWA AKUFO-ADDO's Inaugural Speech in which he was accused of PLAGIARISM, although his Director of Communication apologized and received the boot over the issue.

I want to submit that we are unfair to President Akufo-Addo in fall out from the issue as his case in relation to putative plagiarism is akin to the authorship query about who actually discovered River Niger? Mungo Park in 1786, or the natives that lived in the River Niger area before Mungo Park was born.

 Photo: africanewsanalysis.com

Photo: africanewsanalysis.com

On a light note -

Nana Akufo-Ado, whose father was the third Chief Judge of Ghana, and former President of the Country, I want to urge that must have picked the lines he was accused of plagiarising from his father, ex-President and I'm sure President Clinton and George Bush Jnr must have picked the lines from the former President of Ghana, Nana Akufo's dad. Tell me who plagiarized who in this matter? 

The 21st Century, on the heels of ICTs and digitalization, has certainly brought a huge relief as cases of plagiarism, has now become somewhat easier to identify and arrest. The writer, for instance, besides the foregoing narrations, had a first-hand experience while on doctoral pursuit. 

During my doctorate research, my supervisor who used a particular application to check for plagiarism, raised a query about my first draft to him. 

When he used his application, it picked virtually all my work as works of others including some  notorious praises and song and oriki (ancestral eulogies) known to my family house at Iyayu Quarters, Ifira-Akoko, Ondo  State , Southwest, Nigeria, which I translated to English, as works of others. 

However, the intellectual originality proved the point. If an original work is done in such intellectual rigor, in a bid to ascertain what is true, it only shows the mileage of intellectual fraud that dots the trade of literacy. 

However, we must begin to up the measures erected in defense of the iniquitous practice, which has continued to frustrate the frantic efforts of creative minds.  

Technological, ingenuity must be encouraged globally to the extent that the barbaric virus that found its way into the arena of mental finesse will be doomed, and the universal security of intellectual properties will come within the reach of all creative mind.

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