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There were two events this week and though very separate, they connected for me.

The first instance was in a student assignment. I found her topic and work interesting, so I did a quick Internet search and on the first hit discovered she had pulled all her material content directly from a website. When I discussed it with her, she admitted to what she had done. Either fear or arrogance seemed to paralyze her. I gave her an opportunity to redo the work. The College has a strict copyright and fair use policy and she violated it. Ultimately, the action is reported and consequences will follow.

The second situation involves Kentucky Senator Rand Paul. After giving a speech earlier in the week, Rachel Maddow accused him of plagiarizing content directly from a Wikipedia page. Rand’s response has been to say the reporter is making too much of it before he went quiet. Is she? Is the fact that he plagiarized paragraphs of content “too much”? We probably have not heard the last of this issue.

Plagiarism is not restricted to academic settings; however it does not seem to receive the same attention or response in the business world.

source: cdn.business2community.com

source: cdn.business2community.com

After Rand’s speech, though, we’re discussing it. It’s out there. Plagiarism is not constrained to the corner office, but is probably most prevalent in a report or presentation generated from anyone inside cubicle city. Whether you use a photo and do not credit it, or repost a blog as your own, or lift an idea from someone else and pass it off as your own, that’s all considered plagiarism. The concept is especially troubling considering the amount of information available on the Internet. It’s not that difficult for someone to plagiarize content without the audience knowing.

Plagiarism: An act or instance of using or closely imitating the language and thoughts of another author without authorization and the representation of that author’s work as one’s own, as by not crediting the original author.

Some will argue that plagiarism doesn’t exist in business. At a 2011 conference interview, Groupon CEO Andrew Mason stated, “All the clones were drafting everything we were doing. I was a music major, and with music, we call that plagiarism. But in business it’s called competition.”

I disagree. Plagiarism is plagiarism no matter the setting. If you use materials that you have not created, give credit to the originator. These tenets will raise you above the crowd and earn the respect of those in your business.

Be Ethical. Be Secure. Be Respectful.

For copyright information, visit: http://depts.alverno.edu/library/copyright.html