I was a little disconcerted Friday morning to walk into my classroom carrying my take-home exam in my hand, as prepared as I could be to take the ACS final that morning, and find the room abuzz with activity. Most, but not all, of the other students were huddled up comparing notes, not on the final, but the take-home exam. Now, the instructions on the front sheet of that exam were explicit. We were not to discuss the exam with anyone other than the professor, nor to use the internet as a resource while taking it. I complied. I was dismayed to see how many of my younger classmates were blatantly disregarding the ‘no discussion’ rule, and I have no reason to doubt they had also been using the internet liberally during their efforts.
What does this have to do with writing? Well, it’s anecdotal to the culture that seems to have forgotten what plagiarism is, and why cheating is wrong. While we talk about how you can’t steal ideas (like the guy I saw ranting about how Guardians of the Galaxy had totally ripped him off. Seriously? Sigh…) and how to ‘file off the serial numbers’ to rework fanfiction into a more commercial form, we are talking about ideas. Not word-for-word, with maybe the names changed. That is never ok, and it’s cheating, just as much as my classmates that morning.
D. Jason Fleming shares the story of a recent plagiarism case over on his blog. “Because, see, Remix Culture isn’t plagiarism culture. Go to Creative Commons and look for the most open license you can find. What you’ll find is the Attribution license, which lets you do any damn thing you want with the work in question, including make money off of it without paying a thing to the creator — but you must give the creator credit for creating it.”