This column is mainly directed at people going back to school, who will necessarily do a lot of their work on the Internet. As do we all.

At one time, plagiarism (the use of someone else’s words or ideas without attribution) was hard to detect. There was no Internet. No one could be sure we weren’t using someone else’s words. We might be sure it began with us, but did we really know?  

Today anyone can enter a string of text, so there have been a number of famous “outings” of plagiarism.

For example, a US Senator is claiming post-traumatic stress disorder to account for accusations of plagiarism to earn a master’s degree. Similarly, a CNN editor was terminated in May of this year, following accusations of plagiarizing about 50 stories. A New York Times article faces a similar accusation, as does a popular buzz site.

Quite apart from any other factor, the Internet gives any user the ability to search for direct quotations.

So maybe successful direct plagiarism is a crime of the past. Maybe we will all have to try thinking for once. Mightn’t kill us.


Denyse O’Leary is a Canadian journalist, author, and blogger.

Denyse O’Leary is an author, journalist, and blogger who has mainly written popular science and social science. Fellow Canadian Marshall McLuhan’s description of electronic media as a global village...