The Habit of Attribution

A few months ago, a Senator was accused of plagiarizing some parts of his speech from another person’s blog and translated parts of another famous person’s speech without proper attribution. He went under a lot of criticism and he didn’t apologize because he felt that he didn’t do anything wrong. If a Senator could get  away with plagiarism, then what would that say of our country, wherein a lot of students (and academic institutions) take the issue of plagiarism very lightly?

When I was in college, a news article would appear once in a while in the college paper about so-and-so professor being stripped of his/her tenure or a student expelled from the university after being found guilty of plagiarism. Plagiarism was a crime and nobody could say they are ignorant of it.

Proper citation and awareness of plagiarism goes beyond the professional and academic setting. With the internet becoming a necessity and permanent fixture in our lives, it is easy to copy, cut or paste, words, ideas, photos and claim them for our own. Fortunately, the easier it gets to find information to copy and paste, the easier it gets for teachers or individuals to spot plagiarized words on the internet (through Google, of course!).

I was a victim of plagiarism too. Though it would look more like online theft and non-attribution. I had a landscape photo that I took during a summer vacation stolen through Facebook. I learned about it after a friend alerted me that a tourist page on Facebook was using my photo as their profile picture! I wasted no time in reporting this to Facebook “authorities” and they removed the photo and notified the page owner of their offense. More and more photographers and writers and personalities on the internet have raised the issue of copyright on the internet, how do we get into the “habit of attribution” as my current boss puts it?

it starts first with instilling respect for others ideas and being humble enough to acknowledge ideas that are not your own. It would be easy to say that this should start in school, as it should be. But also parents should get into the habit of teaching their own children responsible and ethical use of “copyrighted materials” that they encounter daily. If culturally, everyone gets into the habit of respecting what is not theirs, ideas included, I think the world would be a much better place.


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