Is It Right to Steal Other People’s Ideas?

강혜진 기자, 이다현 기자l승인2013.09.03l0호

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Current U.S. Vice President, Joe Biden suddenly dropped out the U.S. presidential race in 1987 after it was discovered he had plagiarized another politician’s speech. The Minister of Education in Germany and the President of Hungary resigned in 2012 and 2013 over similar incidents. Many of us are not concerned about plagiarism; many of us do not think the situation is serious, even though plagiarism is pervasive in Korea. It is a more serious problem than we think. Fidentinus, the first-century Roman, said “Stealing my ideas is the same as kidnapping my child.” The Observer has decided to look into a few examples of plagiarism and to establish a clear definition of what constitutes plagiarism. We will also try to come up with solutions while gaining perspectives from professors.

Plagiarism vs. infringement of copyright
Plagiarism is the act of secretly stealing part or all of another’s literary work. It can occur when a written piece is not protected as a literary property. It also occurs at the writing stage of literary work. Infringement of copyright is the act of using a literary property in a way that infringes on property rights or authorship rights without the copyright holder’s permission. For unauthorized use, it is considered to be infringement of copyright if it is not direct piracy. It is not only if one person represents someone else’s work as if it were their own. The work must have been protected by copyright. It occurs at the application stage of literary work. If someone uses a literary work that has plagiarized another work, and the original work is protected by copyright, it constitutes an infringement of copyright. There is a relationship between plagiarism and infringement of copyright. Almost all of society maintains strict controls regarding infringement of copyright and they also have strict regulations regarding plagiarism. In contrast, controls about infringement of copyright are loose in Korean society, as are the laws that deal with plagiarism.

Controversy with plagiarized media reporting
There is content on the news whereby the sources depend on local media and reports from foreign news agencies or the homepage of government organizations. However, if a reporter just indicates his own name as the source of the news without crediting the other sources, it is plagiarism. Since it has become easier to obtain and edit electronic documents online, there have been many more cases of plagiarism. Some reporters even just copy and paste content. If a reporter has fallen under suspicion of plagiarism, the reporter must stand before a board of inquiry. After a prolonged conflict between employers and workers at the Korea Daily Report, about 10 of the reporters and managers transcribed or revised articles from Yonhap news and printed them under their own names as if they reported the stories directly. For example, the Korea Daily Report published an article on page 8 on the 19th of June. The article’s title was, “Excess Air Conditioning at Shopping District.” This was very similar to an article from Yonhap news which was published on the 18th of June, with the title, “Air Conditioning with the Door Open; Crackdown and Confusion.” They even edited some of the merchant’s comments on their own.

The plagiarism controversy also affects entertainment media especially pop music
There is an extensive history of plagiarism in the music industry. The song “Chunsangyouae 天上有愛 (1995)” by the group RooRa and “Gwichundoae 歸天道哀 (1996)” by singer Kim Min Jong plagiarized the song of a Japanese singer. In 2006, “letter to you” by singer MC Mong was found to have plagiarized a song released in 1998 by the modern rock group THETHE. Singer Lee Hyo Ri recognized 6 songs in her 4th album “H-Logic” released in 2012 which composer Bahnus plagiarized. As a result she temporarily suspended her activity as a singer. That incident led to an unprecedented situation whereby Bahnus was arrested on fraud charges. Recently, a new song by singer Roykim was suspected of plagiarism. The controvery arose from the fact that the melody of “Bombombom” by Roykim and “Love Is Canon” by Acoustic Rain were very similar. However, industry professionals say it is difficult to prove that Roykim plagiarized the music just because the intro melody of both songs sounds similar because they use the Canon melody.

Controversy in entertainment media can be explained for several reasons. Legal action pertaining to plagiarism in the music industry must be pursued by the originator of the material through direct accusation. If the originator does not file suit, it is hard to punish those who plagiarize and claim compensation. Incorrect application of references is another cause. Many Korean songs have referenced the hit songs of global pop stars. Many songs are finished by borrowing the style or feel of these songs. Furthermore, a composer’s ability has an effect. Top composers handle many projects and the quality is expected to be at a certain level and it should follow a safe formula. This being the case, composers sometimes feel pressured to produce content quickly which can lead them to plagiarize some foreign hit songs. The excessive commercialization of popular music is another reason. It is hard to find a musician who makes music for the pure joy of creation.

Plagiarism in Academics
According to a survey conducted by M Brain of university students in 2011, 67.1% replied that they had bought a report at least one time during their academic lives. In addition, according to Albamon’s 2013 survey,58% of the students surveyed replied they had committed plagiarism while doing an assignment. Moreover, as a National Research Foundation study on ethical behavior showed, 43.1% of the survey participants replied that they had not taken any courses dealing with ethics at university. Furthermore half of the respondents said they were not sure how to cite properly.

In Japan, many universities and research institutions set up facilities so any suspicious activity can be reported. In October 2000, a professor from the agricultural department of Kyoto University plagiarized another scholar’s thesis and he was forced to resign. He also had to send a letter of apology to about 300 libraries and publishing firms. In America, students at Harvard University must take a compulsory class dealing with specific preventive plagiarism education. Students must sign “The Academic Integrity Pledge” every semester to acknowledge that they know the consequences of cheating. In France, when a student is found guilty of plagiarism or cheating on an exam, they cannot sit for any national examinations including the driver’s license test. In 70% of the top 100 universities in the U.S. and 98% of the universities in England, professors strictly verify papers through plagiarism browsing programs.

Trying to stop plagiarism

It is necessary to establish strict universal standards related to plagiarism. In Korea, the concept of plagiarism is unclear, and the standards of judgment are not always uniform. The primary problem remains that Koreans do not have a keen awareness of what plagiarism is, or its ramifications. The Korean government also needs to establish an independent standing organization to deal with this growing issue. Even though there is no governmental organization dedicated to dealing with this matter, many industries and academic institutions are beginning to establish their own measures. It is necessary to establish specific guidelines to prevent plagiarism. Many foreign universities have systems in place like certification systems. There are pay sites for teachers that can help them identify plagiarism. This site can search documents involving similar phrases used in students’ assignments. A new system for preventing plagiarism is “Turnitin.” This system can edit and mark assignments and Korean universities have begun conducting test operations. Turnitin was developed by UC Berkeley researchers, and its original purpose was to detect copied passages in student theses. It identifies plagiarism by making use of surfing technologies and the databases of more than 12 billion web pages, more than 40 million submitted papers, as well as more than 10 thousand mainstream newspapers, magazines and academic journals. It compares suspected copied material with the originals and gives immediate results. Then, it makes its evaluation as a percentage of how much the submitted work mirrors previously the published work. It is important to educate people about plagiarism and make people recognize that plagiarism is a crime. Koreans do not take plagiarism seriously compared to other developed countries because Korea does not educate about plagiarism extensively. In contrast, students in France are educated about plagiarism at an early age. They learn that when three sentences are the same compared to other assignments, it is regarded as plagiarism. Furthermore, students in England are educated regarding preventing plagiarism from middle school because when they become middle school students, the amount of essays and critical assignments increases dramatically. Almost of all teachers say consistently, “There is no correct answer. Do not copy others’ ideas. Express your own opinion.” Students who are caught plagiarizing are punished, and even their classmates regard the student as “a thoughtless student.” In this way, a strict academic atmosphere about plagiarism has been created.

Interview with
Byeong-gi Jeong
Professor, Political Studies and Diplomacy
Q) What do you think about plagiarism?
A) Plagiarism is cheating. It is similar to cheating on an exam. However, the problem is that students do not know the meaning or the negative aspects of plagiarism. Students vaguely know that plagiarism is not right. The reason is that teachers do not teach writing ethics at school. In other words, students do not know to avoid plagiarism, nor do they understand proper quotation methods.

Q) What countermeasures do we need to implement to prevent master’s thesis plagiarism?
A) First of all, students need to be educated and have practice. Many schools write an index of ethics and are proactive about education.

Q) What do you think about copyright infringement?
A) Preventing plagiarism does not simply mean focusing on protecting copyrights which is the same as intellectual property rights. The main purpose of protecting copyrights is to motivate creativity because researchers and creators of content know their ideas will be safe.

Q) How can we decide standards for judging plagiarism?
A) If you do not use quotations and citations properly or if you combine your work with other people’s work without any creativity, the work is not yours. The worst is buying papers outright from a report bank and just putting your name on it. In this case, it is cheating beyond the level of plagiarism because you steal someone else’s entire paper.

Tips for quotation
A direct quotation
1. When you omit a phrase, you have to indicate it with four dots. The first dot must be marked next to the last word. You have to leave one space between dots.
ex) 옵저버. . . .

2. When you need to correct unclear things and errors, or emphasize certain phrases in some parts of quotation, you have to add contents with [ ] marks.
ex) [내일 지구가 멸망하는] 그 때에도 나는 한 그루의 사과나무를 심겠다. (스피노자)

3. When you are faced with a situation where you have to emphasize something by underlining or marking with a side dot, you have to use clarifying marks (underline: writer's name).
ex) 가장 중요한 것은 인생 설계이다. (밑줄: 강혜진)

An indirect quotation
1. If there are 2 writers, you have to indicate both of the writers’ names with the publishing year. If there are 3 or more writers, you have to indicate just one main writer's name and put “et al.” following that name.
ex) 이와 같은 사례는 김철수와 강혜진 (2008)에 의해 제시되었다. 인간관계를 과학적인 학문으로서 보는 견해가 있다. (이다현 et al. 2009)

2. If the number of a writer’s research results are over two in the same year, you have to mark them as a,b,c for the following years.
ex) 이다현 (2004a)은... 하였으나 그 후에 이루어진 연구 (이다현 2004b)에 있어서는 반대되는...

Content is created in various mediums and industries every day. At this point, plagiarism is a criminal act dealing with intellectual property rights. However, Korean society imposes little restraint on these crimes. Currently, most university students who have not been educated about plagiarism commit this act freely. As long as strong standards are not established, our society will cause controversy around the world regarding this issue. First of all, we must make standards of judgment about plagiarism. We also need to set up a judgment system that will gain public confidence. Plagiarists must be made to pay a heavy penalty. If these strong measures are implemented, plagiarism could become a thing of the past.


강혜진 기자, 이다현 기자  dbgn84@naver.com
<저작권자 © The Yeungnam Observer, 무단 전재 및 재배포 금지>

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