UNSW’s Plagiarism Policy

Hi All,

Below is a little fun that I’m trying to having with the UNSW in regards to their plagiarism policy.  Apparantly, on the eve of the eleventh hour for papers, assignments and the like, I am looking for things to amuse myself.   It will be interesting to see what they have to say.  I’m expecting the old, “Well, we didn’t really mean what we said we meant by ‘theft’, but if you f&*! up and get caught plagiarising, we will hang you out to dry anyway.” In all seriousness though, in a need to somehow relate this to computers and law, in this age of the internet, you never know who might be reading what you write and claiming it as their own.  Publish if ye dare!



To Whom it May Concern:

 I am a foreign exchange law student at UNSW.  I was checking the plagiarism policy of the Uni, as it is required that I have read it to hand in my papers.  I happened to notice two bullet points on the “What is plagiarism” page that surprised me.  They are:  ·  Firstly, it is unethical because it is a form of theft. By taking the ideas and words of others and pretending they are your own, you are stealing someone else’s intellectual property. ·  Secondly, it is unethical because the plagiariser subsequently benefits from this theft.  As I am in the process of writing a paper at home on copyright and plagiarism, I thought I would do a quick check into the legitimacy of these claims, as I happen to know that there is no case law in Canada to support plagiarism as a crime.  What I found is below.  1) NSW Crimes Act 1900:  Plagiarism is not defined in the act.  A quick scan of the act reveal no offence of plagiarism or academic theft.2) Crimes case law:  A quick scan of the case law reveals that there are no cases in which NSW has tried to convict someone of  ‘plagiarism.’3) NSW Copyright Act 1879:  Plagiarism is not defined.4) Case law: The short of it is, copyright only exists in the actual text, not the idea.  Ideas are protected by patent.   While plagiarism is immoral, it is not ‘theft.’  Theft is a crime and is punishable by criminal prosecution.  At best, plagiarism is copyright infringement, which is illegal, not criminal, as theft is.  In fact, the paradox is this.  If you quote and properly source an author, you may still be ‘guilty’ of copyright infringement, whereas, if you rip them off without quoting them, you haven’t done anything wrong from a copyright standpoint.  If you are going to shape them minds of young students, it would be noble to try to at least get the wording right.

All the best,



1 comment so far

  1. markcarmody on

    Good luck with your paper on plagiarism. If you haven’t done so yet, I suggest you check Lawrence M. Hinman’s site. He is Professor of Philosophy at San Diego Uni and runs a fantastic “Ethics Updates” page. Here is an article specifically on your subject:

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