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iThenticate Blog

Read the most up-to-date information on the integrity of the research across industries, publishing in top journals, reputation and much more.

Top Plagiarism Scandals of 2014

Posted by Jonathan Bailey on Dec 17, 2014 3:00:00 PM

As 2014 winds to a close, it’s become very clear that it will go down as a banner year for plagiarism across a wide range of fields.

Whether you’re a researcher, a politician, a journalist, an author or a celebrity, there was major plagiarism news in bigstock----New-Year-Digits-52222105your field.

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Power Dynamics in Plagiarism

Posted by Jonathan Bailey on Dec 4, 2014 3:44:11 PM

In November, the case of University of Regina professor Shahid Azam became a national story and the subject of multiple articles on the CBC and elsewhere.

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Rotten Memories: Memoir Plagiarism

Posted by Jonathan Bailey on Nov 14, 2014 3:29:59 PM
Iconic fashion designer Vivienne Westwood is facing accusations that her self-titled memoir, which she co-wrote with author Ian Kelly, contains plagiarized passages.
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Plagiarism and Politics in 2014

Posted by Jonathan Bailey on Nov 6, 2014 9:00:00 AM

As the 2014 election comes to a close, it has been an election cycle ripe with plagiarism stories. The stories included Democratic Senator John Walsh being forced out of his election after a plagiarism scandal and Republican Senate candidate, Dr. Monica Wehby, being accused of plagiarizing her health care and economic plans from other Republican sources.

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Politics, Plagiarism and Consultants

Posted by Jonathan Bailey on Oct 9, 2014 4:00:00 PM

A pair of political plagiarism scandals have shined a light on the roles of consultants and employees in political campaigns and plagiarism, or at least alleged plagiarism, by them can negatively impact a campaign.

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Disgraced Buzzfeed Editor Finds Second Chance

Posted by Jonathan Bailey on Oct 3, 2014 2:43:20 PM

While many renowned plagiarists end up never making a return to their field, such as Jayson Blair and Kaavya Viswanathan, others do find forgiveness and wind up making a return, including Jonah Lehrer and Annette Schavan.

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Understanding Creative Commons for Researchers

Posted by Jonathan Bailey on Sep 4, 2014 9:30:00 AM

The role of intellectual property in research has long been a divisive issue. Whether it’s questions of who owns patents based upon academic research or who holds the copyright in the research itself, researchers have often dealt with clashes between ideals about furthering knowledge in a field and the economic realities about funding and publishing research.

However, as the open access movement has grown, copyright has been particularly thrust into the spotlight. This has become especially important as divisions over which copyright license(s) to use have caused rifts among publishers and funders.

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Modern Publications Face a Much Older Problem

Posted by Jonathan Bailey on Aug 29, 2014 11:37:56 AM

Last month, Buzzfeed, an online publication best known for its viral content, fired Benny Johnson, a politics editor, over accusations of plagiarism. Shortly thereafter, thousands of Buzzfeed articles began to disappear from the site. Though Buzzfeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith said that the move was done by the reporters themselves, asking them to save and update the things they cared about while deleting the rest.

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How the Open Access and Open Source Movements Are Alike

Posted by Jonathan Bailey on Aug 20, 2014 11:16:54 AM

Recently, the International Association of Scientific, Technical & Medical Publishers, commonly referred to as STM, released a set of model licenses for open access articles and journals.

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Literally Paying for Plagiarism

Posted by Jonathan Bailey on Aug 7, 2014 7:30:00 AM

When David Fleishman, the superintendent of Newton public schools in Massachusetts, was found to have plagiarized several passages during a June 9th address at the Newton South High School graduation ceremony, the school district took unusual action.

Rather than suspend or terminate Fleishman, the district decided to dock him a week’s salary, worth roughly $5,000.


While it is debatable whether the punishment is fitting for the nature of the plagiarism, the idea of issuing a fine over a plagiarism allegation raised a few eyebrows.

To be clear, Fleishman wasn’t the first person to be fined over plagiarism. However, most cases of a plagiarist being fined have come from the courts and, usually, for legal issues related to the plagiarism and not the plagiarism itself.

For example, in France, Christine Marchal-Sixou was fined 5,000 euro and ordered to pay another 20,000 euros in compensatory damages to a student she was found to have plagiarized her thesis from.

In Connecticut, Christina Duquette, a former grad student at Central Connecticut State University, was ordered to pay a total of $26,100 in damages for plagiarizing the paper of a fellow student. In that case, Duquette was ruled to have lied about her authorship of the work involved, resulting in another student, the original author, being expelled from the school. The original author was later re-admitted.

Still, cases where plagiarists are fined purely for the act of plagiarism are still rare. This includes cases of research fraud which, in the United States, typically only results in suspensions or bans from receiving grants, not fines or other criminal action, and book publishing, which can result in contracts being cancelled, but not usually fines beyond that.

This is because, in most cases, the body that’s prosecuting the plagiarism claims lack the authority to hand down fines. Editors at a journal, instructors at a school, etc. don’t have the ability to force a plagiarist to pay anything. Even if a journal wrote into their agreement that plagiarism would be subject to a fine, which few, if any, do, enforcing that statute would likely cost more than any fine would be worth.

The Newton school district was in something of a rare position. Being Fleishman's employer, they could take punitive action against him that included docking his pay, thus having the same effect as a fine. A publication doesn’t have that kind of relationship with a researcher nor does a school over a student.

Still, the idea is an interesting one in places where such a relationship does exist, such as with publishers that have their own writing staff. But it raises a series of difficult questions including how does one determine when a fine is appropriate? And how much should the fine be? Furthermore, should the fine be based on income, or be a flat fee?

But if these questions can be resolved, fines and levies could be a powerful tool for responding to plagiarism. While severe cases of plagiarism, especially ones that are recurring, should be dealt with using more harsh means, a monetary penalty can be a way to send a strong message over a one-time issue that might not warrant a suspension or termination.

But given the relationship between most plagiarists and their accusers, it’s unlikely that fines will become commonplace as a means for dealing with the problem. Fines are much more easily levied by courts as they already have the authority to do so.

So, until research fraud and other forms of plagiarism are treated as criminal matters for the courts, it’s unlikely we’ll hear about more cases like Fleishman's.

The opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of iThenticate.

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