The 18th century new morals have been institutionalized and enforced prominently in the sectors of academia and journalism, where plagiarism is now considered academic dishonesty and a breach of journalistic ethics, subject to sanctions like expulsion and other severecareer damage. Not so in the arts, which have resisted in their long-established tradition of copying as a fundamental practice of the creative process, with plagiarism being still tolerated by 21st century artists.
Plagiarism is not a crime but is disapproved more on the grounds of moral offence.
Etymology and History
The use of the Latin word plagiarius (literally kidnapper), todenote someone stealing someone else's work, was pioneered by Roman poet Martial, who complained that another poet had "kidnapped his verses." This use of the word was introduced into English in 1601 by dramatist Ben Jonson, to describe as a plagiary someone guilt of literary theft.
The derived form plagiarism was introduced into English around 1615–25. The Latinplagiārius, "kidnapper", and plagium, "kidnapping", has the root plaga ("snare", "net"), based on the Indo-European root *-plak, "to weave" (seen for instance in Greek plekein, Bulgarian "плета" pleta, Latin plectere, all meaning "to weave").
The modern concept of plagiarism as immoral and originality as an ideal, emerged in Europe only in the 18th century. For centuries before, not only literaturewas considered "publica materies," a common property from which anybody could borrow at will, but the encouragement for authors and artists was actually to "copy the masters as closely as possible," for which the closer the copy the finer was considered the work. This was the same in literature, music, painting and sculpture. In some cases, for a writer to invent his own plots wasreproached as presumptuous. This stood at the time of Shakespeare too, when it was common to appreciate more the similarity with an admired classical work, and the ideal was to avoid "unnecessary invention."
The modern ideals for originality and against plagiarism appeared in the 18th century, in the context of the economic and political history of the book trade, which will be exemplaryand influential for the subsequent broader introduction of capitalism. Originality, that traditionally had been deemed as impossible, was turned into an obligation by the emerging ideology of individualism. In 1755 the word made it into Johnson's influential A Dictionary of the English Language, where he was cited in the entry for copier ("One that imitates; a plagiary; an imitator.Without invention a painter is but a copier, and a poet but a plagiary of others."), and in its own entry denoting both A thief in literature ("one who steals the thoughts or writings of another") and The crime of literary theft.
Despite the 18th century new morals, and their current enforcement in the ethical codes of academia and journalism, the arts, by contrast, have resisted in theirlong-established tradition of copying as a fundamental practice of the creative process, and in the 21st century plagiarism is still tolerated by artists.
Though plagiarism in some contexts is considered theft or stealing, from the point of view of the law, it is a non-existing concept. "Plagiarism" is not mentioned in any current statute, either criminal or civil. Some...