Plagiarism, Ghostwriting, Boilerplate, and Open Content

Plagiarism, Ghostwriting, Boilerplate, and Open Content

Wendy Warren Austin (Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-893-2.ch044
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This chapter explains to business people, administrators, and educator/trainers what plagiarism is and is not, and explores authorship ambiguities such as ghostwriting, templates, boilerplate language, collaborative/ team writing, and open content. It argues that two key features of plagiarism are the intent to deceive and lack of consent from the original author(s). Furthermore, whether the environment is an academic or work environment plays an important part in determining whether plagiarism has occurred, because academic settings impose stricter standards on borrowing. However, if both the original author and the borrowing author are aware of the origination of words and consent to their re-use, and the issue involves template or boilerplate language, or incorporates acknowledgement of influences, help, or collaborative contributions, it does not constitute plagiarism. Clarifying differences in standards and expectations of the academic and workplace environment will help business people better understand the ethical boundaries for practices of acknowledgement and attribution.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Common Knowledge: Cultural knowledge that a literate adult in society would be expected to know or knowledge within a specific discipline or field that most members in that field would be expected to know.

Open Content: An initiative based on the concept of the IT industry’s Open Source Movement, this type of content refers to future or current freely available information on the Internet. Wikipedia and MIT’s Open Courseware are good examples of open content.

Copyright Infringement: A civil legal violation in which one copyrighted work uses information from another copyrighted work without permission of the original author(s), or when some entity improperly copies, performs, or distributes copies of an existing work, either in whole or in part.

Patchwriting: A stage of writing in which (usually novice) writers substitute their own words and/or sentence structures of an original source in an unsuccessful attempt to paraphrase.

Cryptomnesia: Inadvertent plagiarism, having an idea, creating a word, song, or solution to a problem for which a person assumes originality, but is actually drawn from the person’s subconscious memory from some earlier source.

Institutional Plagiarism: Also may be called bureaucratic plagiarism, a practice of using junior employees to write material for which senior employees take credit. This practice may also be referred to as nominal authorship.

Plagiarism: To claim some piece of writing that is not considered common knowledge to be one’s own with the intent to deceive the recipient otherwise.

Boilerplate: Language that is able to be used over and over again with consent and without attribution for similar purposes, especially in generic business documents, such as trial briefs, quarterly reports, mastheads, rubrics, forms, and releases, without liability as to copyright infringement.

Ghostwriting: A practice that involves someone or some group that writes, usually for monetary gain, for some other person or group, with the latter taking the credit for the product of the former. Essentially, it is the practice of writing for money for someone else without getting the credit.

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