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Plagiarism, a silent, resilient enemy

  • 28 February 2011
  • Articles

For years, copyrights have radically and valiantly defied enemies as significant as piracy –which has ruined innumerable record labels, publishing houses, software companies and film production companies, among others, worldwide. A mere token of the wealth of stakeholders that shape the attractive world of the art and entertainment industry.

However, technological progress, innovation in telecommunications and, in general, inventions that are becoming ever more astonishing, have transformed piracy into a minor enemy for authors and copyrights holders who, over time, have learnt to live with it and have resorted to designing new strategies to exploit and divulge their works whilst obtaining benefits and appealing to the consumers.

A silent enemy is lurking behind piracy, that terrible age-old affliction and menace for the authors. An evil that is greater, less provable and, therefore, harder to identify. A blight that stands tall in the face of creators and copyright holders… An adversary that goes by the name of plagiarism.

Plagiarism involves appropriating a work, in part or in its entirety, without obtaining prior authorisation from the author and/or copyright holder, unbeknownst to the author or copyright holder.

Plagiarism is so dangerous and harmful that, at present, in countries like Colombia it is even punished with criminal sentences, even though criminal law is considered the final straw when reproving behaviours that could be receive civil sanctions.

Plagiarism thus threatens the author’s moral rights, which are accepted as constitutional canon, and the current trend allows sufficient leeway to interpret the criminal regulations that punish the infringement of an author’s legal rights –an infringement classed as plagiarism.

This trend has been highly criticised, given the tribulations that arise when attempting to prove this type of infringements of the author’s moral rights, even more so considering that the laws establish cases that punish very specific behaviours and the judges, then, interpret them so that the sanction ends up encompassing other behaviours that are not classed expressly as such by law. Consequently, the law is amended via jurisprudence, which is inadmissible.

Recently a notorious case involved a renowned university lecturer who was sentenced by the Colombian Legal System for writing an article for a Mexican publication using lengthy excerpts from a dissertation by one of her Master’s students.

Said sentence has been questioned, stating that the Columbian Legal System has interpreted the regulations on plagiarism at will. Specifically, some cases involving blatant violations have been left unpunished –when perpetrated by individuals with low income acting with a no-profit motive–, whilst others in which the actual infringement is unclear have been punished due simply to the fact that the accused was a high profile university lecturer.

Consequently, although the Columbian Legal System is starting to take an interest and come to terms with copyright issues and is trying to combat the main enemies of the holders of these rights, it must persist without ignoring the rules that govern the interpretation of these regulations and must not bend the rules to favour underprivileged parties and to punish those it considers genuine offenders, given their status, knowledge, or their role in society.

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Plagiarism, a silent, resilient enemyPlagiarism, a silent, resilient enemy