When people think of plagiarism, they often think of academics; essays, and research papers being copied and shared at the risk of failing the class or at worst, being expelled from the university. But the ethics of plagiarism go well beyond those scholarly halls.
Content creators, marketing agencies, and even website buyers want to be certain that the content they produce or the content they’re purchasing is authentic, engaging, and unique in the eyes of their readers as well as the search engines. When someone asks “what are the ethics of plagiarism” they might as well be asking “what are the ethics of stealing?” And it’s not just the possibility of being caught, but everything that comes after it.
What Exactly Constitutes Plagiarism?
Plagiarism is when you use someone else’s words, concepts, or explanations as if they were your own, without citing them as the originator. Not only is this unethical but at its core, it’s stealing. It’s not enough just to take the words or phrases that someone else said but also to do so in a manner that completely eliminates that person from the equation so that everything that’s shared is believed to be your own original work.
Do some people get away with it? Absolutely, and they do so consistently. Some people plagiarize knowingly whereas others do it accidentally. Even if you didn’t intend to plagiarize someone else’s ideas or words, the act of doing so is what matters – remember the old adage of “ignorance of the law is no excuse”? That applies to plagiarism too.
Can You Plagiarize Content Online?
You may think that plagiarism is something that you left behind during your college years, but online, plagiarism is even more common. And although you’ll likely be relieved to hear that citing the author isn’t as cumbersome as it was back in your university days (mentioning the author’s name and linking back to their source while clearly separating their ideas from your own is enough),
Online, plagiarism comes in many different forms. You could be pulling from a patchwork of ideas, all from different sources, in order to create a report or presentation and then in your haste to finish, forget to cite certain authors or resources that you used. It’s incredibly common, especially where statistics are concerned.
Of course, it’s one thing to write the content on your own and forget (either intentionally or unintentionally) to cite your sources, but it’s another thing entirely to rely on an AI to do the writing for you. This is where it can seem like the waters are muddy considerably.
Is using AI Considered Plagiarism?
Search engines, academicians, and agencies alike are clear that using content produced by an AI or third-party tool constitutes plagiarism, even if that “tool” isn’t human. Although AI has come a long way in creating more human-like texts that are interesting to read, it still has a lot to learn about what it means to write in a way that’s engaging, unique, and most of all, accurate. Much of the information that an AI writer creates, however realistic it looks, isn’t exactly rooted in fact and is pulled from various corners of the internet and other sources just to sound that way.
As you might imagine, using this kind of text in a blog, report, email, or other types of writing not only diminishes your own capacity as a writer, but it also uses AI as more of a crutch than a tool. Search engines like Google and Bing are becoming even more sophisticated in their ability to root out content crafted by AI and derank it (or remove it from the listings outright), so it’s important that agencies, website buyers, and other professionals use AI writing checkers to determine if a text has been crafted by an AI tool or a human.
How Do AI Checkers Know When Something Has Been Written By an AI?
AI writing platforms like ChatGPT are quite sophisticated in their answers, which means that tools that check for AI-based plagiarism have to be even more cognizant of the tell-tale tricks and clues that say “a robot wrote this”. Through a unique set of algorithms and considerable training, it’s possible to sniff out AI-produced content with surprising accuracy. And AI content detection tools like Originality.AI are consistently learning and improving with every AI iteration that is introduced on the market.
As AI tools become more sophisticated in their ability to produce “human-like” content, so too must AI-detection tools become more advanced in order to fight back and ensure that professionals are getting the authentic, engaging, and factual content they paid for.
The Bottom Line: Is It Ethical to Plagiarize?
Whether you use an AI tool to help you get “unstuck” when writing, to help give you an online of how to proceed or you’ve been taking major chunks of AI-written content and passing them off as your own, there is no “middle ground” in plagiarism that states that one thing is ethical or acceptable and the other is not.
The bottom line is simply that plagiarism, in all its forms, is unethical. It amounts to stealing and it’s not a matter of if, but rather when, one is caught. When that happens, the repercussions can involve monetary or legal recourse at worst, but behind the scenes, there are also the repercussions that most people don’t see: the loss of search engine ranking, the loss of authoritativeness in one’s positioning as an expert or thought leader, the loss of credibility as a writer or marketer, and so on. After the trust is breached at this level, many journalists, authors, and writers will attest, it’s hard to rebuild it.
For this reason, it’s more important than ever to be secure in the knowledge that the content you purchase, hire for, or write yourself is genuine, authentic, and crafted especially for that project or destination, and that no matter what, it stands on its own merits as a purely human example of Originality.