05 November 2007

Legal Education and Plagiarism

The idea that Indonesia is a country that does not recognise copyright but rather recognises the right to copy is a play on the two principles. Most Indonesian students would not realize that there is in fact a legal right to copy in limited circumstances and generally this is related to fair use. But more intriguing than the right to copy is the lack of knowledge and understanding that Indonesian university students have on the whole about plagiarism. It is this misguided notion of right to copy that appears to have permeated into and reduced the understanding of students on the serious nature of plagiarism.

To state that plagiarism is simply not giving credit where credit is due is a misrepresentation of the seriousness of the fraud perpetrated. It is academic theft and the punishments must be severe if educational institutions are serious about stomping the practice out! There is a whole website dedicated to issues of plagiarism. Yet, even better is a website that exposes famous people who are allegedly plagiarists. Despite, the disclaimer that the people on the site are 'alleged' plagiarists, the site itself highlights the scourge that is plagiarism and the stupid belief that in this modern day and age of technology and super-sophisticated search engines that people still think they can get away with plagiarism, Stupid!

This piece is not an analysis of the statistical occurrence of plagiarism in Indonesia and it does not claim to be definitive or empirical, but rather it is a personal musing based on the personal experiences of someone who has taught a class or two at a number of Indonesian universities.

Having spent plenty of years in university getting a couple of degrees and having it constantly drummed into my thick skull that when in doubt on must footnote and then to teach a University class in Indonesia where it seems to be a case of when in doubt claim it as your own, has most certainly been an eye-opener! It is not something that has shaken my world but more so it is once again one of those perversely funny and sad moments rolled into one.

These students are the next generation and it is sad that they do not appreciate that academic theft and fraud are real professional killers in the professional suicide sense. But how serious the allegations are treated and the punishment meted out if proved depends on who you are. Plagiarism has become a scourge in even the most pre-eminent of universities including, among others, Harvard University. At Harvard a group of students had banded together and produced a blog, which sadly seems to have stopped being updated.

The point that I am trying to make from my soap box is simple; there must be a clearly defined prohibition against plagiarism for law students where the consequences of breach are also clearly defined. This must be a contract that students' sign to acknowledge that they are aware of the penalties and accept them.

The possibility of the rotten core consuming the whole is real!


Jonathan Bailey said...

The problem you describe isn't limited to Indonesia or any one country. There seems to be a slew of nations where some have developed the notion that plagairism is Ok.

India, for example seems to have a very vocal minority seem to feel that plagiarism is acceptable and have gone on rampages both online and in the academic world.

However, I have to agree with you but I think the stand against plagiarism should not be limited to just law students or even academia. Rather, it is an issue for all creators.

Artists, musicians, everyone, no matter what you produce, deserve credit for your hard work. Even the new content economies fall when plagiarism becomes rampant and unchecked.

So, thank you very much for your stand. I wish there were others like you willing to say what needed to be said.

The Advocate said...

Agreed! It is not just law students or academia but rather across the board...

And, yep, there have beeny of cases involving all forms of art where plagiarism has occurred.

BasiaBernstein said...

When I was at BPP studying my famous law professors the, vast, majority of my class at Holborn had TCs. I can't speak for Waterloo though, didn't know anyone over there but did here that the situation was almost the opposite. Really strange.

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