Speak or Write, Do You Own the Discussion Chapter

Excerpt from Discussion Chapter :

speak or write, do you own the words that you have created? What about the thoughts that preceded those words?

What is originality?

In some sense, we are all 'original authors.' We compose our own ideas in our head and transmit them to the world in speech. Yet, on the other hand, it is just as easy to claim that because our words are the result of a series of subtle cultural influences, there is no 'original' thought. Even the greatest scientific innovations of earlier eras built upon the ideas of people who existed previously. Shakespeare borrowed most of his plots. The notion of someone who exists outside of culture is a fiction. Even the language we speak shapes and limits our conceptions of the world.

However, although originality may be a fiction, it is a necessary fiction. Without copyright laws, authors would have no incentive to create new ideas. The ability to 'own' a song, creative work, or a patent on a new invention encourages people to generate creative products and enables them to profit from the fruits of their labor. While there may be no 'new' ideas, when a new idea is reconfigured and reimagined in a striking fashion, it does have a quality of originality that justifies the author's claim upon it as his or her own special creation. "Just as Apple didn't make the first computer, Facebook was not the first social media service, and Google was not the first search engine. These people were inspired by something, had a passion for it and wanted to make it better."[footnoteRef:1] Even where I work, in the sales department, when an associate comes up with a 'new' marketing idea, he expects to be given credit and would be very offended if his colleague claimed authorship. [1: Courtney Rose, "There are no original ideas," PR Marketing, 12 Sept 2012, available: http://www.prmarketing.com/blog/there-are-no-original-ideas / [17 Jan 2013]]

Within the field of academia, ownership of one's ideas is a particularly essential construct. Like artists and inventors, academics must profit off of their ideas, and stealing someone's creative output is tantamount to stealing his or her livelihood. The most obvious example of unethical 'stealing' in such a context would be a professor claiming the words or research of another academic to be his own in a journal article or book, and profiting off of its publication. When a student uses the words and ideas of someone else without a correct citation of the quotes or paraphrases, this is called plagiarism, another form of 'stealing.' Although a student does not financially profit off his or her words, the professor gives the student a grade. People assume that the student is the original author of the words and has a right to claim the grades (and subsequent degree garnered from those grades) as the student's own output. However, while there are some black-and-white examples of cheating, not all instances are clear-cut. For example, certain facts that are considered to be 'common knowledge' do not need to be cited, but what constitutes common knowledge will vary from discipline to discipline.[footnoteRef:2] In general, it is 'better to cite than to be sorry.' [2: "Common…

Sources Used in Document:


"Common knowledge in academic writing." PK6. 26 Oct 2011. Available:

http://www.uta.fi/FAST/PK6/REF/commknow.html [17 Jan 2013]

Hayes, Niall & Lucas D. Introna. "Cultural Values, Plagiarism and Fairness: When plagiarism gets in the way of learning. Centre for the Study of Technology and Organisation,

Lancaster University Management School. Available: http://www.lums.lancs.ac.uk/files/sdaw/5706.pdf [17 Jan 2013]

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