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> What the VP did was a form of internal plagiarism, but then
> again not because as the attorney points out, the original
> report was a work made for hire.
I'm always a little puzzled by writer's fixation on plagiarism in a
corporate setting. Plagiarism is an academic sin. In a corporate setting,
you worry about copyright, but plagiarism really shouldn't be a significant
concern. The content all belongs to the corporation anyway.
In fact, with the increasing emphasis on content reuse in the corporate
setting, plagiarism is actually becoming a significant source of cost
savings. If I find a piece of existing content and insert it into my report,
that saves the corporation the cost of paying me to write it myself. My
contribution, which is perfectly valid, is to identify the existing content
as relevant to the report I am writing. It is still my report, and I deserve
the credit for it, and the credit for saving costs while creating it.
If Joe in the machine shop finds that an existing bracket invented by Bob,
can be used in a new project, the right thing to do is to use the existing
bracket. Bob, certainly, may want to point out to his manager that the
bracket he designed is being used in another program, thus saving the
company money. That is a feather in Bob's cap. But if Bob went to his boss
and wined that Joe had plagiarized him and that he should have taken the
time to design his own bracket instead of using Bob's design, his boss would
have told him he was nuts.
The issue of reuse does raise another interesting angle on the certification
issue. Some companies are now reporting 80 or 90 percent reuse, and while I
am not at all sure how they are measuring that, it does raise the
possibility that some technical writers are not actually writing any new
text at all. All, or virtually all, of their work might be finding existing
content that can reused in a new setting. They still have to judge the
content's fitness for purpose, which surely requires a tech writer's
judgment. Would such people be excluded from certification on the grounds of
not creating new words, or on the grounds of plagiarism?
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