Friday, August 26, 2016

Plagiarism: words yes, ideas no

There's a discussion over at the Mere Fidelity podcast about Plagiarism in the wake of the Peter T. O'Brien commentary controversy. Early in the discussion, before it goes off into a tangent about copyright, Justin Taylor helpfully distinguishes between the copying of ideas and the plagiarism of content. Poor O'Brien was caught accidentally doing the latter, reproducing multiple phrases in his Philippians commentary without properly crediting FF Bruce.

The basic rule of scholarship from high-school essays to academic publishing, is to footnote your quotes. What's more difficult is the reproduction of ideas, especially in Philosophy and Christianity. If someone else has a helpful way of expressing an idea, you should credit them. However while it benefits everyone, you, your interlocutors and your readers, to note the provenance of an idea, no one person owns an idea.

[Old Xerox poster from the Smithsonian.]