What does plagiarism mean... Really?

And no, that isn't the "really" with the upwards inflection as to denote sarcasm.

Truly - what is plagiarism? Is it culturally bound or determined?

Here's why I ask. One of my fellow grad students got me into the free audiobook Free by Chris Anderson. In the book - which is a little skewed towards the economic perspective - he talks about the meaning of free in the late 2000s and how we've redefined it as a result of the Internet and other related technologies.

One of the later chapters is devoted to piracy, and in particular, media piracy ... Not in the US, but in China. Are you as surprised as I am?

But what moved me to write wasn't this revelation but what he grounded China's struggle with piracy within - a belief (he referenced Confucianism) that copying word-for-word isn't seen as something wrong in Chinese culture. Rather it is seen as the greatest honor to copy and emulate the masters. He wrapped up this section with the claim that this is the reason that Chinese students struggle with plagiarism when they get to the US.

So imagine my jaw hanging wide open as he makes this reference while driving somewhere in Georgia on the way to WDW.

Is this true? And if this is true, is this something that everyone knows ... And I somehow missed the boat?

If this is true and not many people know, then shouldn't we be talking about this some more?

Do we have the whole notion of plagiarism wrong?


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