The Plagiarism Lowdown


Photo by Cristian Georgescu on Unsplash

Plagiarism. I would like to think many of us understand the definition but scanning social media tells me otherwise. Many people think of college essays when they hear the word plagiarism but that is not the only context.

According to the University of Oxford (2018) it is the “…presenting someone else’s work or ideas as your own, with or without their consent, by incorporating it into your work without full acknowledgement.”

Since my background is in media and communications, this pure theft of others’ work, especially words, drives me insane. Day in and day out I see quotes by brilliant minds being stolen usually on Instagram. Their four step process usually is as follows:

  1. Thief finds a quote they love
  2. Thief then adds the quote to their own image with any attribution or slightly changes the quote so it is not word for word
  3. Thief then adds their watermark  (usually their name or social media handle) to image
  4. Thief then posts image and adds a caption to their post using a hashtag that deems them the author of said words.

By doing this, many think the thief wrote the words and they are therefore brilliant and amazing people when in actual fact they only lie and steal. How these people have made a career, I wish I knew. As one who uses words to communicate, I cannot understand how their posts are revered by people.

These are people who claim to be of substance and have a backbone but do not. These are people who have one only one thing to offer: superficiality. These are people who I have no interest in knowing personally or doing business with.

There was an instance of plagiarism in 2016 between makeup artist Vlada Haggarty           (Vladamua on IG) and Kylie Jenner (Kylie on IG). Haggarty accused Jenner of copying a concept she had posted online earlier without giving her credit. In the end Jenner gave credit to Haggarty but there is still an air of superiority people have when they steal others’ hard work.

Another place plagiarism happens is music. Singer Beyonce has been accused multiple times. She recorded a song and made a video of “I’m Kissing You” by Des’ree without permission (article) and in another she was accused of ripped off the work of another artist during her 2011 performance at the Billboard Music Awards ( article) and later said her makeup artist showed her the video and that she was “inspired”. I think some artists need a dictionary. Some do not understand the magnitude of what they are doing or do not care because they feel superior.

In an 2015 article by Jonathan Bailey (article link) he wrote that plagiarism rarely has consequences. Sadly, he is right. All someone has to do is remove the post and they suffer no other ramifications for the theft. When someone steals from a store, they receive a consequence. If someone stole from your store, wouldn’t you want them punished so they never do it again? Then why is this type of stealing allowed? It still is the taking of property. Intellectual property.  Why all of a sudden the shyness to prosecute?

As a writer of original and poetic quotes, it is a slap in the face to those of us who use the written word to express ourselves. Words, as frivolous as they may seem to some, are the livelihood to others. It is our livelihood in that we make money from our work. It is our livelihood in that it provides us with nourishment. Our art comes from within and by stealing you are slowly burning at our core.

What are the plagiarism rules where you live? Do you know anyone who blatantly steals others’ work? Should there be consequences for plagiarists?


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