I see an increasing number of answers that are plagiarized. And, I have mentioned it a couple of times in chat as it seems to bother me quite a bit. I am posting this in meta in order to get a wider opinion as well as to document it as an official policy of the site for future reference.

Just to clarify what I consider as plagiarism:

Referencing Wikipedia on plagiarism and plagiarism.org, if you are plagiarizing, you are

  • copying someone else's work (usually verbatim) and claiming it as your own
  • copying the ideas of someone else and paraphrasing it without sufficient attribution (paraphrase plagiarism) - usually difficult to catch and might not be the worst problem we should be worrying about

Anyway, three types of plagiarism I am seeing these days:

  • Answers copied from existing answers for very similar questions without attribution or linking to the existing answer
  • Answers copied from resources online without any attribution or citation
  • Self-plagiarism - reusing their own answer on multiple similar questions without declaring that that is the case

The first case is in violation of our content license CC-BY-SA 3.0 as the Stack Exchange content policy requires proper attribution. And not to mention our practice of closing the question as a duplicate in order to better manage the content.

The second case is even worse. We are in risk of getting tangled into legal issues, including copyright limits. If someone passes someone else's work as their own, without any sort of attribution and the original content owner discovers this, he can sue us for copyright infringement. Even worse, any added edits done to the plagiarized answer would most probably have to go away too.

The third case isn't too much of a problem as the other two but I think it ought to be brought up nonetheless.

So now, I have the following options to tackle this:

  • Fix the answer myself - I do all the editing and include blockquotes, links to original content and author.
  • Comment on the answer and ask him to do the required work.
  • Flag the answer for deletion with link to the original content.
  • Just downvote and move on.

Ideally, I would want to have the plagiarized post deleted until they are fixed and then have it undeleted. But I think the moderators might have more work to do than they already do.

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1 Answer 1

I think with all things the site, it comes back to best judgement.

  1. Is it habitual?
  2. Does it get fixed if you point it out?

When I was handling stuff like that I just inserted the link and dropped in a comment that I edited in a reference.

If it's habitual, I'ld stop editing and start dropping in the comments requesting fixes and referencing something.

Last ditch is flagging for deletion.

Ultimately it's about people being able to find the answer, not getting credit for the answer. That being said, plagiarism is bad and shouldn't be encouraged.

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+1, but I think we need something more. I've seen @jokerdino leave a 'stop plagiarizing' comment under an answer and then the author quickly deletes the post. It's a small minority here, but I think users who habitually violate the community standards should be referred to the moderators for at least a temporary ban. It's a violation of the terms here, same as posting spam. –  Tom Brossman Oct 4 '12 at 19:42
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I don't like this part: Ultimately it's about people being able to find the answer, not getting credit for the answer. It's too reminiscent of a "the ends justify the means" type of argument. –  user25656 Oct 5 '12 at 2:28
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Yes. I generally agree with you. But, what if we get sued for copyright infringement? I am afraid that is a very serious issue that we ought to address. –  jokerdino Oct 5 '12 at 2:59
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With the "ultimately" bit I don't mean it's okay. I mean a possible better solution would be to have a downward point spike on the answer, then force it to CW, then restore it to zero. If it's people rep farming that would stop it. I seriously doubt it has often progressed to step three consistently for any given user. –  hbdgaf Oct 5 '12 at 12:31

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