The act of taking another’s written or spoken material and passing it off as one’s own in order to receive credit for having produced it. While Cicero has M. Pupius Piso accuse the Stoics of plagiarizing philosophical ideas from the Peripatetics (Fin. 5.74), other sources understand plagiarists to steal a predecessor’s particular expression of ideas and content. Plagiarism was not a single concept or category across time, media, and genre. Instead, it appeared in a constellation of practices sharing fundamental traits that closely map onto modern notions of plagiarism. Plagiarism in ancient Rome occurred in oral and written form from oral and written sources. A plagiarist could steal an earlier text in its entirety or with just minimal changes, or he could steal some section or lines of an earlier text. In the latter localized cases, accusations of plagiarism were often mechanical. Yet they were grounded in particular ideas, whether stated or implied, of what constituted the offense. One was that plagiarism had an aesthetic dimension and was a matter of staying too close to a model. While an author usually modified his source material in such instances, he was still subject to plagiarism charges based on the similarities that remained, which his accuser(s) deemed excessive and culpable. At the same time, intentions typically played a decisive role in determining if someone plagiarized. The question was whether the person deliberately set out to deceive an audience into giving him authorial credit for what he, in fact, took from someone else.Less
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