Monday, October 25, 2010

Intent Is Not Essential To Plagiarism

The essential insight of dissenting Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno is that in order to exonerate Associate Justice Mariano C. Del Castillo of plagiarism charges in preparing for the En Banc its Decision in the case of Vinuya versus Romulo, the Majority introduced a most troublesome innovation:
The unfortunate ruling of the majority Decision that no plagiarism was committed stems from its failure to distinguish between the determination of the objective, factual existence of plagiarism in the Vinuya decision[1] and the determination of the liability that results from a finding of plagiarism. Specifically, it made “malicious intent”, which heretofore had not been relevant to a finding of plagiarism, an essential element.
She then details the internationally recognized FORMS of plagiarism and identifies their objective existence in Vinuya and criticizes the Court for "against the overwhelming conventions on what constitutes plagiarism."  

Plagiarism is thus akin to a crime like MANSLAUGHTER. You may not have intended to hit the pedestrian, but if you killed or maimed him or her, the death or injury is an objective and readily verifiable fact for which you are liable under the Law. The Supreme Court cannot be above this very logic. Worse it ought not to be introducing judicial innovations for the mere purpose of self-preservation that now aids and abets both plagiarists and copyright violators.


GabbyD said...

why SHOULD plagiarism be like manslaughter?

its not clear to me that plagiarism ought to be like killing someone.

is it not enough to say that
1) admission of wrong doing
2) to re-write the decision to include the proper attribution?

isnt that enough?

Dean Jorge Bocobo said...

Fair question. I think the analogy is this. Suppose you drive down the street and ACCIDENTALLY run over and kill a pedestrian. Under the Law you could be charged for MURDER if it is proven you intended to do it and had motive and opportunity. But even if you can prove you had no motive or intent, you will be charged with MANSLAUGHTER. In other words, intent is not essential for you to commit manslaughter. Likewise with plagiarism. This analogy is widely accepted. Not that plagiarism = killing, but only that it is a crime you can commit without intending the result.

GabbyD said...

i still dont understand the connection. if "lack of intention" is the key idea, then for many crimes, a lack of intention means you didnt commit a crime.

Ex: if u leave a store with an item without paying for it, u stole that item. but if u didnt steal it, it accidentally got included in your rightfully bought items, u subsequently returned said item, unopened after seeing u accidently got it, then u DIDNT steal it.

the difference is not just lack of intention -- its also, can the aggrieved party be made whole.

arguably, the damage of killing someone cannot be undone, intended or not.

however, in the case of plagiarism, or accidental shoplifting, YOU CAN make it whole quite simply.

in this case, the SC has said that there was a mistake. i think they've changed the ruling (correct me if i'm wrong).

i dont think the ruling will also change the way plagiarism is seen in a wider context. malicious intent, seems to me, to mean that there was an intent to pass info as one's own to further one's goals.

e.g. academics write papers to further their own careers -- by plagiarizing, they seek to further their own careers by claiming an insight that they didnt have.

same with students, etc... authors who write books aim to sell those books -- by writing ideas they stole, they are basically making money from intellectual property they dont have.

the same cannot be said for justices, especially justices that admitted to the mistake anyways!

Dean Jorge Bocobo said...

GABBYD, Unfortunately there has been no admission of ANY mistake or wrongdoing by the Justices--only clerical errors by an anonymous Court Researcher.

But read also my latest post in which I aver that actual plagiarism will only be committed if and when the Vinuya Decision becomes final and executory and the missing attributions are put in.