For the week ending 15 May 2010 / 1 Sivan 5770

The Plague of Plagiarism

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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Question: I have been asked to deliver a talk at a community affair. In preparing my speech I came across a copy of a talk given by an eloquent speaker which I would like to use. May I present this material as my own or must I give credit to its source? What is the right thing to do?

Answer: There are several reasons for mentioning the source. First of all there is a moral responsibility for giving credit since plagiarism is really a subtle form of deceit. Secondly, you will gain as much respect from your audience when you quote something worth hearing as if you were the originator.

Finally there is a very pragmatic reason for avoiding flagrant plagiarism. Joe Biden is only vice-president of the US today because a number of years ago he was dropped as a possible Democratic Party candidate for president after being caught plagiarizing a speech in the Senate.

So watch out because you may also get caught!

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