Plagiarism and Authorship: A Review and Retrospective of the CCCC Intellectual Property Annual

Clancy Ratliff

Light pink background, close up photo of glittery lapel pin with Creative Commons logo.

I have had conversations at conferences with scholars (Malea Powell, Wonderful Faison, and Trish Roberts-Miller, to name a few) who have called for a closer examination of the role of power and privilege in concepts of plagiarism — of the subtle and not-so-subtle ways that people in positions of authority have had their plagiarism excused away, and the ways that student writers, especially students of color and first-generation students, have had their legitimate claims to authorship called into question, doubted, and challenged. This contrast is clearly shown in my synthesis of the IP Annual articles dealing with plagiarism:

"John Walsh is a dishonest plagiarist!" (—Republican) "Mitt Romney, Melania Trump, and Monica Crowley are dishonest plagiarists!" (—Democrat) William A. Meehan’s dissertation? That wasn't plagiarism; it was replication, and besides, he was a university president who raises money, not a professor. Žižek, well, that was an unfortunate indiscretion, but he is such a great thinker, and aren’t we curious about his leftist perspective on the emergence of far-right populism, set forth in his newest book The Courage of Hopelessness? And Pizzolatto and McDaniel are artists with creative license; let’s not continue this finger-wagging.

As for students: we just don’t know if they really wrote the papers they submit, so we should run them through Turnitin to be sure, shouldn’t we? The Harvard students who worked collaboratively on their exam…they should have just checked with their professor to make absolutely sure that they were not misunderstanding the course policies, right? Actions have consequences. They can sit out for a semester or two, or go to some other university. Or get an FI grade on their permanent transcript, depending on the university. And Antoinette, the Hurricane Katrina survivor? Is she actually an author? That’s an oral history, and that’s different…

I hope my review has demonstrated the IP Annual's contribution to the scholarship about plagiarism in particular. I also want to reflect on its being an integral part of the work of the IP Caucus. Each article in the IP Annual engages the concerns of our field in productive ways and has been generative, emerging from and prompting conversations that have led to other publications such as journal articles, edited collections, monographs, and special issues of journals, as well as formal actions within CCCC. The writing in the IP Annual has served to raise the IP Caucus's awareness of open access publishing, which led to the crafting of a CCCC Resolution which was brought before the membership at the 2012 convention. Although it was referred to the CCCC Executive Committee for further discussion, the IP Caucus nonetheless advocated for open access publishing within the organization. It has also bolstered understandings of open source software, leading to a Sense of the House Motion that was voted on and approved at the 2007 CCCC convention and a resolution on open source that passed at the 2008 convention. The IP Annual work on plagiarism detection services has spurred conversation about PDS, which led to the crafting of a resolution about PDS in 2006. This resolution circulated in the IP Caucus, and eventually was approved by a vote of the CCCC membership during the 2013 convention. The IP Caucus has also advocated for Creative Commons licenses for our scholarly journals, and most of our online journals now use them, including The Writing Instructor, Kairos, Computers and Composition Digital Press, Computers and Composition Online, The KB Journal, Across the Disciplines, Enculturation, and Harlot of the Arts. The work of the IP Caucus is a continual process of informal conversations, meetings, collaborations on writing projects, and actions within the larger CCCC organization, and the IP Annual has been consistently present throughout the process and will continue to be.

Kairos 24.1