Wednesday, November 6, 2013

If you use anything in this post, make sure to spell my name right... on the check you pay me royalties with. (I spell it 'cash.' No sense involving the IRS in this, right?)

With the news breaking this week that Rand Paul's entire political career turns out to be a badly-plagiarized episode of "Cheers", it's about time people paid some attention to how and when you can have others do your work for you or use other's work.

This kind of thing is allowed, after all: we don't require that every author, speaker, politician, or comedian use exclusively things that they wrote or thought up themselves. The important thing is that if you are going to have someone do the work for you -- either directly, in the case of hiring a speechwriter or getting one of those services that helps with writing papers for college, or indirectly, such as when you use another article or book as a source-- that you properly attribute it.

Take those educational services, for example: it's not per se wrong to have someone write a paper for you, in college or out of it. I have clerks and paralegals who do the first draft of briefs and seminar materials for me, after all.  There's nothing improper about having someone develop the source material for you, provided that you either give them credit or just use it as source material.

Rand's problems (problems about plagiarizing, at least) were just that he didn't properly attribute where his materials were coming from.

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