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Pirating Is OK, But Plagiarism Is Truly Evil

Danny O’Brien made the point that copying isn’t such a big deal any more, but that plagiarism is almost universally condemned.

One reason for this could be the environment that originated the open content ethos. In an academic environment, using someone else’s work to support your own conclusions is encouraged, but using it without attribution could get you expelled. There’s even a saying: “Attribution is the difference between plagiarism and research“.

However, I believe a more likely reason is that reputation is becoming vital to information producers. As I have said before:

There is a difference between selling information as a good, and selling the production of information. It’s the difference between getting paid to produce information, or getting paid to copy existing information. It turns out that the latter method is economically inefficient.

If you’re getting paid to do work like produce information goods (like the DJ friend mentioned in the article), then your reputation becomes your most valuable asset. If someone plagiarizes your work, then they gain reputation that should have gone to you. This means less potential work for you.

This could be the start of a true reputation economy.

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