National Collegiate Honors Council


Date of this Version

Spring 2008


Published in Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council 9:2, Fall/Winter 2008. Copyright © 2008 by the National Collegiate Honors Council.


When the Roman poet Martial applied the Latin term for the kidnapping of slaves and children (“plagiario”) to those who stole his literary work (Epigrams I, 52), he became the first victim of plagiarism in its modern sense. Words are the author’s children, and one can understand how the author might suffer when another claims (or kidnaps) them. But plagiarism has further victims: the reader is tricked into thinking the plagiarist clever; the words themselves are cheapened by unauthorized replication; the scholarly enterprise, the community of authorship, and the process of writing all bear the marks of injury. But the other and indeed the main victim is the plagiarist. As teachers our reactions to plagiarism should be shaped by this understanding that the perpetrator is the principal victim of the crime.