Plagiarism is a Symptom of a Deeper Problem- Literary Kleptomania

Those who choose to ‘borrow’ content that is the intellectual property of another writer are causing more harm than they realize. The act of plagiarism is far too common and reflects the larger issue of deteriorating ethics and a lack of integrity in many layers of society. Creative property is very personal.

What are the Deeper Issues of Plagiarism?

The haphazard re-use of material that has been created by another, with no credit given to the author, speaks to a lack of respect for the craft of writing as well as to less ethical standards among writers. Does this mean that bloggers and others who take credit for material written by others have no conscience? Are they just dishonest opportunists? Or do they simply reflect societal norms?

Literary Kleptomania

According to David McCaldin of the website Knol- A unit of Knowledge, “Masquerading another person’s work as one’s own is an intellectual transgression and is one the lowest forms of scholarship.” All writers suffer when those not committed to the art of individual creative expression mimic and reproduce content that is owned by other writers. The literary integrity of all writers is undermined.

Plagiarists are Like Literary Kleptomaniacs

David McCaldin cited an article written by the late Peter Shaw, who was chairman of the National Association of Scholars when he died in 1995. Shaw’s 1982 article, Plagiary, compared a plagiarist to a kleptomaniac. Shaw asserted that, although the theft of material is deliberate and not unconscious, there is still a thrill associated with potentially getting caught. Like the kleptomaniac, the plagiarist does not need what he steals.

The implication is that a writer has the ability to express original thoughts with distinctive and personal style. Yet, by side-stepping ethics and honor, the plagiarist makes the trade-off of integrity for content because he deliberately re-publishes resources taken dishonestly. According to Victoria Stankard‘s article, “Duplicate content is a heated issue when web content has been stolen or plagiarized from one website and published on another…or ripped off word-for-word on someone else’s website without permission or without any kind of back link or reference as to where the content came from.”

Does a Sense of Entitlement Allow Writers to Take Whatever Material They Want?

The above-mentioned backdrop helps explain the cause and effect rationale that web writers employ. But the offense of plagiarism may also be tied to a more relaxed moral code, lower ethical standards, and the belief that integrity does not apply to Cyberspace. The general lack of respect and honesty in dealing with others correlates with the sense of entitlement that has evolved in the generations following the Great Depression. People had to make do with what they had and hardship was common. In the age of commercialism, the ease of acquiring material goods and a compulsion for instant gratification give many people the idea that they deserve whatever they want- and they take it.


Factors that explain the indifference of plagiarists who rip-off content from other writers without any acknowledgment or credit include the sense on omnipotence and entitlement. The attitude is “So what?” Plagiarists are like Kleptomaniacs, except that they intentionally steal what they don’t really need. They are partially motivated by the thrill of getting away with their crimes.