There is no excuse in plagiarism. It is a serious offense that disrespects the person whose work you tried to pass off as yours.
Plagiarism occurs on all fields of publication. But this ingenious practice is common among writers.
It is all too easy to manipulate a set of words and make them your own. But the responsibility falls on you as the author, whether or not you overlooked copying an existing text to your book or article. Any action taken against your wrongdoing will still come at your expense.
Below are some of the most infamous examples of plagiarism in history that resonates to this very day.
Haley is the author of the book "Roots: The Saga of an American Family." First published in 1976, Roots follows the lives of an 18-century African who became a slave in the United States and his descendants.
The novel was a cultural sensation. It spent 22 weeks on top of the New York bestsellers list and was turned into a TV mini-series a year after its publication to the eyes of 130 million viewers. Haley also won a Pulitzer Prize for the book.
In 1978, Harold Courlander, author of "The African" in 1965, accused Haley of plagiarizing passages from his 1965 novel into Roots.
After an out-of-court settlement for $650,000, Haley admits to having unintentionally taken passages from The African to his novel.
During his time, Ambrose is one of the most respected historians and authors. He was the biographer of Richard Nixon and Dwight D. Eisenhower. He even won the Emmy as the producer for the 2000 mini-series Band of Brothers.
In 2002, The Weekly Standard's Fred Barnes reported that Ambrose's novel "The Wild Blue: The Men and Boys Who Flew the B-24s over Germany" contained passages from "Wings of Morning: The Story of the Last American Bomber Shot Down over Germany in World War II," a novel written by Thomas Childers. The passages were not attributed to Childers' work.
Pundits have become more critical of Anbrose's works since then. History News Network reports that Ambrose has committed plagiarism in seven of his novels.
This promising Indian-American female writer came into the young adult scene in 2006 with her novel "How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life." The book was written after she graduated from high school and had been admitted to Harvard University.
But things turned for the worst when The Harvard Crimson reveals that Viswanathan's novels bore similar passages to Megan McCafferty's Jessica Darling novels ("Sloppy Firsts" and "Second Servings").
Just when everybody thought Viswanathan has bottomed out, more online reports compared similar passages from her novels and works of Salman Rushdie, Sophie Kinsella, and Meg Cabot, among others.
Viswanathan claims innocence throughout, stating that the similar passages were unconscious and unintentional.
Regardless of her stand, Little Brown and Company recalled the unsold books and destroyed them, along with Viswanathan's opportunity to write a second book.
But don't feel too bad for Viswanathan. She was advised by Jamaica Kincaid for her thesis and got into Georgetown Law in 2008.
Things to learn from these unfortunate cases
The common thread that ties all three is that all unintentionally committed the plagiarism.
It doesn't change their crime. But it just speaks more of their carelessness to review their own work before submitting them to the publisher.
This is why running your work using an online plagiarism tool like unplag.com should help you detect passages in your novel that are similar to existing works. This lets you see which parts of your works contain hints of plagiarism without your knowledge so you can edit them.
Aside from the aforementioned tool, you should look at PlagiarismDetect.org to see if you have unintentionally lifted someone else's text on your work. This tool checks your work in less than a minute. Choose from basic plagiarism ($0.05 per page) or nulti-layer technology with smart scanning ($0.25 per page).
Another powerful plagiarism tool is PlagControl. Best used by students submitting term papers, the tool identifies grammar mistakes and suggests the correction that students should use instead. Writers will benefit from the writing suggestion feature to make their words much tighter and more polished.
For online content writers, ContentRescue.org is the tool for you. This lets you check 275 words for free against 16 billion pages. A paid account allows you to perform 100 checks for free. This is perfect for those who tirelessly write content online and don't have the time to check each of their works of possible plagiarism issues.
Ambrose's situation is different. Plagiarism occurred multiple times in his body of work. The report from History News Network got ugly when Ambrose tried to defend his actions against his detractors. But such is the case when a famed author gets called out for his repeated misdemeanors.
This goes back to properly attributing your works and making sure that no stone is left unturned. Use the four tools above to ensure that your works are as original as they come is the best thing you can do as a writer.