Plagiarism – the official institutional exemption

There is an embarrassing report of plagiarism in a recent Philippine Supreme Court’s decision. (See also here at ABS-CBN). The international legal community has picked up on the matter.

Plagiarism is a matter of consent within an institution, it seems, pretty much on the basis by which ghosts give up intellectual credits to the purported authors.  Underlings draft reports, articles, speeches, memos for their supervisors whose names appear thereon.  It is a matter of consent:  the underling’s job entails giving up intellectual property rights to what he “ghost writes” for his boss.  The boss cannot thence be subject to “stealing” from his ghost writer.

But when the underling plagiarizes a third party’s work, and “gives” it to his boss, is the boss liable?

I believe the matter becomes a tort case, where the boss then is chargeable with negligence, unless of course the boss was (or should have been) aware of the underling’s plagiarism.

This tort aspect is perhaps the likely defense of any Philippine Supreme Court official who may be accused of plagiarism.  After all, humans being humans, some cases of negligence are legally excusable.


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