Somebody famous said that a poor writer plagiarizes; a good writer steals.
A plagiarizer is a shoplifter of ideas, satisfied with taking someone else’s “chachki” or “Tchotchke”– the intellectual equivalent of small toys, gewgaws, knickknacks, baubles, trinkets.
Quotes are almost the same, and they litter web sites everywhere. People who don’t recognize the importance of (or even understand) what Gandhi or Martin Luther King or de Tocqueville wrote will quote them without absorbing or considering their core messages.
Plagiarizers rarely get arrested. But by ignoring what has real value, they only attract equally superficial folks.
The professional thief, on the other hand, goes for the good stuff. He or she knows enough about what they’re stealing to be able to distinguish the real from the fake. They don’t mind making the effort to get what’s real.
A plagiarizer doesn’t care what the writer was really saying, or how valuable it may be. They want to be admired when they take something for nothing. How hard is it to copy and paste a quote or a phrase? A professional thief pays his or her victim a compliment by going to a lot of trouble to get something of real value.
Listening carefully to someone in a good conversation, or reading what they’ve written, isn’t always easy. But it’s worth the effort. Taking away something of value is good for both of you. And if you really like it, steal it!
p.s. I never worry about someone stealing my intellectual property. Not only is it a compliment to the quality of my work; by using my old stuff, they’re indirectly promoting my newer contributions. As long as I keep producing more stuff that matters, my philosophy will continue to be “catch me if you can.”