When Does Homage Become Theft?

The root of “plagiarism” lies in the Latin plagium, defined in Roman law as the crime of kidnapping, specifically enslaving free citizens or seizing and extorting labor from someone else’s slaves. Plagium in turn is believed to derive from the Latin plaga, which can signify either a snare or the stripe on skin called up by a whip, the presumed punishment of plagiarii. Only in the first century A.D. was the term deployed, by the poet Martial, to highlight a false claim of authorship.

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