Definition of plagiarism?

Case number:

Case text (Anonymised)

In 1997 a book was published (in Italian) on the life of an Italian composer, assembled through analysis of his mummified remains.  Author A contributed a chapter on anthropological analysis (chapter X) and author B co-authored a chapter on paleopathology (chapter Y).

In 2003, our journal published an article (in English) co-authored by author B on the paleopathology of the same composer.

In 2006, the journal received a complaint from author A, who accused author B of plagiarising chapter X in the journal article. We now have copies of both texts with the similar text highlighted (by author A).  The publishing editor has contacted author B on numerous occasions for an explanation with no response.

As authors A and B work at the same institute and author A has inferred that this is not an isolated incident, the editor has been advised to contact the institute with details of this specific allegation.

However, we were interested to note that advice from our legal department clearly stated that plagiarism could only be proven if the alleged plagiarism was word-for-word the same as the original text, with the implication that as the text was in a different language, plagiarism could not be proven. Have any other committee members encountered plagiarism in different languages and, if so, how was it proven/resolved and what advice can you provide.


The committee unanimously agreed that this was indeed a case of plagiarism. Plagiarism does not have to be word-for-word the same, and plagiarism can be proven even in two different languages. The advice was to seek more legal advice as it is possible that the legal department may be confusing copyright with plagiarism.

Follow up: 

As the authors involved worked at the same institution, the heads of the relevant departments were approached by the publishing editor and asked to try to resolve the matter internally.

They investigated the situation and agreed that the accusation of plagiarism could not be sustained, although author B should have included a citation to author A’s book chapter in the journal article.  It has been agreed that an erratum to the journal article can be published to correct this oversight. Both authors and both faculty heads have approved this decision and the matter can be considered resolved.