In the dimension of copyright, the issue of plagiarism often comes up. There is a common misunderstanding that there is a connection between copyright or plagiarism. Plagiarism is not generally a violation of copyright law - although in some cases where extensive copying takes place it may be. Rather it is a failure of attribution. Basically plagiarism is not illegal - but it is heavily punished through contract law. It is a good example of "why we don't need a law for that" contrary the oft expressed opinion if something is bad we need a law against it.
The key point is that if we got rid of copyright the existing penalties for plagiarism would continue unchanged. The recent story of the economist Brian Swart is a case in point. It involves Theoretical Economics a journal which I helped to found, and my friend and colleague Martin Osborne who is editor of the journal. The key point is that Swart while violating no law, lost his job and had his PhD rescinded as a consequence of his plagiarism. So be warned: the punishment for plagiarism is severe.
1. Plagiarism most certainly is illegal, it is called "copyright infringement". One very famous plagiarism case involves the song "My Sweet Lord" by George Harrison. (see Bright Songs Music v. Harrisongs Music). There are many others.
2. Contract law only applies to people who have a contract. Yes, an employer may be able to punish an employee who plagiarizes, as your academic example shows. But this case is EMPLOYER v. PLAGIARIST. Contract law cannot address AUTHOR v. PLAGIARIST.
Mr. Levine, why to you ignore the AUTHOR?
The issue is whether the crime is punished not who punishes it. If somebody robs our house we do not deliver our own justice. Why does the author need to in the case of plagiarism?
@ Alexander Baker: So basically, if I copy parts of 'Titus Andronicus' to a webpage without attribution and someone who has never heard of it believes that I'm the author, I've committed copyright infringement even though the actual author of that play died 93 years before the world's first copyright law received Royal Assent? How does that even make sense?