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Before the web took off and forums were everywhere, people used mailing lists. You would subscribe to a list and when you emailed the address of the list everyone on the list got a copy, and that is how people help grouped discussions. Most list services ran multiple lists so if you wanted to subscribe from a particular list you would email a specifically formatted message like
and the list server would remove you from the "asp.net" discussion list.
Plagiarism is never unintentional: you cannot accidentally type CTRL-A, CTRL-C, CTRL-TAB, CTRL-V then tick a box marked "this is all my own work" and press a "Submit" button.
And it is theft: all of us who write articles know how damn hard it is to get the words right - it's normally a lot more effort than the code that accompanies them - so when someone decides "I want the credit for that" they are genuinely stealing the effort that another has put into the job.
Think of it this way: You write an app, I see it, take a copy, file the serial numbers off, change the name to "Flappy Birds" and slam it up iTunes & the Play Store. Soon, I'm pulling down $50,000 a day in advertising revenues. Are you a happy bunny? Or are you hot-footing it to a solicitor?
(That isn't what happened with "Flappy Birds" - that was not plagiarised in any way, I'm, sure - but that was the money it was earning)
That's what plagiarism is: theft. The "I didn't mean to", "I didn't plagiarise, I just copied", and such like arguments are total bull.
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We have had a number of lawsuits in the copyright area where the lawyers have been fighting fiercely to prove that a motif in one tune is in fact identical to (read: stolen from) a motif in another tune. But motifs are so simple that you do not have that many choices - you could by accident happen to make a motif similar to that of another song, without knowing the other.
I don't know of any case where a single motif was the only subject; it is just used as a foundation for the next step: If you vary that motif of yours (and the other) in roughly the same four ways, in the same order, as the other, then it is plagiarism. It used to be a sequence of eight (well, really 8 bars, but very often a motif has the length of a bar), but he last few years, four has been the norm.
Varying a motif can also be done in a rather limited number of ways, at least if you stay within one musical style. Learning composition, you also learn patterns of varying / repeating motifs. It is not that improbable that two composers make similar variations even if they don't know each other's works. The two 4-bar sequences may end up being 100% identical, by luck and chance, but that is certainly not required to make a lawsuit! Even if the harmonies make them appear very different, the preceeding and following bars are completely different, the third is lowered making it a minor rather than a major scale melody, ...
Can it be proven that the four bars nevertheless were "stolen"? Or if not deliberately stolen, should the second composer have known that this theme already was annexed by the first composer, now being his private property?
Is a composer required to investigate all music ever composed, to ensure that no other composer anywhere has used the same motiv, varying it over four bars, in a way similar to how he now wants to use it in his own composition? Actually, for technical inventions, that is the way it works: Before you start making money on your invention, you must check if the mechanism is already patented. But to be patented, it should be non-trivial, so that others do not accidentally do the same; it should have a certain "invention height" (that's a Norwegian term, I don't know if it is used in other laguages) - but more so in Europe than in the US, it seems. For music, it has moved in the other direction: From being non-trivial, it is reduced to the trivial where you certainly by accident may create the same note sequence as someone did before you in some other part of the world.
We have had a few similar cases in litterature: One novel accused of being a remake of an old story. Occasionally, paintings are accused of being plagiats.
For text, you do have a right to quote other works, within certain limits. If the purpose of your text is e.g. an asessment of the other, the limits are quite wide. But: You are expected to identify your source. I guess that is where the grossest mistakes are made.
Some texts are published for being quoted. Commercial companies make press releases to hundreds of media institutions, as a way to get free advertising. Often, they prefer nor to be quoted as the source, but appear as editorial stuff.
Bottom line: Plagiarism is rarely a clear cut issue.