Is ChatGPT Plagiarism? From AI Controversy to Clear Answers

In today’s tech-centric world, ChatGPT stands tall as an AI marvel that’s got everyone buzzing. But here’s the million-dollar question: “Is ChatGPT plagiarism?” In this article, we’ll dive into this intriguing question, blending the nuances of AI with the ethos of content creation.

As we pull back the digital curtain, let’s explore if using ChatGPT is truly cheating and copying, or if that is just another tech myth waiting to be debunked. Buckle up, we’re about to embark on an enlightening ethical journey!

Is ChatGPT Plagiarism?

If you don’t consider yourself a great wordsmith, or find it a challenge stringing sentences together for an email response, then more than likely you’ll start to log onto AI chatbots like ChatGPT or Claude 2 to do your writing for you. 

But just like you would get in trouble with your teacher at school for allowing your clever best friend to do your homework, couldn’t the same be said for using AI to do the heavy lifting for you?

In fact, couldn’t using ChatGPT be considered as plagiarism?

Before we find out whether or not ChatGPT is actually plagiarism, let’s take a quick look at its legal definition in the United States:

“Plagiarism is taking the writings or literary ideas of another and selling and/or publishing them as one’s own writing. Brief quotes or use of cited sources do not constitute plagiarism… Although not normally a crime, a person who plagiarizes is subject to being sued for fraud or copyright infringement if prior creation can be proved. Penalties vary depending on jurisdiction, the charges brought, and are determined on a case by case basis.”

What this means is that because ChatGPT has been programmed as a large language model that included writings and literary ideas of others, technically it is let off the hook as far as plagiarism goes. It has also been programmed to create its own unique content — or at least that’s what we’ve been led to believe by OpenAI.)

However, the legal definition concludes, “The Internet has made plagiarism easier than ever before”. And this was defined long before ChatGPT showed up on our screens.

So far, it looks like ChatGPT hasn’t directly copied anyone’s work. And while the LLM is trained on the works of others, the output is a new creation — the same as what a person does when they write, basically.

But because it can often closely resemble another writer’s content, without having to provide the source information, we should conclude that ChatGPT could occasionally produce plagiarized output.

Caught Out in AI-Assisted Cheating

Just recently a student newspaper called The Tab in the United Kingdom reported that there were almost 400 university students that have been investigated this year, accused of cheating due to using ChatGPT for their coursework assessments, what is known as AI-assisted plagiarism. 

Of those 400, close to 150 have already been found guilty, according to data released through Freedom of Information requests. And although none have been expelled for their behavior, they have failed those particular courses, which will definitely affect their overall grades.

The Freedom of Information data also showed that cheating with ChatGPT was a problem in almost half of the UK’s universities, which means this issue could be that much worse here in the United States, where there are more users (31%) of the AI service than anywhere else in the world. 

India is the country with the next highest amount of users (7.6%), while Japan comes in third (4.26%).

Turnitin, the anti-plagiarism software that is used by most universities, has been programmed to identify ‘fake’ coursework and essays written by the AI chatbot.

But educators at these institutions are skeptical about how accurate it is, even though it contains new features to detect the use of AI.

And because ChatGPT is able to generate its own content from the vast natural language data it has learned from, this means that it is quite unlikely to be flagged up by plagiarism detection software.

It is extremely hard to clearly identify AI-assisted content, especially if it has been human edited or run through multiple systems. Many people still think AI-content is easy to identify, but the reality is that it is not.

It is extremely hard to clearly identify AI-assisted content, especially if it has been human edited or run through multiple systems. Many people still think AI-content is easy to identify, but the reality is that it is not.

Saying that though, applications like Turnitin will spot copying and pasting of content, and does offer some sensible advice about making sure that any projects that you do turn in are all in your own words.

On top of that, some institutions ask their students to cite ChatGPT as a source when handing in their work.

So, Is ChatGPT Plagiarism Free? 

ChatGPT generates original content, even if it has learned it by being trained on the writing and ideas of other authors, without credit being given to them.

Therefore, on the surface, ChatGPT can be considered to be plagiarism free.

However, it is entirely up to the user to make sure that any content generated by the AI chatbot is not plagiarized or cheating. In addition, if the user has prompted ChatGPT with plagiarized content, and gets the AI chatbot to paraphrase it, the generated text could be seen as being plagiarized.

We decided to put the AI chatbot itself to the test, and ask it about plagiarism: 

Is ChatGPT plagiarism?

This is what it told us:

As an AI language model, I do not have the ability to plagiarize on my own. However, the content I generate is based on a vast dataset of publicly available text from the internet, books, articles, and other sources up until my last update in September 2021. This means that the responses I provide may include information or phrasing similar to what you might find in other sources.

It’s important to note that while I strive to provide accurate and helpful information, I might not always be perfect. If you use my responses in your work or research, it is essential to verify the information independently and cite the appropriate sources to avoid any concerns about plagiarism.

Additionally, if you’re using AI-generated content for academic or professional purposes, it’s essential to check with your institution or organization about their policies regarding the use of AI-generated text to ensure compliance with ethical guidelines and standards.

So basically, ChatGPT is letting you know that it’s not perfect and that you should always check the output before using it. This is true whether it’s for homework, work reports, blog posts, etc.

Technically it can be deemed free from plagiarism because it is considered ‘unique’ content, but it still needs to be reviewed.

How Can I Check For Plagiarism?

If you’re worried about handing in an assignment, or document, that you’ve used ChatGPT to help you with, then there are some plagiarism software detectors available that can assist you in making sure your content is unique, and has the proper citations.

One of them is the popular Plagiarism Checker by Grammarly, which is free to use, and uses ProQuest’s databases to scan billions of web pages. There’s also a paid version that will highlight any parts of your content that needs sources to be credited. 

As mentioned earlier in this blog, Turnitin is used by many academic institutions to keep on top of student AI-assisted plagiarism. Turnitin has a unique feature that includes AI writing detection capabilities. 

Copyscape is another reliable plagiarism checker, but like Turnitin, there is a fee involved, although if you have a website, you can search for copies of those pages for free to see if anyone is using your words without credit.

Final Thoughts

Although ChatGPT itself, being an AI large language model, isn’t capable of plagiarizing the content that it generates intentionally, it’s up to the user (that would be you, dear reader!) to make sure that the output you receive isn’t so similar to existing content that it could be considered to be copied. 

Don’t cheat. Use ChatGPT and other LLMs as assistants, not as essay writers.

So, is ChatGPT plagiarism? Technically not, although the human-like generated content may not be completely free of plagiarism. AI chatbots should be considered like a writing assistant, not as a substitute for a writer altogether.

Therefore, it will be your responsibility to proofread and check the content before you use it, especially if you’re a college student that will have your work checked by an eagle-eyed lecturer or professor.