European Journal of Law and Economics

, Volume 24, Issue 2, pp 93–107 | Cite as

On the economics of plagiarism

  • Alan Collins
  • Guy Judge
  • Neil Rickman


Cheating and plagiarism can involve the transgression of intellectual property rights across many areas of life. When a direct financial benefit from such practices is identifiable, the opportunity to seek legal redress is available via civil court action. When it is undertaken by a public official it may constitute malfeasance. Yet in the case of breaches of university regulations (from the growing number of student cheating and plagiarism incidents) subsequent legal intervention may be characterised by situations where the university is the defendant and the alleged plagiarist is the plaintiff (seeking compensation for interrupted study and/or tarnished reputation). University defences can flounder around the issue of proving intent to deceive. What can they do to try to prevent such occurrences? This paper uses economic analysis to examine such issues. Economic models of plagiarism motivated primarily by (i) time-saving and (ii) dishonesty are developed to help frame the discussion. Both model approaches overlap in their implications, namely, ensuring that sufficient resources are devoted to monitoring coursework (to increase the probability that cheating and plagiarism are detected) and of providing sufficiently clear and severe institutional penalties (to counter-balance any expected benefits that the student may perceive to be available from cheating and plagiarism). Policy proposals are raised for further debate and consideration.


Plagiarism Cheating Deception Higher education 

JEL codes

I21 H42 K42 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsUniversity of PortsmouthPortsmouthUK
  2. 2.Department of EconomicsUniversity of SurreyGuildfordUK

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