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Thomas Jefferson repeated prose from previous writings in The Declaration of Independence and did not cite these works.4 Few would argue this famous example of self-plagiarism as unacceptable.
Most also agree that experts providing opinions to popular newspapers or magazines need not cite specific previous writings.
The US Constitution grants Congress the power to “promote the progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” Copyright is this legal protection of a particular expression of an idea, but not of the facts or ideas themselves.5 In the US, copyright protection extends for the life of the author plus 70 years.6
Authors of technical articles are often asked to assign copyright to a journal’s owner or publisher as a condition for publication—such is the case for the JAAD, whose owner is the AAD. In many cases the publisher handles permission requests from authors. Elsevier does this for the JAAD. Subsequent republication by the author of copyrighted text without permission and citation is technically illegal—but permission is usually granted pro forma.
Few sanctions have been handed down as the courts have generally recognized that “authors have special rights to their words not withstanding copyright.”3
Self-plagiarism is not acceptable in academic writing because academic writing is grounded by its references, and authors are expected to cite their closely related previous writing.
Disclosed interests: Dr. Ellis is President of the post publication peer review resource www.JournalReview.org. Dr. Dellavalle and Mr. Banks are respectively chair and member of the advisory committee to www.JournalReview.org.
Publisher's Disclaimer: This is a PDF file of an unedited manuscript that has been accepted for publication. As a service to our customers we are providing this early version of the manuscript. The manuscript will undergo copyediting, typesetting, and review of the resulting proof before it is published in its final citable form. Please note that during the production process errors may be discovered which could affect the content, and all legal disclaimers that apply to the journal pertain.