Cryptomnesia: is some plagiarism unconscious?

Plagiarism is one of the great sins in journalism, but could the copying of someone else’s words be unconscious?

A recent Newsweek article, “You Didn’t Plagiarize, Your Unconscious Did,” looks into cryptomnesia, or unconscious copying.

The article concludes:

“Unconscious plagiarism does exist, but writers who don’t take proactive steps to avoid it are often either being lazy, or they have a diminished fear of being caught. Driving is a good model: it is easy enough to drift over the speed limit without being aware of it, but vigilant drivers can prevent the habit by forcing themselves to pay conscious attention to the problem. And just as not knowing one’s speed won’t save one from a ticket, the fact that unconscious plagiarism isn’t outright fraud doesn’t make ‘It was cryptomnesia!’ much of an excuse. Unconscious plagiarism may not be a ‘felony,’ said Schneider, but it’s still a journalistic ‘misdemeanor.’