Before email existed, some authors would mail out their manuscripts to publishers and another copy to themselves.
They did this to make sure that no one pulled their work out of the postbox, ripped off the front cover and sent the newly altered manuscript to a publisher as their own work.
Whether this strategy was a successful way to prevent stealing can be measured by the fact that the number of postmen turned novelists fell to zero after the advent ‘send with attachment.
While pilfering whole books has become much harder, thieving sections has become much easier.
As soon as CTRL C/CTRL V popped into existence, reading went the way of travelling by horse. While some people did it, it was an anachronism reserved for only a few people who had nothing better to do with their time.
University students could now construct an essay in a matter of minutes, before returning to watching gameshows and making cups of tea. In fact, it got to the point where the only two people who had read one well-used text book were the author and his wife.
But where technology can facilitate criminal behaviour, it can regulate, too. Student essays are now regulalry cranked through plagiarism software.
With access to databases of thousands of academic essays, this software runs its own version of compare and contrast on the each essay.
The only way to beat it is by producing original work, leaning heavily on significant quotations from published work.
This way, everybody wins. Academics know that carte blanche copying is kept to a minimum. Meanwhile, students can still rely on copy/paste for their erudition, with the liberal addition of inverted commas.
Ok, the above suggests that theft is rampant and young people’s deal thirst for knowledge has been quenched by technology’s lure of laziness.
Not so, even before digital technology, people were lazy and taking huge reams from other people’s work was a feasible shortcut. It’s just previously you’d have to copy it all out by hand.
Hand copying meant that nothing was identical. Each copiest adding their own errors, like the world’s longest game of Chinese Whispers. These copy errors piled one on top of the other until what had started off as The Iliad by Homer became, thousands of copies later, Jilly Cooper’s Riders, which in turn morphed into Chicken Soup For The Soul and the first four pages of The Little Book of Calm.
This abject nonsense was written in response to the daily prompt identical.