It’s 6 o’clock in the morning. A bright summer sunshine has woken you up. And you start a brand-new day with your favorite routines: a hot cup of tea with golden crust toasts and the freshest newspaper. Suddenly, an eye-catching headline has grabbed your attention. Having read a few paragraphs, you can’t get rid of a strange déjà vu feeling… a very familiar author and even more familiar facts… No doubt, you’ve looked through this article before! But do you feel like reading it up to the end now?
Probably not, for you might feel as if somebody deceived you by slightly rephrasing the lead of the article, while the rest of it remained unchanged at all. Should some extra changes be made, you will hardly become more satisfied, simply because you were looking for something truly informative and new, but as a result didn’t get it.
So, was this case a clear instance of plagiarism? Not really, since it doesn’t correspond to plagiarism definition completely. The author just reused his/her own content, which was published earlier. Nevertheless it looks like cheating, doesn’t it?
Should The Term Self-Plagiarism Exist?
This is a rather disputable issue for a great many people. On the one hand, there are those who find the term inappropriate, due to the fact that you can’t rip off your own work. On the other hand, cheating is the thing that is common for both plagiarism and self-plagiarism. Though in the first case, you cheat others, while in the latter one you “cheat yourself” thinking you may fool everybody by reusing your works to get some additional benefits/profits! Probably that’s why such notion as self-plagiarism appeared, however it is not officially defined by the dictionaries.
In order to avoid all these ambiguities, self-plagiarism is quite often replaced with double-dipping, i.e. applying one’s own works repeatedly pretending they were the new ones.
Why not go forward by making an attempt to define the meaning of the word in question more precisely? Let’s do it this way: self-plagiarism/double-dipping means recycling your own material for the purpose of cheating. Here is a list of the most wide-spread self-plagiarism cases related to the definition:
But what if several clients asked you to provide them with articles on a similar topic? Moreover, they assured you of not having any intentions to place it on the web or elsewhere? And you got lucky to have one not being published before. Could you provide them all with one and the same article? Well, it’s the matter of ethics till this article remains unpublished, but once somebody does it, you may be accused of self-plagiarism/double-dipping the moment your secret is revealed.
Well, as for the term self-plagiarism, there seems to be nothing wrong with applying it. However, should you consider it to be confusing, please, make use of double-dipping instead.
Where And Why Does It Occur?
If you enter the word self-plagiarism into the search engine string, the biggest number of matches found will concern the field of education. Besides, a lot of educational establishments have codes of conduct providing students with clear instructions as for avoiding self-plagiarism, e.g.:
“ – Never submit the same assignment twice.
– Never use a part of one assignment in another assignment.
– If you are looking back at an old assignment for information you need again, make a brief note of the information beforehand and work from that note.” 
And yet it doesn’t imply, that you will never face this problem in copywriting, journalism, arts, etc.
In contrast to plagiarism and the scope of punishment it entails, self-plagiarism doesn’t stipulate any severe legal penalties. And it’s no wonder, as long as stealing from others is considered to be much worse than self-plagiarism/double-dipping. However the consequences may be as follows:
“Former New Yorker journalist Jonah Lehrer recently resigned due to a self-plagiarism scandal. It was discovered that he had reused words from his previous articles in thirteen different instances. Initially he received little punishment from The New Yorker, which agreed to keep his employment as long as the error was not repeated. However after many more instances of self-plagiarism were found, his behaviour was deemed a habit and Lehrer resigned.” 
Generally, the risks implied include: ruining your reputation as a student/journalist/copywriter, etc. and as a result, failing to pass an exam/getting less profit/losing credibility of your customers.
What Should Be Done?
The cure-all seems to be rather affordable for everyone, i.e.:
“It seems to me that the bottom line is to do what you say you’ll do: if you say you’ll produce original material, then original it ought to be. If the journal expects original material, then original material they ought to receive. If you need to reuse some of your old writing, then cite it!” 
Not being taken seriously, self-plagiarism is growing in popularity very fast. Once everybody brushes off the necessity to make proper acknowledgement of the sources used, similar articles, works, posts will appear in publication in much bigger quantity than before. Thus, all of us risk to be deprived of new quality information sources.
Then let’s do everything possible to produce only unique content!
P.S.: You are welcome to share your opinions relative self-plagiarism in the comments below!