Online Copyright Handbook
Section One : PLAGIARISM AND COPYRIGHT VIOLATION
The terms "plagiarism" and "copyright violation"
are often used interchangeably. Although that may work
well for most dinner table conversations, it's actually
incredibly incorrect. Not all acts of plagiarism are copyright
violations and the two concepts are actually quite distinct.
Copyright violation refers
to the use of protected material without the appropriately
expressed consent of the owner. If you take a poem I have
written and to which I hold copyright and then place it
on your website, you are violating my copyright. You are
breaking the law.
Are you plagiarizing?
Maybe. If you indicate that I am the author (attribution)
you aren't really plagiarizing. You have certainly stolen
my poem and you are in violation of copyright law, but
you aren't passing it off as your own.
Plagiarism refers to
stealing the work or ideas of another person for your
own use without properly attributing the source. Being
a plagiarist can get you in trouble in academic and professional
settings, but it isn't necessarily illegal.
Illegality only enters
the picture at the point of a copyright violation.
Plagiarism is, primarily,
an ethical issue. It involves whether it is right or wrong
to copy or to steal the ideas of another and pretend as
if it is your own.
Copyright, on the other
hand, is a legal matter. It involves whether your use
of someone else's work infringes their intellectual property
All copyright violations
aren't plagiarism. Not all plagiarism rises to the level
of copyright violation. However, the two phenomena do
overlap a great deal. In many cases, the plagiarist will
be a copyright infringer. Quite often, the person violating
a copyright will be in the process of plagiarizing.
Nonetheless, it does
make sense to understand the difference between the two
acts. If someone plagiarizes you, you may or may not have
recourse. It will usually depend upon whether the act
also constitutes an infringement of copyright.