Plagiarism vs Copyright Infringement Guide

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09 Aug 2021

The majority of college students today do not really know the difference between plagiarism and copyright infringement cases and all related consequences. Both of them can lead to serious trouble. Plagiarism is usually encountered in an academic environment and involves cheating since we often deal with unintentional or self-plagiarism issues. Dealing with copyright issues is something one may encounter not only as a student but also as a blog content creator, writer, entrepreneur, or almost any other specialty. Therefore, it is vital to learn the plagiarism vs copyright differences to stay safe in a situation where you are certain that you have cited or referenced every author and bit of text correctly.

plagiarism vs copyright infringement

What is Copyright Infringement?

In simple terms, copyright infringement stands for the legal protection of intellectual property content and the prevention of any use without the written permission of the copyright holder. When the copyright infringement takes place, it means that the holder's rights have been violated. Only the copyright holder has a right (usually exclusive) to use certain work for a period of time.

When third-party copyright infringement happens, it may end up with a legal dispute and serious consequences as the intellectual property laws are violated. While music and movies usually represent the most famous types of intellectual property that are affected by frequent infringement cases, the text content and multimedia materials like pictures and drawings represent even more complex cases. At the same time, you will deal with contingent liabilities if the copyright-protected content is used without the written permission of the original copyright holder.

While you may have a separate agency dealing with your copyright liabilities, the general copyright law in the United States is governed by federal statute, the Copyright Act of 1976. It has all the basic rules and terms you can check when in doubt. This particular Copyright Act helps to prevent any unauthorized copying of intellectual property of authorship. You may also contact the Copyright Office who holds the responsibility for all registering of intellectual property claims and deals with all the issues that occur in the academic community.

What is Plagiarism? 

Learning plagiarism vs copyright infringement differences, remember that plagiarism stands for presenting someone else's work or ideas as your own when you write an assignment for your college course or conduct some research. When you incorporate certain ideas and discoveries by passing them as your own and do not provide full acknowledgment, it is considered plagiarism. As a rule, it can be intentional (direct), which is cheating, mosaic plagiarism, or unintentional when it happens by accident when paraphrasing has not been done correctly. In addition, there are cases when plagiarism happens because of improper formatting or mistakes in existing references.

The plagiarism cases are always reviewed and controlled under the IPC (PIPA Law), which also makes it a legal offense. Thinking that plagiarism is only a case of academic dishonesty is not right. Colleges and universities have legal rights to punish those that violate the rules. Then you also have the SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act), which is a team of experts that helps to track and fight online trafficking of copyrighted intellectual property.

Still, the most important is to remember that plagiarism may result in more than just getting expelled from your course and getting your academic reputation ruined. In certain cases, you may get in legal trouble if you provide fake references for medical or engineering research where such fraud can easily become dangerous and represent a criminal offense. While not every case of plagiarism is that serious, it is still an offense that must be avoided and addressed.

The Similarities

Copyright infringement and plagiarism cases have certain similarities that must be understood, including:

  • Both plagiarism and copyright infringement cases are related to improper use and copying of someone else's intellectual property. While it may be the case of unintentional violation for both, it still represents an offense. It may end up with lengthy lawsuits since it is impossible to prove that you had no intention to copy something that is not yours.
  • Even when you provide references and specify the names of the authors, it is still a case of copyright infringement.
  • Both types of improper use in the academic environment can end up with legal consequences. Even if you get expelled from your college course or receive your chance to submit some paper again, it will always appear in your academic history records, which is always bad for your future.
  • Copyright violation usually means that some text has been copied word for word, which is also the case of direct plagiarism.
  • Giving credit to the author in your research may still be considered plagiarism when it is done without permission. There is the thin line that one can trace between copyright-based issues and the varieties of plagiarism.

Understanding the difference between copyright and plagiarism, it’s better to follow this advice. It is vital to check twice with your academic advisor to see whether some source can be used safely for your research. Placing a quote from some book with a proper reference is usually considered fine. It may be different if you are quoting something for important medical research that will be published in a major journal. Always follow the rules that are provided by your university and avoid direct copying of entire paragraphs without checking with your professor or someone who may offer more insight into each case.

The Differences Between Plagiarism and Copyright Infringement

While it may seem a bit hard to understand these differences, plagiarism means that some ideas have been copied in this form or another. Yet, the majority of copyright violations happen when a specific fixed sentence or an image has been copied. Even if you provide due credit, using something that has been protected by law is a serious offense. You might remember the line "any unauthorized copying... is prohibited by law". It basically means that you cannot copy anything without getting permission from the author.

While plagiarism is often considered a violation of moral and ethical norms, it’s not entirely right. We may be dealing with something that is protected by law and bits that represent common knowledge. In both cases, college students have to provide full references and check twice to ensure that they are not violating any laws.

  • Plagiarism can be a single line copied while copyright infringement usually relates to large-scale reproduction of media materials or books. The examples may represent entire presentations, design ideas, music videos, songs, books, and more.
  • Plagiarism usually happens when some information has been used for your school essay or research paper without giving proper credit or failing to provide full references. As for copyright violation, it is the case when an entire content has been taken even with the credits provided. Although the credentials have been provided and the student did not claim that certain content is his or her own idea, it has been done without permission.
  • The plagiarism (unless it is direct) is usually varied in terms of how things have been paraphrased or used in a mosaic form. The copyright issues usually deal with the direct reproduction of large volumes of some content without permission. In certain cases, you may not be allowed to use text from an academic article. That is why it is vital to take a second look at the bottom of each page or see the title page to ensure that you can use certain words and ideas for your research.

When in doubt, consider contacting the authors or publishers by asking them for permission rights. If you provide your academic credentials and ask politely, it is most likely that you will be granted permission to use their ideas for reference. If it is not possible, talk to your academic advisor and discuss your concerns.

The Moral Aspect Of Academic Honesty

Let us remember the ethical or moral aspect of plagiarism. It is what holds the common ground for any copyright violation. Regardless of what you may be aiming for, consider proper analysis and evaluation of each source that you plan to use in your research work. Any student with good morals will do so and will not risk using anything that represents certain concerns.

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