Distinguishing Between Copyright Infringement and Plagiarism

Despite all the discussions about copyright infringement and plagiarism many persons still do not know much about either. Even students and some lecturers and teachers confuse the two to one extent or another. This is part of the reason why academic resources continue to be impacted by these issues. It is in fact possible for someone to plagiarize another’s work without actually infringing their copyright.

The first way to differentiate between the two is to know what they mean. Plagiarism refers to the act of using someone’s writing or ideas without properly giving them credit for their work. This in effect makes it seem as if the works belong to you. When it comes to plagiarism it often happens, especially with students without any real intent to do anything wrong. They will use excerpts from books, journals, papers, newspapers and documents thinking it is quite fine. While unethical, plagiarism is not really illegal.

Copyright is protection given to someone’s creative or “original creative works” which is available in a tangible form whether published or unpublished. Copyright infringement occurs when this protection is violated when the work is used without permission whether in its entirety or with some modification. This means using the works in a matter that is reserved solely for the copyright owner without getting permission to do so.

The volume of books, journals, papers, newspapers and documents available makes it easy for people to steal information without getting caught right away. Writing research papers calls for quoting from academic resources in most instances. This is quite acceptable and shows that the research has been done. Not saying where the information is taken from and indicating where quoted material is used is another matter all together.

Plagiarism is most common in the area of education especially among students when they use them as academic resources. On the other hand copyright infringement is more common in the wider society. In most cases, plagiarism is punished by the school system or someone loses their job. With copyright infringement the matter is generally dealt with through the courts.

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