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Plagiarism and Copyright Infringement: Thou Shalt Not Steal

By Edited Oct 6, 2016 2 2

Christian scribe image from Wikipedia

While I do not claim to be an expert in copyright law, I have learned a few simple rules which I see broken again and again on websites, blogs and discussion forums. I have become more and more amazed by the amount of plagiarism that seems to be accepted. Much of it, I believe, is due to ignorance and not malicious intent. Most people are not aware copyright infringement is a form of theft, and that many writers only get paid for the views their articles and photos bring in. In the case of a book, the author only earns royalties on books which are sold.

If a writer's content appears on other sites, the writer who did all the work doesn't get paid for their labor. I am sure anyone reading this would want to get paid in full in the workplace. Writers also deserve the right to be paid in full.

While reading and writing articles on How to Write Good Articles for Content-Driven Web Sites, I have seen some articles that actually spread misinformation about copyright and plagiarism. This article seeks to address the most common types of plagiarism, copyright infringement and misinformation about copyright I have seen online.

It is important to note that plagiarism and copyright infringement are not the same thing. They overlap, but you might be in the clear on one and still guilty of the other.

What is Copyright? Wikipedia defines copyright as "the set of exclusive rights granted to the author or creator of an original work, including the right to copy, distribute and adapt the work."

What is Plagiarism? The 1995 Random House Compact Unabridged Dictionary defines plagiarism as the "use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one's own original work."

1. COPYING: It is NOT OK to copy an article or part of a book and reprint it on your blog, a discussion board, or your website. In fact, it is against the law. While it is OK to copy a small portion of the article and link to the rest, it is not OK to copy more than a quote or the introduction. If you copy ANY part of the article or rewrite part of the article, you must give credit and link back to the original article (or provide source information if the source is not online). Articles do not have to have a © printed on them to be protected under the law.

2. REWRITING: It is NOT OK to rewrite an article or book and claim it as your own. That is an infringement of the original author's intellectual property. If you rewrite a small portion, cite the article as the source and provide a link to the original article, that is acceptable, but you cannot claim someone else's research, experience and thoughts as your own simply be rewriting them.

3. MIXING: It is NOT OK to copy part of one person's article or book, and part of another person's article/book, and mix them up and claim the mix as your own. It is not OK to copy half an article and write the other half on your own and claim the full article as your own work. It is not OK to rewrite part of one person's article, and mix in a little of someone else's article, and add a few of your own thoughts, and claim that work as your own. Any copying and rewriting must be of small sections, must be credited properly and must link back to the original article/s unless you obtain permission to reprint a larger portion.

4. PHOTOS: It is NOT OK to copy someone else's photographs without permission for your blog, discussion board, website or Facebook page. Photos do not have to be marked with a © to be protected by copyright. Photos do not have to have the photographer's name typed across them to be protected. The photo belongs to the person who took it and/or published it first, and it is not up for free unless the owner shares it in a commons area where the owner states the photo is available for free use. Like articles, photographers are often only paid for each view a photo receives. If you post it to your website, you are taking away the photographer's or photo owner's income.

5. GOOGLE IMAGES: It is NOT OK to copy an image from Google images without asking the original owner for permission to publish. Most images on Google image have this notice posted near the top by Google: Image may be subject to copyright. Just because it is on Google does not mean it is there for the taking.

6. GIVING CREDIT: It is not OK to copy an article, book or a photo and just "give credit" or "provide the source." Giving credit offers you no protection under copyright law for taking someone else's work and publishing it elsewhere. Unless you purchase the rights to use a specific work, or obtain written permission from the author/photographer to use their work, it is never OK to copy. There is no such thing as "borrowing" someone else's work.

7. PLAGIARISM is THEFT. If you copy or rewrite someone else's work, you are stealing from them. Thou shalt not steal. (Source: Exodus 20:15)



Jun 3, 2011 6:20pm
And, it's really NOT OK to rewrite my title and article a year later, add to it, but keep the basic "It is not OK" form recognizable, and use it for your web design site.
Apr 26, 2012 9:50pm
Absolutely spot on (sounds like you have been a victim)Unfortunately there is a huge amount of material out there that has been plagiarised. Sometimes, though, using a particular phraseology is sometimes unavoidable. You probably don't know it but a couple of years ago, a TV ad campaign in New Zealand targeting domestic violence used the catch phrase "It's not OK" throughout.
Good article and one that every would-be writer should read.
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