Plagiarism is something that you may be familiar with, but do you know if it’s something illegal? Why does plagiarism have so many negative connotations compared to copying and referencing? Plagiarism is the act of taking someone’s work, whether it’s word-for-word, or slightly reworded to fit your own context, and using it to represent your own work. Is plagiarism illegal?
It’s all over the internet, and it’s everywhere with major blogs and even big companies getting into hot water for copying other peoples’ work. If you’re not certain whether plagiarism is legal or illegal in your context, this article will provide you with guidance on how to answer that question.
When is Plagiarism Illegal?
If you steal something, you’re breaking the law. But what if you take someone else’s words and use them as your own? The legal definition of copyright infringement is fairly clear, but there are plenty of gray areas when it comes to plagiarism.
The short answer: Plagiarism isn’t illegal, but it can be a breach of contract or an ethical violation.
If you work for a company or attend a school that has strict rules about using someone else’s words, plagiarizing may get you fired or expelled. Some companies require employees to sign contracts agreeing not to do this. If a company finds that one of its workers has plagiarized someone else’s work, it could terminate the employee for breaching the contract.
There are other situations where plagiarism can get you in trouble. For example, let’s say you’re taking a college course and turn in an assignment that was written by someone else. The professor doesn’t need to prove you stole the work — he only needs to prove that you used someone else’s words without giving credit. In academic settings, this is called “academic dishonesty,” and the consequences vary from school to school, but they could include expulsion.
What are the Penalties for Plagiarism?
You’re probably not going to get arrested for plagiarism. You’ll likely face serious consequences from your school or employer, but plagiarism isn’t a crime that will put you in jail.
While it’s possible that you could be sued for copyright infringement, most cases of plagiarism are handled by schools and employers rather than the courts.
Your school or employer will decide what action to take if you’re caught plagiarizing. Generally, plagiarism is considered a breach of academic integrity or professional ethics, so the penalties depend on where you were when you plagiarized.
What about accidental plagiarism?
Accidental plagiarism is a bit of a gray area. If the person who committed the act didn’t realize they were plagiarizing, did they really commit plagiarism?
It depends on whether or not the person who unintentionally copied someone else’s work took reasonable steps to ensure that what they were writing was original.
For example, if you are writing an essay about something you read online and you forget to cite your source, that’s probably accidental plagiarism. If you copy and paste entire paragraphs from Wikipedia into your paper without citing them, that’s definitely intentional plagiarism.
Are there exceptions for using other people’s work without attribution or permission?
Plagiarism is a violation of copyright law. If you use someone else’s work without attributing it correctly, it is considered theft. It could be an idea, design, image, or text.
Copyright law is there to protect the rights of the original author, designer, artist, or photographer. It allows them to benefit from their work — for example by selling it.
In most instances of plagiarism, the person who has copied someone else’s work has not obtained permission to do so. This is against the law.
To avoid plagiarism, always follow best practices when using other people’s work:
Always give credit to the original author with a citation and reference in the correct format (e.g., APA citation)
Never claim another person’s work as your own
If using a direct quote or paraphrasing someone else’s ideas, make sure you place them in quotation marks and cite the source in your paper
There are laws that protect the original author
There are laws that protect the original author from having their work stolen without proper compensation or attribution. As long as the author does not plagiarize another person’s work, any other author who uses their work must give credit for it.
It doesn’t matter what country you’re in
Plagiarism is a violation of copyright law, which is enforced in the United States through civil lawsuits. If you’re found guilty in court, you can be ordered to stop using the copied material and pay monetary damages. You could also face criminal charges if the plagiarism was willful and involved a large amount of copied content.
But there’s no international copyright law that covers everyone on Earth, so what happens if you violate copyright laws in another country? If that other country has an extradition treaty with the United States, then you can be forced to stand trial in the United States for violating American law while abroad.
If you’re accused of plagiarism but live in a country without an extradition treaty with the United States, you should still be worried. Even though you can’t be prosecuted in a U.S. court, it’s possible to be sued in your own country for violating American copyright law — even if you never set foot on U.S. soil.
Even though it’s illegal, there’s no police force that stops it from happening
Plagiarism is, in fact, illegal. It’s considered theft of intellectual property, and as a result, it’s a crime that could land you some very severe and long-lasting penalties.
While there is no police force to stop plagiarism from happening, universities and colleges deal with cases of plagiarism, especially if the student has been caught. Usually, the consequences are severe enough to make students think twice before doing it again.
The best thing you can do is to avoid having to face those consequences by learning how to properly cite your sources and give credit where it’s due.
It can be difficult to prove intention
While plagiarism is illegal and has been for centuries, the laws regarding it are often fuzzy.
The main reason for this is intent. Plagiarism laws deal with people who intentionally try to pass off someone else’s work as their own. Since the burden of proof lies with those who are accusing a person of plagiarism, it can be difficult to prove that a person committed plagiarism on purpose.
It’s also important to understand that most cases of plagiarism aren’t reported to the police or taken through any court system. Usually, when plagiarism is discovered, the work in question is simply retracted or discredited by whoever published it. The only time when something like this might end up in court is if the plagiarist tries to sue the person who accused them of plagiarism or if they publish or claim ownership of someone else’s work.
Plagiarism is illegal but that doesn’t mean people don’t do it. If someone submits your work as their own, they are plagiarizing. You have put in time and effort to create it and they are stealing it by claiming it as theirs. Be very careful with the Internet. The moment you post something online, others can copy it and use it for their own purpose. The best thing you can do is to quote the source where you got the information from and link back to this source if possible.