The Difference Between Plagiarism And Copyright Infringement

from the not-a-purely-academic-question dept

Plagiarism is a complex and emotive issue, as previous Techdirt posts on the subject have shown. Perhaps because of that complexity, people often seem confused about the difference between plagiarism and copyright infringement. The palaeontologist Mike Taylor has put together a short post with this handy explanation of how it works in an academic context:
First, plagiarism is a violation of academic norms but not illegal; copyright violation second is illegal, but in truth pretty ubiquitous in academia. (Where did you get that PDF?)

Second, plagiarism is an offence against the author, while copyright violation is an offence against the copyright holder. In traditional academic publishing, they are usually not the same person, due to the ubiquity of copyright transfer agreements (CTAs).

Third, plagiarism applies when ideas are copied, whereas copyright violation occurs only when a specific fixed expression (e.g. sequence of words) is copied.

Fourth, avoiding plagiarism is about properly apportioning intellectual credit, whereas copyright is about maintaining revenue streams.
The post goes on to present some hypothetical cases that illustrate the concrete differences between plagiarism and copyright infringement, again as far as the academic world is concerned. There's also this handy summary of the central issue:
Plagiarism is about the failure to properly attribute the authorship of copied material (whether copies of ideas or of text or images). Copyright violation is about failure to pay for the use of the material.
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Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Ehud Gavron (profile), Oct 9th, 2013 @ 10:25pm

    Copyright violations on a class paper

    A student took the same class two years in a row and the prof assigned the same paper. The student used his paper from the previous year unchanged and turned it in to receive an A+.

    My comment: you can't be accused of academic theft, plagiarism, or copyright violations for copying your own work verbatim.

    Thanks for explaining the difference between the two :)

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 9th, 2013 @ 11:54pm

    Re: Copyright violations on a class paper

    Can't be guilty of plagiarism in the situation you mention, but you can be accused of many things incorrectly.
    If you had assigned copyright to someone else before submitting the paper again you could well be both accused and guilty of copyright infringement.
    The greater accusation though would be of such an individual being an utter moron, why would you take a course you've already aced a second time, especially without wishing to do anything differently.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 10th, 2013 @ 12:04am

    Taylor has good examples

    Mike Tayor (minor reformat of an excerpt from the link above):
    Letís consider four cases (with good outcomes is bold and bad ones in italics):

    I copy big chunks of Jeff Wilsonís (2002) sauropod phylogeny paper (which is copyright the Linnean Society of London) and paste it into my own new paper without attribution. This is both plagiarism against Wilson and copyright violation against the Linnean Society.

    I copy big chunks of Wilsonís paper and paste it into mine, attributing it to him. This is not plagiarism, but copyright violation against the Linnean Society.

    I copy big chunks of Riggís (1904) Brachiosaurus monograph (which is out of copyright and in the public domain) into my own new paper without attribution. This is plagiarism against Riggs, but not copyright violation.

    I copy big chunks of Riggís paper and paste it into mine with attribution. This is neither plagiarism nor copyright violation.

    Plagiarism is about the failure to properly attribute the authorship of copied material (whether copies of ideas or of text or images). Copyright violation is about failure to pay for the use of the material.

    I usually talk about my play, Hamlet, to make the same points. Considering, I think we can assume that the Elsevier lawyer that prompted Taylor's post also knows all these differences, but is intentionally collapsing the categories for "strategic" reasons and thus is pretending that all cases are in the first category, above. You can do a similar list focusing on fair use and quotation, if you so like.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 10th, 2013 @ 12:08am

    Re: Re: Copyright violations on a class paper

    Academics have a category called "self-plagiarism" which applies to unacknowledged duplicate publication of the same material. In the worst cases, it's a form of academic (or scientific) fraud.
    I wouldn't apply it to undergraduate writing, though. And shame on the lazy professor for not varying the essay prompt.

     

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  5. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 10th, 2013 @ 12:17am

    was there really confusion ?

    people are really confused between copyright and plagiarism ? really ????

    Now tell us if you can tell the difference between Butter and "I can't believe it's not butter"!!

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 10th, 2013 @ 12:43am

    Re: was there really confusion ?

    I've seen intellectual property campaigns attempting to convince artists to support efforts against filesharing, under the pretext that they would not feel happy if another person took a creation of theirs and claimed that they created it (misattribution).

    So not only are people confused between copyright and plagiarism, pro-copyright enforcement individuals are known to actively promote this confusion to further their agenda.

    The difference between butter and margarine is that one's not vegan.

    But obviously you've proven yourself too dumb to tell the differences in either example. This is the sort of jackass Australia allows in solar panel engineering?

     

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  7.  
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    ipgrunt (profile), Oct 10th, 2013 @ 1:20am

    Difference between plagiarism and copyright infringement?

    Joe Biden has never been guilty of copyright infringement.

     

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  8.  
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    G Thompson (profile), Oct 10th, 2013 @ 1:30am

    Re: was there really confusion ?

    Now tell us if you can tell the difference between Butter and "I can't believe it's not butter"!!

    One has more cholesterol...oops words ;)

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 10th, 2013 @ 1:55am

    Re: Re: was there really confusion ?

    Words make darryl's head hurt.

     

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  10.  
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    Violynne (profile), Oct 10th, 2013 @ 3:27am

    Not sure how plagiarism isn't copyright infringement, since the law includes derivative and transformative clauses.

    It seems to me the only "real" difference is between academia and the rest of the universe.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 10th, 2013 @ 3:40am

    Re:

    Plagiarism is all about attribution.

    You can make a derivative work all you want, you can break copyright all you want, but as long as you properly attribute the original source, it is not plagiarism.

     

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  12.  
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    NOOOOOOOO, Oct 10th, 2013 @ 3:55am

    "Copyright violation is about failure to pay for the use of the material."

    !!!!!

    No, it is not copyright infringement just because you don't pay for something. I don't think there's any link between paying and something being copyright infringement. YouTube, Aereo, Grooveshark, Pandora...

     

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  13. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 10th, 2013 @ 3:57am

    Re: Re: was there really confusion ?

    next are you going to show us how apples differ from oranges ??

    Because TD readers are really stupid, and have to have everything explained to them, as if they have never heard the word "copyright" mentioned here on TD.

    Or do you think TD readers would not be able to work out that a copyright hold is not necessarily the author of the works.


    But obviously you've proven yourself too dumb to tell the differences in either example. This is the sort of jackass Australia allows in solar panel engineering?


    You sir, are a sad and bitter person with a lot a jealously combined, but it's your right to be like that, I hope you enjoy your bitter, twisted, hate filled life.

    Lets hope you actually manage to achieve something in your life that is worth wile. Or are you happy to spend the rest of your life being envious of what others have achieved ?

    In our labs (here in Australia) where I worked, we developed THE MOST EFFECIENT photovoltaic cell (solar panel for you), IN THE WORLD. INCLUDING THE US..

    Not bad for a bunch of jackasses, let me guess, when I was doing that you were bitching on some forum!

    So what else have you got ?? As although you appear to have spent your life bitter and trying to insult people, it is clear you are not very good at it !!!

    If you want to insult me, you are going to have to try much, much harder.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 10th, 2013 @ 4:25am

    Re: Re: Re: was there really confusion ?

    "If you want to insult me, you are going to have to try much, much harder."
    Dunno, seems like he wound you up pretty good with what he already said...

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 10th, 2013 @ 4:40am

    Re: Re: Re: was there really confusion ?

    PUNY HUMAN!

    ...WORDS MAKE HULK HEAD HURT.

    RWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAR!

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 10th, 2013 @ 7:22am

    Re:

    In the context of where the article writer is coming from, it is probably his experience to pay for any copyrighted work he wishes to use in academia. Or whenever encountering a copyright violation had to pay up money to get it properly authorized.

     

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  17.  
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    jupiterkansas (profile), Oct 10th, 2013 @ 7:55am

    Re:

    NOOOOOOOO is right. Copyright is a failure to get permission - no a failure to pay. You can get permission to copy without paying, and you can be refused to copy even if you offer to pay.

    Copyright is about the copyright holder's power to control who can and cannot make copies. The money part is a byproduct of that power.

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 10th, 2013 @ 7:58am

    Copyright violation is about failure to pay for the use of the material.

    That wasn't the purpose of copyright.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 10th, 2013 @ 9:02am

    Re:

    In addition, I can pay for something all I want, and still commit copyright infringement if I allow someone else to use it without paying- all that's required is that the terms of usage (civil contract) say I can't.

    Yet another example of how copyright holders are allowed to define crimes.

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 10th, 2013 @ 10:56am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: was there really confusion ?

    oh yea, I am furious !!!! It's not my problem if some bitter and twisted person is the way they are, I also don't care that he appears very envious of me.

    That's ok, I under how underachievers could feel like that.

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 10th, 2013 @ 11:16am

    Re: Re:

    yes you've just explained how you pay for the product, not the rights of that product. Perhaps TD could do an article explaining that basic fact !

    the price split between buying a COPY of a work and buying the COPYRIGHT is huge.

    yes, correct you are infringing copyright if you make a copy with the right, that what copyright is.

    When you purchase a book or movie, you purchase a COPY, not the right to copy, that is a right reserved for the owner of the right to copy it, the copyright owner.

    See how simple it is when you think about it !!

    Also, I am not pro or anti copyright, nor do I believe that if it's easy to commit a crime then it's not a crime. I just care about the facts.

    I just thought a web site like TD would not allow such a simple confusion to exist here, that owning a copy of a work is somehow equivalent to owning the copyright of that work. No matter how easy it is for you to copy, simply the law says you purchased a copy of the work, and not the copyright of the work.

    Huge difference, why is that never clarified here on TD? I would of thought Masnick legal skills would be able to understand that. In fact I am sure he does. But facts like that are clearly not you want to hear.

    After all, it's so much better to provide justification after justification to do something you are not legally allowed to do. No matter how easy it is to do.

     

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  22.  
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    jupiterkansas (profile), Oct 10th, 2013 @ 2:51pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    I've seen that point clarified many times on TechDirt, just not on this particular article.

     

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  23.  
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    jcvillar (profile), Oct 10th, 2013 @ 4:37pm

    Re: Copyright violations on a class paper

    What if the student suffers from multiple personality disorder (MPD) and her second personality turned in the paper written by the first to the psychology professor? Would this make a difference?

     

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  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 10th, 2013 @ 5:37pm

    Re: Re: Re: was there really confusion ?

    It's funny you think that the only reader demographic of TechDirt is a scummy little basement-dwelling teenager from the US.

    Lad, it doesn't matter how high you go; make a mistake and if your credentials are high enough, you will be and deserve to have people leaping down your throat. "EFFECIENT"? Really? Can't spell "efficient"? Put that in your research papers and they'll look like they were made in China.

    It's rich that you're claiming that others insult people, because every single post you make has been nothing but insults. You can't even link to your products - well, no surprise. You haven't proven a single shred of credibility and publicly refuse to.

    Insults fly over your head and your best response is a big fat "neener", so I'm not expecting to get anywhere. Can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. But hey, if you want to continue acting like making a few panels entitles you to be a royal douchebag, by all means go ahead.

     

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  25.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2013 @ 8:11am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Does it make you feel good to be a condescending twat when the situation doesn't call for any of your brand of 'clarification'? Or are you just another ootb clone trying on the troll hat?

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2013 @ 8:56am

    A list of facts??

    Can a list of facts be considered copyright? I thought they could not be. If they can be I want to copyright the alphabet and 0-9.

     

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  27.  
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    jcvillar (profile), Oct 14th, 2013 @ 11:04am

    Re: A list of facts??

    No, that was settled in the Feist case long ago in a dispute over phonebooks. Facts are not "original" with the author as required by the copyright statute.

    http://www.law.cornell.edu/copyright/cases/499_US_340.htm

     

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  28.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2013 @ 11:12am

    Re: Re: A list of facts??

    That's what I thought. So what are in school/college textbooks if they are copyright protected? I'm assuming now not necessarily facts?

     

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  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2013 @ 2:06pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    So if I bought a "copy" of a book and that book is protected by "copyright", and then I let someone else read the book, that could be considered a copyright violation if the copyright owner had included a terms of service agreement that prohibited letting others read the book?

    Feel free to answer in whatever tone you prefer, I got thick skin. I just want to better understand how the terms of service effect the legality of using, sharing, selling the "copy" I bought.

    And what if instead of sharing or selling the book to a friend I just verbally told the person the contents of the book but never did mention to that person that I had got the information I was verbally communicating to them that it had came from a published work with copyright protection, would that be copyright infringement/violation?

    Then say that person published the information I had verbally told to them in their own book, while never knowing it had already been published with copyright protection, would they then be in violation of copyright or would I be?

    Thanks for the clarifications!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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