Copyright Laws protect copyright holders from having their works plagiarized. The word plagiarism is derived from the word "kidnapper" in Latin. If a person uses another person's words without permission, they have stolen or kidnapped something owned by somebody else. This violates copyright law. Plagiarism is a menacing word in the writing world. Crediting the author of the work will not keep someone immune from violating copyright law. Plagiarism is plagiarism.
The academic world is one of the most common areas which violates plagiarism. Many students will copy and paste information they need for their research papers and essays straight off the Internet and turn it in to their professors. However, these days professors can use special programs to detect this type of cheating. Plagiarism is unethical, not only in the writing world, but in the academic world, as well.
You could plagiarize a work but not violate the copyright. Let's say you are using Abraham Lincoln's exact words in a paper and you did not cite him as the source or give him credit. Well, Lincoln's words aren't copyrighted because they are in the public domain. But, you did plagiarize because you tried to pass off his words as your own.
Alternatively, if you use a picture in a book and you did not gain permission to use the book, you have violated copyright law because you did not source the artist and you did not get permission from the artist to use the picture.
If you are in school, the best way to avoid plagiarism is to list your sources. If you use someone's word, list it in an endnote or in a footnote. List the resource in the bibliography. Another way to avoid plagiarism is to take notes when you are reading. Take notes in your own words; and write your paper from your own words.
No one wants to be singled out for plagiarism, especially a student who is concerned about his or her reputation at school, and writers who need to keep their credibility in good standing. With today's technological advances, it is not too hard to pinpoint plagiarized work. Even webmasters who run websites actively check their content for plagiarized material. They can run their entire sites through a special program to see if their content has been stolen and duplicated elsewhere on the Internet.
If you are writer, either academically or as a profession, it is a good idea that you only use your own words. It was probably easier to get away with plagiarism 20 years ago, but it is not that easy today. The chances are high that if you are plagiarizing, you will be caught. Not only is it embarrassing, but it can cost you a bundle in a lawsuit.
When you hear about people caught of plagiarism, many different things can happen to them. First of all, plagiarism can be both a civil and criminal crime, so people caught of plagiarism are likely to get both sued and tried in criminal court. Because of the nature of copyright laws, if and when people are caught of plagiarism, it’s likely they will get repercussions from far and wide.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brian Scott is a freelance journalist who covers copyright law for http://www.researchcopyright.com/. Download his free e-book, "Copyright Basics" at ResearchCopyright.com.