Plagiarism vs Copyright Infringement

PlagiarismCopyright Infringement
Offense against the authorOffense against copyright holder
Applies when ideas are copied,
e.g.: Quoting someone’s words from the Internet, a printed article, or an interview, without acknowledging the author.

Copying part of the content of a work into one’s own paper without citing the source.

Copying or buying a paper and handing it in as one’s own.

Falsely creating a citation that doesn’t exist.

Failing to credit and cite someone else’s thoughts or ideas when paraphrasing.

Paraphrasing in a way that relies too heavily on another’s language or syntax.
Occurs only when a specific fixed expression (e.g., sequence of words, use of an image) is copied
Cite/Credit to avoid plagiarismAvoided either by having the copyright owner’s permission when using someone else’s material or by relying on one of the many exceptions to copyright

Scenario 1 (plagiarism without copyright violation)

Copy the words to one of Shakespeare’s sonnets and put your own name to it,  and then post this to a Web site.

Since Shakespeare’s works are in the public domain, you have no reason not to copy and use them at your discretion.

Public Domain creative materials that are not protected by intellectual property laws such as copyright, trademark, or patent laws. 

The public owns these works, not an individual author or artist. Anyone can use a public domain work without obtaining permission, but no one can ever own it. 

Scenario 2 (copyright violation but not plagiarism)

Copy lyrics to a recent top 40 song and post it to a Web site with credit given to the singer or artist who recorded the song.  

You credited the original source; you are not claiming the ideas as your own.  

However, since you are distributing copyrighted material without the copyright owner’s permission, you are infringing on their copyright.

Scenario 3 (both copyright violation and plagiarism)

Copy lyrics to a recent top 40 song and post it to a Web site, claiming it as your own work, you have violated the copyright on the work, you have also plagiarized the songwriter.


Copyright vs. Plagiarism. (n.d.). Retrieved July 14, 2021, from

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