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Understanding Copyright: Plagiarism vs Copyright

This is an overview for understanding Copyright and Fair Use

Plagiarism vs. Copyright

What is the difference between Copyright violations and Plagiarism?

Both Copyright and Plagiarism are elements in the broader area of Intellectual Property and can be characterized as improper use of someone else's work. (Other elements include Patents and Trademarks.)  While both are important, especially in an academic setting, they are two different concepts.  Notably, it is possible to commit both violations at the same time.


Plagiarism occurs when you take credit for someone else's work or ideas without proper acknowledgement.  While it is not a crime, per se, it is unethical and committing plagiarism carries consequences.   Someone who commits plagiarism can be dismissed from their school or place of employment and may suffer reputational harm.

Copyright Violation

Copyright is a set of legal rights granted to the creator, or their designee, of a work of authorship that has been set in tangible form.  These rights vest the creator with the ability to control how, when, where and by whom their works can be used.  Violation of these rights is a crime and a violators are subject to criminal punishment.  

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