Thursday, June 18, 2009

Plagiarism and Copyright

I once posted an article I had written on the internet and later found that the entire article had been re-posted on another person's blog, word for word without giving any credit to me, the original author. I was more than a little angry. I wrote the person a "comment" and thanked him for reprinting my article and included the original site where it was posted which naturally showed the date when I had written and posted my article first. At least, he then included my comment with my site listed.

Today's copyright laws indicate that the minute something is created, the producer owns its copyright and they do not have to get official copyright ownership from governmental entities. That includes materials created and produced first on the Internet.

Posting materials on the Internet can become a sticky wicket of legal issues involving plagiarism and copyrights. As a retired educator, I am highly sensitive to both after spending many years instructing students about giving credit where it is due for intellectual property. Finding something on the Internet does not necessarily make it in the "public domain" and automatically free to use.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary


--to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own : use (another's production) without crediting the source.

--to commit literary theft : present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source."


--the exclusive legal right to reproduce, publish, sell, or distribute the matter and form of something (as a literary, musical, or artistic work)."

Copyright Infringement: According to the U.S. Copyright Office at

"Section 501 of the copyright law states that “anyone who violates any of the exclusive rights of the copyright owner an infringer of the copyright or right of the author.”

Generally, under the law, one who engages in any of these activities without obtaining the copyright owner's permission may be liable for infringement."

Therefore, in summary, to display copyrighted work publicly, one must seek the copyright owner's permission. They may say yes, or no, or charge for the use of their intellectual property. One can be guilty of copyright infringement without being guilty of plagiarism. Giving credit where credit is due may not be enough if someone owns a copyright and doesn't agree to let others use their work either for free or for payment.

After having my original work freely used without giving me credit, makes me think twice about my blogs and web sites. It takes time and effort to get permission to use pictures or information from other sources, but I like to know that whatever I post is original content or that I have permission to reprint the works of others. I mention all of the above due to the previous posting that I wrote about the article I enjoyed in The New Yorker magazine about Nora Roberts. There was a striking illustration that I really liked in the magazine, so I contacted them to ask if I could use it in my blog because I thought it was probably copyright protected. They confirmed this and said it was "under embargo for 60 days" and I could not post it. I am more than happy to comply because I respect all copyrights.

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