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To better understand the importance of plagiarism-free writing, it is crucial to define plagiarism. Often, people perceive plagiarism as simply copying someone else’s work or ideas. However, using terms like “copying” and “borrowing” can downplay the severity of the offense:
Plagiarism is the act of fraudulently using someone else’s work, whether it be their ideas or words, and presenting it as your own without giving proper credit to the original source. According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, plagiarism can also be described as literary theft or presenting an existing idea or product as new and original. This type of dishonesty involves both taking someone else’s work and deceiving others by pretending it is your own.
But can words and ideas really be stolen?
In the United States, original ideas are protected by copyright laws, which recognize them as intellectual property, similar to original inventions. Copyright protection applies to almost all forms of expression that are recorded in some way, such as books or computer files.
Plagiarism can take many forms, including submitting someone else’s work as your own, copying words or ideas without proper attribution, failing to use quotation marks when necessary, providing incorrect information about the source of a quotation, changing words but retaining the sentence structure of a source without giving credit, and using too much material from a source without permission, even if proper attribution is provided. Avoiding plagiarism is largely a matter of citing sources properly. By acknowledging when material has been borrowed and providing readers with the information needed to find that source, plagiarism can often be prevented. More information on how to properly cite sources can be found in our citation section.
What about images, videos, and music?
If you use an image, video or piece of music in your work without obtaining proper permission or providing appropriate citation, it is considered plagiarism. The following activities are widespread in today’s society, but they still fall under the category of plagiarism:.
Plagiarism can occur in various forms when it comes to media, such as images, videos, and music. It includes:
- Copying and pasting images from other websites without permission or proper citation.
- Using footage from someone else’s videos or incorporating copyrighted music into your own video without permission.
- Playing a cover or performing another person’s copyrighted music.
- Composing a piece of music that heavily borrows from another composition.
Determining whether or not the copyrights of a work are being violated can be challenging in certain situations, such as:
- Using a photograph or scan of a copyrighted image (e.g., using a book cover photograph to represent the book on your website).
- Recording audio or video in which copyrighted music or video is playing in the background.
- Recreating a visual work in the same or different medium (e.g., making a painting that resembles someone else’s photograph).
- Remixing or altering copyrighted images, video, or audio, even if done so in an original way.
The legality of these situations would depend on the intent and context in which they are used. To err on the side of caution, it is best to either avoid them entirely or to obtain proper usage permissions and provide appropriate citations.