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Plagiarism and Copyright—What Are the Differences? (The Council Chronicle, Nov. 05) If you don’t understand the distinctions between plagiarism and copyright, you’re not alone. John Logie, Chair of the College Composition and Communication Conference Committee on Intellectual Property, says the terms have gotten intertwined in the popular discourse, but they are very distinct. He offers the following key distinctions between plagiarism and copyright to help explain the concepts: Plagiarism is using someone else’s idea (usually a written idea) without giving proper credit for the idea—a failure to cite adequately. Copyright infringement is using someone else’s creative idea, which can include a song, a video, a movie clip, a piece of visual art, a photograph, and other creative works, without authorization or compensation, if compensation is appropriate. Schools enforce plagiarism. The courts enforce copyright infringement. Plagiarism is forbidden by institutional code. The penalties are failing grades or expulsion as a result of violating institutional codes. It’s not addressed by our legal system in any real way, except for some scientific circumstances. It is enforced by public censure and punishments by institutions. Copyright infringement is against federal law, and penalties include fines and, more recently, imprisonment. For many years, copyright was a civil offense; now it’s a blend of civil and criminal offense. Powerful lobbies including software manufacturers and the recording and motion picture industries have taken an active role in enforcing copyright. There are instances where plagiarism also violates copyright, but Logie explains it isn’t often that these cases end up in court. He gives this example: “A student goes on the Internet and finds a key paragraph that explains Silas Marner. The student uses it and doesn’t give credit, making transitions to hide the plagiarism. The appropriation is verbatim so this is clearly plagiarism. It’s also potentially a violation of copyright, but since there’s no significant economic harm associated with its use, no court would touch it.” However, Logie stresses, plagiarism causes plenty of harm in the academic sense, and for this reason schools take it seriously. http://www.ncte.org/pubs/chron/highlights/122872.htm Scenarios: 1. Jeff uses ideas and phrases from a very old book, one that no longer has any copyright, in his essay. He doesn’t cite the information, because the book isn’t legally protected by copyright. Is this plagiarism or copyright violation? 2. Marco decides that his sister’s blog has some good information on it, so he borrows some for use in his own blog. He doesn’t bother to cite her. Is this plagiarism or copyright violation? 3. Danielle writes an essay that’s she worked very hard on and sends it off to an academic journal after she finishes it. The journal sends her comments on the essay, including one that claims her research has already been done and that she can’t publish her work, because another person already has. If she does publish it, would it fall under plagiarism or copyright violation? 4. Christina is in an R&B group that often samples other artists in their work. They make a demo CD for a record company and sell copies at their concerts and on their website. That CD includes songs with pieces of other artists’ material, but only small samples. They credit the other artists in their liner notes. Is this plagiarism or copyright violation? 5. Giselle is writing an essay and decides that she needs some sources that she can’t find. Because no one will get hurt if she makes up some sources and their contents, she does so and uses those fictional sources in her essay. Is this plagiarism or copyright violation?
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