Mrs. Pratt's Copyright/Plagiarism Page
What is intellectual property?
What is copyright?
What is plagiarism?
Intellectual property is the creative work of others. It can appear in many formats and is the thoughts, words, images, opinions, original research, or music created by another person or persons. Some examples of intellectual property are novels, informational or reference books, poems, photographs, articles in a newspaper or periodical or online database, web sites, plays, music, paintings, or films.
Copyright begins when intellectual property is created and is put in a "fixed" format. It can be written down, typed, saved on a disk, recorded, filmed, painted, or sculpted. Published and distributed works are usually registered with the U.S. Copyright Office at the Library of Congress, however, a work does not have to be registered to be protected by copyright law. Copyright lasts for the life of the author or artist plus 70 years. Eventually, when copyright on a work expires, it passes into the public domain. If you are using material from a work in the public domain, you should still cite your source.
Why is copyright important? It gives owners the exclusive right to make decisions about their intellectual property. Copyright owners decide how the work is sold, distributed, reproduced (that means copying!), performed, or displayed. Usually these decisions are spelled out in a contract. A copyright owner can sue anyone who infringes on their copyright. Copyright infringement includes plagiarism, the attempt to pass off another person's work as your own, without giving them credit. Plagiarism is derived from the Latin word meaning "man-stealing" or "kidnapping." Students should credit their sources by citing them. (See the "Bibliography Help" section for specific examples of how to cite different formats.)
Plagiarism can take several forms. Word-for-word plagiarism occurs when a passage is lifted exactly and inserted into one's own writing without any indication that the material has been borrowed. If more than three words are used in sequence, quotes around the borrowed passage and a citation are required. Cutting and pasting from online sources qualifies as this type of plagiarism.
Another type of plagiarism occurs if a passage is paraphrased or rearranged but the author is not credited. Even though technically the passage is not inserted verbatim, the "model" or "idea' is the copyrighted intellectual property of its creator and must be cited, though quotation marks are not necessary. Remember, other people's ideas, thoughts and opinions must be cited, even if you agree with them and even if you put them in your own words.
There are a couple of notable exceptions to copyright law. "Fair use" allows limited reproduction or viewing of copyrighted works for educational purposes as long as the market value of the work is not effected. Factual information considered to be "common knowledge" does not have to be cited as long as the basic facts are likely to be available in at least three sources and as long as you are careful to put the information in your own words.
Last updated by Mrs. Pratt on Dec. 22, 2010
Norwell High School, Norwell, MA