Why is it Against the Law to Plagiarize?


Plagiarism is common in artwork and writing, yet much misunderstood and misused on several occasions.

Whereas most people understand that plagiarism is unlawful, they don’t know why it’s illegal and the involved repercussions.

It is unwise to wait until you are on the other side of plagiarism laws to learn what plagiarism is and how it happens.

In this article, we will have a closer look at what plagiarism is, why it’s against the law to plagiarize, its repercussion, and how to go around it. Check it out!

What is Plagiarism?

This is the act of taking someone else’s invention, ideas, writings, and thoughts and attribute them as your own without acknowledging them.

It can happen in many different forms. Below are some of them;

1. Direct Plagiarism

You will be guilty of direct plagiarism if you make an exact copy of segments from a book or an article without enclosing it with quotation marks.

Keep in mind that omitting the quotation marks is presenting the work as your own.

Reproducing a word-to-word copy of someone else’s work intentionally is unethical and can lead to severe consequences.

2. Mosaic Plagiarism

Mosaic plagiarism, also known as “patchwriting,” occurs when you copy phrases from an existing work without using quotation marks.

It also includes intentional rewriting of sentences from another article using synonyms while keeping the meaning and general structure. This form of plagiarism is not allowed and is punishable.

3. Accidental Plagiarism

Sometimes while writing, you can misquote your source or unintentionally use synonyms to rephrase a sentence while the meaning remains the same.

In such a case, you will most likely not give credit to the author since you don’t know if you are doing it.

This only happens accidentally without you intending to do it. Unfortunately, your work will be considered plagiarized.

4. Self-Plagiarism

Self-Plagiarism, also referred to as auto plagiarism, is very common among students. You will commit this type of plagiarism if you copy part of your previous work into a new work without your professor’s permission.

It can also occur if you submit similar assignments in two different classes without permission from the instructor.

Although the seriousness of this plagiarism is yet to be deliberated, it is still not acceptable in many institutions.

Some journals and academic institutions have stringent guidelines on the extent of your work that you can copy and reproduce.

5. Paraphrasing Plagiarism

This is the most common type of plagiarism committed today. It involves using someone’s work to make your copy by making minor changes.

Even with different words and sentence structures, the main idea derived in the text remains the same.

Although this type of plagiarism does not seem very serious, it is still not recommended and is regarded as dishonesty and a violation of the law.

Plagiarism and Copyright Infringement

These two terms are used interchangeably on many occasions. To some extent, they may be referring to the same thing, but they are two different terms with different meanings.

Plagiarism refers to direct or indirect use of someone’s work as you own without acknowledging them.

On the other hand, copyright infringement refers to using, duplicating, performing, and displaying someone’s work without obtaining permission.

Copyright infringing can lead to severe repercussions as the law regarding it is governed by the federal government and states.

Plagiarism is governed by rules and ethics found in academic institutions and enforced by the institution’s staff and governance.

Copyright and plagiarism are not the same but can occur at the same time. For instance, if you copy work without acknowledging the owner and without their permission, you may be infringing copyright and plagiarism.

Why Is Plagiarism Against the Law?

While plagiarism is more of an ethical and a norm violation, it can amount to a law issue depending on the extent it’s committed and the state that you came from.

The most common way where plagiarism is regarded as unlawful is when it involves copyright.

Copyright is a set of exclusive rules that are only accorded to the original author. These laws may prohibit copying or distributing parts or the wholes of it without the owner’s permission.

Whereas all copyright infringements are all forms of plagiarism, not all forms of plagiarism are copyright infringement.

For instance, you may get away with it after copying and distributing copyrighted work.

It is highly illegal to copy or to plagiarize copyrighted work.

Even with proper citation and crediting the author, it’s still not enough when it comes to working protected with copyright.

To ensure you are on the safe side, the best you can do is keep your work unique.

There are multiple free tools you can use to check your work for plagiarism, however, Grammarly is the best AI software that helps you correct your grammar mistakes in your reports, but also it can help you with making your reports more understandable for your readers.

Plagiarizing copyrighted work is not the only way you can face the law.

Some institutions will require that any work submitted to them be original. This can even include a contract between the two parties where legal actions can be taken when the agreements are breached.

Introducing copied work, either knowingly or unknowingly, will see you face the law.

Moreover, if you misinterpret facts in someone else’s work when copying and causing harm to them, you will have to compensate them. There are stringent federal and state laws that are related to misinterpretation.

Consequences of Engaging in Plagiarism

With modern technology, there is a lot of software today that detects plagiarism in minutes.

This has increased the rate at which plagiarists are being caught and dealt with. Once you are caught, you have no excuse rather than to face the consequences for your ignorance.

Plagiarism is not limited to students only but even journalists, authors, and professionals. Below are some of the consequences of engaging in plagiarism.

1. Destroyed Personal and Professional Reputation

Some institutions take all forms of plagiarism with great seriousness. Once found, you can face dire consequences that include immediate expulsion from school and barred from joining any other college.

Having an academic record that depicts plagiarism will haunt you even in your later life and career.

For some professionals like politicians and professors, plagiarism can cost you your job and cause difficulties in finding a new one.

2. Legal Consequences

The last thing you will ever want is to find yourself on the opposite side of copyright law as the legal consequences can be tough.

It is highly prohibited to use someone’s work as your own without acknowledging them or obtaining their permission.

In some states, the author has the right to sue a plagiarist in court. Such cases don’t end up well and it’s very easy to find yourself under a prison term.

As a writer or a journalist, it is advisable to be very vigilant as you write to maintain your reputation.

3. Fines and Penalties

Whenever an author sues you for plagiarism claims and you are found guilty, you may be fined massive amounts of money regardless of your profession.

How to Avoid Plagiarism

Why should you undergo all the repercussions of plagiarism when there are many hassle-free ways you can use to go around this problem?

Here are some tips to help you improve in your writing and stay far from the plagiarism law;

1. Manage Your Citation

Citation is an excellent way to go around the problem of plagiarism.

Depending on your writing style guidelines, ensure to cite all the relevant information regarding the document’s source that you have obtained the information from.

2. Credit the Author

Copying somebody’s work may not be deemed as plagiarism if you credit the author. Crediting the author is as simple as just inserting quotation marks. It does not take a minute to do so. However, ensure to do it immediately to avoid mistakes.

3. Paraphrase

Paraphrasing is the primary source of plagiarism, but if you must do it, ensure you get it right. Don’t take words from sentences and replace them with synonyms. Instead, write the sentences in your own words and structure without losing their meaning.

4. Add Your Ideas

Instead of copying or paraphrasing someone’s work, you can do a lot of research, find an idea, and expound it on your own.

In cases where you come up with an idea and find out that it is in somebody else’s work, it is advisable to use quotation marks.

5. Use Plagiarism-Checker Application

Despite how much you are careful to avoid plagiarism, it is possible to include one or two sentences in your text. To eliminate all the possibilities, you can use a plagiarism-checker application before submitting your work.

There are several plagiarism checkers online, some of which are free and effortless to use.

Bottom Line

Plagiarism is more of an ethical and norm violation than a law violation. However, it can be unlawful if you plagiarize works protected by copyright.

Besides, if you are working for an institution with contract terms that require only original work, plagiarizing will be unlawful.

Some forms of plagiarism like copy-pasting assignments in the classroom are not severe civil law violations. However, they will attract punishment from the teacher and the school administration.

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