Copyright and Plagiarism



"Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States (title 17, U.S. Code) to the authors of “original works of authorship,” including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. This protection is available to both published and unpublished works. Section 106 of the 1976 Copyright Act generally gives the owner of copyright the exclusive right to do and to authorize others to do the following:

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Copyright Law Says

"Copyright occurs automatically when both of two conditions are satisfied:

  1. the creation of an original work and
  2. "fixation of that work in any tangible medium of expression.

17 USC §§ 101, 102(a), 302(a).

Loading copyrighted material into a computer's semiconductor memory does create a fixation that satisfies the legal test for copying.
MAI Systems Corp. v. Peak Computer, Inc., 26 U.S.P.Q.2d 1458, 1464 (1993), 991 F.2d 511, cert. dismissed, 510 U.S. 1033, 114 S.Ct. 671 (1994).

The current law in the USA requires neither a notice of copyright (e.g., "Copyright 1997 Ronald B. Standler") nor registration of the work with the U.S. Copyright Office. 17 USC §§ 401(a), 407(a), 408(a). However, if a work does have a notice, then an infringer can not claim a "defense based on innocent infringement in mitigation of actual or statutory damages". 17 USC §401(d). And if a work is registered, then:

  1. the registration is prima facie evidence of the validity of the copyright in litigation for copyright infringement. 17 USC §410(c).
  2. the author may file suit for infringement of the copyright. 17 USC §411(a).
  3. the author may seek an award of statutory damages between US$ 750 and US$ 30 000 (i.e., the author is entitled to money from the infringer, without the author needing to show financial loss from the infringement). If the infringement was "willful", the statutory damages can go as high as US$ 150 000. 17 USC §§412, 504(c).
  4. a court may require the infringer to pay all of the attorney's fees of the author. 17 USC §§412, 505.

An author of a copyrighted work has the following exclusive rights conferred by 17 USC §106:

  1. to reproduce the work (e.g., to make copies)
  2. to prepare derivative works (e.g., translation, abridgment, condensation, adaptation)
  3. to distribute copies to the public (e.g., publish, sell, rental, lease, or lending)
  4. to perform the work publicly
  5. to display the work publicly

The Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, Article 6bis(1), states:

Independently of the author's economic rights, and even after the transfer of the said rights, the author shall have the right to claim authorship of the work and to object to any distortion, mutilation or other modification of, or other derogatory action in relation to, the said work, which would be prejudicial to his honor or reputation."


Wikipedia says, "Plagiarism is . . .

... a form of academic malpractice specifically referring to the use of another's information, language, or writing, when done without proper acknowledgment of the original source. Plagiarism is not necessarily the same as copyright infringement, which occurs when one violates copyright law." (See )


Plagiarism is the use of another person’s work (this could be his or her words, products or ideas) for personal advantage, without proper acknowledgement of the original work. Most often the phrase is used to denote deliberate intent of passing it off as one's own work. Plagiarism may occur deliberately (with the intention to deceive) or accidentally (due to poor referencing). It encompasses copying material from a book, copying and pasting information from the World Wide Web, receiving help from unauthorized sources on coursework, and copying answers from a fellow student during an examination (presuming the copied work isn’t attributed). Plagiarism and cheating are not the same; cheating takes many forms, including but not limited to deliberate plagiarism.
Plagiarism is neither a criminal nor civil offense. In fact, plagiarism is not a legal term and is not legally recognised. However, breach of copyright or intellectual property rights (IPR) is illegal; acts of plagiarism that breach either of the former are illegal acts. Not every act of plagiarism is a breach of copyright. For example, one can plagiarise work that has no copyright (such as material that is out of copyright)." (See )


The following questions can be answered after reviewing topics about copyright as found on the US Copyright Office web site:

  1. When does copyright protection under the law begin?
  2. How long does copyright protection last?
  3. Does the work of Ludwig von Beethoven and Leonard Bernstein have copyright protection?
  4. What year will the copyright protection of Tupac, Johnny Cash, and Julio Iglesias expire?
  5. Are the pictures you take for class protected under copyright law?
  6. Are student performances in school plays protected under copyright laws?
  7. Are videotapes of student performances protected by copyright laws?

    See also Copyleft

    Assignment Link


Copyright Law

Multimedia and Image Management, Bean and Lake, Thompson Learning, 2004.

Plagiarism and Anti-Plagiarism

US Copyright Office