Plagiarism, Copyright, and Intellectual Property

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Plagiarism, Copyright, and Intellectual Property

Knowledge develops socially in a give-and- www.mhhe.com/ take process akin to conversation. In this en- nmhh For more information, vironment, integrity and honesty require us go to to acknowledge others, especially when we Research > use their words or ideas. Researchers who fail Avoiding Plagiarism > What to acknowledge their sources—either inten- Is Plagiarism? tionally or unintentionally—commit plagiarism. Buying a term paper from an online paper mill or “borrowing” a friend’s completed assignment are obvious forms of plagiarism. But plagiarism also includes paraphrasing others’ material without properly citing the source of the idea or information. (See Chapter 21: Working with Sources and Avoiding Plagiarism, pp. 353–55, for more on paraphrasing.) Professional writers who are caught plagiarizing are publicly exposed and often fired by the publishers they write for. Those publications must then work hard to repair their credibility. The costs of plagiarism are similarly high in the academic world. Scholars who steal the words and ideas of others lose their professional credibility, and often their jobs. Students who plagiarize may receive a failing grade for the assignment or course and face other disciplinary action—including expulsion. Your campus probably has a written policy regarding plagiarism and its consequences.

20a Understand how plagiarism relates to copyright and intellectual property. Understood broadly, plagiarism is a kind of theft. Thinking of it as such shows how it relates to the concepts of copyright and intellectual property. Copyright is the legal right to control the reproduction of any original work—a piece of writing, a musical composition, a play, a movie, a computer program, a photograph, a work of art. A copyrighted work is the intellectual property of the copyright holder, whether that is a publisher, a record company, an entertainment conglomerate, or the individual who created the work. When you plagiarize a copyrighted work, you are stealing intellectual property. 341

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LEARNING in COLLEGE Determining What Is “Common Knowledge” Information that an audience could be expected to know about from a wide range of sources is considered common knowledge. For example, the structure of DNA and the process of photosynthesis are considered common knowledge among biologists. However, a recent scientific discovery about genetics would not be common knowledge, and so you would need to cite the source of this information. To political scientists, the structure and role of the Electoral College in American presidential elections is common knowledge, but a particular writer’s interpretation of the impact of the Electoral College on the 2004 presidential election between George W. Bush and John Kerry would need to be cited. Maps, charts, graphs, and other visual displays of information are not considered common knowledge. Even though everyone knows that Paris is the capital of France, if you reproduce a map of France in your paper, you must credit the map’s creator.

1. Copyright A copyrighted text—such as a novel, a short story in a magazine, or an article in an academic journal—cannot be reprinted without the written permission of the copyright holder. The copyright protects the right of authors and publishers to make money from their productions. The recent legal efforts of musicians and recording companies to stop the free downloading of music from the Internet are based on copyright law. The musicians and companies claim—and the courts have so far agreed—that downloaders are stealing their intellectual property.

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For information on material that does not need citing, go to Research > Avoiding Plagiarism > Common Knowledge

2. Fair use Most academic uses of copyrighted sources are protected under the fair use provision of copyright law. Under this provision, you can legally quote a brief passage from a copyrighted text in a paper without infringing on the copyright. Of course, to avoid plagiarism, you must identify the passage as a quotation and cite it properly.

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In addition to works protected by copyright, intellectual property includes patented inventions, trademarks, industrial designs, and similar intellectual creations that are protected by other laws. 342

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Avoiding plagiarism

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Avoid plagiarism.

Under pressure, we tend to make poor choices. Inadvertent plagiarism occurs when busy students take notes carelessly, forgetting to jot down the source of a paraphrase. Deliberate plagiarism occurs when students wait until the last minute and then “borrow” a paper from a friend or cut-and-paste large portions of an online article into their own work. No matter how tired or pressured you may be, nothing can justify plagiarism. Aside from managing your time and planning your research and writing carefully, here are some suggestions for avoiding plagiarism: ■

Do not rely too much on one source, or you may easily slip into using that person’s thoughts as your own.

T EXT C ONNEX Learning More about Plagiarism, Copyright and Fair Use, and Intellectual Property Plagiarism ■





For the Council of Writing Program Administrators’ “Defining and Avoiding Plagiarism: The WPA Statement on Best Practices,” see . Educators at Indiana University offer tips on avoiding plagiarism at . Georgetown University’s Honor Council offers an example of a campus honor code pertaining to plagiarism and academic ethics at .

Copyright and Fair Use ■

For information on and a discussion of fair use, see Copyright and Fair Use at , and the U.S. Copyright Office at .

Intellectual Property ■



For information about what constitutes intellectual property and related issues, see the World Intellectual Property Organization Web site at . For a legal perspective, the American Intellectual Property Law Association offers information and overviews of recent cases at . 343

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LEARNING in COLLEGE Avoiding Inadvertent Plagiarism: Questions to Ask Yourself ■ ■











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Is my thesis my own idea, or did I find it in one of my sources? Have I relied extensively on only one or two sources, instead of a variety of sources? Have I used uncommon terms, distinctive phrases, or quotations from a source but failed to enclose them in quotation marks? Have I included any words, phrases, or ideas that I don’t really understand or explain? Have I indicated my source for all quotations, paraphrases, and summaries, either within the text or in a parenthetical citation? Have I included page numbers as required for all quotations, paraphrases, and summaries? Does every in-text citation have a corresponding entry in the list of works cited or references?



Keep accurate records while doing research and taking notes, or you may lose track of where an idea came from. If you do not know where you got an idea or a piece of information, do not use it in your paper until you find out.



When you take notes, be sure to put quotation marks around words, phrases, or sentences taken verbatim from a source. If you use any of those words, phrases, or sentences when summarizing or paraphrasing the source, make sure to put them in quotation marks. Keep in mind that changing a word here and there while keeping a source’s sentence structure or phrasing constitutes plagiarism, even if you credit the source for the ideas. (For more on paraphrase and quotation, see Chapter 21: Working with Sources and Avoiding Plagiarism, pp. 353–54 and 356–57.)



Cite the sources of all ideas, opinions, facts, and statistics that are not common knowledge.



Choose an appropriate documentation style, and use it consistently and properly. (See Part 4: Documenting across the Curriculum for information about the most common documentation styles for academic writing.)



Print out any online source you consult, note the date on which you viewed it, and be sure to keep the complete URL of the site. (See Chapter 21: Working with Sources and Avoiding Plagiarism, pp. 347–51.)

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Using copyrighted materials fairly

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For MULTILINGUAL STUDENTS Cultural Assumptions and Misunderstandings about Plagiarism Respect for ownership of ideas is a core value of Western society. Your culture may consider the knowledge in classic texts a national heritage and, therefore, common property. As a result, you may have been encouraged to incorporate words and information from those texts into your writing without citing their source. American academic culture, however, requires you to identify any use you make of someone else’s original work and to cite the work properly in an appropriate documentation style (see Part 4: Documenting across the Curriculum, which begins on p. 373). You must similarly credit the source of ideas that are not considered common knowledge. You should accept these rules as nonnegotiable and apply them conscientiously to avoid plagiarism and its serious consequences. When in doubt about citation rules, ask your instructor.



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If you cut-and-paste material from a Web site into a wordprocessing file, use a different font to identify that material. Also copy the URL for the material, and note the date on which you visited the site. (See Chapter 21: Working with Sources and Avoiding Plagiarism, pp. 347–51.)

Use copyrighted materials fairly.

All written materials, including student papers, letters, and e-mail, are covered by copyright, even if they do not bear an official copyright symbol. A copyright grants its owner exclusive rights to the use of a protected work, including reproducing, distributing, and displaying the work. The popularity of the World Wide Web has led to increased concerns about the fair use of copyrighted material. Before you post your paper on the Web or produce a multimedia presentation that includes audio, video, and graphic elements copied from a Web site, make sure that you have used copyrighted material fairly. The following four criteria determine if copyrighted material has been used fairly: ■

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For more information and interactive exercises, go to Research > Avoiding Plagiarism > Using Copyrighted Materials

What is the purpose of the use? Educational, nonprofit, and personal uses are more likely to be considered fair than commercial use. 345

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What is the nature of the work being used? In most cases, imaginative and unpublished materials can be used only if you have the permission of the copyright holder.



How much of the copyrighted work is being used? If a writer uses a small portion of a text for academic purposes, this use is more likely to be considered fair than if he or she uses a whole work for commercial purposes.



What effect would this use have on the market for the original? The use of a work is usually considered unfair if it would hurt sales of the original.

T EXT C ONNEX Plagiarism and Online Sources The ability of the Internet to make everyone a publisher and broadcaster does not necessarily mean that everything published and broadcast online has been appropriately credited, cited, and documented—or that it is there with the knowledge and permission of the person who created it. When you use material from a Web site, you cannot always be sure that the material you are quoting originated with that site. That is, you might inadvertently be quoting material that has itself been plagiarized from another source. How can you be certain that material in an online source is being used fairly? Follow the guidelines in Chapter 18: Evaluating Sources to evaluate a Web site’s reliability. You can also employ the same strategies that teachers use to investigate possible plagiarism: choose a sentence from the suspect material, and type it between quotation marks into the search box of Google or Yahoo! If you get a hit, investigate further to see if one site is copying from the other—or both are copying from some other source. Ask your instructor for further advice.

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